Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Illusion of Loneliness

Sunburst at dawn, on Ben Lomond
I have come to consider myself as an expert mountaineer. Not because I’ve bloodied my fingers climbing up sheer cliffs or scaled particularly arduous or high peaks, but because when I get up there, I watch, listen and feel, and so enter a state of exquisite peace.

It is one of many gateways to present awareness – the state of true consciousness – where thinking falls away and the illusion of division from this Universe you live in vanishes. You are merged with nature. You are simply being.

I worked at a hotel in Borrowdale, in the English Lake District, last year (an area which has no mobile reception, at least for my carrier, Vodafone) and would walk up to the summit of Grange Fell (1,363ft) every few days to check my text messages and make a few phone calls.

I recall sitting there one day, looking down the valley towards Keswick, some five miles to the north, and realising – though there was nobody else around but me – that not for a moment did I feel ‘lonely’ when walking in the mountains.

It hit me that, like I’ve said about emotional pain in previous blogs, loneliness is also a phantom of the mind – the product of critical over-thinking. It’s why people say they can feel lonely in a crowded room. It is the mental dialogue that creates that sense of loneliness, rather than the actual situation.

Now, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I never feel lonely. Yes, sometimes I am alone, but there is a great distinction between those two words: loneliness is a psychological illusion, fuelled by the egoic need to be recognised, whereas being alone is a physical fact and nothing to get down about.

These are some of the places I haven't been lonely... click on the images to see them full size:

The Watendlath Path - Borrowdale

Sunburst over Borrowdale

10/10/10 - Perfect Peace in Borrowdale

Grange Fell, Borrowdale, overlooking Derwentwater & Keswick

Loch Lomond, from about 3,100ft up Ben Lomond

Close to the summit of Ben Lomond

88 comments:

  1. You are so right (I hate saying that to a man--ha!). Me and my husband tend to take walks. My MiL lives right on the west coast of Wales, and coastal walks along there are just breathtaking. We can be the only two people in sight (which, truth be told, is how I prefer it), yet I experience nothing but peace. No matter how hard the wind is blowing, I never feel cold.
    These photographs are stunning. :)

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  2. Hehehe! Is that because men are rarely right, or you just don't like to admit they sometimes are? There is something immensely special about being absorbed in nature and there's a lesson there - that you can take that peace with you, wherever you go. Just takes a little practice. :-)

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    1. silent right... btw, very absorbing blog.
      greetings from Poland '-)

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  3. Meh, I just mebbe don't like admitting that they can be right. Hehehehe! I often use images on my desktop from places we've visited/walked, to remind me of them, or to give me better scenery than my kitchen walls when I'm working. I think, with regards to being absorbed, an individual has to learn to switch and walk with a free mind--only then will they fully appreciate what is there for their enjoyment. :)
    Maybe I should leave before I start sounding a bit Yoda'ish???

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  4. Yoda is genius! The thing about mountain walking is that it's one of those ways of 'accidentally' discovering present awareness... it just happens. A lot of people don't recognise it for what it is, though, and walk back down the mountain, back to their 'problems' and forget the peace they experienced. So, yes, it's a case of switching to walk with that peace wherever they go - but they've already discovered that switch, even if they don't consciously know they have. That's what I want to teach. :-)

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  5. I agree one shouldn't let go of the inner peace once it's been discovered, however, one needs to relax enough to realise it's there to begin. ;)

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  6. Ack, lost my comment.

    Just commented that you are correct in noting that the hardest part is holding onto the peace that we experience within nature when we come back down off of the mountain (or out of the forest or whatever). Nice insight.

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  7. Beautifully written, and beautiful photos! I can relate to the feeling of feeling alone with others, but never in nature. Hence why I will plan a natural vacation before a city vacation. =)

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  8. I have never been lonely while out in nature. Being out in nature grounds me and keeps me centered. I have not been lonely a day in my life since I started liking and loving myself. Before when I hated myself, I was lonely all the time. I now cherish my alone time.

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  9. That's such an important thing, yes. Again, it's why I believe present awareness is the greatest healer - letting go of past debris allows you to see and feel the love within. You're such an inspiration. :-)

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  10. A year ago I started meditating, it culminated with me on a mountain just a few weeks ago, here in the high desert, I sat in peace, fully connected and present with the earth, 2 1/2 hours passed, I had no idea and it was brilliant. Thank you for your words and this blog, it is needed so much for so many right now. ~ Rose

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  11. Don't thank me, Rose - it's you, not me, that confirmed your peace. Thank you for the wonderful story. Give me an email shout - I'd love to follow your progress. :-)

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  12. Les a wonderful blog- When I am hiking I feel at one with the universe as well. I'm a new fan.

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  13. Thank you, Caroline! :-)

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  14. I do indoor rock climbing... not the same however!! It is something completely different than being in tune with nature!! Made me smile that you said feeling lonely is an egoic need to be recognised :) sooooo true!! I've come to appreciate the time I get to be with myself, self discovery is something to be valued!! ~Forever alone, NEVER lonely!!~

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  15. I would imagine that even indoor rock climbing is a great technique for present awareness, though? If your attention isn't focused in the moment, you're going to make mistakes. Maybe not so bad if you lose your concentration when you've got a ten foot drop on to a crash mat... I'm sure there's a more acute need for that focus 500ft up a cliff. :-)

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  16. Insightful and well written. And, I agree with you. However, it takes someone with a strong sense of self and confidence to get to where you are; to genuinely, deeply feel this way. You're a lucky man. As for me, I'd say I'm about 90% there... which isn't so bad, either. :)

    The pictures you attached are stunning. I want to go to those places! Thank you for letting me do it vicariously through your photos for a few lovely seconds.

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  17. It was a spontaneous thing, in February 2010 - it's explained further in the 'Awakening' posts of November and December, last year. I had no confidence or any great sense of self when that happened, but it's changed my life.

    I'm not 100%, either... or maybe I am 100%, but not 100% of the time? Hehe. It's all about the moment, eh? ;-)

    Thanks for the comment, and I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Heading back to Borrowdale next week, so I'll take some more. :-)

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  18. I see exactly what you mean. I also have a favourite place to free my mind, a lake halfway up moel Siabod in Wales that makes me feel like that.

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  19. I haven't been to the Welsh mountains yet! That's something I want to remedy this year.

    Just checked Google images and it looks astonishing there. :-)

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  20. Amazing scenery! Would love to walk in these areas one day...maybe one of my vacationing spots! Thanks for sharing the splendor of nature!
    Cheers,
    Derrick

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  21. I hope you get a chance to see them with your own eyes, Derrick. If you do, be certain to let me know and I'll meet you there! :-)

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  22. I know exactly what you mean. I have written about my love of a particular spot overlooking the Langdale Valley. I have been there in the depths of winter, as the sun goes down. Freezing cold and quite alone I feel so very far from lonely. Lovely post,fabulous photos. thank you. Suzie @keatsbabe

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  23. Thank you, Suzie! Langdale is extraordinarily beautiful, too. If we could only bottle that feeling and give it to the rest of the world, eh? :-)

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  24. You have no idea how this hits me personally. The only thing missing is smell. The scents of nature is one that remains with me always. Scent of pine, leaves on the ground and the dust you kick up as you walk. The only other place I feel what you describe is on the back of a horse. I love to ride and when I do, I forget absolutely every stress, ache and pain of life. It's just me, my horse and the beauty and smells all around. Thank you for writing such a profound story. For me, it goes deep. Or photos are so beautiful too!

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  25. When we immerse ourselves in our senses - including the sense of smell - I guess we're going back to the natural state of just being, which forces the critical mind into silence, or even non-existence for a while?

    We have this beautiful world to live on, yet most people in the Western world lock themselves indoors or in cities for their recreation. Perhaps it's no wonder we're missing the true joy of living.

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  26. Your post is a wake-up call reminding me how great it is to get away from the busy-ness of my day to day life. Thanks!

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  27. great pics, great insights, great peace!
    so glad i stopped by ;)

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  28. Thank you both! It was wonderful to be there, and I'm thankful I could bring that peace back down from the mountain... as well as the photos. :-)

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  29. Les, what a lovely reminder about our union with the Divine. I relate whole-heartedly to getting back into nature as the path that re-connects us to what is always there. It was in the mountains that I really woke up. And though I don't get out into the wild nearly as much as I used to, I do carry the mountains with me always, especially when I have felt lost and yes, lonely, to help me remember Source.

    I hope you'll pop on over and check out my blog at www.empowermentexperience.com. "Call of the Wild" might be a post you'd like.

    I look forward to following you more!

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  30. Yes... hehe... I carry the mountains with me, too. I can lay them down and sit on them again, wherever I am, now. :-)

    Just reading your blog. Yours is a wonderful story. :-)

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  31. As I have have learned from you and other "gurus" most emotions are a state of mind, like happiness, loneliness, misery and so on; I was actually going to write something else but you're right, everything is about perception, so if someone thinks they're lonely, then he or she is.

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  32. Negatives are false, though. When you allow yourself to let go of them, the natural state is of peace, and happiness springs up from that tranquillity so easily when you find yourself there. :-)

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  33. Beautiful. I am never lonely in nature. I am at peace. As an only child who grew up on a mountain I roamed the woods for fun all day. Love this post and your photos. I miss England. Need to get back there!

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  34. Thanks, Donna! It's such a wonderful way to experience that tranquillity within. I hope you remember to bring it back down from the mountains with you. :-)

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  35. You are blessed to find real peace in your own company. There are many who cannot bear any time alone with their own thoughts. You will never be lonely, Les, because you're happy in your own skin. You have a good soul and you will always attract love and kindness.

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  36. Great pictures and a great truth! *Sigh* I love the Lake District and the Loch Lommond area....

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  37. You'll have to revisit! They are stunning, yeah. :-)

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  38. hi dear.. you have dazzled me with all your writings and photos..thank you for sharing Laura Novak

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  39. Ah, thank you, Laura! :-)

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  40. Love Ben Lomond & Lock Lomond... fantastic pic's, thanks for sharing... :)

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  41. Thank you for looking in! :-)

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  42. Stunning vista. Love the photos. <<<nods....loneliness is a state of mind. Great post. Thanks for sharing it.

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  43. What a beautiful piece of writing. I love spending time with nature. Maybe it's because I feel, in doing so, I am closer to my Creator. Finding peace within yourself is a daily struggle for me, at least. It wouldn't be that difficult I guess, if I was surrounded with the kind of beauty you're surrounded with everyday. :-)

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  44. Hehe... I live on a council estate in the north of England... beauty is in your perception. I can be as happy sitting in my garden or standing on a crowded street in London as I can in the mountains. :-)

    Don't struggle for peace... let go of the other stuff that stops you from being there. :-)

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  45. Thank you, Sonia! And thanks for reading! :-)

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  46. Love your pix Les, and I agree with you about loneliness vs. being alone. Like you, I'm never lonely even though I am alone much of the time.

    I think it also comes with being comfortable with oneself. Some people use others to define who they are, and without the presence of people around them, they struggle to be comfortable in their own skins.

    Not that I'd ever want to be tested, but if I ever got thrown in jail - I'd much prefer to be in solitary. In today's world, there is never enough time to just have peace and quiet.

    eden
    xoxox

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  47. You're right - it's a precious thing to have that time to ourselves, but to be comfortable with it is perfect.

    Thanks, Eden! Loved taking the pix! :-)

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  48. A gatha for 'The Illusion of Loneliness'

    Connection

    Up here I stand wide open
    Down there I walk alone
    One tree in a field
    Frog sits on a lily
    Feelings come and go
    Always a presence is there
    Stay quiet, be still, listen
    You will find me everywhere

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  49. First: awesome photos. Easy to put myself there.
    Second: totally agree with your assessment on "loneliness". Just blogged last week, and if I may offer, it can be found here:

    http://deankmiller.blogspot.com/2011/07/solitary-by-choice.html

    I need to get across the pond...
    thanks for the photos.

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  50. Agreeing here ... I went through a pregnancy on my own and whilst my companion was inside I was alone for most of it. I never felt lonely and haven't had that feeling in many a year. I saw a Psychic and she said 'you never feel alone, it's because you're surrounded by spirits'. I'm not sure about that, but I do know that I can spend hours on my own and not care. I am not alone. It was one of my meditations when pregnant 'I am not alone, I am loved'. Works for me. But then again, maybe i'm really just a loner at heart (with my 750 Facebook friends!) LOL.

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  51. There is a vast difference between loneliness and being alone. one can be lonely in a crowded room and completely connected in the quietness of a mountain trail. What great blog.

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  52. I was once very lonely while living isolated from friends/family. I realized that I had "felt" lonely on the inside of my inner being from a very young age. Raised in a very strict religious family as the granddaughter of a well-known, now deceased, pastor. My family was very "closed-minded" & critical. I learned to keep secrets at a very young age. I "protected" my parents from the dirty truth of surviving molestation. I learned to live in shame/isolation as a latchkey-child who came home to an empty home. I watched my depressed mother on diet after diet until I learned to be Anorexic by age ten. Although I had 3-older bros, I came home to an empty house even as a kindergartener. My parents went off to teach at youth camp & left me home alone as a teen... big mistake. By the time I was 17, I was pregnant & forced to marry a sociopath who tortured/abused me. I learned young to keep secrets. As the young trophy wife, I learned to keep my mouth shut & follow ten-steps behind. It was a life-altering event to go from daddy's house to a house ruled by a terrifying man. In a sense, he helped finish raising me into an adult. Inside, I still feel like a teen. Many years he kept me isolated on an island in Japan. This cryptic death inside was lonesome loathing in self-misery. I remembering being a child so lonely wishing for love. It wasn't that my parents (now deceased) didn't love me, they just weren't there& if they were, they were emotionally unavailable. I didn't get what I needed from them or from the man I once gave half a life to. The ex-husband was always traveling on business. When he was home, I was praying he would sleep so he leave me alone. Even when we moved back to the States, I was alone in the country & kept isolated from my own family. Always alone, I could never find inner peace. Married, yet unloved is an unhappy lonely frame of mind. Once freedom was won, I had lost so many loved ones while many turned their back on me. The truth hurts & people keep secrets.
    I don't know where I'm headed or which path I'll take. I have come to realize I don't feel lonely anymore. I don't have the words to articulate why. I just know inside I've found some peace. I'm eager & hungry to learn. I've got new dreams. Once I get passed these chronic migraines/cluster headaches, I hope I find less heartaches. One thing I know is true... I'm glad to meet like-minded souls via Twitter/Blogger like you... & many of those above.
    I agree... I don't much like agreeing w/a dude, it's a female pride thing... also agree w/our beloved @patriciasinglet as I am on the path to enlightenment.
    Of Love & Hope~
    Mariposa~ XO

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  53. Thank you, Dean! You'd be most welcome here! Cheers for the link! :-)

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  54. I agree, Bronny... we're never alone when we recognise the love we have within. It keeps us company even when the rest of our Facebook friends have gone to sleep. ;-)

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  55. Thanks, Bughi! Glad you enjoyed! :-)

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  56. Mother Nature fills me with such peace and tranqulty that I rarely find being around people. During times of stress, I take a deep breath, find the Nature-peace stashed in a sacred spot inside me and carry on in a much better frame of mind. Your blog is inspiring!

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  57. I'm a nature girl so I enjoyed your post:-) Growin' up in Cali I've spent a ton of time in the mountains and near the ocean, there's nothin like a bit of nature to put things in perspective is there? That is providing you aren't caught talking to the animals or lunching with the daisies. I try to do that without witnesses. :-p
    Your buddy,
    Patricia

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  58. Les, I have spent my life as a youth in the woods and water....hunting. I no longer hunt with a gun but with a camera. Nature, our most devout relative. We ARE related to all living things. I believe we are not alone in that arena for all our true relations are there. Yes, we connect finally with no sensory distraction. I enjoy writing, I like to consider myself a writer. You, my fiend write eloquently. So glad I found you through twitter. Keep giving back like you do. It is what life is about. In peace and healing.

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  59. I just love your blog....

    Anonie

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  60. just saw this on Twitter via Nic Cairncross..you say loneliness is a psychological illusion created by the need to be recognised...ve ry interesting comment..did you discover this yourself or is it taken from someone else's ideas? Im just curious because I think I agree with you but have never come across it in this way..

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  61. Well said. Sometimes, loneliness is only in the mind!

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  62. I feel just the same. In fact when I walk in the Peak District I feel as though I am with another, much-loved person. I don't *think* this is insanity - rather, and acknowledgement of our oneness. As a child I was feeling at one with trees, thirty years or more before I read about metaphysical connections... Thanks for another lovely blog, Les. :)

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  63. To be lonely is to acknowledge that you have not developed a friendship with yourself.

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  64. Les,
    I appreciate your separation of the two. I have been working on convincing myself of this very belief, and have for the most part, but sometimes it's to easy to allow loneliness in. I don't mind being alone but when I have something to say & know one to listen.... Loneliness is there. I'll keep this in mind though, a figment of my imagination, lonelyness dosent have to exist. :)-Mindy

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  65. Hello Les -- Just came across this great post. It fits well at this point in my spiritual journey. Struggling a bit in detaching from my need for affirmation -- strikes me that this is a kind of loneliness. I'll have to explore your site further, and hope to connect with you thru our blogs & Twitter. Thanks!

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  66. People think that if you are physically alone you will be lonely. Not true. Like you say, people can be surrounded by others and still feel lonely. People can be more lonely in relationships than if they were single.

    LK Watts

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  67. Very beautifuly written. Inspiring. I have a friend that I am going to share this with that is struggling with some things right now and this would be perfect.
    Thank you for your writings!

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  68. So agree - loneliness is in the head and not in the circumstances. I'm a widow, my children have left home (I had 4 to bring up on my own) and I spend most of my time alone now. There are occasional moments of self-pity, but I've found a huge contentment in being who I am - wherever that may be.

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  69. 'Alone' comes from 'All-(is)-one'. I feel lonely when I'm not one with all. What you're writing resonates strongly in me. I feel lonely sometimes, which - I know - is an indicator of not accepting what is. Bein in nature does help me too. Listening to the stillness of it is what lifts my spirits and feel in peace.

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  70. HA! I've been there! I visited the Lake District (relatives from there) when I was 17 years old and will always remember the stark beauty. Though then again, I was *not* alone and thus *felt* alone. ;-P

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  71. Then what is your advice, for the people whose egos are still creating this illusion? How do you break down those thought patterns and stop feeling lonely? I love the ideas you portray here, but would find an explanation of how you came to be in this peaceful place even more interesting.

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  72. Sometimes loneliness feels like a very real phantom. I think it is our desire to merge with the divine. Still - it can be overwhelming when you feel that you don't have someone to reach towards in such a busy world that always seems to be connecting. How ironic. If you take a minute and quiet the chatter, you can always connect with God. Thanks for reminding us.

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  73. I live on top of a mountain. I'm surrounded by nothing other than other mountains. They are my company, living and breathing as the sun shifts light around them. My children are always suprised when I'm offered a day alone up here while they are with friends in town. It is the most fulfilling and alive I can feel -- those moments when the only chatter is that from feathers, wind and leaves.
    Lovely blog!

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  74. Just being, at least from my point of view and previous experience, allows us to feel connected with something bigger than ourselves and certainly other people. A sense of strange, yet familiar fulfillment.

    By the way, this paragraph that you wrote is some of the best things I've read in a while "It hit me that, like I've said about emotional pain in previous blogs, loneliness is also a phantom of the mind – the product of critical over-thinking. It’s why people say they can feel lonely in a crowded room. It is the mental dialogue that creates that sense of loneliness, rather than the actual situation."
    And being on a mountain or anywhere in nature for that matter makes that mental dialogue way more cohesive and structured.

    Great read!

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  75. Great post, nice images. I just wrote a little piece on my blog about similar realization: link.

    Really like the "spirit" of your blog, BTW...

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  76. Very nice post! I completely agree. Nature and the universe bring me peace, because we can see the whole picture, and it makes the little things we worry about become meaningless!

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  77. Your pictures are stunning Les. I find nature to be one of the best places in the world, where loneliness is not a truth. Beautiful message and pictures.

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  78. great post. Wonderful country. Perfectly said.

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  79. The Lake District! What a magnificent place to discover what you've described in this post. Thank you for sharing these photos and your insights. Given the number of comments you've received here, what you've said resonates with truth for many of us.

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