Spirituality principles, struggles, knowledge base and insights for the earnest seeker.

Spiritual Loneliness –A Seekers Guide to Why We Are Lonely

There are few more shameful confessions to make than that we are lonely. The basic assumption is that no respectable person could ever feel isolated unless maybe they just moved countries or were widowed. Yet, in truth, a high degree of loneliness is an inescapable part of being a spiritual person. Loneliness is a built-in feature of a complex existence. Inherently, human beings are spiritually lonely but few would admit this because they don’t understand the difference between physical loneliness and spiritual loneliness.

Physical Loneliness

physical lonelinessPhysical loneliness is characterized by physically being alone with no one in the near vicinity. Thus, a person living alone might be physically lonely. We have all had moments in our lives when we have been physically lonely. Physical loneliness – although common – can easily be cured by simply seeking the company of other human beings. Sometimes, even pets like cats and dogs can alleviate physical loneliness. Spiritual loneliness on the other hand cannot be cured so easily.

 Spiritual Loneliness

robin-williams-alone-quoteSpiritual loneliness cannot be cured simply by having people around us. A person can be in the midst of family and friends and still feel a deep sense of spiritual loneliness. Spiritual loneliness happens because we develop a desire for a deeper connection and sharing with another human being than that confined to small talk and personal affairs. It is precisely this type of connection and sharing that is difficult to find and achieve. There are many reasons behind spiritual loneliness.

 The Cause of Spiritual Loneliness

The reason we feel spiritually lonely is because much of what we need recognized and confirmed by others and a lot of what would be extremely comforting to share, would be disturbing to our partners, family, friends, and society at large. Many of the ideas and feelings in the recesses of our minds are too odd, contrary, subtle or alarming to be safely revealed to anyone else. This, coupled with the difficulty of communicating well creates a hurdle which is not easily overcome by many. We face a choice between honesty and acceptability. Understandably, most choose the latter. We then push aside our spiritual longings and choose to engage with others at a shallow and superficial level only because we want to be accepted and not be treated like an outcast. We sacrifice our spiritual life in order to have a social one. It is for this reason that many mystics and spiritual practitioners from ancient times till now prefer to live reclusive lives. They have made the difficult decision to sacrifice social life in order to pursue a spiritual one.

Another reason spiritual loneliness is so pervasive is that it takes a lot of energy to listen to another person and enter emphatically into their experiences. We shouldn’t blame others for their failure to focus on who we are. They may want to meet us but we should accept the energy with which they will keep the topic of their own lives at the center of the conversation. Most people it seems are only interested in engagement to that extent that it fulfills their immediate need. It is not that they are malicious in any way. They might have discovered – just like us – that is the way of the world and that it is easier to go along with it.

The Lonely Spiritual Journey

We must all die alone which really means that our pain is for us alone to bear. No one is there that was created to truly be our soul mate – to bear and comfort us with just the right amount of love, encouragement and assertiveness. At most, our family, friends and well-wishers can throw us words of encouragement but in every life we are out on the ocean drowning in the swell and others – even the nice lonely spiritual journeyones – are standing on the shore waving. Such is the loneliness we feel deep inside but cannot bear even to speak a word of it. We long for a deep connection and compatibility with another human being. We hope against hope. We dream, fantasize, seek and wait while all the time an inner voice is warning us that it is highly unlikely that we will ever find someone on exactly the same stage of spiritual journey and one who wish to take the rest of the journey with us. Even when we do find a partner, there will be constant dissonance with them because no two persons can be exactly alike. We will come to see and realize that our partner and us appeared on the earth at different times and are the product of different families and experiences and are just not made quite the from the same fabric. Because of this complete compatibility can never be assured. In fact what is more certain is that their spiritual journey might diverge from ours or ours from them. So, although outwardly it appears as though we are partners on the same path, spiritually our paths couldn’t be more different. Loneliness it appears is our one constant companion.

Soul Mates

We will almost certainly never meet the people best qualified to understand us but this does not mean they don’t exist. On the contrary the sheer number of people in the world almost guarantees that such persons do exist and that they might once have walked past us in the street. However, neither of us had the slightest idea of the potential for connection. Sometimes when one does find such a person, they soul matesmight be too young or old, in a relationship, situation or a different stage in their spiritual journey that make lasting connection impossible. It would appear that the probability of their existence is cancelled by the likelihood of ever finding the right person at the right time, place and situation in life. This isn’t a conspiracy. Spiritual loneliness is not some form of punishment from God. It is just the norm of spiritual life and if we wished to upset this norm, we would need a lot more luck.

The problem of spiritual loneliness is sure to get worse the more thoughtful and perceptive – i.e. spiritually developed – we become. There will simply be less people like us around. It isn’t a romantic myth – loneliness truly is a kind of tax we have to pay to atone for a certain complexity of mind and spiritual growth.

Spiritual Loneliness and Relationships

spiritual lonelinessThe desire to undress someone is for a long time far more urgent than the desire for good conversation and so we end up locked in relationships with certain people we don’t have much to say to because we were once fatefully interested in the shape of their nose or the color of their remarkable eyes or how they pampered to our ego and made us feel more important than we actually are. After enough time has elapsed, the things that attracted them to us seem to lose their shine and we begin to view them as flawed human beings – much like us. The romance at this stage is gone and familiarity and routine sets it. We then either begin to hunger for a new fascination or realizing the limits to human relations, we begin to seek inwards into the depths of our own being coming face to face with our own spiritual loneliness and the realization of how we have neglected ourselves at a core level.

Despite all this, we shouldn’t be frightened or discomforted by our pervasive loneliness. At an exasperated moment near the end of his life the German writer, Goethe – who appeared to have had a lot of friends, exploded–“No one has ever probably understood me! I have never fully understood anyone. No one understands anyone else!” It was a surprising outburst from such a great man. However, what he had described isn’t anyone’s fault. A degree of distance and mutual incomprehension isn’t a sign that our relationships have gone wrong – it’s what we should expect from the very start.

Coming To Terms with Spiritual Loneliness

The ability to accept loneliness and be comfortable with it is one of the greatest inner strength a person can possess. Too many people cannot stand to be by themselves for even short periods of time. They quickly seek out the company of others to avoid being by themselves. It is not physical loneliness they fear, it is that when they are physically alone, it forces them to confront their spiritual loneliness and that is frightening for a lot people.

When we accept spiritual loneliness as a reality of life, benefits can follow. Our loneliness can be an impetus for us to get creative. Loneliness drives men and women to develop their inner selves. It pushes us into thinking, pondering and questioning who we are and why we react the way we do. It gives us the space and time to reflect how to bring our actions in accordance with our aspirations. It allows us to ponder our failures and analyze them at great depth. All these are important spiritual exercises that when done repeatedly and with greater effectiveness, will go a long way towards improving our mental strength and quality of life.

When we become comfortable with spiritual loneliness, we are able to be physically alone for greater periods of time. Buddhist monks are able to spend months on end being physically alone in a cave up in the mountains without ever feeling spiritual loneliness. They have accepted spiritual loneliness as a norm that it no longer bothers them. Similarly, being able to be physically alone allows us the opportunity to listen to the inner voices and subconscious messages from our mind – and we don’t need to run up to the mountains to do that. These inner communications can often times provide valuable and helpful clues to our problems and situations. They can offer insights to our feelings, motives and actions and help us better understand ourselves and others and find solutions to many of life’s problems.

being aloneA less spoken of benefit of spiritual loneliness is that it lets us truly value human interaction. We are inclined not to take people for granted – even those whom we might not be too fond of. We can weigh how much of human interaction we need to stay sane and how much of it we can do without. We can readjust our expectations of any relationships to something more realistic. This can prevent future heartbreaks and disappointments. The strength we derive by being comfortable with spiritual loneliness will allow us to choose our company more carefully. We no longer need to do things that go against who we are just to fit in or be accepted by others. We can have the strength to break free from relationships that are not beneficial or are even poisonous.

The path of spirituality is a journey we must walk alone. If ever we chance upon a friend, a comrade, we should consider ourselves lucky. However, we should not cling onto them or expect them to always be by our side. We should cherish such relationship but not be attached for their journey might not be the same as ours. Although, all spiritual seekers aim for the same end, there are many paths that lead to that end. We should be mindful of that.

Spiritual loneliness is the default state of the seeker. A person seeking to lead a spiritual life should not fear spiritual loneliness but instead learn to come to terms with it at his or her own pace. Spiritual loneliness is not a curse but can be a blessing. Look upon spiritual loneliness as an inescapable part of being alive and turn it into a friend. Make spiritual loneliness work for you and you will never be bothered by it again.

This article has been adapted and expanded upon by the author from the video Why We’re Fated to be Lonely by The School of Life.


A labor of love for the seeker – whoever you are and wherever you may be. May you find solace in these words.

Your brother in spirit

ben gill

Keep in touch