You are all by yourself whether you are solitary or lonely, so outwardly it appears the same but there are some basic inner differences.
Solitude is a choice and in it, you enjoy your own company, butloneliness feels as if forced upon you and in it,you miss someone else’s company. Solitude is blissful, loneliness is sad and bad. Solitude happens when you get along with yourself, loneliness happens when you don’t.
Let us look deeper. We all have an inner environment and an outer environment. The inner environment is closer to what we are – souls ; it relates to our consciousness – our thoughts, values and ideas. The outer environment is entangled by what we have – possessions, problems and habits.
If we can change the inner environment of thoughts and attitudes, the outer environment changes. This is so because our perceptions are dependent on how we choose to look at things. The world is the same for all, but to some it feels so enjoyably livable, to others at the same moment and may be even at the same place, it appears hostile and bereft of any joy. In fact, even to the same person the same world is not always the same. We find the world as we choose to perceive it. No observation is independent of the state of the observer’s mind – this is a great wisdom from the hoary Upanishads as well as an evolved finding in Quantum Physics.
Life indeed is inside out, not outside in. There are conflicts without, only because there are conflicts within. Let us therefore understand the meaning of ‘getting along with oneself’.
There is a lower self in each of us. That is ego – the pseudo-soul, the body-identified, body-limited self-awareness. Then, there is a Higher Self ; this is your true Self – the Soul. When the ego doesn’t listen to the Soul, as it is usually prone to do, there are inner conflicts. The senses and the sensory mind stand together – with their likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions, fears and prejudices, desires and anger, whims and bad habits, etc. They are the crowded Kaurava side in the inner Mahabharat – an evolutionary battle within. The Higher Self of soul has enlightened reasoning on its side and also the good habits like introspection, calmness, yoga practice etc. as its few but good and mighty allies. They represent the Pandavas in the psychological war.
The two sides are engaged in a fierce battle, but once the ego is subdued, it starts listening to the wiser big brother. As their friendship grows, and an inner harmonious communion starts, solitude gets more enjoyable.
But long before this happens, the ego – deaf and hostile to the Soul as it is – turns away from it and feels lonely. The soul is never lonely, it is like a sparkling diamond though, it can get covered with the dust of ego and ignorance (Asmita and Avidya) and therefore, may fail to reflect its innate Light.
The soul cannot surrender to God until the ego surrenders to the soul first. How can a disunited, inwardly-divided being surrender to its Source ? It is really the ego that stands between soul and God i.e. the Super-soul, or the Cosmic Soul.
Now, many people are in a crowd yet can feel lonely ; they are sad and disarrayed inside. Many, similarly, can be silent and stay in a blissful solitude even when there is chaos and noise around them. This is a very exalted state.
Solitude corrupts into loneliness without inner silence. If we are not happy and peaceful within, a good company (satsanga – company of sat or truth) is better than forced solitude unless we handle it well by constructive introspection, meditation etc. Eventually, through long practice, a happy, peaceful solitude in meditative awareness of the Supreme Bliss is the best enjoyment of all. Samadhi is that state.
My master, Shri Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the great spiritual classic ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ and other books like God Talks With Arjuna, The Second Coming of Christ, Man’s Eternal Quest, Journey to Self-Realization etc. , speaks thus on Seclusion (or Solitude) , and Silence :
“Seclusion is the price of greatness and God-realization. When I am alone I am with God. That is the way you should be.
Don’t mix with others too closely. Friendships do not satisfy us unless they are rooted in mutual love for the Lord. Our human wish for loving understanding from others is in reality the soul’s desire for unity with God. The more we seek to satisfy that desire outwardly, the less likely we are to find the Divine Companion.
Don’t joke all the time with each other. Be happy and cheerful inside. Why dissipate in useless talk the perceptions you have gained? Words are like bullets: when you spend their force in idle conversation, your supply of inner ammunition is wasted.
Your consciousness is like a milk pail: when you fill it with the peace of meditation you ought to keep it that way. Joking is often false fun that drives holes in the sides of your bucket and allows all the milk of your peace to run out.
You should sit in silence before deciding about any important matter, asking the Father for His blessing. Then behind your power is God’s power; behind your mind His mind; behind your will His will.
From the depths of silence the geyser of God’s bliss shoots up unfailingly and flows over man’s being.
Be with people in silence; don’t spend precious time and energy in idle talk. Eat in silence; work in silence. God loves silence.”
Let us cultivate inner silence and learn to enjoy our own company ; let there frequently be the bliss of solitude. It is alright to meet people sometimes, and then we should mix with them with all our heart’s love and goodwill, but to always seek human company and to be sadly lonely when we don’t have it, is not healthy. We should be able to enjoy both work and leisure, both company and solitude. In the ultimate state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, we can be in the world – busy doing all our duties and mixing with all kinds of people – but never for a moment lose the blissful company of the Cosmic Beloved. ‘In the world, but not of it’, as my Master puts it.
– Hans Dholakia
Motivational Life Coach Online & Corp. Trainer