Category Archives: Loneliness

We Were Made for This – a thank you to Clarissa

Adapted from Clarissa Pinkola Estes – ‘We were made for this’

I recently returned from a silent solo retreat, where the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes kept circling around in my head. I had no wifi or any of the usual distractions, so I reached for pen and paper and wrote the words down. Even though I have read her prose several times in the last 20 years, I was surprised at how much I remembered of “We Were Made For This”. I am publishing this on my blog exactly as I penned it as I sat in my little cabin in the Brecon Beacons. I send this out with love and good wishes to all who have seen glaring wrongs that need to be righted and have felt diminished by the seeming immensity of this task. 

‘For some of us, these times seem too dark to ever see light again. The immense challenge of correcting the imbalances and of righting the wrongs seem too great to take on. But, I would like to take your hands for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your pangs of doubt, your frustrations in a-righting all that needs change right now, or even your feelings that you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, and you are not alone.

Look out over the choppy water; there are millions of righteous souls on the waters with you. Take heart; you are not alone.

We have been in training for dark times such as this for a long time.  For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been put down, metaphorically or literally, left for dead in so many ways over and over — brought down by naiveté, by lack of love, by being ambushed and assaulted by those following the wrong star and being convinced following any other is grounds for persecution, and by various personal shocks and heartbreaks over time. All of this, and more, can be overcome.

We all have a heritage and history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially … we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection.

Over and over again haven’t we been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or demeaned – can be restored to life again? This is as true and sturdy a prognosis for the wounded world around us as it was for our own wounded selves.

…Though we are not invulnerable, our resilience and strength  supports us to laugh in the face of cynics who say “fat chance,” and “management before mercy,” and other evidences of complete absence of soul sense. This, and our having been ‘to Hell and back’ on at least one momentous occasion, makes us seasoned vessels for certain. Even if you do not feel that you are, you are.

Even if your puny little ego wants to contest the enormity of your soul being up for the challenge,  the smaller self can never for long subordinate the larger Self. In matters of huge importance and life purpose,  you have surpassed the benchmarks many times. Believe the evidence of any one of your past challenges and trials. Here it is: Are you still standing? The answer is, Yes! Yes, you are…even if you feel a weariness….yes, you are still standing.  If you are still standing, ragged flags or not, you are able. Thus, you have passed the bar. And even raised it. You are seaworthy.

…In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward overwhelm with how much is wrong in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by putting your awareness on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is “spending the wind without raising the sails.” It is a waste of your energy and will not be helpful for you or us.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. You have all the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough. Our job, our opportunity, is to sail forward now.

One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair – thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts – adding, continuing – until the accumulation of these acts tips the scales towards goodness. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your light. Your goodness, your light, can be what encourages another to show their light. And so it goes.

To display the light of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both — are acts of immense bravery and great necessity. Disheartened souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the bravest things you can do.

…There will always be times in the midst of “success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen” when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. I acknowledge the sadness, this sense of being disheartened. Then I remember Who I am, perhaps connect with my Source as well as other good souls, and continue.’

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.”

Loneliness – The “Illusion” That Feels So Real

Scan 5Many of us are lonely today. It crops up in my own life from time to time even though I am married, do work I enjoy, and have a few people I care deeply about and who also care about me.  You don’t have to be alone be lonely.

It is my nature to question things and look deeper (both a curse and a blessing!), so I’ve delved into this feeling of loneliness almost as an afterthought from writing about happiness. I believe that loneliness is a common and misunderstood obstacle to happiness.  Loneliness is a serious issue and impacts the quality of our lives.  There are many different kinds of loneliness. It is sort of a catch-all term that says very little about what is really going on. Are you lonely because you miss a best friend?  Do you miss being part of a group, something larger than just you?  Does it make you feel unseen because you do not have a place that seems familiar, where you are known? Are you missing a romantic partner in your life?  Are you feeling overwhelmed because you don’t have someone around whom you can lean on and depend upon when things get difficult?  Loneliness has so many faces and so is harder to pinpoint.

A sense of connection is often the missing link in our lives and is a common thread with loneliness. The Welsh have a word for a special kind of loneliness, called Hiraeth. It doesn’t have a precise English translation, but in general means “a homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or that never was“.  It is similar to the Portuguese “saudade” which is the theme of Fado music. Hiraeth is a mix of longing, yearning, tinged with grief or a sense of loss and a desire to connect with or touch that which has been lost. It is the feeling of separateness or disconnection that is at the root of any type of loneliness. There is help for this deep existential form of hiraeth  as well as the temporary fleeting feelings of loneliness we all experience from time to time.

Nurturing a sense of connection is the best (and maybe the only) way to shift a feeling of loneliness. I believe that we are all interconnected and interdependent with each other, but the illusion of separateness persists due to our egoic minds, modern life, and our culture of fear and lack. But since I also believe our view of reality is almost entirely perceptual, the “illusion” of loneliness is a very real part of a lonely person’s life.

I do not intend to trivialise the problem of loneliness, but sometimes actionable steps are simply the best way out of a bad cycle.  Just taking a step in the right direction immediately improves our perception and thus our situation.  Try some version of my suggestions, tweak them as much as you need to so they are meaningful to you. and take a step out of any bleak feelings you are having. (The only reason I “know” about this is because I have felt it myself, and edged my way out of bleakness by trying something different.)

  • Make a habit of nurturing others. For happiness in general, studies show that it is just as important to give support as to get support. Make eye contact and smile at someone. Even if they don’t smile back, it cost you nothing to do this and is likely to bring about a lovely smile in return. Offer to get groceries for an elderly neighbor, foster a dog or cat, take care of a friend’s children, teach a class, volunteer in your neighborhood or community. Giving support to others creates a feeling of connection.
  • Make real attempts at connecting with other people. Sign up for an exercise, language, art, sewing, craft class, join a book group, show up at the weekly office coffee hour, take a minute to chat with a co-worker, neighbor, or acquaintance, attend a community talk or lecture, start or join a local walking group. (Yes, I know. All the advice we’ve all heard before. But it really works!)
  • Get better sleep. Sleep deprivation under any circumstances brings down people’s moods and exacerbates negative feelings. You will not feel like building connections if you are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. It is important to tackle this issue. Give it your attention by trying different things for a couple of weeks at a time. (There is a mountain of information out there to cure insomnia, but my next blog will be about this very thing.) Chronic sleep problems are usually the result of bad habits that need to be changed. 
  • Make a habit of staying open. This can be as simple as being aware of the next breath you take or the food you are tasting. It involves staying open to life and experiences as much as staying open to people. I know that loneliness itself can make people feel more negative, critical, and judgemental. Sadly, people who are lonely are far less accepting of potential new friends than people who are not lonely so the hurdle comes down to feeling what you are feeling and gently pressing on anyway.
  • Ask yourself, “What is it that I really want?” We often avoid this question in anything but a trivial way because it can be painful and can bring up what is “missing” in our life. But it is easier to know how to address an issue if you are clear what you really want. Chances are, you do not really want the third chocolate brownie or the 5th piece of pizza. Overeating is a common quick fix for feelings of lack or of not “being” enough. There are other things we do to mask discovering what it is we really want of course, but by far overeating is the most common. Without getting into a deep rut with this, touch into the question “What is it that I really want?” for a few minutes each day. Beginning to feel comfortable with this question – and the resulting answer – will go a long way in resolving feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.

Sometimes the wanting or longing you feel can be a marker for you to follow along your path. I wish you well as you listen to the whisperings that come along when you ask the important questions.

If you try, or have tried, any of these ideas to step out of feelings of loneliness and darkness, please let me know how they worked for you.