I’m thinking about yet another concept I had observed from listening to the Dali Lama. It was the relationship between intimacy and loneliness. When Dali Lama speaks of intimacy, for the record, he is not speaking of sexual intimacy, but rather intimate human connection.
When the interviewer asked the Dali Lama if he ever got lonely, living in isolation, away from family and spending many days in silence, he responded, “I have never felt loneliness.”
This response had my attention because I had always, personally, questioned whether something was wrong with me, since I never had this sense of “loneliness” either. Often, from my experience in participating in conversation, when people speak of loneliness, its context is often associated with experiencing a love life or lack thereof. For example, people speak of wanting to find someone for the sole reason of feeling lonely. Perhaps all of their friends have a significant other and they believe the presence of another will fulfill this void. The fact of the matter is, however, another person will never fill this void if we are not creating connection. This idea will clear up later.
It was interesting to take this perspective as the Dali Lama spoke about why he is never lonely. He begins to describe the kinds of encounters he has with the people he meets, whether it is an official meeting or simply one in a hotel elevator. He describes the connection he creates with these people. No matter what their status, no matter what the topic of conversation, he feels deeply connected to them. As a result, the Dali Lama’s human need for intimacy is regularly quenched. He creates it himself through genuine listening and openness with other human beings. How can he ever feel lonely if he is constantly connected to the universe in this way? He cannot.
Now, this brings us back to us non-Dali-Lama people, who feel we incapable of connecting to just anyone. No one understands us, right? No one is listening, right? It has me thinking…. Is it really another or is it just us who are hindering our connections? How often do we truly listen when another is speaking? How genuine are our questions of interest in another’s life? Such conversations are opportunities to connect, yet we find ourselves distracted, uninterested and ultimately, back to feeling lonely. Go figure!
Taking it back to my personal reflection on intimacy and loneliness in my own life, never feeling this sense of “loneliness” people would speak of really, I began to think about why. Well, what I concluded really came down to the simple act of making connections with the people around me every day, like the Dali Lama (well…sort of). I am definitely not one to talk to stranger or any of that craziness, but I enjoy talking to my mom, grandma, friends and family just as much as I enjoy listening to them! This simple act has made me too feel constantly connected to the universe we all comprise, so where would this sense of loneliness have a place?
What I am saying is, another person will never fulfill our loneliness. In fact, if we do not work to create connection with that added person, we will feel just as lonely whether they are there or not!
There are so many opportunities to connect to anyone on a daily basis! Take advantage of them! I understand fellow introverts like me might not want to speak to just anyone on the street like the Dali Lama, but how about our own family members and people we are close to? It is so easy to take for granted the comfort of their presence. We might find ourselves never striking up a conversation with our parents because we feel they will always be there. But, in realty, this is missing out on an opportunity to feel connected to someone we love. Make the effort to start conversation with whoever you live with today! I guarantee the feeling of loneliness and intimate connection cannot coexist.