The Healing Power of Loneliness

Jeff Foster’s Newsletter – June 2020

Loneliness is not the absence of connection but the full presence of God and a total experience of the Self. It is total “isolation” which is not isolation at all from the perspective of Infinitude. Loneliness contains its own cure, if we are willing to dive in, courageously, or without any courage at all. The dive is everything. Loneliness is utterly misunderstood in our culture, or rather, it is only understood on a very superficial psychological level.

Everyone is running from loneliness, keeping busy just to avoid it, never coming to know and taste its sweet and merciful healing nectar.

For many, loneliness is an enemy, something shameful to be avoided or covered up at all costs. We reach outwards, habitually, automatically, unconsciously, just to keep our distance from loneliness, just to avoid the deafening silence at the heart of all creation. We fill our time and senses up, addict ourselves to projects, create false personas on social media, try to stay “connected” as much as we can, never letting ourselves rest, to avoid the “void” and the gaping chasm of loneliness. But in its terrifying depths, loneliness is not harmful or shameful at all; it is a highly misunderstood spiritual experience of Oneness with all creation, a full and life-giving immersion in the staggering beauty – and utter horror – of life itself, a deep and timeless connection to all living things. Loneliness is not an emptiness but a full presence and an abundance of life. It is pure potential and freedom and surrender all at once, but as long as we are running from it we will never know its nourishing, healing and transformative powers.

Loneliness is not a negative state or some mistake in our being or biology, it is inherent in existence itself, built-in ontologically to our very consciousness and it transcends the psychological story. It is connection, not disconnection. It is wholeness, not lack. Loneliness is a naked spiritual state and subsumes all other states. It is an utter letting go, a paradigm of pure receptivity and perfectly tender openness. It is the ground of being itself, and the base of our subjectivity. We run from it at our peril.

Nobody can experience our joys and sorrows for us. Nobody can live for us and nobody can die for us. Nobody can experience our own subjective reality, see what we see, feel what we feel, experience what we experience, love what we love, heal from what we need to heal from. We can act as witnesses for one another but we cannot enter each other’s subjectivity or breathe for each other or process each other’s pain. We exist in utter aloneness and uniqueness always, and this is true even when we are in deep connection and relationship. Our ability to relate authentically has its roots in our profound loneliness, and this is what makes every connection with another being such a miracle. When we run from our loneliness, we run from the miraculous and we run from ourselves.

Without loneliness, we exist in utter spiritual poverty, no matter how ‘evolved’ we believe we are.

Loneliness is a journey we must take alone. Like falling in love, or like dying, we must fall, without protection and without guarantees. Loneliness is the artist in the midst of creating something utterly new, the scientist on the verge of a breakthrough. Loneliness is the woman crying out on her deathbed, the child being born, the spiritual seeker kneeling prostrate before the ordinary world, the adventurer forging a new path in the dark forest. Loneliness is a risk, but utterly safe. Loneliness is the heart of trauma but it is a loving heart after all. Loneliness feels like shame and total abandonment from the perspective of the mind but for the soul loneliness is a full encounter with the timeless mystery of creation and an utter celebration of all there is.

Loneliness takes us out of our minds. It breaks us, grinds us down to our essence, erodes us back to purity and innocence and beauty, brings us close to death but then rebirths us, stronger and more courageous than ever before. Its terror breaks our defences and, then, vulnerable and soft and open, we re-enter the world, more sensitive to its beauty, more aware of the fragility of form and more tender towards the ache of humanity.

We don’t always know if we can endure loneliness, but we do.

When we are in loneliness, it is total and all-consuming and even time recedes. Everything disappears into loneliness – it is like a black hole, and we don’t know how long we can survive its ferocious embrace. But we are stronger than we know and we endure it beautifully. Through meeting our own loneliness and letting it touch us deeply, and ravage us, and cleanse us, and renew us, we come to know directly the loneliness of all beings, their yearning for the light, their deep ache for God, their search for home. We recognise others more deeply as ourselves. Loneliness makes us look beyond appearances and touch the depths of the world soul. If we have truly plumbed the depths of our own loneliness, we can never again close our hearts to the loneliness of others, to the yearning of their humanity, to the horror and awe of creation itself.

Loneliness breaks us open to a devastating compassion for all things, it matures us spiritually and increases our empathy a thousand-fold. We become more caring, more compassionate, more deeply considerate. We become more able to look into the eyes of another without shame or fear. We become less able to turn away where we see suffering and pain. We value our connections more deeply than ever before. Each friendship is a miracle. Each moment with a family member, or partner, or stranger, takes on a strange new melancholic beauty. We become more fearlessly alive in our dying. We embrace paradox as a lover and a friend.

Loneliness is the gravity of love, a sacred pull into the heart core.

Loneliness brings with it a sense of rest and contentment, a deep inner happiness and satisfaction. It slows us down to a snail’s pace and breaks our addiction to the clock and to second-hand notions of “success”. It makes us less distracted, less restless, less manipulative, more content with the present moment. The black hole in our guts becomes our unexpected church, our solace, our sanctuary and our mother, and the source of all our genuine answers. We listen to our loneliness and it brings unexpected gifts. New creativity and new inspiration pours out of the lonely place inside. New music comes from there, new and unexpected words, new desire and new paths to follow. Loneliness is the source of all great art, music, poetry, dance, and all works touched by authentic loneliness are authentic works filled with truth and humility and the light of life itself. The nectar of God pours through the broken place inside. Loneliness crucifies us yet shows us that we cannot be crucified. We do not lose ourselves in loneliness. We find ourselves there more clearly and directly than ever.

Loneliness is the experience of pure intimacy with the senses. It is the erotic experience of being fully alive. It is Jesus on the cross. It is the pulsating ache of a universe longing to be born. It is the end of all things, and a new beginning. It is holding a friend’s hand, not knowing how to help them, not knowing how to take away their suffering, but giving our heart to them totally. It is facing our own death, no promises, no guarantees, no story anymore.

Loneliness is the Beloved beckoning us. Those who have let themselves touch the black hole of loneliness, those who have given themselves up to its relentless pull, who have let the darkness penetrate and infuse and shake and reawaken them, are unmistakable beings. They have a depth and a strength of character that others lack. They radiate genuine warmth and understanding. Their melancholy is the fount of their greatest joy. They are not content with surface things any longer. They have been broken but they are playful too, and full of humour. They love the night-time as much as the day, the shadows as much as the light, the wolf as much as the songbird. Their not-knowing is the source of their wisdom. Their spirituality is simple. They hold no dogma anymore. They have become like little children once more. They are poets and artists and wild lovers of the night.

Loneliness is the experience of being in a body, but not of a body, and knowing that all things will pass, that all loved ones will die, that nothing lasts, that everything is made of the most delicate substance. Loneliness is a deep and unshakeable awareness of the transience and brevity of things, of illness and endings and new beginnings. Loneliness is a love of the night-time, the shadows and the moon. It is present in every moment and saturates every hour of every day. Once you have tasted loneliness, truly sipped from its sacred fount, you cannot run away from it ever again. You are haunted by it, yet you know it is the friendliest of ghosts.

Loneliness opens your heart wider than any other experience ever could. It brings with it youth and innocence. It makes you weep at the sight of sand on the beach, or the sound of a baby crying, or the feel of the morning sunlight on your skin, or upon the contemplation of time itself. Loneliness takes us to our most painful places but helps us fulfil our highest potential. Without loneliness, we are just shells of human beings, frightened skeletons. Loneliness fills us up with warmth from the inside, gives our lives the deepest kind of purpose and direction and meaning. Loneliness makes us realise we are never alone, and we are always loved, despite our imperfections and lack of faith. Loneliness is a religious experience, a lovemaking with the Universe.

Loneliness will save you if you give yourself to it totally. It will not separate you from the world and others but will bind you to them more powerfully. Through the dread and devastation of loneliness you will discover that you are more vast and more capable of love than you ever thought possible. You will be shocked at how much life you can hold.

The more you run from loneliness, the lonelier and lonelier you will feel, and the more you will fear being alone, even if you are surrounded by people. In loneliness is the utter paradox and mystery of creation. It may be last place you want to touch in yourself, and it may sound like madness, what I am saying to you here. But your loneliness may hold all the secrets to your very existence. You may find that your loneliness is not “loneliness” at all, in the end – it is your umbilical cord to God, unbreakable, infinite, death-defying, a cosmic pathway of love and forgiveness and utter, utter humility. Let your loneliness pierce you, then, and shake you, and nourish you, and let it connect you to the world – and your authentic self – more deeply than ever.