If I were given the chance to relive my childhood, I wouldn’t take it. For the most part, those were times I’d rather forget. I didn’t get along well in school, and family life was less than ideal. About the only thing I liked about the seventies and eighties was the rock ‘n’ roll music.
As a kid growing up in Miami, I had an Asian look about me, even though I was of Hispanic descent. Many of the kids in school asked me if I was Chinese; some called me a stupid chink; and a few just beat me up.
Things at home weren’t much easier. My parents divorced when I was in grade school. I lived with my mom and three sisters (all older and bigger than me). There were the usual sibling rivalries. So, at school I got beat up by the boys, and at home I got beat up by the girls.
I hardly had any friends. Anybody I associated with was just as much a misfit as I was. I spent most of my free time either with my head in a book or riding my bike around the neighborhood.
High school was torture. I was shy, unattractive, and under-developed. And though I was small for my age, the hormones still surged through my body. Like any other teenage boy, I wanted to be at least noticed by the girls, but it seemed like every girl was out of my league.
My whole existence could be described in two words: inadequate and lonely. I remember one day walking down the hall in school. I was so tense that I couldn’t seem to walk straight. I felt like I was a prisoner in my own body and mind. There was me, and then the rest of the world.
Things didn’t get any better as I got older. Depression began to set in. I tried alcohol for a few years, but that only made things worse. I became even more isolated.
At twenty-two, it seemed like my life was coming to an end. I didn’t know what to do. I always resisted help because I thought nobody could possibly understand what I was going through. I was wrong.
I found a group of people who knew exactly how I felt. How did I know? They told me about their feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, even though I never told them how I felt.
They offered to help me; one guy in particular, Steve, told me that I could be free from the bondage of self, and that he would show me the way. This was hard for me because I didn’t like taking directions from other people. I also didn’t want to impose on them. But Steve acted as if it was an honor to help me. I didn’t understand that.
For the next couple of years, Steve had me do written exercises to examine my past. He also gave me assignments to change my behavior. For example, he had me do volunteer work to help other people in need. I chose to volunteer in prisons, helping inmates turn their lives around, as I was doing.
Over time, I began to feel much better about myself. I was able to make friends and felt like I had a role in this world. But I still felt a bit out of place, and at times very lonely. My relationships with women were brief, more like just encounters.
Up until that point, I had heard about meditation, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. I intuitively discovered that I could relieve stress by going to the park, sitting quietly, and contemplating the things that were happening in my life. I would also take time before work and sit for a few minutes before I started working at the computer. I was self-employed at the time, selling long-distance calling services over the Internet.
One spring day in 1996, as I sat quietly at my desk having my morning cup of coffee, I suddenly found myself immersed in what seemed like pure consciousness. I had the distinct feeling that time had come to a complete stop, and I was seeing the essence of who I really was. I must have been in this state for only a short period of time, as the screensaver on my computer had not yet kicked in.
When I returned to normal consciousness, everything looked surreal and I felt completely at peace, as if all my troubles had simply disappeared. All of a sudden, my entire life made complete sense. I realized that I was never lost at all, but that all my painful experiences had served a purpose—to learn an important life lesson. The confusion was gone.
I also felt wide awake, as if I had been asleep my whole life. I now had an awareness, or a sense, that I didn’t have before, or even know that I could have. It was like I had been blind my whole life, and didn’t even know that it was possible to see. I could sense another presence in the room even though I was alone at the time. I kept looking around to see who was there, but I couldn’t see anyone, at least not with my eyes.
In the weeks that followed, I underwent a dramatic transformation, and many people noticed. They said I looked so peaceful and wanted to know why. I didn’t yet know how to explain it to them.
I now felt a deep connection with other people. It was as if they were a part of me. When I looked at them, it seemed like I could see deep inside their soul and feel what they were feeling. I could feel their joy and their pain, their confusion and their loneliness. There were many times that it brought tears to my eyes.
While I changed in many ways as a result of this experience, I think the most profound change was my ability to see that we’re all connected on a deeper level. Interconnectedness was no longer just a concept to me, but rather a reality.
Ever since that spring day in 1996, I have never felt alone, regardless of who was or wasn’t in my life, because no matter how far apart I may be from other people, I can always feel them in my heart. I have meditation to thank for that.
How Meditation Can Help You Overcome Loneliness
While my experiences may seem unique, other people are learning how to overcome their loneliness through meditation, as well, and you can too. Meditation is a lot simpler than many people may think.
The way meditation helps you overcome loneliness is by calming your mind and emotions. Then you’ll be able to see for yourself how you’re connected with other people on a deeper level. Meditation will literally help you expand your awareness.
The form of meditation I practice, and now teach, is mindfulness meditation. Though it has its roots in Buddhism, it focuses on the techniques and leaves behind all the rituals and beliefs. There are two basic components of the practice: sitting meditation and writing meditation.
The best way to start a meditation practice is to simply start meditating. I know I’m stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised at how difficult this can be. We often procrastinate until we find the perfect time. Don’t wait. Start now.
Find a quiet place where you can sit for a few minutes without being disturbed. Close your eyes and begin following your breath. Observe how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural. As your body relaxes, notice how you take each breath in one graceful motion.
When a distraction arises, observe it mindfully as it comes into being, then let it slip away without clinging to it. Then gently bring your awareness back to your breath. Don’t get upset if your mind keeps wandering off. This is perfectly normal. The idea is to keep bringing it back to your breath.
Start with a ten-minute session and then work your way up to twenty minutes or more. It may be a challenge to sit still in the beginning, but it will get easier as your mind settles down over time.
And as your mind settles down, you’ll likely find you’re less consumed by thoughts about being different, inadequate, or lonely, which means you’ll be better able to be present with other people and create connections from moment to moment.
Loving-Kindness Writing Meditation
Writing meditation is a technique I developed to reprogram the subconscious mind to help people achieve their goals. It only takes five to ten minutes a day, and it’s highly effective.
The practice is simple. You just copy by hand a set of affirmations, such as the loving-kindness meditation, over and over in a notebook. This will force your brain to rewire itself for new thinking and behavior. Within a week or two, you’ll find yourself acting differently without any conscious effort.
Here is a sample of the loving-kindness meditation:
May I be healthy and strong. May I be safe and protected. May I be peaceful and free from mental, emotional, and physical suffering. May I be happy and joyful. May I be patient and understanding. May I be loving, kind, compassionate, and gentle in my ways. May I be courageous in dealing with difficulties, and always meet with success. May I be diligent and committed to my meditation practice, and to helping others along their spiritual path. May my True Nature shine through, and onto all beings I encounter.
After you write this verse, write the same words again, swapping “I” for “every person and living being in my house.” Then write it again for every person and living being in your neighborhood, then again for all people and living beings in your city, your country, the whole planet, and the entire universe, for a total of seven verses.
Remember, all you do is copy the meditation in a notebook for five to ten minutes a day. It doesn’t matter how far you get. The next day, just pick up where you left off. You don’t even need a quiet time or place to do it. It’s that simple.
The purpose of loving-kindness meditation is to cultivate unconditional love for all people and living beings. Imagine the impact on your life if you truly lived according the ideals of the affirmations:
- You’ll become more outgoing
- It will improve your relationships
- It will heal the wounds from your past
The reason loving-kindness writing meditation is so effective is that you’re using multiple senses to assimilate information directly into your subconscious. And once it’s in your subconscious, it will manifest in your attitudes about yourself and other people.
As you can see, overcoming loneliness is not as hard as you might think. It takes just a little bit of time for practice, and some diligence, but the rewards are tremendous. You’ll no longer feel disconnected and isolated. You’ll feel like you’re a greater part of humanity, and this can make all the difference in the world. I know from personal experience how painful it is to feel lonely. I overcame it, and so can you.
Best wishes on your spiritual journey!
About Charles A. Francis
Charles A. Francis is the founder and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute, and author of Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace. He is the creator of the 12 Steps of the Mindfulness Meditation Practice, and writing meditation technique. He helps people find true happiness through workshops & retreats. For more great content, visit MindfulnessMeditationInstitute.org.