What to do when we feel alone

6 mins read

lonelinessLoneliness doesn’t just crop up in romances – it crops up in every relationship or thwarted relationship where there is self-grasping and attachment.

Carrying on from this article.

How did you get interested in Buddhism and/or meditation (at least enough to be reading this blog?) I like asking people this question, for they often have very interesting stories to tell. And I find that people often find their way to Buddhism in the wake of a loss or tragedy, recognizing that it answers some profound questions about suffering.

Existential loss/grief

In Buddha’s time, there was a young woman called Kisigotami who lost her baby and was devastated by grief. Buddha helped by showing her the universality of this suffering. GampopaYou can read the story in Joyful Path of Good Fortune, or a shortened version here.

There is also the inspiring story (told in Universal Compassion) of the Tibetan man Gampopa, who tragically lost his wife but found his way into Dharma, becoming a highly realized lay Master.

We lose every single one of our loved ones to death sooner or later – if we don’t die first. Is there a remedy for this unbearable grief? Perhaps, yes, if we realize we can do something about mental pain by changing our way of thinking and by realizing that we are not ever actually alone.

We have a saying in Buddhism, “Suffering has good qualities.” It is not inherently bad. We can gain the deepest spiritual realizations and strength at the very times when things are the most broken down, eg, when we are bereaved or after a big break-up. Buddha was kind enough to show how even this agonizing heartache doesn’t have to be bad for us; and it’s worth acquiring some of this understanding before tragedy strikes again!

sufferingWe live and die alone – this is a characteristic of samsara because we’re all isolated by our delusions. But enlightenment is union, one iconic image being Buddha Heruka in embrace with Buddha Vajrayogini, the embodiment of the union of great bliss and emptiness. In samsara, we experience ourselves in a state of isolation. In a Pure Land, we experience ourselves in a state of communion. Why? Because samsara is created by delusion whereas the Pure Land is reality.

Shine the sun of wisdom and love

If you like, here is a short but sweet meditation based on some of the previous loneliness articles that you can do before moving onto the rest of this article …

We can start with a feeling of inner confidence and space by getting into our heart and identifying with our infinite-sky-like Buddha nature

Then we can revisit our determination to decrease our ignorance and attachment because these simply don’t work as a strategy for overcoming loneliness. We can bring examples in our own experience to mind, and remember that these are just unhelpful habitual thoughts – we don’t have to identify with these thoughts (we are not them), we don’t have to think them, we can in fact just let them go. These delusions take form as thick dark clouds, and we breathe them far out through our nostrils, letting them disappear forever.

clear light of blissWe can spend a few moments considering how we need to climb down the mountain of self and up the mountain of other.

Then we can feel the wisdom, non-attachment, and love of all holy beings around us in the form of clear light, the most beautiful light we can imagine, and breathe this in deeply through our nostrils. We can ride the light rays of wisdom and love into our heart, where they mix with the inner light of our Buddha nature.

We can focus on the radiance in our heart, like a sun shining inside. We can feel, “This is more like it! This is who I really am. I have everything and everyone I need.”

We can let its rays spread to the people around us, in our lives, taking away their loneliness and filling them with bliss. We can let this love spread as far as we like, even to pervade anyone who ever experiences loneliness, placing them in a deep feeling of communion and bliss.

Then we can make a plan to bring this love in our heart into our day, letting it be in the background of all our thoughts, and making an effort to give comfort to all the lonely people in our lives.

All the lonely people, where do they all come from

To overcome loneliness we all need to move away from our sense of being a real, solid, isolated self. When our mind is full of love, as in the meditation we just did (if you did it), we can see for ourselves that we are neither isolated nor more important than anyone else. This sense of self is only held by the thoughts of our ignorance of self-grasping and self-cherishing. Our version of our self is not ultimately true – if we look for it in our body or mind it disappears, like chasing a mirage.

all the lonely peopleBut because it feels limited, we set ourself up in neediness – we need someone to make us better, complete us, validate us, etc, and so we feel lonely because others cannot or will not fill that void. Whatever people say to comfort us, we still feel pathetic. We look for qualities in others that we feel we are missing, such as confidence, when it’d be far better to develop these qualities in ourselves. We cover up our weaknesses and try to hide behind others’ strengths.

We find it difficult to receive love because we are holding ourselves to be inherently unlovable, even though that version of ourself doesn’t actually exist.

Existence is relationship

When we are on “this mountain”, it feels absolutely this mountain, appears as such even to our eye awareness. But when we climb up “that mountain,” it also now appears to be this mountain from its own side and we believe that appearance. In which case, what happened?! Who switched around those real mountains?!

Self and other too are just objects of our thoughts or perceptions, incapable of existing on their own. They have no existence from their own side but totally depend one upon the other – what is this mountain without that mountain, or self without other?

other side exchanging self with othersOr in the similar case of left and right – what would be a world of lefts? Or one side of the coin without the other?

(By the way, when we use the word “dependent” we don’t mean it in a needy way – more like interdependent, dependent arising, dependent relationship.)

In universal love we never feel separated from anyone – we realize that we exist only in relationship, as relationship, with all living beings – part of a totality. In emptiness, too, there is no gap between ourselves and others because we are empty of existing from our own sides. Everyone is mere appearance of our mind, as we are of theirs – so how can we ever be separate from anyone? We cannot be.

With a perfect realization of love and wisdom, completely in tune with the way things are, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are therefore entirely blissful and whole. They need no one but love everyone. We can be like this too.

More in the next and final article on overcoming loneliness – hopefully it’ll take less than the four years it took me to get around to this one!

Over to you … please comment in the box below and I’ll try to answer.

Related articles

Why do I have no friends?

Love without pain 

Other loneliness articles 

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

11 thoughts on “What to do when we feel alone”

  1. Thank you so much again Luna.
    ‘Who switched around those real mountains?!’
    What a stupid chicken I am!

  2. A lovely article, everyone experiences loneliness, but even that connects us, that we are not alone in that experience. Sometimes we can think that we are, that everyone else is doing just great, it is just us that feels sad and let down.

    I think that because we are grasping at a self that doesn’t exist in the way we perceive it, it is like trying to get close enough to a rainbow to hold onto it. We just can’t. So when we are left alone with this ‘self’ we feel incomplete because even the self we grasp at cannot actually show up to keep us company.

    As Geshe La shows us in meditation we cannot find this ‘self’ in our mind, in our body, in the collection of these two or seperate from them. So of course we feel incomplete, that self doesn’t exist and will feels as insubstantial as a rainbow. So we make ourselves feel more substantial by identifying with being a girlfriend, a mother, a teacher and so on. We wear these roles like the emperors new clothes.

    When we learn to identify with our true existing self loneliness falls away. We find how we really exist is universal because it is connected with everything else.

  3. I found buddhism when i had a nervous breakdown . I felt my catholic up bringing no longer forfilled my needs i lost my faith totally. Then one night i dreamt of a womderfull place were all religions and people got along and cared for each other. A face appeared to me in my dream . I had no idea who it was untill a few weeks later and 3 more dreams more or less the same with this face of a wonderfull man . I went to the corios shop and i was looking round at there books and low and behold their was the face i had seen in my dreams it was geshe la.xxxxx

  4. Dear Luna . . . Namaste . . . you are, from my perspective, always lucid and colloquial and approachable. I read these qualities in Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s books. Can you give us a brief bio of yourself, where you’re from, how you became Buddhist, etc., till now? . . . you are such a fine writer. I aspire to such graceful means to persuade others reasonably.

    1. That is very kind of you to say so.

      I write under a pen name so i can’t give too much away — there are bits and bobs of bio details throughout this blog, but the broad brush strokes is that I met Venerable Geshe-la 37 years ago in the north of England and have been studying and practicing in this tradition ever since, moving around quite a lot to help out where I can.

      I could obviously do none of these things without having met my teacher — any helpful abilities i have come from him, and I never forget that.

      I happen to love writing, always have, so putting that together with my love of Dharma + wish to do something useful to pass on the kindness i have received is a joy for me.

      Thank you for your interest!!!

      1. I too find your writing inspirational and on a regular basis the reinforcement I need and now cherish to continue my practice. I love your way of putting the teachings I’ve heard in my dharma classes in very practical terms. Thank you. Your blog is a delight.

    2. Thank you for your inspiring articles 👌🙏.
      We are so fortunate to have met you and follow your blog as you cover just about everything about our delusions. By the way I’m the stupid chicken but not anymore 😊. From my teaching coming from my Guru and you.
      Much Luv and Blessings.

Leave a Reply