The Truth About Loneliness

Interdependence and Loneliness
As a Buddhist I have often been told we are all one inter-being.

We might imagine this as being different cells in the body of Dharma. Or perhaps even a subtle part woven into the machine of Karma.

Sometimes this idea seems perfectly inline with my human experience. Sometimes it seems in conflict with it.

The young attractive woman who is lonely The Truth About Loneliness Mindful Fitness Mind Fit Move

The Monastery
I lived at Great Vow Zen Monastery for 2 years.  I had many experiences of being part of a seamless system. It was an organic heart that shared it’s beat with so many people.

I also had experiences of deep and unyielding loneliness. It’s funny for some people to imagine feeling alone at the monastery. There is hardly any time where someone is not close at hand.

I slept in a room where other practitioners were a mere cubicle wall away. I could feel and most definitely hear their presence. Yet I often felt very, very alone.

The Experience of Loneliness
The experience of loneliness always comes as a sickness. A distinct longing to be seen and heard. A desire to be known in a deep and fundamental way. A hope and desire for intimacy.

Sometimes this longing manifests as a desire for a romantic partner. Sometimes as a distinct and dull depression.

It comes as a sense that something just isn’t quite right. I often wondered, ‘how does loneliness happen if we are all one being?’

Leaving the Monastery
Since leaving the monastery I have struggled with loneliness from time to time. Entering lay life is a challenge after the strict discipline and strong container of the monastery.

I have done many things to help contain my mind. Still, loneliness comes up.

Deep Connection
When I feel lonely I wonder if my heart is expressing its deep connection to the other human beings around me.

I feel a deep compassion and love. Yet my day-to-day experience doesn’t match the felt truth of inter-being.I live in a world with suffering beings one of which is me.

We are often caught up in our own agendas, our own ego games, and our own complex defenses to realize how deeply connected we all are.

This dissonance can amplify our suffering and lead to a feeling of disconnect and misalignment we call loneliness.

Nothing Is Amiss
Even though it is hard to bear.  I think part of me knows that this deep feeling of longing, the well in the pit of my stomach, is not a sign of something wrong with me.

Rather it is an indication of inter-being in my life. Even my casting about for new friends and new romance, demonstrates a true desire to be connected

No Cure
I will not any particular cure or remedy for  loneliness but rather a question.

How can I use the longing of loneliness to serve the dharma and strengthen my own heart?
How can we use the depth of this feeling to deepen our own connection to others and out understanding of suffering?

Accept It
Feeling lonely is hard no matter how you look at it. It is my own hope and deep wish that by acknowledging it as part of my reality and practice that it may offer relief to others who experience it’s effects.

Deep in my heart I truly believe that we love each other more than we are willing to admit. And sometimes it is only through this subtle pain called loneliness that we can realize the truth and power of this deep and abiding inter-heart.

This post was originally published in Ink On The Cat
ans subsequently published on The Under35 Project


What are 3 Virtues You Can Get By Waking Up Early?

First off I wanted to apologize that’s it’s been a few days since my last blog. Work has been hectic, but nevertheless I’ve started and not finished several blogs. This will start me back up and I should get back to posting every other day. I know you’re not hanging on my every word, but nonetheless I apologize for the hiatus. I hope you enjoy the post.

Look, I love sleep as much as many of you (ok I’m sure some of you love it more.) Well probably not as much as some of you. I have heard many people profess their love of sleep, as if it were an oddity, but unless you have bad nightmares most people enjoy sleep.

Unfortunately, our modern society has given us some funky ideas about how much sleep people actually need and in reality most of us get much more sleep than we require. Part of the reason why people get more sleep or feel like they need more sleep is that they aren’t very active. Many long distance endurance athletes need more sleep than the average person, but for the rest of us as we become active, its very common to find you can go with less sleep.

In any case no matter how much sleep you need or think you need, there are many benefits to waking up early. Whether you wake up early to exercise, meditate, plan, or read here are 3 virtues of waking up early to start your day.

1. The Virtue of Space – Early in the morning there are fewer distractions to getting done what you need to get done. Whether you have a family or live with roommates the earlier you wake up the less likely anyone else will be up. In addition there isn’t much on the radio or TV so there are fewer things on to distract you.

The quiet of the early morning offers a special energy for reflection, focused attention, and a fresh quality of the mind. The early morning is a great time to work on life goals, plan out your day, or even catch up on some good reading. Whatever usually gets in the way the rest of the day, there is less of it early in the morning.

2. The Virtue of Time – Have you ever noticed that as the day, week, or month goes on it seems like you have less and less time to get things done. Time very often feels like it contracts throughout our whole lives and especially if we have alot to do.

Some of this is a matter of perception, but part of it is that as we go through our day unexpected demands arise. Projects and problems appear that we never could have anticipated. One of the best things about waking up early is that it gives us more time. Not only does waking up early often actually give us more time in the morning, the extra time we get early in the day seems to be more productive.  Whenever I exercise in the morning I always have time for it, but when I wait until later in the day I often can’t seem to fit it in. If you want to get something done for sure, wake up early and do it. 

3. The Virtue of A Good Start – The law of karma can be complicated, but one thing is for sure, the way we start something greatly effects the way the rest of it goes. When we wake up early we give ourselves a chance to have a better start. This is especially true if we use this time to reflect, plan, or exercise. When we wake up late and move slowly to start our day, the resistance present in these actions carries on the rest of our the day.

Consider this: If you have a big exciting trip planned with your partner or good friend, you wake up early with energy. You are looking forward to a day of fun and adventure. You just can’t wait to get started. If you celebrated Christmas growing up, you can probably remember waking up on Christmas morning as a kid. The excitement and anticipation would get you out of bed earlier than normal.

On the other hand if we have something we are dreading or we are in a funk, we tend to wake up late, get out of bed slowly, maybe even stay in bed even though we are awake. Our every action is an expression of resistance to what we are going through or fear experiencing.

Each of these examples represent a different attitude about the day, either one of anticipation or one of resistance. So even when our day doesn’t look like one of the two described above, our attitude depends on the way we start our day. By getting up early we are saying, “Today is an important day, I’m excited about today, and I am ready to meet the challenges this day will bring.” If on the other hand we wake up late, we are saying, “I’m not sure about today, maybe something bad will happen, and I’m not sure I’m ready for it.”

Finally one objection:

The main objection I hear from people about waking up early is either: 1. They need more sleep or 2. They ‘just aren’t morning people’.

In the first case, it’s very likely you don’t need as much sleep as you think you do, or you could just go to bed earlier. Before I lived at the monastery I used to think I needed so much sleep, but after living there I found I could easily function on five and a half to six hours of sleep. How much sleep we need is often just another function of the mind and it’s something that is worth experimenting with to find out what’s real.

As for the second objection, I have found that being a morning person has to do with my attitude about the morning. If you wake up late and rush around to get things done you are likely to be cranky. If instead you wake up early and give yourself lots of time to complete tasks then you are more likely to have a pleasant morning.

By getting up early we can embody the energy of morning people even if we are in some part faking it. Very often when I wake up early, even when I feel kind of cranky, after my morning run, swim, or meditation I feel great! (Or at least better) Sometimes I feel like that when I wake up late, but more often than not an early start to the day, means a better start to the day.

Try experimenting with changing your schedule around and see how it effects your productivity and energy. Remember that if you start waking up early your sleep patterns are changing so as you make the change you are likely to feel tired even if you get plenty of sleep. Also if you want to start waking up early it helps to be consistent about it. If you get up late on the weekends it will be harder to get up early during the week. The more regular you make your sleep habits the less tired you will feel.

As your patterns settle in I think you will find that the morning is this rich golden opportunity just waiting to be discovered. Mornings can add something special to everyday. When I am good about getting up early I rarely regret my choice.

Thanks for reading and Be Well,