Happiness By Mary Jaksch Do you suffer from loneliness? Like many people, maybe you too feel isolated and disconnected. Recently a young guy asked me: “Doesn’t meditation drive you further into loneliness?” This is an interesting question as meditation is a solitary practice. Let’s take a look at loneliness versus solitude. Loneliness is the feeling of being separate. Our Western culture breeds loneliness. I think there are five reasons for this: Our traditional social structures have weakened or broken down. Families units are small and we don’t have the support of a large extended network of relatives. Life is very busy. There is not always enough time to be with loved ones or cultivate friendships. (There may be fast food, but there are no fast friendships!) Many people have more virtual than face-to-face interactions with others. Low self-esteem can leads to isolation because the confidence to seek out the company of others gets eroded. Activity that divert the mind from a sense of loneliness, such as TV, surfing the Web, or Internet games drive people deeper into isolation. Solitude is the sense of intimate connection with all beings. Have you experienced that? It can happen at odd moments. For some people it can be triggered when they are in nature or in moments with loved ones. For others, such moments can happen in the context of meditation. In fact, meditation is a way to cultivate interconnection. Meditators are like plants growing in a pool – their roots intertwine under water. That’s why meditation can lead to a happier life. But only if we bring it off the cushion into daily life. Here are five ways to escape loneliness: Practise kindness: complete one act of kindness for another being each day. Take up voluntary work: join Amnesty International, the Red Cross, or a community group. Do something productive: clean your home, weed the garden, or tidy your cupboards. Have fun: learn to dance, go to a pottery class, or go surfing. Practise daily meditation. Please try out these five ways to escape loneliness and let us know what you experience.