Our world today is hung up on activity. If people are not busy with something, they become bored with their life. As a result, they become lonely. Loneliness is one of the most universal sources of human suffering today. But by trying to avoid loneliness, we find ourselves living in a state of memory loss or unconsciousness and we are constantly distracting ourselves with sophisticated activities to avoid physical, emotional and mental pain. But, if we were to take the time to listen to the Master’s and Teachers who have gone before us, we would come to understand the importance of loneliness when it comes and finds us. If we can only quiet ourselves and listen to our restless hearts, we would learn that in the midst of our sadness there is joy, in our fear, there is peace, in our greediness, there is the possibility of compassion and in our loneliness, we will find the beginnings of a peaceful solitude.

In deciding to develop a spiritual life, it is natural to be attracted to places and conditions where one can be alone. Unfortunately, in today’s world it is more difficult to withdraw to a physical place of solitude such as the desert. For modern men and women, the solitude that really counts is the solitude of the heart. This is the inner quality or mindset that does not depend on physical isolation. There are times when it is necessary to seek isolation in order to develop this inner solitude but what is important to remember is that solitude can exist, be maintained and developed in the center of a big city, in the middle of a large crowd and within a very active and productive life.

The person who can develop this inner solitude will no longer be affected by the enticements of the secular world but will be able to perceive and understand the world from a quiet inner region within the heart. The growth of this inner understanding is the beginning of the spiritual life. By transforming our loneliness into a deep solitude, we are able to create the sacred space where we can encounter the voice telling us about our inner self and the destiny given to us at our birth. Our questions, fears and anxieties are forged and transformed in the fires of solitude. This is where we come to know ourselves more deeply.

But, a lonely person has no inner time nor inner rest to wait and listen. They are restless and want answers now but in solitude we can only pay attention to our inner self. It is in solitude that we become present to ourselves and at the same time we also become present to others by reaching out to them by offering our own selves. This inner solitude of the heart deepens our affection for others and this leads to true fellowship and community. It makes the intimacy of friendship, marriage and community life more creative. What begins to happen is that we come to see the presence of Christ in others, it is recognizing that Christ in me, recognizes Christ in the other. Our loneliness can grow into solitude but there will be times when we will feel overwhelmed by loneliness and have a desire for the intimacy of another and become disinclined towards a solitude of the heart but once we have become aware of what this solitude is, we will never stop searching for it. 

Loneliness is one of the most agonizing forms of suffering that can lead to desperation, hopelessness and restlessness. The mind cannot be calmed because of anxiety.  The fear of being alone becomes too great and external stimuli only deepens the loneliness. For the past fifty years institutions such as the church have failed to help lonely people. I know that this is true because I’ve been there. The shallowness of our society and the decline of our Christian culture leaves a hollowness in the souls of men and women that they try to fill with social media, entertainment, drugs, alcohol and sex. The vast majority of people don’t understand that the void they feel in their hearts can only be filled by God. Unfortunately, instead of turning to God, most people turn to psychiatry and anti-depressants. This will only become worse as our society becomes more hedonistic and atheistic and Christianity more “fluffy.” I am afraid that we will wake one day and find ourselves in a Huxley universe.

People long for community but seek it in the wrong places. Social media like Facebook refers to itself as a community. People have hundreds of friends from all around the world but yet they sit at home alone. They eat by themselves, watch TV by themselves and go to bed by themselves. What is so sad is that these hundreds of friends these people have, in reality don’t care in the least about them.

Loneliness cannot be overcome by sheer willpower alone but only through the Grace of God. In order to turn loneliness into solitude of the heart the man or woman must first turn to God and constantly trust in the will of God no matter how dark their life may become. This requires perseverance, constant prayer and trust. This is not an easy task but when you are able to embrace your loneliness, and turn it to God, then loneliness turns into aloneness and this is the beginning of the solitude of the heart. When you become comfortable with being alone, you no longer have fear, anxiety or hopelessness. You begin to seek solitude at every opportunity. Over time you will be able to access solitude at any time you please. You will become the calm eye of a hurricane in the midst of the chaos and confusion that is the world.

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