Loneliness: The Phantom Limb Ache of Self

I had been noticing that loneliness, a perennial theme in human life, has been coming up a lot lately, in my personal vocabulary as well as in the confessions of others. Apparently I am not the only one observing this.  The same day I heard two friends profess to their own states of loneliness, I received word that Laura Parker was presenting a thoughtful on-line interview series called “Transforming Loneliness.” And I heard it from one of the interviewees, Jeannie Zandi, who reported that she herself had been considering engaging in more public discussion of “Loneliness as Holy Longing,” the title of her interview.

The fact that this theme is focussing in our individual minds and hearts indicates to me that it is rising forth for consideration and transformation in the collective consciousness. And this phenomenon is itself demonstration that none of us is as alone as we think. That echoes the title of one of today’s interviews in Parker’s series. And it is a realization that most spiritual work leads each of us to, again and again. It is the balm for loneliness itself.

Right in sync, yesterday, Richard Rohr’s daily meditation ended with “Once a person recognizes that, it is hard to ever be lonely in this world again.”

The “Transforming Loneliness” interview series is only in its second day, and it is archived. It is probably not to late to subscribe to it. Try this link:


The interviews I’ve heard  so far are well worth a listen. In distinct vocabularies, all seem to reflect that loneliness is a mutable perception, and it stems from a forgetfulness of our origins,  perpetuated by the myriad ways that we are conditioned to believe and operate as if we are separate: from each other, from all life, even from our own basic wholeness.

This morning, I listened to a selection from a podcast called Interesting People Reading Poetry. It featured Krista Tippet (Of On Being) reading a favorite Rilke poem. It’s one of my (many) faves, too. 


As I listened, I observed myself experiencing the now-familiar sensation of simultaneously feeling less lonely and more lonely: On one hand, a joining in the deep and redemptive Knowing with two other thoughtful minds (Krista and Rilke, standing in for a world of consciousness); and on the other hand, the twinge of loneliness of perceiving myself isolated from such company in my mundane or physical existence, of forgetting what I do know, which is so poignantly articulated in Rilke’s few lines, and also on occasion, in my own poetic writing.

One way I reach across that apparent chasm of separation is meditation or prayer. Another is to be in nature. A third is to write a blog.  It is in sharing, in reaching across the gap that we erase it; and if we are lucky, we realize (again) it isn’t really there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s