I had an acquaintance, who received a death sentence in 2014. At only 34 he suffered a heart attack, where he clinically died for a couple of minutes. His doctors told him they didn’t know what was wrong with his heart. They said he could live to 80 or die in the next few months. Not long after that life-changing event, he sold everything he owned, quit his job, and commenced to travel the world.
He traveled full-time for one year. He said if he was still alive after that year, he’d stop traveling and come back to the US and settle in again. That never happened, not because he died, but because he never stopped traveling. He is still out in the world somewhere living life to the fullest.
Over the years, he and I have gone from acquaintances to good friends. He has traveled to more countries than I knew existed. He annually comes back to Long Beach, and we always meet up and talk for hours.
Each year when he came back, I vividly remember how happy he always seemed. It struck me as odd because when I thought about traveling the world alone, it seemed, well, lonely. I would visualize being a nomad, going from place to place, never making real connections or friends. It seemed incredibly empty and isolated.
Deja Vu all over again?
Ironically in December 2020, my ass does the same thing! WHAT?! Yep, that’s right. As I embarked on my journey, my thoughts still hadn’t changed. I anticipated that it would be incredibly lonely. Nervously, I thought I might get out on the road and a few months later say, “fuck this,” and return home.
Soon it will be nine months of traveling solo, which has taught me a lot about loneliness or lack thereof. I am alone, but I am never lonely! I was perplexed because I spend 97.54663% of my time alone. I kept thinking, “Why am I content?” I honestly had no response. I never noticed that I was content until I thought about it. Contentment was just my normal state, it became second nature. But I remember times when I felt incredibly lonely. I decided to explore this internally to see if I could determine when it shifted, identify the catalyst that facilitated my transition from lonely to content.
What The Universe has in Store
Like all answers to life, I knew the answer I sought was alive inside me, patiently waiting. It was hidden in a room I had yet to enter, lost in hallways of disempowering beliefs and societal misdirection. I had to focus energy on seeking its counsel through sincere effort and arrange a sit-down with my consciousness.
The meditation needed to access universal answers requires effort. It requires concentration, focus, and asking the right questions. When you ask the right question, the universe has no choice but to reveal the answer. I’m not bullshitting, this is just the way it works. I accomplish this type of focused meditation in many ways. One of my favorite ways since living on a permaculture farm is to perform this meditation while working. I have the great fortune of participating in daily manual labor. The repetitive nature of working the fields and harvesting crops provides me an excellent opportunity to concentrate. Simple repetitive tasks do not require much mental bandwidth which facilitates a quiet mind. In my daily labor, I’m concentrating on refining the questions I am asking the universe. Our subconscious is like a search engine, constantly working in the background. Once you ask the question, your subconscious goes to work searching the universe looking for the energetic match.
As you ask questions, you are given little bits of information from the universe that furthers your understanding. This feedback system is vital because if the universe just gave you the final answer, you may not be in a mental state to fully understand what is being revealed. This system of asking, receiving incremental feedback, and refining the question, positions you to receive and live its revelation.
This falls apart because we are not patient or persistent. We seek an answer for a brief time, gain a small fraction of clarity and move onto the next thing. I’ve learned if I want an answer, I need to seek it until it is fully revealed. This can take a long time and can reveal answers we don’t fucking like.
How did this technique for seeking self-understanding help me? What did it reveal? As I explored my inner world, looking high and low through my past, I saw how lonely I felt. It was so vivid that I felt like I was reliving those lonely days. The loneliness was palpable. As I relived these lonely feelings, I thought, “this is fucking great, not only did I feel like shit then, but now I get to relive it!” I stayed true to the process. My mind started to chew on the experience like a detective, examining my past experiences like a crime scene. My subconscious (the google part) and my conscious (the detective part) now toiled together to solve this missing person case… or missing self-knowledge case.
After months of gathering clues from my past, my consciousness found interesting connections to loneliness and the lack thereof. The times I was most lonely occurred at periods in my life when I was in committed relationships. Loneliness was prevalent in my corporate career and my relation to my colleagues. When I was around people the most, the more intense the loneliness. How do I take that information and refine the question I’m asking the universe? I began asking, what happens in relationships that makes me feel so lonely? Who am I “be-ing” that makes me feel so lonely?
Weeks passed with no answer. My refinement of the question failed. Soon with persistence, a time from my past was raised to my conscious awareness when I was not lonely. A time when I felt complete, whole, loved, at peace with myself and the universe. That time was when I was in the Navy serving aboard a Los Angeles class 688 Fast Attack submarine. That surprised me. I never examined that time in my life in this way.
It made no sense. Being on a fast attack submarine that’s out to sea constantly with no contact with family, friends, news, internet, or anything from the outside world, should naturally be lonely. How did I find contentment while living under these conditions? It didn’t make sense to me. I took this as a data point and refined my question again. I started to ask for clarity around the situations where I felt contentment or not lonely.
I learned that I felt lonely in my marriages, career, entrepreneurial ventures, and even CrossFit. Despite the CrossFit community being known for its inclusive nature and being with the same CrossFit gym for seven years, I felt like an outsider. I never found my place in the community. Hell, I even became a CrossFit coach and part-owner of the gym and still felt distant and isolated. Even coaching every day surrounded by lots of people, how could I feel lonely?
Learning lessons from the Usual Suspects
Knowing clicks for me just like in the ending scene of the movie Usual Suspects. The detective is sitting and talking to Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacy), and once they finish the interview, Verbal is released and goes on his way. Mere seconds after Verbal leaves the room, the detective starts piecing together the story Verbal told him. His mind sorts Verbal’s story together and paints a picture that Verbal is the notorious Keyser Söze, who he’s been looking for the entire time! Similarly, my subconscious brings to the surface bit by bit until a tipping point is reached, and then my conscious mind can paint the picture for itself and when that happens, it becomes permanently engrained.
So, what did I discover as the pieces came together? I found I felt the loneliest when I was in a committed relationship. Not just the romantic kind, but also career relationships and the pursuit of my health at the CrossFit gym. I felt not lonely whenever I was single and when serving aboard the submarine. I thought, “ok, got it. But what the fuck am I supposed to do with that knowledge, stay single and become a hermit?” I thought I figured it out but soon realized that this was just the symptom, it was not the root cause. So, back to the questions. I probed the universe for more and asked, “why do I feel the loneliest when I’m in a relationship?” When I should feel the opposite.
This was when I knew I was hot on the trail of self-knowledge. Over the next several weeks, as I sat with this question scanning the source of universal knowledge within, the pieces started to fall into place. As the scenes of my past played in my mind, the crime scene unfolded as a sad story. One wrought with betrayal and scandal.
There was a common thread in all my romantic relationships, marriages, and career relationship. I used to blame my unhappiness on exes, bosses, shitty companies, or not being with the in-crowd at CrossFit. My subconscious kept projecting these painful scenes on the screen of my conscious mind, and I knew just to watch with an open mind.
Suddenly, it became clear, the tipping point had been breached. A moment of satori came upon me, the light of self-knowledge sparked like lightning in the sky. There it was. The thread, the one thing that tied this all together. What unfolded in front of me was how I gave myself away in every single relationship. I didn’t lose myself, I gave myself away. My identity, thoughts, feelings, boundaries, even the essence of my being. I severed any connection I had with my Self, with my creator, my identity, thoughts, my own needs, and desires.
I put my wives or girlfriends so far ahead of me that I ceased to exist. Everything else went to my career. Every new relationship, I allowed my boundaries to crumble. I entirely sever the connection to Self. I’m not talking the bullshit like, I need to have “me” time or I need “boys night out.” I’m not talking about that shallow bullshit society calls self-care or self-love. Like, taking a bath and getting your nails done is “loving” yourself (eye roll).
Once I saw how disconnected from Self I became in these situations, it also highlighted the key to when I felt contentment during life on the submarine. The submarine life consisted of work, meditation, philosophical study, and meaningful connection to other human beings. Together locked in a metal tube beneath the ocean for weeks and months on end.
Holy shit, I was getting close. The next few weeks, this nugget of knowledge became further understanding. I became aware of how vital genuine human connection was to my wellbeing. I longed for an authentic connection to other humans, but it still didn’t explain how I was connected to others on the submarine and not in my damn marriage! How could I feel empty and alone in a marriage? I kept asking this question. I had to figure out what the difference was. One afternoon the time came, and the universe opened this to my understanding:
“LOVE and CONNECTION can only be experienced through love and connection to Self.”
What the fuck does that mean? It means that I felt alone most of my life because I prioritized relationships with others over the relationship to Self. None of my relationships were aligned with who I was, and I did not love or value myself. The loneliness I felt was self-inflicted, I felt a longing to be with me. It goes one step further, the universe revealed that the connection with Self is, connection to your creator, the universe, or God. When you break that connection with Self, you break your connection to the source of existence. That is what makes you feel whole, complete like you’re never alone and in great company. When that tie is severed, you feel alone and isolated while surrounded by people.
This self-knowledge has changed everything. Pursuing this knowledge was the catalyst that inspired me to sell everything I owned and travel the world solo. Now I travel alone, live alone, adventure alone, but I am not the least bit lonely. I feel loved and connected to life and others. Sharing 30 minutes with a stranger feels meaningful and joyous. I don’t need others to feel “not lonely” or happy or content, I can feel fulfillment with others now, be it a moment, an hour, a night, or a month. When I’m connected to me, I’m connected to you. When I am in love with me, I am in love with you. Isn’t that fucking beautiful? It’s the only way to cure loneliness. You can’t experience self-connection through someone else.
Alone but Never Feeling Alone
As I sit here alone writing this, it still amazes me. I love time with myself so much that I don’t know how I ever lived without this connection. For the first time, I can say from the depths of my soul that I love myself. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I understand I’m a seriously flawed human, with hang-ups and shortcomings. I choose to love myself anyway. I choose to love you anyway. This is the only way to true happiness, fulfillment, and achieving contentment.
Stop trying to feel contentment by filling your calendar with stupid shit, going out all the time, with empty relationships, social media likes and follows, and jobs you hate. Go fucking deeper than bubble baths, spa days, boys’ night out, etc. Get down to the real work of loving yourself through compassion and forgiveness. Deal with all the shit you have pushed down inside. Have tough conversations with your partner and boss to reestablish boundaries that have violated your inner peace. Cut people and things out of your life that drain your joy. Establishing a genuine connection to Self is hard. You may lose friends along the way, lose jobs, get fewer likes on your posts, people whispering how you’ve changed. It’s time to realize that connection to Self and discover the eternal love within yourself. Society will not help. Your friends and family may very well think you’re a dick. The only way to truly love them is to love you first!
Now get out there and love yourself dammit!
For more of my musings, check me out on YouTube; https://www.youtube.com/c/BlackedOutBuddhist