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Corona virus: Harbinger of Loneliness or Aloneness

Physically alone is not necessarily loneliness, if there is a connection with the inner self.

Corona virus: Harbinger of loneliness or aloneness
By: Bhupinder Singh, Houston (USA)

Ever since the spread of Corona virus, its reverberations have been felt in the entire world as it has resulted in lock downs, social distancing and quarantine in extreme cases. The result is we are missing the ability to visit, converse with, hug, go out, travel or spend time with dear and near ones by socializing etc. and started feeling lonely. As humans are social creatures with an inbuilt yearning to connect with others. All of a sudden the life becomes shallower, more like in survival mode than normal living, as we are accustomed to. But, as the new pathogen forces us to socially distance, we all as a society have started showing signs of its impact. The first sign is we are feeling anxious and frustrated, in the comforts of our own house. Already, it has been reported that there has been a significant upswing in domestic violence because of lockdown. The loneliness is being experienced in the scale as never before, and it can produce unfavorable outcomes for both physical and mental health.

It is being predicted that this loneliness is going to leave lasting scars. The toll on the masses' mental and emotional wellbeing will be researched and documented later in the years to come. The Psychologists have established that the perception of social isolation (i.e. loneliness) impacts the brain and behavior and is a risk factor for morbidity and mortality. Psychological studies have shown that the perception of loneliness actually hurts more than being physically alone.

Loneliness_Aloneness_images.jpeg

Physically alone is not necessarily loneliness, if there is a connection with the inner self. A person can be alone and yet not feeling lonely. But there is another aspect of being alone, connected with the inner self without the negative feeling of being lonely. Being alone can provide the connection that loneliness yearns for. It forces us to go deeper within, to know ourselves better and to search and explore for techniques to respond positively to loneliness. This solitude could be inspiring, invigorating and nurturing. There is a body of literature from poets, artists and authors where they have praised it as a catalyst for their own creativity. It can even evolve us higher, giving rise to a feeling of being connected with Almighty, when one is all by self. There are many who are feeling loneliness, even while they are in a midst of the company where they don’t fit in, or are brooding over their insecurities. Both of these scenarios have a common “I” factor. The aloneness changes that perspective and it is very uplifting and fulfilling.

Rumi_Loneliness_Flowing Tree.org_.jpeg

How are we growing in this new sudden imposed curfew? May be we can use it to grow in positivity and learn to shun negativity. For sure, it is easily said than implemented. I am not here preaching but exploring it myself and hope that we can make this journey together. I can add here about my own struggles, but it is not what this is about. It is about how we can use this as opportunity to grow-individually, as a family, as a community and society. So, the calamity can be harbinger of the change. It can prove to be a ‘Great Resetting’ in our lives. This is our opportunity to explore solitude and use it as a ladder to go down deep within, when going out physically is not an option. The activities leading to it are prayer, meditation, service, reading of scriptures and devotional singing.

It will produce following benefits:

  • At peace in aloneness – not needing constant company, or emotional support of others. If the urge emanates then we still have phone, social media and emails etc. 
  • Mental peace – mind becomes calm, usually human mind has a tendency to swing on either side like a pendulum, always on the go. Our mind operates by thinking this will work, let us do this. No, don’t do it, will not pan out. But in this state it is at neutral position and completely absent are swings in either direction.
  • State of Thankfulness – Cheerful acceptance of all reality as God’s Hukum (Order). 
  • Feel presence of bliss – say good bye to frustrations and disappointments instead feel blissfulness within.
Loneliness IMG_1841.jpg

This is a lofty pedestal to aim for during these trying times. Spirituality is nurtured in solitude. We can grow from this, become stronger like an iceberg; capable of rising above sea of loneliness that disrupt life we are accustomed to and have become cozy in it. Let this challenge help us to look for blessings in disguise, it will change our outlook to life.  With faith, strong conviction, coupled with enthusiasm can become the prime movers of this change. This can bring about loving acceptance of situation, thankfulness and appreciation.

It is this feeling of divine presence within, which allowed our first Guru Nanak Dev Ji to cover over 28,000 KMs on foot to give the message of connectivity as children of one God. Guru Ji had tasted aloneness from early childhood. When he started his first Udassi, he camped in Eminabad where Rori Sahib Gurudwara stands, and spent over a month in solitude and in meditation. Similarly, when he stopped for extended periods during his Udassis, Guru Ji had solitude time. When Guru Ji came to Achal Batala for meeting with Yogis in 1539, in response to question by Charpat Yogi, Guru Ji provided following insight: 

“ਰਹਹਿ ਇਕਾਂਤਿ ਏਕੋ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਆਸਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰਾਸੋ ॥
ਅਗਮੁ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਤਾ ਕਾ ਦਾਸੋ ॥5॥”

“Raheh ikaa(n)t eko man vasiaa aasaa maeh niraaso.
Agam agochar dhekh dhikhaae naanak taa kaa dhaaso. 5.”
 (SGGS, Pg. No. 938)
Translation: One who lives alone, like a hermit, enshrining the One Lord in his mind, remaining detached and desire less (being above water like water lily) in the midst of (worldly) desires, sees and inspires others to see the inaccessible, unfathomable Lord. Nanak is his slave. 5.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji also endorses this thought process in these words:

“ਸੋ ਇਕਾਂਤੀ ਜਿਸੁ ਰਿਦਾ ਥਾਇ ॥ ਸੋਈ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਸਾਚ ਠਾਇ ॥3॥”
“So ikaa(n)tee jis ridhaa thai. Soiee nihachal saach thai.3.”   (SGGS, Pg. No.1180)
Translation: He alone is a hermit, whose heart is steady and stable (firmly anchored). He alone is steady and unmoving, whose mind is anchored to the Truth. 

These statements above are based on actual life experiences of our Gurus and are not just hearsay. Guru Jis have thus advocated a life of hermit in the midst of family, friends, and relatives. They lived life of a house holder yet remained detached from it. It was this strength alone that allowed Gurus to face the challenges in life including sacrifice of their lives. Guru Teg Bahadur Ji gave a practical demonstration of aloneness by living a life of a hermit, while with the family in Bakala. He spent 20 years in meditation alone in a basement room there. Even if we look at life of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, we can see that aspect, no matter what his external circumstances were, he was always was connected. He extols in these words:

“ਰੇ ਮਨ ਐਸੋ ਕਰ ਸੰਨਿਆਸਾ ॥
ਬਨ ਸੇ ਸਦਨ ਸਬੈ ਕਰ ਸਮਝਹੁ ਮਨ ਹੀ ਮਾਹਿ ਉਦਾਸਾ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥” 

“Rae mun aaiso kar sa(n)niaasaa.
Bun se sadhan sabai kar samajhahu mun hee maeh udhaasaa. 1. Rahaau.”
  (Dasam Granth, Pg. No. 709)
Translation: O mind! The asceticism should be practiced in this way: Considering your house same as the wilderness of the forest remain unattached from within. Pause.

After all, the message that Guru Ji taught to his Sikhs he himself lived it even in trying times. In the midst of Machiwara forest in 1704, all alone on a rainy winter night, losing everything including his four sons, family and Sikhs including five beloved (Pyares) still he was singing:

“ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਨੂੰ ਹਾਲੁ ਮੁਰੀਦਾਂ ਦਾ ਕਹਣਾ ॥
ਤੁਧ ਬਿਨੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਰਜਾਈਆਂ ਦਾ ਓਢਣੁ ਨਾਗ ਨਿਵਾਸਾਂ ਦੇ ਰਹਣਾ ॥
ਸੂਲ ਸੁਰਾਹੀ ਖੰਜਰੁ ਪਿਯਾਲਾ ਬਿੰਗ ਕਸਾਈਯਾਂ ਦਾ ਸਹਣਾ ॥
ਯਾਰੜੇ ਦਾ ਸਾਨੂੰ ਸੱਥਰ ਚੰਗਾ ਭੱਠ ਖੇੜਿਆਂ ਦਾ ਰਹਣਾ ॥1॥1॥6॥”

“Mitr piaare noo(n) haal mureedhaa(n) dhaa kahanaa.
Tudh bin rog rajaieeaa(n) dhaa oddan naag nivaasaa(n) dhe rahanaa.
Sool suraahee kha(n)jar piyaalaa bi(n)g kasaieeyaa(n) dhaa sahanaa.
YaaraRe dhaa saanoo(n) sa'thar cha(n)gaa bha'Th kheRiaa(n) dhaa rahanaa. 1. 1. 6.” 
 (Dasam Granth, Pg. No. 711)
Translation: Convey to the Beloved friend (Lord) the plight of the disciples, Without You, the taking over of quilt is like disease and living in the house with all the comforts is like living with serpents. The flask of water is like the spike used for torture that impales on touch, the cup has edges like a dagger and (the separation) is like enduring the chopper of the butchers. The (hay) pallet of the beloved Friend is most pleasing and the worldly pleasures are like a hot burning furnace. 1. 1.

So, there is an inherent strength in aloneness that we can now explore for ourselves especially when the option of being “in the company of” is unavailable. The Punjabi word for aloneness is “ਇਕਾਂਤ”; and the word for loneliness is “ਇਕਲਾ, and this Corona event has become our initiation for our journey from loneliness to aloneness. Like everything in the world even the loneliness will end with its expiry date, so let us not just succumb to it but face it head on.

References:

  1. https://www.sikhitothemax.org/
  2. https://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/The_Udasis_of_Guru_Nanak
  3. https://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Guru_Tegh_Bahadur
  4. Mansukhani, Gobind Singh. Hymns From Dasam Granth

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