From loneliness to aloneness

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Loneliness, one of the latest lifestyle trends is increasingly becoming a regular phenomenon; Naina explores the issue. Published in Daily Excelsior (Jammu and Kashmir), India, on July 2, 2017.


I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”

Author-poet Oriah Mountain Dreamer

From New York to New Delhi, loneliness is increasingly becoming a regular phenomenon. It is becoming a new lifestyle. Most of the flats in an urban setting are occupied by only one member or maybe two (including his/her pet). Loneliness appears to have become particularly prevalent in modern times.

Ironically, loneliness frequently occurs in heavily populated cities; in these cities many people feel utterly alone and cut off, even when surrounded by throngs of other people. Many more young people live alone, often away from family or friends because of work or college. The pressures of life may not leave enough time to make good relationships. Many people get into relationships they would not choose if they were not afraid of being alone. Twitter, Facebook and Blogs become the only companions. Urban loner socializes virtually and smiles artificially; listens to music to escape and visits coffee shops alone.

The fear of loneliness is one of the most common fears in adults. Whether someone suddenly has suffered a loss and separation and has to adjust and accommodate their life to totally new situations, it causes distress and anxiety. Loneliness is a very powerful emotion which may lead to depression, illness, even suicide.

Loneliness and aloneness are two words, generally used synonymously but Osho points out negative emptiness is loneliness and positive emptiness is aloneness. Both are empty but there is a tremendous difference in quality. How to transform the negative to the positive? What can a person do when he/she feels lonely?

In the present-day world loneliness is becoming an epidemic of vast proportions. People seem to find empty moments consuming their life energy. They often find themselves sliding into isolation or depression. The ironical fact is: we are using technology more than ever before to connect and communicate and yet we find people lonelier than ever before. It is reported that one out of four Americans has not been talked to by no one about anything of importance during the last six months.

Osho’s insight is that one is compelled to come to terms with loneliness, so much so that eventually loneliness is transformed into aloneness. Only then is one able to move into a deep, enriching relationship. Only then will one be able to move into love. He distinguishes loneliness from being in the state of aloneness, which he calls a state of positive energy.

Osho explains that to be lonely is totally different from being alone. Not only is it different but that they are opposites.

To be lonely means a negative state: you are hankering for the other, you are longing for company, you are missing the crowd. You cannot tolerate yourself; you feel yourself intolerable. You are bored with yourself – that’s what being lonely means – utterly bored. To be alone is totally different: it is utterly ecstatic. To be alone means a positive state. You are not missing the other; you are enjoying yourself. You are not bored by yourself; you are intrigued. A great challenge comes from your innermost core. (1)

Obviously, a great deal of meditative effort is needed to inculcate the ability to live in a state of positive energy. We all know how it is to feel depressed and we all know how it is to feel left out. What we need to learn is how to feel sufficient unto oneself. An additional fact that has emerged in modern times is that one hears from people frequently how busy they are. Although people complain how busy they are and yet they seem to look at it as a virtue. However, they are unable to recognize the family and social consequences of being so “busy”; one of them being – they often feel lonely, burnt out, and unable to take care of their mental as well as physical health.

Man has always felt lonely, because man basically is alone. We are born alone, and we will die alone. In the middle we can only pretend to be together. Aloneness remains unaffected. It becomes an undercurrent, it goes underground.

We are alone. The whole earth may be crowded but still every individual is alone. Even when we are in a crowd still we are alone. This loneliness gets unbearable and we want to get rid of this loneliness, by creating relationships, only to forget our loneliness. Then for some time we feel that we are not alone. We make the world because the loneliness hurts. We try to fill this loneliness with money, with friends, with family, with religion, caste, nation. We make so many efforts to fill this inner void because this wound is painful. But it is wrong to think of it as a wound; it is not a wound. Osho reminds,

Do not run away from it, do not avoid it; accept it, embrace it. This is your nature. You will not get anywhere by running away from it. You have done this in innumerable lives and you have failed. You have gained nothing except failure.

[…] It is very interesting to note that the more you run from yourself the more you will have to run — the more you will get scared of loneliness. The more you accept to be with yourself the more you will be able to find that the loneliness is not loneliness but aloneness. There is a difference between loneliness and aloneness. Loneliness means that you miss the presence of the other. To be alone means that being by oneself is enough. Loneliness is painful but there is bliss in being alone. When Shankara is alone he is by himself, but when you say that you are alone you are lonely.

Being lonely means feeling the absence of the other. Aloneness means that one is happy to be with oneself. Aloneness means one has fallen in love with oneself. And meditation means to be in love with one’s own self, to make such a relationship with the self that there is no ‘need’ to make a relationship with anyone else.

Meditation means to be fulfilled in oneself. The whole world is inside the individual. There is nothing lacking. One is complete, whole, divine and there is no need to go anywhere. Understanding this inner state is sannyas. (2)

The Eastern mystics have done a deeper research. The East discovered that when a person stays wholly within himself, then all relationships dissolve. It is a very fortunate thing to happen; it is not something to be unhappy about. When a person becomes stable within himself, sex dissolves and the keenness to make relationships with others also disappears. The feeling of gratitude is so much that one does not want to make any relationship with anyone. No longer will that person beg of others to have some relationship with him, no longer will he say that “I cannot live without you.” Now he can live alone. Only the person who can live alone, really lives! The other type of living is only a deception, an illusion. If one cannot live alone how can he or she live with others?

Osho expounds,

First become alone. First start enjoying yourself. First love yourself. First become so authentically happy that if nobody comes it doesn’t matter; you are full, overflowing. If nobody knocks at your door it is perfectly okay. You are not missing. You are not waiting for somebody to come and knock at the door. You are at home. If somebody comes, good, beautiful. If nobody comes, that too is beautiful and good. Then move into relationship. Now you move like a master, not like a beggar. Now you move like an emperor, not like a beggar. And the person who has lived in his aloneness will always be attracted to another person who is also living his aloneness beautifully, because the same attracts the same. When two masters meet – masters of their being, of their aloneness – happiness is not just added, it is multiplied. It becomes a tremendous phenomenon of celebration. And they don’t exploit, they share. They don’t use each other. Rather, on the contrary, they both become one and enjoy the existence that surrounds them. (3)

Quotes by Osho from
(1) The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 3, Ch 6
(2) The Great Transcendence, Ch 3 (translated from Hindi)
(3) Come Follow To You, Vol 4, Ch 6, Q 5

NainaNaina is a regular contributor

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