Have you ever felt lonely—even though you’re surrounded by people? Today, it’s easier than ever to become disconnected from those around you. One reason: There are so many potential diversions in our lives, the leading culprit being the smartphone you may be holding right now.
Too often, our online connections supersede the relationships we have with the people sitting right next to us. The result can be an emotional vacuum or empty feeling inside, because our online relationships just can’t replace the intimacy of real life.
This is one of many modern-day problems that Pedram Shojai addresses in his book The Urban Monk. The good news is Shojai has a solution that can break us out of our smartphone stupor. It starts by connecting with someone you can easily get in touch with—yourself. In his words:
If you feel lonely and isolated, then you must know that the solution is an inside game. Don’t look to fill the silence or emptiness with meaningless things to do or other people to waste time with. Fill it with yourself.
What Shojai asks us to do is tap into “the Source,” a place within us “from which happiness springs.” While the author isn’t too specific as to what the Source is, it’s pretty clear that it’s the Divine, aka God. It’s that flicker of light that exists within each of us that, with a little fanning, can be turned into a strong and enduring flame.
Saying you need to tap into the Source sounds well and good, but how do you do it? Shojai recommends you try the meditation below, a slightly different take on traditional meditation as it places a special emphasis on the area around your heart. It appears below, in a slightly edited version; be sure to spend a full minute on each step before moving on to the next one.
The 8-Step Heart-Centered Meditation
Sit in a comfortable position and start breathing in and out through your nose, all the way to just below your navel.
Take a few minutes to settle your mind and anchor your breath down low.
From here, move your attention to the center of your heart and bring your hands in front of you with your palms together fingertips facing up.
Focus on your breath coming in and out of you for a few breaths.
Feel this area within you warming up.
Sense the unconditional love in your heart; feel it expand.
Feel this love with each inhale and exhale; project this love outward from your heart. Feel it for everyone you know, love, hate, need to forgive, have yet to meet.
Do this for several breaths; anchor this love in the center of your heart.
Note: You’ll see that in this meditation there is no mantra, but you can feel free to add one. While many mantras consist of a single word, I find I do better with a short phrase. In this case, “Lord, open my heart” repeated over and over.
Here are some other ways to address the loneliness void.
Shojai also has some practical ideals for dealing with the feeling something isn’t right inside us. He asks us to ponder four pointed questions that can often uncover one or more deep-rooted issues that we’re subconsciously dealing with and need to work out. Ponder each question below and see if one or more resonate within you.
- Do you need to make better friends?
- How can you make amends with your family?
- What are your interests and how can you move toward those?
- How can you use your alone time to better yourself?
For those with families at home, he advises us to reconnect the old-fashioned way—by doing things together. He recommends taking walks, riding bikes, playing board games and cooking a meal together as great ways to connect with family members, young and old. These activities, when done together, can help us bond on a deep level.
Loneliness cannot be overcome by getting something, only by giving something.
Are you in a place in your life where your friends are few and family is far away? John Templeton advises us that “You cannot be lonely if you help the lonely.” Look inside to find the empathy and resources you have that can be shared with others.
Templeton asks us to “spend an unselfish hour with someone less fortunate,” be it a neighbor or a homeless person you regularly encounter. “Share the priceless gifts of caring, encouragement, appreciation and praise” with someone in need, for it helps both the giver and the receiver.