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How can you tell if you’re alone or lonely

A life well lived is a life lived with peace of mind, without self-doubt, and in harmony with one’s inner self

Written by Suvir Saran | New Delhi |
November 28, 2021 5:52:12 am
alone, being alone, lonely, feeling lonely, alone versus loneliness, how to deal with loneliness, emotions, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express newsHome is deep inside us, not grounded in geography; rather, it is a connection between mind and soul. (Photo: Suvir Saran)

Holidays like Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover and Eid teach us about our place in this world. They also educate us about the importance of being at home in our inner sanctum. But are we paying attention to the cues they offer? Do we care? Too many of us live aimlessly, going from one festival to another, from one social high to another, until we crash and are in deep despair.

One can happily be alone and not be lonely. Being alone is a physical state we choose. We decide to remove ourselves from the other to do something that’s important to us. It is right for us, meaningful to us. But being lonely is an emotional state in which we are disconnected or removed from others. We feel empty, afraid and broken.

When we are alone, we can reflect, rest, travel, create, contemplate. We are choosing a freedom that allows us to be apart from others and not feel lonely. We haven’t been forced into being disconnected to people we might choose to be with. We have separated ourselves by our own volition. But when we are lonely, we feel unloved, abandoned and desolate. We feel scared, left out, and forgotten.

When we experience loneliness, we actually have a negative sense of self. But when we choose to be alone, we often take that time of isolation to grow, to go back into ourselves. Then, when we are with others, we are better versions of ourselves.

We can live, love, work and discover, all while being alone and totally at peace with ourselves and the world. But when we are lonely, we feel removed from those we respect and love, even if we are in the same room, and it causes us to languish in a state of despair and desolation.

A busy life doesn’t always mean a life that is comfortable with itself or at peace with the world, Name, fame and success get us notoriety, access and material comforts. But a life well lived is a life lived with peace of mind, without self-doubt, and in harmony with one’s inner self. It is a long road getting to our inner sanctum where we are never lonely. It is in this home of our soul that we find the equipoise that doesn’t require external validation or connection and that is happily lost in acquainting itself to its own self. It is in this sanctum sanctorum of consciousness that we find freedom from those hankerings and distractions that can make us broken when all seems perfectly functional in our lives on the surface.

Who wants to think of one’s conscience and soul-health when the going is good? No one! Troglodytic life and living is nothing like what we see depicted as desirous or sexy on social media or the idiot box. Movies and books that truly help the self never make it to bestseller lists and hardly get oxygen on the stage of hugely celebrated mindless living and ruthless capitalist profiteering. The high one gets when chasing lucrative success is unmatched and puts all other comforts in its shadow where mindfulness is eaten away by the sparkle and shimmer that is souless indulgence and popularity.

After we have experienced all the riches and material discoveries of the world, after travels across the planet to beaches, valleys, mountains and plains, after retreats or in the hustle and bustle of human madness, we have to retire to our inner sanctum alone and feel in love with the self and loved back by the self. Without this self-love and self-appreciation, we are truly alone even when not lonely.

I learnt the difference between lonely and alone after I started travelling across the US for book tours and cooking demos, for lectures and classes, for appearances and interviews. I was forever on stage. I was seeing the world and the world was seeing me. I was never alone; I was endlessly lonely.

Then one day, my body’s total collapse took me to living in India. Living mindfully. I learned to be alone, find value in who I was, appreciate my body’s cues, understand my mind’s comfort, feed my soul’s fulfillment. More importantly, I realised that I’m just as happy being alone as in the company of a gazillion.

I found myself more of myself, reflective, smiling with no one around me at all, singing to myself, writing to free my mind, dancing all alone. I realised I had come home to myself, to my inner sanctum. I had made peace with my body, within my spiritual home, my inner sanctum.

Home is deep inside us, not grounded in geography. Rather, it is a connection between the mind and the soul. If we have that connection working and are feeding our soul with the nourishment of mindfulness, then we are at home and at peace with self, and at peace wherever we are.

So many of us are so lost in the material that we are unaware of the needs of our own mind and soul. We are so lost in the bodily and physical, that we could be living lavishly, eating opulently, travelling like kings and dressing like fashionistas and yet have vacant, homeless eyes and broken hearts and restless minds. It doesn’t have to be this way.

When the circuitry between our brain and our soul works, it is then that we live with a social-emotional connect that is at once purposeful and fulfilling. When mindfully happy and satisfied, we feel at home wherever we are, and even when all alone.

We come into this world alone, and it is alone that we leave it. The sooner we appreciate this fact, the sooner we can start making a more meaningful contribution to the world, and also be in harmony with self.

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