Solitude is a skill. It is a practice of Communion. Solitude bares our soul so that we can be closer to God and learn that we are never truly alone. There is irony in being alone so that we might feel connected to some greater “all.” Solitude is an oxymoron in this manner.
Solitude shows us what we don’t want to see or feel, and teaches us comfort with our deeper self.
False personas become unemployed in Solitude. They resist, then crumble in the face of Solitude. In Solitude, there isn’t a barrage of external messaging telling us who we are or who we should be. There is no one to bounce off our own perception of self for confirmation or adjustment. There is no image to control, no first impression to be made. There are no job titles or classifications.
Solitude asks, “Who are you when no one is telling you who you are?” It lowers guards. Mental chatter subsides─ eventually. Attachments detach. Individual moments are clarified, magnified.
Our ability to listen to what is occurring within is enhanced. We can hear our Truths being uttered.
Dreams unfold, uninterrupted. The long-devolved skill of “just being” evolves.
Awareness of the Body is heightened. We feel the Energy of this “wise-gift-vessel.” Self-inquiry is engaged when we are no longer distracted. Hidden Wisdoms come out of hiding. Discomfort is acknowledged. Fears of abandonment and of separation from the tribe arise. Survival instincts kick in.
You are never alone, you are never alone, Solitude whispers softly.
Solitude welcomes us. We are embraced by this “Auntie” that is Solitude, whom we have feared for her age and eccentricity. Why didn’t we visit her sooner? She is a treasure whom we failed to value. We rest. We respite. We recuperate. Solitude reboots us. We are safe. We respire and feel this magical breath within us. We feel the miracle within us that is connected to all.
In Solitude, we are reborn.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” -Blaise Pascal
The Ability to Be Alone
It can be said that humans are social animals and generally not inclined towards Solitude. Being part of a social group in ancient times was an integral aspect of survival. In modern times, we are still very social animals. What’s more, we have far greater methods for social grouping these days─ everything from coffee shops to church groups to social media─ that are not necessarily germane to survival but, rather, to personal interests or just an inclination to being with others. We have a desire to belong and to be a part of these groupings for any number of purposes, healthy and unhealthy. Unhealthy reasons include a fear of Solitude and/or the need to be constantly distracted from our own internal dynamics.
Today there may be more of a cultural mistrust around Solitude than ever before. The desire to be alone can be seen as existing within the realm of the anti-socials, the “weirdoes,” the lost souls and the standoffish. It can be viewed as excessive. It is sometimes seen as an indicator of mental health issues, if seen within a cluster of other symptoms.
We humans are considered to be social beings in general for starters. Our social nature contributed to our survival as a species over the eons. Those separated from the “tribe” often did not survive. Now those who are gregarious, extroverted and social are often admired and rewarded by society. Sometimes we even “go along just to get along” so that we aren’t viewed as being separate from the tribe.
Those who never practice Solitude would generally be viewed more favorably by society than those who do. There is a social bias towards being “social,”.
The ability to be alone can also be an indicator of strong overall mental health. Those who don’t have a solid sense of self have trouble being alone. Those who fear introspection have trouble being alone. Those with overwhelming issues of abandonment fear being alone. Those who have a need for constant distraction or external validation have trouble being alone. Ironically, sometimes we have to be alone to root out such issues; the ability to be alone in a comfortable manner can be practiced and improved upon.
In fact, the ability to move in a seamless manner between Solitude and social interaction is, I believe, a crucial aspect of maintaining both mental and spiritual health.
“I think it is very healing to spend time alone. You need know how to be alone and not be defined by other people.” -Oscar Wilde
In psychology, there are various discussions and theories on the concept of individuation. A generalized view of individuation might be:some point or process by which an individual arises out of a collective perception of their self as part of a grouping to express their uniqueness and independence as a being and a unique personality.
Babies are literally part of their mother’s Body for a time. Children are then part of their family unit. With Individuation, possibly as a teen or young adult, we might start to rebel against conformity and authority and begin to express our unique personality more. Some may never truly individuate, getting their clues on how to behave from a collective norm and simply falling in line with the others. Some cultures may tend to suppress individuation, while others enforce it.
When we individuate from our family, we may actually be able to become truly closer to them in the long run, versus feeling smothered and/or controlled by them. With individuation, we are freely and willfully associating with friends, loved ones and colleagues from a place of independence.
Solitude is a practice whereby we individuate from our collective experience, including collective noise, distraction, busy-ness and social conventions. It represents a stepping back from and stripping down of constant social conditioning to see who we are beneath all of that. In this baring of the soul, we make contact with that part of us that remains constant, regardless of whatever culture, Body or social construct in which we find ourselves. In Solitude, we realize we are separate from the social constructs of life, which are often superficial and arbitrary.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you may be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning one’s self.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
40 Days in the Desert
Solitude as a practice of spiritual growth and awakening has deep and varied roots across religious spectrums. There is the classic image of the “wise guru” who has lived alone on some mountaintop for eons. Spiritual seekers travel to ask them about the meaning of life, to which they inevitably receives some puzzling, koan-like response. Jesus of the mainstream Christian bible spent forty days in the desert as a method of spiritual exploration and Holy Communion. Buddha was said to have spent forty-nine days under a Bodhi Tree before achieving enlightenment.
What did they know that so many in these busy, modern, socially obsessed times shy away from?
It is in Solitude that we break free from labels, societal expectations and our general construct of reality. We shed ego, as there is no concern for our image or how we are perceived by others.
We then become free of much of the clutter of the mind and for introspection without distractions. Equanimity happens. Wisdom and Intuition rise up. We Surrender into Communion and experience our connection to the Divine, with all of the spiritual abundance that comes along with that.
In Solitude, we are alone with our soul. It’s good company.
“I had always been good company for myself.” -Charles Bukowski
With Solitude being such an enshrined aspect of so many spiritual belief systems, I do not understand why it has not more fully integrated into our cultures in the manner that other spiritual customs have filtered into the mainstream, such as holidays, no mail on Sundays, tax deductions for tithing, and so on. Why do we not have a National Solitude Day? Why doesn’t everyone have the legal right to take a forty-day solitary sabbatical at some point (right around midlife would be ideal) without threat of job loss or loss of benefits, just like other forms of leave?
I guess our spiritual roots don’t run that deep.
Lacking the formal acknowledgement of the importance of Solitude, we have to enshrine practices of Solitude into our lives on our own. There are companies out there that do allow for sabbaticals or leaves of absence. People in organizational decision-making capacities should do what they can to implement such policies.
I encourage everyone to plan at least one forty-day “Radical Sabbatical” in their pre-retirement, post-educational lifetime. There is not a perfect age to do this, but I would suggest to do it at some point after you have been in the mix of the working world for a while, maybe in the middle of tremendous success or at the height of your career.
I know that this could be difficult for many. Life adds up and becomes more complicated and, in turn, roles and responsibilities add up, too. Plan it anyway, if possible. See who you are away from the world you know.
Travel away. Travel alone. It need not be expensive. It is about being away from the world as you know it. Being in Nature is recommended. Being in a strange land is recommended. Daily meditation while on your Radical Sabbatical is recommended. Disconnect from technology as much as possible is definitely recommended. Some people might think you are weird, or at least not practical. Some people will envy you. No doubt, you will transform in some fashion because of it.
Those of us who are introverts, or trend that way, have greater impetus to integrate a practice of Solitude into our daily lives beyond strictly spiritual purposes. Introverts need Solitude on a regular basis as a part of their regular self-care regimen. Introverts are not necessarily shy or antisocial. It is said that they simply need Solitude as a matter of recharging, while extroverts get a charge from social interaction.
There is no right or wrong way to be. They are just two different ways of being on opposite ends of a spectrum. It is good to know where you stand in this realm, however. If you don’t know that you are an Introvert, you might tend to question yourself as to why you don’t enjoy the level of crowd scenes or social activity that others around you do. Don’t worry about it; you are fine. You just need your Solitude more than they do.
Fear of Space
With Solitude, we are opening up space within ourselves. We are shedding ego and shedding distractions and stimuli. The absence of activity and constant external feedback can make us uncomfortable at first. We are conditioned to feel bored in such circumstances. Boredom is also a feeling of discomfort.
Like any fear or uncomfortable feeling, avoiding or suppressing it gives it power. Acknowledging it and sitting with it will tend to take away its power. Eventually we realize that Solitude and the space it creates is not a threat. We are then free to see what rises up to fill that space. At first this can be information on other things to work on, areas in need of Healing. We may have avoided Solitude for the sole purpose of not allowing old wounds the time and space to rise up, be felt and be addressed.
Solitude gives us the opportunity to see what rises up that needs our attention. It then gives us space for aspects of our Divinity to rise up to fill that space, helping us Heal in the process. At some point, we develop greater discretion on what we choose to rise up and fill us, be it Truth, Love, Equanimity or Bliss or the spiritual element of your choice.
Basically, Solitude can get the ball rolling. It can get us away from fear of emotional space and allow freedom to come in instead.
“Fill your empty moments with love for God and you will know that you are not alone nor can you be lonely.” -Paramahansa Yogananda
Solitude stands on a foundation of the Soul-Caliber elements: Truth, Love, Equanimity and Bliss. These support Solitude and Solitude supports these. Solitude is essentially a stripping away of external factors which might drive the identity of a false persona, feeding the ego. In Solitude, we are essentially shedding ego and baring the soul. The Soul-Caliber Elements are those core Energies of the Soul. With them flowing, we feel Soul Energy. We touch Divinity. We don’t feel alone.
Non-Attachment supports Solitude in letting go of all the accoutrements of social convention and conditioning. We let go of any definition of who we are as defined by others. We let go of the need for such definitions.
Nature supports Solitude. Being amongst the natural world is not mandatory in order to access Solitude, but it is the preferred place when it is possible and safe. In Nature, stripped of social definition, we are reminded of our place in the Tree of Life, which is never a lonely place.
Breath, Prayer, Meditation, Mantra and Mindfulness all support Solitude by comforting us when discomfort arises within the practice of Solitude. Breath centers and grounds us. Prayer, Meditation, Mantra and Mindfulness can keep our minds from wandering.
Meditation by itself is a practice in Solitude.
- Integrate periods of Solitude into your daily routine and self-care regimen. Start with brief periods of meditation every day. Allow other periods of time for solitary walking, reading, relaxation music or sitting (No T.V.!). The less stimuli, the better.
- Coordinate with your intimate partner and family to honor periods of Solitude for all. Teach Solitude as a value to children.
- Find safe places close to your home that are in Nature. Spend time sitting, lying down and Meditating there.
- Practice Mindfulness in order to monitor your overall “busy-ness” level. Break from “busy-ness” often and as appropriate, with periods of Solitude. Use break times at work for periods of Solitude.
- Explore your personality in terms of introversion or extroversion. Which one are you? Practice Solitude whatever way you swing, but more so if you are an introvert.
- Explore any old wounds that may have to do with fears of abandonment; get help from a professional if needed.
- Practice Mindfulness with Solitude as a method of gaining Self-Awareness and identifying areas for Healing, as well simply calming the mind overall.
- Go to a movie by yourself. Go to a museum by yourself.
- Plan a vacation geared towards Solitude.
- Explore the availability of retreats for yoga and Meditation.
- Plan for a 40-day Radical Sabbatical. Then do it!
When I Am Alone, I Am Not Alone.
When I Am Alone, I Am Not Alone. Thy Rod and Thy Staff Comfort Me.
I AM Perfectly Me.
I Am Pure Energy, Peace at this Moment, Courageous and Willfully Present