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What Would Sid Do: Loneliness / Single Straight Men are Yetis

Many people look to Siddhartha Gautama as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. Each week in this column we look at what it might be like if Siddhartha was on his spiritual journey today. How would he combine Buddhism and dating? How would he handle stress in the workplace? What would Sid do? is devoted to taking an honest look at what we as meditators face in the modern world.

Each week I'll take on a new question and give some advice based on what I think Sid, a fictional Siddartha, would do. Like us, Sid is not yet a buddha, he's just someone struggling to maintain an open heart on a spiritual path while facing numerous distractions along the way. Because let's face it, you and I are Sid.

Have a question for this weekly column? E-mail it here and I'll probably get to it!

I've been single for a long time. Like, a really long time.  I'm beginning to believe single, straight men in New York City are actually Yetis.  But to add to this frustration, I also feel like, as a Buddhist, I'm spending all my time focusing on what I "don't have," and can't seem to just be happy with right now - no matter how content I feel with the rest of my life, this loneliness is pervasive in my meditation, in my thoughts, in every moment.  What would Sid do? - Lynne


Loneliness is something we have all felt at one point or time. When it hits, it hits hard and can feel all-pervasive. It could be sparked by yearning to meet a mate, by feeling homesick, by missing someone we love, or just not feeling included. No matter what, it's a bitch.

I imagine Sid would recommend that you approach loneliness like you might try to approach other strong emotions: with kindness and curiosity. You can apply your meditative mind to this malady and really examine it thoroughly. We have all learned from past experience that beating yourself up over being stuck in emotional pitfalls is just draining energically. As an alternative, you can explore your emotional states with a sense of gentleness and discernment.

Try taking your regular meditation posture and practice meditation for a few minutes. Once you feel grounded in your practice, see if you feel lonely right now. Assuming it is as pervasive as you noted it should come right up.

First, be gentle with yourself: Can you stay with this feeling or is it too painful? If it seems painful there's no shame in getting off the cushion and instead going for a run or taking a shower until you calms down a bit. As my teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, often remarks, knowing when we are able to meditate is good meditation.

Assuming you can sit with your emotion, you can get inquisitive: Where does loneliness reside in your body? Does it have a shape? A color? Where does it exist? Where did it come from?

Conclude your session by relaxing and resting in the present moment. When you are able to, return to following the breath.

Beginning to examine loneliness in this way frees you up from becoming too solid with your emotions. You begin to see that the emotion of loneliness is not as real and permanent as you may have originally guessed.

Emotions like loneliness are transient, like the clouds rolling across the sky. While it may feel like they are always there it is a much more fluid situation when we look closely. "Right now," as you noted, can be a source of happiness. Right now is as vast as the sky itself; re-connecting to it through meditation practice can be a powerful experience.

And Lynne, if that doesn't help, my single friend Dilip is a doctor and he's quite a stud muffin too.




yeti image courtesy of cryptomundo.com

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