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Kick-off for Loneliness

Purple fall flowers in wooden flower box

There is so much to celebrate as we step into the Autumn season: vegetables and fruits of our summer gardens, warm days and cool nights for Home Comings, harvest and Fall festivals and fairs in every neighborhood and community. These harvest events are meant to encourage re-connection and the feeling of belonging after the long labors of the summer. But what if community busy-ness is part of the problem? What if our efforts to build community aren’t helping us connect and perhaps they are actually driving us apart?

Let’s be really honest with each other. Do these festivals and events help us overcome disconnection, build community or enable collaboration and cooperation? I fear not. I love the Fall; it’s my favorite season. But I have come to understand that Fall serves as the kick-off for the season of loneliness.

Fall is a time of transformation and great shifts and changes in our communities, our social calendars, and in our gardens. Change is inevitable, and everywhere, especially in the Fall. Some of the shifts I’ve seen are certainly evidence of change, but they also look a lot like the makings for loneliness:

  • Friends saying good-bye as kids head off to college and job changes require relocation for families and partners.
  • At-home parents and care-takers left to empty houses, vacant parks and neighborhoods as schools reopen.
  • School and community events added to calendar en masse for “must-do” festivals and celebrations,
  • Seasonal chores like gardening take on a wrapping up, cleaning up and letting go intention.

Just as trees draw energy from their branches, shedding green leaves and redirecting energy to fortify roots in preparation for Winter, we too may find ourselves having to make tough choices about what we give our attention. 

I hear it all the time, from parents, from working professionals, from people of all ages… we’re busy AND we’re lonely.  Despite, and maybe in spite, of all the activity and community assemblies, loneliness prevails. Sure maybe there’s a moment for a *SIGH* of relief in the quiet space created when kids head back to school, but then what? After the moment of still silence, we find ourselves alone.

“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expressed the glory of being alone” (attributed to Paul Tillich).  I’ve known both.

I saw this quote in the Frederick newspaper last week. It really struck me!

Loneliness is the state of being alone and feeling sad about it. It could even be a feeling of anxiety about being alone when you want companionship. Loneliness is that feeling of isolation when surrounded by others or removed from others by circumstance or consequence. Loneliness could be the result of a lost opportunity to connect or an inability to connect with others. Both variations wreak havoc on our emotional well-being. Loneliness, although a mental state more than it is a specific set of circumstances or causes, can result in real life health concerns such as increased stress levels, heart disease and stroke, poor decision making and depression. It’s also been shown that lonely adults get less exercise and consume more alcohol than those who are not lonely.

Apart from the season, Americans are a lonely lot, and young people bear the heaviest burden. But loneliness isn’t just a fleeting feeling, leaving one sad for a few hours to a few days. Research in recent years suggests that for many people, loneliness is more like a chronic ache, affecting their daily lives and sense of well-being. A nationwide survey by the health insurer Cigna confirms that loneliness is widespread in America, with nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes. That means half of the people we love are likely to feel lonely.

What is the antidote? Hope lies in authentic connections… connections to build community in shared spaces, time and intentions. This “space” is the practice of yoga! Its all yoga! (#itsallyoga) But yoga is way more than a posture on a mat! Yoga provides space for authentic connection within ourselves and with others. That’s why it is important to participate in public practice as a compliment to even the most robust personal practice. The postures linked through wise transitions and movements are important for our well-being because they reflect and inform us on how we live and move in our day-to-day lives. As human beings we need to breathe, move and rest. As social beings our health depends on authentic connection within safe communities.

Commutes, obligations and mis-placed commitments are a big part of the problem fueling our disconnection. Many of us are “stuck” doing things we think we should be doing, believe we don’t have a choice to stop doing, or fear no one else would or could do in our stead. Sometimes what we do feels like it defines us and gives us purpose and value… so why do we still feel empty, flat, disinterested?

First, you need to understand that your value has NOTHING to do with what you do! Second, your purpose is entirely about sharing your authentic self. It’s about HOW you show up and share yourself with the world. No one else can do your life’s work for you.

In order to form community, we need to practice connection and consistently practice it long enough so that it becomes rote, our default way of how we live. What does it look like to practice connection? It look a lot like yoga 🙂 Yoga as connection is a practice that certainly reaps rewards along the way, but becomes especially powerful when life throws us a curve ball. Nothing heals sorrow but time, but that time is made lighter by sharing the journey with others.

How are you practicing connection? What does your yoga look like?

If the way you are practicing your life is NOT cultivating authentic connection with your best self and others, its time to #beginagain. If you are disenchanted with your daily to-dos, something has to shift. Life is too precious and your life’s work is too important to waste another day disconnected from inspiration. Ask for your INSPIRATION CHECK-UP to learn the steps and discover the practices for authentic connection, passion & purpose in your daily living.