This is a unique time in life and, closer to home, for me personally. I have been deeply engaged with re-connecting, growing and creating new ways to be together within the global School of Images community in the past year. And I am about to make a significant step – to return to in-person workshops and gatherings in the US Pacific Northwest, Slovenia and France. It feels like life is opening up – and it is.
Yet, there is such loneliness even among those of us who are opening up, feeling this expansion, despite having apparently successful and integrated lives? Why?
Loneliness, as defined by mental health professionals, is a gap between the level of connectedness that you want and the connectedness that you have. It is a subjective feeling, and is unrelated to the extent of contacts we have. It is entirely related to the quality of our experience of connection. If as I pointed out in my latest blog, a river of life flows through all living life on earth – creating what I call a DreamField – a tapestry of interconnectedness, why do we feel so separate?
We can blame the pandemic for greatly intensifying our sense of loneliness. Being stuck at home alone or with a few family members, with no relief from the boredom of sameness, has certainly shored up the painful belief system that we are discrete entities, unconnected, misunderstood, alone. But it can’t explain the long, deep, lingering feeling of loneliness. Even serious scientific research now recognizes this impact on mental and even physical health.
Where does this paucity of connection come from? We learned to be grateful over two years that turning outward to form connection, through movies at home, the web, Instagram, Facebook, zoom, whatever would make us forget for a moment our painful disconnect,. We were grateful that we had a way, albeit imperfect, of alleviating our discomfort. But the epidemic of loneliness continues unabated. Why?
One explanation starts 400 years ago, in the Enlightenment. The new thinkers of the time were trying to overcome the crushing irrationality of theocracies by telling us that the act of experiencing was subjective, a phenomenological event not to be trusted. If we were reasonable beings – and we all wanted to be – we needed to become observers, seeing all things outside ourselves as objects. This got us questioning whether the world was an illusion: “Am I the only one seeing the world as I do?”
For Immanuel Kant and other philosophers, the world was a mind–independent reality or noumenon, a “hypotheses used to explain the existence of the phenomenon.” But there was no known way to establish that others see as we do, experience as we do. This intensified our loneliness. The new thinking pervaded our everyday belief system that each one of us is alone in a vast ocean of humanity.
Today, a global world powered by technological advances intensifies this sense of being lost among the multitudes. We react by contracting into safe social spaces – nationalities, tribes, groups, cults, even golf clubs – that we believe can give us an identity and hold us safe.
But here’s the rub in that solution: all external structures need to be buttressed by internal structures and by an inner voice and inner sight that guides us to find the Dream Field, the glorious tapestry of oneness, connection and true safety.
You could say that inner gazing isolates us even more, but it’s quite the opposite. As we look into our own nature, we instantly reconnect to nature, since we are an intrinsic part of nature. We reconnect to our source, the breath or spirit-wind that blows through the whole world and linksus to every living being on earth.
Practice this simple exercise to confirm what I say. Not only will you feel connected but synchronistic events will pop up, as if by magic, bringing you to meet those you need to meet today. Trust your inner gazing. Among the multitudes your dreaming will magnetize and connect you to those you are meant to meet for your higher joy and good, and theirs.
Close your eyes, uncross legs and arms, sit up straight.
Breathe with those you love; those you are acquainted with; with all the people in your town or city; with all the people in the world
Breathe with your pets; with the animals you are acquainted with; with all the animals in your town or city; with all the animals in the world.
Breathe with the plants in your house and garden; with the plants in your town or city; with the plants in all the world.
Breathe with all of nature.
Breathe out. Open your eyes.
Remember that we are all breathing in unison, and it is our breathing that connects us to the DreamField, the great tapestry of life, that links and unites us. Practice this regularly and new connections will inevitably open up for you. Loneliness will disappear. You will experience the joy of being part of a larger community called WE.
by Catherine Shainberg