“If you wish to overcome that feeling of isolation and loneliness, I think that your underlying attitude makes a tremendous difference. And approaching others with the thought of compassion in your mind is the best way to do this.”
Sometimes when I’m in a crowded room full of people, like at a party, I feel the loneliest. While I may be engaged in talk and banter among people, a deep sense of loneliness can set in. Perhaps I feel that I’m not connecting with others by perceiving that our conversations are just some idle chatter? Or have I placed a defense wall, which no one can penetrate? Other than being with my husband, I actually find that being alone provides me with the most contentment, which may be an illusion of living in my own little cocoon world with an emotional safety blanket where no one can hurt me.
Mother Teresa said that while many in the world are dying for a piece of bread, many more are dying for a little love, so our biggest poverty is not food — it’s love. Wherever you go — every corner, street, city, state or country — loneliness is prevalent among both the poor and rich. Einstein said, “It is strange to be known so universally and yet be so lonely.” Sometimes the rich are even more hungry for love because their relationships may not be based on genuine love, but on their money. Whereas the poor have no money, so their relationships can be founded on more pure and genuine intentions. If someone is hungry, we can treat it with food; if someone is homeless, we can treat it with shelter; if someone is diseased, we can treat it with medicine. But if someone is unwanted and unloved, then the treatment is not so simple because all of us, in our own way, have a protective shield, which can be hard to penetrate. It’s hard for us to face the pain of loneliness within ourselves, so we look the other way, avoiding the harsh realities of loneliness in others.
The Dalai Lama says, “if we wish to overcome the feeling of isolation and loneliness, our underlying attitudes must change. The thoughts of compassion in our minds is the best way to do it because when we have compassion for another person, we automatically reduce fear and allow an openness with other people. It creates a positive, friendly atmosphere.” Have you ever experienced at a party that the person you’re “conversing” with in front of you, who is really not engaged, is looking over your head or shoulders scouting other people in the room? When this happens, it’s not personal to you, but more about their lack of compassion. If you nurture real compassion, then you are directing 100% of your focus on the other person, which provides a genuine listening ear. And when you’re truly listening, then you can begin to connect. When we have compassion, we are building a bridge to connect and find common ground with others. Dalai Lama observed that when he travels around the world, he finds that people are really more alike than different, as we all share the same human conditions of love, hate, anger, stress, frustration, happiness, joy, etc. So through compassion, we can focus on what we have in common as opposed to what makes us different, which becomes an organic way of feeling less lonely.
In order to have compassion for others, we must start with compassion for ourselves, as we can not give what we do not have. When compassion is nurtured within ourselves, we can actually feel and experience it, which is when we truly understand and embrace it. By embracing it, we then have a desire to give and share it with others. So loneliness is not predicated on the lack of people around you, but rather on a relationship with your inner self, which is devoid of love and compassion for yourself. I know that the days when I feel most spiritually fulfilled with love within myself, I do not crave the company of anyone, even my husband, because there is such a natural sense of inner peace and being in which I am simply content. Loneliness ultimately takes place when we’re not spiritually connected within ourselves because we’re not tapping into the love that already exists in our hearts. As love and compassion are eternal, there’s no scarcity of it, so there is no reason why we should not have it for ourselves and for others all the time. As Deepak Chopra said, “If love is universal, then no one can be left out.”
No matter how much love is shared between or among humans, true compassion and love can only be found within ourselves. As each of us comes into this world alone and will exit this world alone, we all have a singular journey to discover our own love and compassion — alone — in our own spiritual journey. In finding it, we start to feel the extraordinary connection to everything and everyone in the Universe — which is the farthest thing from being alone and unloved. How magical is that?
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living
“The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living” by Dalai Lama
“Teachings on Love” by Thich Nhat Hahn