MAMATA VENKAT SUBRAMANYAM explains how heart-based meditative practices have helped her turn feeling lonely into savoring alone time.
If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, a Swiftie, as I am unashamedly proud to be, then you can relate to the feeling of hearing her songs and knowing she just gets it. The opening notes of a song draw you in like a kid in a candy store, the lyrics hit and, “BAM.” Sugar rush. Somebody, something, is finally able to put words to the hodgepodge mess of feelings clouding up your brain. And she does so to a tune that becomes irrevocably tattooed into your synapses, rendering you a little annoyed, yes, but mostly (and most importantly) seen.
I have had many of these revelatory moments with Taylor Swift songs. In general, music can be cathartic, and artists like Swift who are very lyric-driven can provide us with camaraderie in those deep, dark moments when we feel like no one else can understand what we’re going through. In other words, those moments of loneliness.
I have often felt lonely throughout my thirty years of existence. I feel so grateful to be surrounded by wonderful friends and family, but, like many of us, I have experienced that deep, longing sensation of something missing. I can be in a room filled with people and still feel alone. My experiences with depression and anxiety have often put me in states of self-isolation, and I am guilty of being so reliant on figures and concepts outside of my own intuition that when those external reliances aren’t steady or accessible, I lose my grounding. I’m not sure how to function without them.
These are very real understandings that have emerged over the last several months as I continue to encourage myself to do the inner work and really grow into my individual. Through these realizations have come many truths, but as I listened to a new Swift song called, “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” one truth became glaringly visible.
The ending lyrics punched me the hardest:
You’re on your own, kid
Yeah, you can face this
You’re on your own, kid
You always have been.
I realized that I didn’t know how to be with myself. And in order to create happiness, it was important that I learned how.
There are a number of psychological reasons why I struggle with being with myself. What I have come to understand now is that feelings of loneliness persist because I have not been treating myself as a friend. I haven’t engaged with myself with curiosity to understand my likes and dislikes, to feel out my interests, to do work beyond the surface to understood who I truly was. I have become so used to allowing others to dictate my direction that I don’t know how to lead myself.
The reality is this: while we are surrounded by friends, family, acquaintances, even enemies, the only constant in our lives is ourselves. And the best way to combat feelings of loneliness is to spend intentional time becoming friends with ourselves, the way we would with anyone close to us.
There are several things I have been doing recently to create this inner friendship – journaling, reading more books, diving into concepts that had peripherally piqued my interest – but it’s really been meditation that has helped me the most in turning feeling lonely into enjoyment of alone time.
Heartfulness meditation is a really lovely way to build that inner friendship, because the focus is meditation on the energy of the heart. Our hearts are our seats of intuition; it’s where our inner voice resides. That inner voice often becomes clouded by the illusions of our thoughts, created by stress, anxiety, the expectations we set for ourselves, the voices of other people, and other complexities. When we don’t regulate those thoughts, those illusions become our reality, and that reality often leaves us feeling out of control and, yes, lonely.
Heartfulness meditation is a really lovely way to build that inner friendship,
because the focus is meditation on the energy of the heart.
How do we avoid that illusion-driven reality?
By consistently tuning into our heart and listening to it.
The more time we spend with our inner intuition, the more we get to know ourselves.
The more we get to know ourselves, the stronger our relationship with ourselves becomes.
And the stronger that relationship becomes, the less lonely we feel.
So yes, you’re on your own, kid. But it doesn’t have to be lonely. Here are three simple Heartfulness techniques that you can adopt to strengthen your inner voice and, in turn, strengthen the relationship you have with yourself so alone time can become more enjoyable:
What: A 5 to 7 minute guided technique that releases tension and relaxes each part of your body.
When: This guided relaxation technique can be done right before you meditate, or in moments when your body is feeling tense or anxious. If you are having trouble sleeping, you can also lie down and walk through this technique, relaxing each part of your body until you feel yourself falling asleep.
How: Try it with this guided video.
What: A simple suggestion to become absorbed in the light in your heart.
When: Ideally, first thing in the morning for 10 to 30 minutes before you start your day. It can also be done at any other time.
How: To meditate on the light in the heart, try it with this guided video.
If you find your mind drifting to other thoughts, treat them as if they are clouds passing in the sky, witnessing them but simply letting them pass. To learn how to manage those thoughts, check out the next section, Cleaning.
What: An active technique of letting go of complexities, impurities, and any negativities that build up over time. This technique is beneficial for reducing thoughts during meditation, for minimizing anxiety and stress, and for eliminating those pesky thoughts that often plague us before we fall asleep (no more counting sheep!).
When: Cleaning is generally done at the end of the day’s work for 10 to 30minutes,as a way to release the mental and emotional weight of the day.
How: To try this cleaning technique, follow the instructions in the guided video.
Illustrations by LAKSHMI GADDAM
Mamata Venkat Subramanyam
Mamata couples mental health and meditation with her passion for storytelling, using Instagram as a space to build community. Her 2016 TEDx presentation has been viewed over 2.7 million times. She is currently a freelance social media and content manager, and an editor and writer for Heartfulness Magazine.