Tuesday, December 10, 2013

All the Lonely People

-in my garden-

Every year when the December holiday season comes around, you can be sure to find a variety of stories about food banks, homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the community.  Yesterday, there was a story in our paper about the work of a local "Meals on Wheels" program and how especially important the program is during this "holiday" season. 

When I first started reading that article in yesterday's paper, it seemed like it was going to be yet another of those stories with a "holiday" touch. However, the more I read, the more the story gripped me; and as I sit in my garden on this frosty December day in the desert, all I can do is think about what I read yesterday.

The article told the tale of Dan -  an 81 year old man who lives alone in a tiny mobile home near Palm Springs. Dan is very frail - unable to get around without the aid of a "walking chair, " so he rarely leaves his little home. He has no family and his friends are all gone.  So, he sits in a chair all day and watches TV or reads a book.  From time to time a few neighbors might stop by to check on him; but apart from that, the only daily contact he has with another human being is with the driver who delivers his meals. 

Dan talked about how lonely he is. The story really hit me. It was heart-wrenching.

As I sit in my garden on this chilly December morning, I think about Dan and I think about all the lonely people. 

There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. 

I actually relish times when I can be alone - those solitary times like this morning as I watch the sun rise and quietly begin a new day. However, as I sit alone here, I do not at all feel lonely- in fact I feel very connected. Here in the morning silence, mindful and awake in this moment, I am part of something bigger than me- I experience myself as a relationship with the creation - everything and everyone connected to and in the abiding power of universal love, a Divine Holy Presence.

While I relish being alone, like everyone else, I have also known the pain of loneliness - that feeling of being disconnected, abandoned, "hung out to dry." Maybe there is no greater pain than being lonely. 

The more I think about it, when you scrape beneath the surface, I would guess there are a lot of lonely people out there in this world on this crisp December day.  

You don't  have to live alone, or be old, or sick, or homebound to be lonely. You can be working in an office or sitting in a classroom, or even sitting at home with your family and still feel lonely if you feel cutoff or pushed aside, disregarded or ignored. 

Sometimes people bring on their own loneliness when they hide away within the protected shell of their  own ego - using the world out there for their own selfish gratification. It's a lonely place in there- inside the ego. 

Yes, as I think about it, when you scrape beneath the surface there are plenty of lonely people in the world out there on this frosty day in December.

As I sit in my meditation garden, I pray for Dan sitting alone in that chair on this December day. I pray for all the lonely people wherever they may be. My Buddhist teachers have taught me how to pray.

I imagine Dan in his chair and I look into my own heart in touch with the sense of connection I feel warming me today on this cold morning. I place Dan within that light of love. I place all the lonely people in that light of love.  I extend that energy of love in me, letting it flow out of me to encompass Dan and to warm all the lonely people.

May I be free from fear
May I be free from suffering
May I be happy.
May I be filled with loving-kiindness
May you (Dan) be free from fear.
May you be free from suffering.
May you be happy.
May you be filled with loving-kindness.
(a Buddhist prayer)

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