Don’t Avoid the Void

“Do me wrong, do me right…But don’t let me be lonely tonight.” – James Taylor

To fill the void or feel the void, that is the question. If you are like most people, my guess is that at one time or another you have tried to avoid feeling the heaviness in your heart, the sinking feeling in your stomach, and the empty feeling that accompanies loneliness. You’ve probably also discovered that it doesn’t work. Even though it can be an unpleasant feeling, loneliness actually serves a useful purpose. It tells you that you’re out of balance. If you learn to embrace your loneliness and feel the void instead of trying to fill the void you can discover what you need to do about it.

No one feels connected all the time. A child struggling to make friends at school, a man recently widowed, a homesick college student away from family for the first time, a soldier beginning her military career after being deployed to a foreign country, or someone recently divorced: Each might feel lonely despite being surrounded by other people.

But we do not have to suffer. We have choices. We can decide to take good care of ourselves when loneliness strikes. We can talk things out with someone, write, walk, or just sit quietly in our own good company. We can realize that although it hurts, we are probably not the only ones who feel lonely. We can realize that it is possible, through self-study and self-reflection, to discover what causes loneliness, when and how it happens, and what we can do to change it.

Loneliness, like hunger, needs to be properly fed. Some of us are emotional anorexics, unable to take in the love that surrounds us. We are literally starved for affection. We remain lonely.

Others are emotional bulimics. When we become emotionally overloaded we purge by throwing temper tantrums or dumping our unpleasant feelings on others, driving them away and depleting ourselves of the vital emotional nutrient of companionship. We remain lonely.

Those of us who are emotionally obese indulge our emotional cravings excessively. To avoid the pain and frustration of emotional emptiness, we give in to our impulses. Instead of taking care of ourselves, like children, we rely on food, alcohol, drugs, shopping sprees, or other people to fill our void. We don’t grow up. We remain lonely.

As we mature, we become able to fill our loneliness with a healthy diet of self-love. Like water, you cannot get too much of it. To find balance, we need the emotional protein of self-love to build emotional muscle and to aid emotional growth; we need the emotional fiber of self-love to cleanse our system of emotional toxins. We need generous helpings of the emotional fruits and vegetables of self-love to strengthen our emotional immune systems every day.

When we practice loving ourselves, with kindness, laughter, smiles, warmth, hugs, kisses, pats on the back, encouragement, music, dance, introspection, quiet time, private time, good friends, we will notice that our plates are usually full. On those rare occasions that they do become empty, once we feel the void, we can go to the pantry of our inner selves and find exactly what we need to fill the void.

When you feel lonely, here are some things you can do.

  • Accept loneliness as a normal human experience that no one likes, and recognize the situation as a sign that something needs to change.
  • Be still. Take time to reflect on why you are lonely and what you can do about it.
  • Share your loneliness with someone. Don’t keep it to yourself.
  • Get involved in an activity that you can enjoy and that leads you to be with people. Join a book club, a biking club, or begin to practice yoga in a neighborhood studio.
  • Reach out to help others in need.
  • Enjoy your own company.

Namaste.

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14 responses to “Don’t Avoid the Void

  1. Hi Dr. Parker,

    I like the part where you say embrace your loneliness!!!…I was taught early to run from it…only to discover that I could not run from myself….thanks so much for sharing the wisdom

  2. Love the analogy to food!

  3. Great article and wisdom give thanks Gail! I just came across this meditation today and posted on my fb page. I feel like there has to be a strong calling to embrace aloneness to stay balanced through Winter season…or it can really start to weigh on you. Loneliness used to be something to avoid, but now its truly a blessing.

    “The seed within the earth
    Lies alone, awaiting.
    It knows not loneliness,
    But strength of purpose.
    Throughout the year
    I have known loneliness in crowds,
    But aloneness is quite different.
    I must pass through the gate
    To the inner temple
    Alone….”

  4. As someone who is learning to cope with lonliness, I especially enjoyed this one. Thank you

    • Remember you don’t have to remain lonely forever. You just have to know how to fill your loneliness in the most optimal way. Starting with self-loving behaviors is a good way to begin. Loneliness should be temporary, not permanent. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I love this Gail! As usual you hit the nail on the head! Beautiful photo’s of you in the city practicing!

    • Thank you Dale. Had it not been for your encouragement I may have never started writing this blog. I so appreciate your support including your willingness to let me use your beautiful butterfly photograph on the new blog site. Everyone loves it.

  6. Gwendolyn Miller-Jones

    Gail, thanks so much for the wisdom and the graceful way you share it. Om Shanti, Gwendolyn

  7. Your words are so fluid and truthful. Your give words where sometimes I only have the feeling.

  8. You have such a great way of posting right-on time wisdom. Hard times can make the urge to escape and avoid feel so great. But as you say so aptly, it’s the perfect time to go inward. I think it’s what I love most about fall and winter . They invite reflection and svadhyaya. No greater practice on of off the mat. Thanks again, Nichole.

    • Becoming your own best friend by turning within during hard times is a challenge but can be so fulfilling. Thanks for sharing.

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