“If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in the bad company.”
~ Jean-Paul Sartre
Loneliness. It knocks our door like an unwelcome guest but stays as our greatest teacher. Like a voracious black pit, it overwhelms us unless we find the courage to plumb the depth of it. In its darkness, we either learn how to be the source of our own light or wither away in despair failing to do so.
I faced loneliness for the first time when I left my home country in 2009. I discovered myself in a gloomy sparsely populated town, far from my family, friends, with a very poor understanding of who I was, amidst the freezing Canadian winter. I was devastated.
My depression felt like going through a tunnel with no light in the end. Loneliness was devouring me from the inside bringing me theretofore unexperienced suffering. Living in my head, I blamed the external conditions for my misery. My consciousness was sleeping and my ego was the dream.
I spent my days complaining. My mind was my personal hell and it was blazing up fueled by my own energy. I hated the country and the town I lived in, I hated the weather and the surrounding environment, I hated everyone around me, but what was worse, more than any of those things I hated myself. I was blind, stupid, and weak.
Eventually, constant complaints had disfigured my mental state — I felt pity for myself. Of all things you can do to yourself, self-pity is probably the worst. Self-absorbed with my own unhappiness, I sank into an abyss of substance addiction. It almost broke me but somehow, I managed to piece myself together. I survived.
Step by step I won my life back. I scrutinized loneliness. I embraced it and it changed me from within. If you are out there now reading this and you suffer from feeling lonely, I am here to share with you an insight that I brought back from the very bottom of despair. Refuse to suffer from loneliness, instead:
Transcend your loneliness into solitude.
Behold the beauty in seclusion. The majority of the things that will have the most profound, the most transformational effect on your life will be done by you in times when you are alone. It is in isolation, where you will make those small, incremental changes that are unnoticeable in the process of accumulation but astounding to others once they become too substantial to ignore.
“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.”
~ May Sarton
People do change. Not all people though, only those who understand that desire to change alone is not enough. Personal transformation requires dedication and self-sacrifice. Which leaves only one question really: “Do you have what it takes?”
Qualitative change takes time. If you put a piece of iron in a barrel and start adding molten gold to it drop by drop, regardless of how much time it will take, at some point the barrel will be full of gold covering the iron entirely. Anyone who would look at the barrel will think that it is full of pure gold. No one will be able to see that once it contained nothing but iron. That is exactly how you reinvent yourself becoming a human being of a higher quality — you do it in solitude, drop by drop.
“Loneliness is a human raised to the power of 2.”
~ Joseph Brodsky
In solitude, you discover the origin of the suffering. Suffering arises as a result of the collision between the objective reality and the model of the world you’ve erroneously engineered in your mind. The bigger is the difference between them, the stronger is the friction.
A feeling of spiritual dissonance is a clear indicator that the mental constructions of the mind are incongruent with the objectively existing order of things. Psychic pain emerges as a by-product when the delusional elements of self-image start to crumble under the pressure of real life. Facts of life are constantly pressing us for a change of self-identity and the resistance to this change is only a natural reaction. The ego riots every time its entity is exposed to a risk of demolition. And here lies the next insight.
Ego is the reason why we suffer when we are alone.
It is our inability to let go of certain concepts of self we grew to believe makes us “us” that causes all the pain. Undoubtedly, burning the ideas about self hurts, but the consequences of refusal to do it deliberately are 100 times more painful. I know it from experience. I looked under every stone but failed to find the prime cause of my suffering. Only when I put my soul under intense scrutiny, I eventually was able to realize something: I am the creator of my own pain.
Cutting the strings of attachment to both material objects and mental images is an arduous process. It takes discipline and a strong sense of purpose that comes from a deep understanding of why you need to detach yourself from all those things in the first place. Of all insights out there, here is the most precious one:
Freedom is not the realization of what you are.
Freedom is the realization of what you are not.
As a matter of fact, existence turns out to be unbelievably simple once you abandon those parts of self-identity that are drawing some morbid masochistic pleasure from suffering.
Never feel pity for yourself. While you are alive everything is possible.
Never doubt. If you can see it in your mind, you can bring it to life.
Never complain. Nothing is changing while you complain. Even worse, as soon as you formulate a complaint inside your head you instantly victimize yourself programming your mind for defeat.
“At all costs try to avoid granting yourself the status of the victim. No matter how abominable your condition may be, try not to blame anything or anybody: history, the state, superiors, race, parents, the phase of the moon, childhood, toilet training, etc. The menu is vast and tedious, and this vastness and tedium alone should be offensive enough to set one’s intelligence against choosing from it. The moment that you place blame somewhere, you undermine your resolve to change anything;”
~ Joseph Brodsky
Resolve to evolve.
Transcending loneliness is particularly hard for extraverts. I know it because I am one. For extraverts, taking pleasure in solitude must be self-taught. An ability to appreciate all the gifts that solitude brings such as reading, exercising, writing, playing music, and walking alone thinking about life as well as an ability to appreciate silence mature with time. The transition is subtle. One day, after many hours spent alone, you notice that something has changed. You realize that you are falling in love with solitude. Accept that change. Catalyze the transformation by embracing it.
Once you learn how to draw inspiration from being alone, it stops being a burden. Socializing may be fun but knowing what you can do and what you can be when you “fly solo” will make you question the value of time spent with people. A well-spent minute alone is a minute invested in growth. It is craving for that growth that fuels the pursuance of seclusion.
Solitude is a beautiful thing. It gives an opportunity to the single most transformative practice of all — meditation. If you are in search of the answers to the question of who you are, in solitude you shall find them. The source of your power is nowhere to be found but within. Reach out.
“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.”
~ Bell Hooks
In solitude, on the path of reconstructing my broken mind, I have grown to learn another fundamental principle of life.
Self-love starts with self-respect.
Self-respect undergoes the Compound Effect. Marginal changes in a daily routine, gradual implementations, a summation of small steps — these are the things that reroute the course of life. One more push-up. One more page of a book. One more day without indulging negative proclivities. Little by little, by doing what’s hard you earn your own respect. You apprehend the inner mechanisms of achieving and rewarding yourself. You learn how to celebrate small wins.
Soon enough you will look back at the long thorny road you walked and notice something peculiar — a brand-new sensation, an inner recognition of the fact that you grew to like yourself. You will have sympathy for all those times you won victories over your weakness, for all those hard-earned incremental changes in your body, your perception, and your mindset you put in execution. Admitting the difference between your past and current reactions to events and people around you will make you feel like a different person. Seeing how much you’ve learned about yourself will inspire you to greater efforts.
And then, one beautiful day you will notice it. The Shine. A little beam of love inside of you glimmering for the very first time. Small but stable, illuminating you from within, it will dance in the darkness, your little flame of self-love. Staying alone will no longer be a burden. It is easy to spend time with someone you love.
Self-love will give you wings but it will also serve as an anchor. Once discovered, it will hold you in place keeping you on the path of mastery of solitude. Foster it. Nurture it. Let it kindle.
“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.”
~ Albert Einstein.
With time, I understood the origin of the depression that haunted me in the past.
Depression happens only to people who have free time to feel like shit.
Only an idle mind has time to ruminate on loneliness and abandonment. Stay busy. Consolidate all your attention on the process of learning and creation. We attract more of what we focus on. Your creative energy will splash chaotically all over the places if you fail to assign a strong vector to it. When it comes to your life principles and belief system, design meticulously, iterate relentlessly. What a man plants in the first half of his life, so he shall reap in the second.
The truth is, the fundamentals of living a righteous life are rather simple. However, integrating those fundamentals into a belief system that would sustain such life and be both robust and flexible takes a lifetime. A righteous life cannot be the fruit of a lucky chance. It is reserved for those who are willing to toil.
William Durant once said: “Education is a progressive discovery of your own ignorance.” It is safe to say that the first step to such discovery is pushing past the fear of spending time in complete isolation from the outside world. Certain knowledge can’t be transferred through a book or a teacher. It must be discerned spiritually. And that is only possible when you are ready to face your biggest enemy — yourself. Loneliness is a risk you must be willing to take when you attempt to seek freedom.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.