Can Meditation Cause Loneliness?
A student in group meditation who had been experiencing a sense of increasing isolation since learning to meditate asked, “Does meditation make you feel lonely?” Weeellll, yes. And no. Almost all Vedic answers have that infuriating paradoxical quality to them where it’s never a simple yes or no. On one hand, it is true, meditation can sometimes cause some feelings of loneliness, though it’s not something I usually bring up in my intro talks. The reason is because enlightenment happens on an exponential curve. That means that as you get closer to higher states of consciousness, you evolve much more quickly, and the number of people with a similar state of consciousness starts to dwindle fast. Suddenly, the surface-y things other people care about, you’re not as interested in. The things other people are worried about, you’re not really that concerned. Imagine the world is like a pool and almost everyone is bobbing around in floaties on the surface, but you’ve learned to swim under water (i.e. meditate). As you swim down deeper, you start to leave the crowd behind.
Suddenly, the surface-y things other people care about, you’re not as interested in.
On the other hand, as our awareness expands, we feel more connectedness with everything since in meditation, our mind goes to that layer in which everything is One over and over again. We find we can find points of unity with not just people who look and act like us, but with just about anyone. The experience of extended Self starts to reach to more and more disparate individuals. Also, when we do find a fellow deep diver, the connection is stronger and more rewarding. The points of the connection aren’t simply surface interests but are based on something much deeper. You may have fewer close friends, but the closeness will be closer. If you ask science, it's in the camp that meditation is a cure for loneliness, as multiple studies have shown. One University of Pennsylvania study took brain images of Tibetan Monks during meditation and the meditators' parietal lobes "cooled off" immensely, which is the same area that loneliness and social isolation "heats up" or brings more blood flow. The conclusion was by making us feel connected to everyone and everything, meditation cancels out the detrimental mental, emotional, and physical effects of loneliness. Lastly, when you’ve been meditating a while, you can find connection outside of the human sphere of interaction. Nature itself becomes more vibrant, alive, and there is the experience of reciprocity with it. So even though in the beginning, there may be some growing pains and experiences of feeling isolated, but eventually if you work through it, you'll never feel alone again. You'll go from feeling “alone” to feeling “all one.”