Q: Why is loneliness so painful? And what can we do to overcome our feeling of loneliness?
A: We are never truly alone, and yet we experience loneliness. To be with the Lord of Life is our essential nature. It is innate to all of us to be with the divine being—our intrinsic atman—at all times. But somewhere along the line we have lost this sense of unity. As a result, we are suffering from a sense of separation. This is why we experience loneliness. We know at some level that we have been wandering away from the Lord of Life. That realization, that a wall has come between me and the Lord of Life who is inseparable from me, means that duality has been interjected in my atman. This hurts very much. Now we don’t know how to embrace the Lord again and eternally dwell with him. So we are trying to cope with that sense of loneliness by attaching ourselves to our mother, father, spouse, children, money, wealth, name, and fame. We are trying to find a sense of happiness by having something or someone. All these are symptoms of our loneliness, which is caused by our separation from the divine being.
Our sense of separation from the divine being causes loneliness.
Our essential nature is to be blissful, but our mind has a tendency to be miserable. We need to remember that we are not our mind alone. The mind is actually a shadow of atman, and we have become dependent on the shadow rather than the reality. The mind’s inherent nature is not to be miserable; the mind’s nature is to be curious. Our mind is trying to recapture what has been lost. It is trying to figure out what is good and what is not, where to find the source of joy and happiness, and how to find the Lord of Life. So our mind is constantly running from one object to another object in search of that everlasting joy. The intention is correct; it’s just the direction that is wrong. The mind is trying to find that joy in the external world. It has not figured out that it has to find that eternal joy somewhere in the inner world, which is the abode of the Lord of Life. The mind is the most efficient tool that nature has given us to search and find ourselves—but it needs training.
At the intellectual level, we know that when we realize our true nature, we will experience bliss, but in our day-to-day practice, it is hard to believe this. This is because our belief in the external world has become so firm that we are not able to have a firm belief in the inner reality. We have become convinced that the world out there is the only reality and that without it we cannot live. In other words, our conviction in the unreal (what we think is real) has become so firm that our conviction in the real (what we think is unreal) has become weak.
Another problem is that we constantly hear from teachers and read in books that truth, or God, is hard to attain. Wherever we go, we hear that we are miserable, useless, and weak. This destroys our sankalpa shakti (power of will and self-determination). It is as if God, or truth, is somewhere where we cannot reach. Everybody is telling us how difficult it is to overcome the problems of the mind. But why should this be the case? My master never told me that it is hard to find God or higher reality. Rather, he used to say: “Only for slowpokes is samadhi hard to achieve. Otherwise, three months are plenty to achieve the highest goal of life.” This means that we are even slower than the slowpokes!
When we recognize that we are not separate from anything or anyone, loneliness vanishes and pure joy remains.
Source: Satsang in Kedarnath, Himalayas (1997)