Many people are lonely. Some, more often than they admit to themselves. Some, more often than they admit to others. For loneliness is often considered to be a deficit of the self and its capacity to relate to others, rather than an interactive phenomenon that involves lack of fit between the values of the self and the values of the world.
This lack of fit may not be a personal deficit, but rather a sign of spiritual growth that has taken place in oneself to which the world has not yet caught up. This may be true even if there are associated with it, emotional difficulties and limitations within the self that are in need of healing.
Although there are many practical and often tragic reasons for loneliness - loss of family or loved ones through death or catastrophe, loss of friends through relocating physically or through growing apart emotionally, feeling different from others based on early childhood experiences within or beyond the family - although all of these contribute to the feeling of loneliness, there is, beneath each of these, a problem of relationship between the self and the world. This problem can manifest as a feeling of estrangement between one's self and one's environment or social context, where, without family or close friends nearby, and sometimes even if they are nearby, one can feel like an outsider with no way of moving 'in'.
Feelings of loneliness often come to individuals who are more spiritually awake than those around them, often without knowing that this is the cause of their painful feelings. For greater 'awakeness' gives one a sense of how things might be if the world were different. It creates an inner aspiration toward an ideal of kindness, welcoming, and love that people would display toward each other whether they knew one another intimately or not. In some societies, this welcoming toward others who are not personally known is still a part of tradition and practice. But very often within contemporary society, despite religious principles to the contrary, others who pass us by during the day feel and act like strangers, not like those whom we might relate to with open-heartedness and trust.
To be lonely often reflects the hunger of a soul that is yearning for a different way of being with others - for a different way of life than seems possible, given the way the world. At present, there exists a level of fear and mistrust in the world that still causes people to erect defenses of self-protection, even when they are not needed. For those who are more awake, there is an aspiration for a world in which fear and self-protection is not present - in which people embrace each other because of their intrinsic humanity, not because of their status or role in life or what they can do for each other. This yearning for what has not yet arrived is often the source of great loneliness.
The soul that is hungry looks around for relationships that it feels compatible with. It seeks greater intimacy and love, and often does not know how to create these in situations where others define relationships in a different way. While it is true that many can find solace for loneliness in the company of like-minded individuals, often, the process of locating these others is a difficult one, taking a length of time and involving many experiences before the right 'fit' is found. It is also true that even within spiritually-focused groups, sometimes the values of the larger society impinge upon even these, so that less is possible than might otherwise be the case.
Loneliness is part of the time we are in - a time of transition from one way of life to another, from one set of values to another. For the consciousness that we have lived with for millennia has kept each person separate and apart, both from God and from others. This consciousness is changing now, but it has not yet eliminated the tendency to view others as 'other', and to protect oneself from unknown eventualities that might be hurtful to the self. Loneliness is still part of humanity's common language, because the bridge has not yet been crossed to the new values of love and oneness that will make it a thing of the past.
In the face of this, and avoiding self-blame and judgment of ohers, one can make choices about how to approach the phenomenon of loneliness.
One can wait patiently for the time to come in which the world will be different and people more open and receptive.
One can seek out the smaller associations with others who have similar values with whom one resonates.
And one can try, wherever possible, to take the risk of extending one's own values and ways of relating into the world, with the idea of giving what one would like to receive, and also of offering an opportunity of growth to others that they may not yet be able to offer to themselves. This gesture, though it may not be reciprocated outwardly, will nevertheless create an opportunity for someone else to awaken further, if they choose to. The extension of spiritual values into a context that is different from these often feels like a risk to the mind and heart that fears rejection, but it is an important way of helping to create the world that we wish to live in.
For today, all of the above options may prove useful in dealing with loneliness - waiting patiently, finding a small group of others whose values one resonates with, and becoming more willing to take risks so that others may be offered a greater degree of love than may be ordinarily expressed. These are all ways of moving through a time of transition.
Loneliness, as both a hunger of the soul and a pain within the heart can generate its own reward for the person who waits. It can strengthen the heart in its own values, even while it perceives itself as different from the world. It can create a stronger aspiration for a world of love and light, thereby contributing energy and intention to humanity's consciousness. And it can enable one to walk with God with a greater degree of commitment, even while it remains difficult to walk within the world as a part of it.
In all of these ways, if the desire for greater love can produce more lovingness on the part of the self, the experience of loneliness will allow the heart to grow larger, and will enable the world to become more whole as well.