We have a problem and it isn’t easy to solve. We’re moving farther away from each other even while we need each other more and more. The NYTimes writes that more adults are living alone than ever before and technology separates us while suggesting that it brings us closer together. We need each other for life and enjoyment and completeness. It is becoming more difficult rather than easier to stay together. Family, friends and acquaintances move away or die, and we lose their connection to us. We Skype and Facetime and Google Hangout to maintain what we are not able to do in person. But it is a hollow connection. It doesn’t have the same feeling of warmth – touching the essence of humanity with the stroke of a hand or kiss on the lips.
We’ve participated in a meditation group while vacationing on the Gulf Coast of Florida for the last 10 years. We come together weekly in the same place – Wednesday at 3pm – with many of the same people who were there when we first joined the group.
We were not the first ones to join nor will we be the last. The group will continue with or without us because it is a “leaderless” group. We’re all leaders in one respect because each of us in time leads the group. We talk about issues of the soul guided by writings and newspaper clippings and insights of wisdom delivered through life experience. We meditate in silence for 20 minutes followed by an hour of sharing, inspired by one person’s suggestion of a subject for the session. By having time with each other that is sacred and relevant, we each gain something – mostly a sense of community. Each person brings her presence and joyfully shares it with the others, in a trusting, sacred circle. American Indians knew of the importance of these sacred circles long before the white man took away their land. Buddhist monks know of this sacred practice in their daily meditations. Yoga masters and restorative justice practitioners know how being in community restores our love for each other and sustains us through the exigencies of life. Loneliness doesn’t exist while we are together. It is the antidote to loneliness.
Can it be duplicated and spread? You bet. Think of people you know who are soulful – who reflect on their humanity and appreciate each day for what it brings. Who happily greet each sunrise and sunset in awe of the universe. Who sense our smallness in the immensity of infinity and appreciate the stability in the earth under our feet. Open your house to them regularly (once a week, month or quarter) so they can drop in when they can make it. Share your space so they can come together with you and the people who like to be with each other. This is a different kind of gathering from work or religion or neighborhood parties. It is intentionally small and intimate and life-affirming. You might not always want to go but you know that after you are there, you’ll feel better. That’s the amazing gift you can give to yourself and others you love. It doesn’t cost anything, and you have everything you need to make it happen. Talk about abundance! It’s all there for the taking (and giving).
If you are feeling lonely and want to do something that can make a difference, look for ways to be in community – whether it is sports or politics or hobbies or support groups – whatever gets you out of your house and into connecting with other human beings, it works. Antidote to loneliness – community.