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I've been thinking a lot today about attention, approval and gaze: I've noticed when what feels like soul hunger arises, my gut instinct is to go casting about to see who's paying attention. Hungry heart? Check to see if any texts have come in. Feeling anxious? Turn to Facebook to see who's liked anything I wrote.

Again, anything but sitting with the forever empty, that timelessness, the solitude of the never-coming.

It's a very hard habit to break, but I'm trying. When the hunger arises, and I feel the reflexive turning outward for attention and companionship, I've been trying to turn inward. Attending to myself, and letting my own witness be enough. Instead of looking outward for approval and company, looking straight into the mirror.

It's surprisingly effective. For anyone interested in trying it, here's the process:

When I start to feel uncomfortable, I tune into the clutching feeling in my center, under my breastbone, through to my spine. I breathe into it, and then, ask it, "What are you on about?"

It's interesting to note that when I'm feeling lonely, and I ask the loneliness, "Who are you?", rarely is the answer "I am lonely". The answer comes in waves: guilt. shame. unworthiness. fatigue. fear. It depends on the day and the trigger and what I've been doing.

I cringe at listing all those feelings, because it's just not done to admit you have them, right? Most people deny they ever have them, though I suspect they are actually universal. I've got them, and I'll name them, because I know in my head they're not true. But they're strong scripts, and they take a lot of shush-ing. Conscious quieting: "That's not true. I don't have to listen to you."

And then I bring my awareness to gbd present moment, to my breathing, to the glowing silence in the core of my being, and the pain dissipates.

It's quite hopeful, actually, to feel that in that place, the center of the self, my essence, I'm rarely lonely when I'm attending to myself.

I had therapist (a licensed individual) once tell me when I was feeling isolated and lonely that I should put on some lipgloss and go to a Starbucks and just wait and see who was digging me. Really. It's preposterous, in retrospect, because it puts so much power in the hands of other people - who are so often distracted by their own attention-seeking, that they barely are present in the moment to notice anything. Never mind placing all one's self-worth in being what someone else might find worthy. Waiting on that is a recipe for a long long wait.

I see now that the real answer, and the only one I can control, is "Witness yourself, and let your own gaze and your own company, and your own approval be enough."

Feel free to not like this.


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