Loneliness: A Bridge to the Heart

11/10/2011 07:48 am ET | Updated Jan 10, 2012

For some people, loneliness comes and goes. For others, it is a chronic condition. I was talking to a good friend of mine, a successful businessman who travels extensively, and he confessed to me that he keeps himself busy every moment, because he cannot bear the thought of being alone.

I see loneliness as a wall that separates us from our true selves. The most effective way to dissolve it is with loving and compassion for ourselves, by getting to know who lives behind the wall, and encouraging it to come out and be seen. When we are connected to ourselves, we are filled with peace and calm. But how do we connect when we are alone, and feel like we are separated from ourselves?

My mother had this extraordinary capacity to enjoy the company of herself. When I asked her if she was feeling alone, she would reply, "Darling, I am not alone, I am with my self." I loved her way of reframing being alone. She had the definition of being alone right: All One ... a oneness with all.

I never saw my mother idly surfing channels on TV. She never touched a computer in her life. She never owned a cell phone. She had this ability to commune with herself and with nature, and would often become lost in the moment. I remember returning home to find her enjoying her tea in the kitchen, with English digestive biscuits, feta cheese and toast, settled into the ritual ceremony of eating, reading, writing, thinking ... just being. In that presence, there was a sense of comfort, and of room to be and to become.

One would think that nowadays, between our jobs, families and social obligations, we do not have enough time to be lonely. How easy is it to cover up our loneliness with Facebook, Twitter and browsing the web, filling in the quiet moments with distractions? All the while, our soul patiently waits for us to contact her. These constant, superficial interactions can create a chasm between who we show up as in the world and who we truly are in our hearts. Loneliness is caused when we suppress and censor our true feelings, which happens when we do not feel supported and encouraged to express our vulnerable side. There seems to be this shame or fear in admitting when we feel lonely, and so we shut down and separate ourselves from ourselves and from each other. The bottom line is that the human heart comes alive with the offering of oneself and one's gifts, with being seen, and with knowing that we matter.

If I am connected to my heart, my loving for myself just flows, and the judgments fall away. What causes the gap between our social identity and true self are the parts of us that deserve our attention and affection, but have instead been discounted and ignored. The gap causes separation between our hearts and ourselves, which creates loneliness. It takes emotional courage to be vulnerable, especially with ourselves.

One of my favorite monologues comes from Tom Stoppard's play, "The Real Thing." In the monologue, he calls the special self the real thing, the "undealt card," that he believes we only share with our significant other. What happens to that undealt card when it has no place to go? Where does it land when we have no significant other to share it with? That "undealt card," that intimacy, cannot possibly come alive in the rigors of daily life. It needs space, and our full attention and willingness to a take step back and allow it to come forward. This real thing is always within us. If we keep it locked away, exiled until we find a special someone to help us access it, we will always feel lonely and incomplete.

If you are feeling lonely, try to identify what you are feeling lonely for. We often associate being lonely with longing for the company of others, but loneliness can also stem from not giving voice to our longings. Sometimes we long for the creative side of ourselves. Sometimes we long for intellectual stimulation, for beauty, for adventure, for meaning and purpose. Other times we long for emotional nourishment, appreciation and acknowledgement. We long for someone to listen to us deeply, so we can voice our true feelings.

Reaching outward and connecting can give us validation. However, going inward to find our real thing makes us more self-reliant. Out of self-reliance comes more wholeness, which leads to fulfillment. Becoming ourselves is a full-time job. Our loneliness can become the pathway that leads us to discovering the unrealized and unexpressed parts of ourselves. Our spirit thrives in being called forward to assist us, help us transform, heal and express ourselves. It remains steadfast, waiting to be called.

There is a place I like to call a "heart zone" that lives in all of us, a place which encompasses all our "selves," including our loneliness, our judgments and our misidentifications. It is the vast, safe, and expansive space where unconditional love resides. It encompasses the true self, and if we allow ourselves to fall into it, we feel embraced and at home. I call it "gliding into your heart." Each one of us has to find a way to return home, to where we are at peace within ourselves. Opening ourselves to what our loneliness has to express can become a bridge to our heart. Share with us a time in your life when you were lonely, and what your loneliness taught you.

I'd also like to announce that Sklubbertonk is the winner of our October 26 giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Agapi's book "Unbinding the Heart" will come out February 1, 2012. Join the conversation on the Unbinding the Heart Facebook page or visit the Unbinding the Heart website.