Mindfulness Activity #34
Today, I thought we would talk about loneliness. Loneliness is in the sadness family. Loneliness is experienced when one is alone and unhappy about it. Being alone can be experienced as solitude (which may be peaceful or pleasant) or it can be experienced as a sense of wanting to be connected to others and related feelings of sadness.
The Buddhist view on loneliness is that periods of loneliness can useful. In moments of loneliness, we are able to explore parts of ourselves and the world that we might otherwise miss. However, balance is everything. Chronic loneliness, or being set apart from the world, is not good for your health. It lowers immunity and is linked depression, to a host of physical problems, and to higher rates of mortality. We can and should reach out to others and engage virtually or from 10 feet away! But sometimes, we are still lonely.
Research has shown that mindfulness decreases feelings of loneliness. Mindfulness helps in at least three ways. The first way is that accepting being alone can transform loneliness into solitude that has pleasant moments. The second way that mindfulness helps is to see yourself in connection to the entire world which dissipates loneliness. The third way mindfulness helps is that mindfulness can give us self-compassion which soothes and nurtures you.
So, today’s practice will allow you to explore mindfulness, but also to move through it to connectedness.
Breathe and then play this clip
(If leading a group read the following out loud, if alone set a timer for your practice and then read to yourself)
Notice the feelings in your body? Are you feeling sadness, or an ache in your chest? Are you missing anyone? Perhaps you are in a place in your life where you do not have connections to anyone and wish you did. You can build connections, but for now, you can practice. You can experience sadness without suffering.
Whatever you are feeling now, continue to breathe and listen to the music. Jazz is often unplanned and intimately connected to others. Listen to all the musical links and connections. Now, think for one moment about how we are all connected to each other. If our recent times have taught us anything it is that each of our actions are connected. If any feelings of sadness arise, just notice them with empathy and compassion for yourself. Do not judge yourself or tell yourself you should be doing or feeling anything different. Just breathe and offer yourself comfort. Imagine holding yourself like a parent might cradle a child, continue to breathe in and out. Hold onto nothing. With each exhale, bring your attention to the music and know that in this moment you are connected to the music. You are connected to all the people who practice this very mindfulness today. You are not alone.
(leader wait 1 full minute more and then turn off clip. Ask people what they noticed.)
Now, notice this state. Throughout your day, do not be afraid of lonely feelings. Embrace them, show yourself compassion, and you will hurt less. Dive into the natural world…take a walk and feel connected to the universe. Speak to anyone around you, close or not, and pay attention to their feelings and the interaction. Make a call…Nurture yourself by putting up something you like to look at or listen to music you enjoy. Finally, remember that everything is temporary and that this period will pass. In the meantime, find ways to make it a little easier on yourself.
Have a peaceful day.