As Published by Elephant Journal
“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”-Henry David Thoreau
Solitude is a lost art in our fast and furious modern lifestyles where we are connected to the world instantly, have little time for ourselves and are busy tweeting our every thought and act.
I have recently embarked on a love affair with solitude; something I never knew I craved till I discovered it. Now, I feel I just can’t get enough of being solitary to the chagrin of my family and friends.
I don’t want to be a monk, a hermit or someone who is trying to run away from the vicissitudes of life, but I’ve found great solace in what Wordsworth called the ‘bliss of solitude’.
There is a big difference between solitude and loneliness as explained by Psychology Today:
“Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely—perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness. Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.”
Solitude does not include being alone while watching TV, reading books or surfing the internet. It strictly means being alone with ourselves and our thoughts or better still, being alone with no thoughts.
For me, solitude simply put, is a spiritual rendezvous between our souls and us. It’s when we get to meet and talk with our genuine true selves.And from those wonderful trysts, many benefits have come to me:
1) Calmness and Tranquility
The moments I have alone every morning, remove all the tension and stress that have built up over the previous days. This feeling of solitary bliss allows me to sit alone and be steadfast as thoughts and urges of what to do next come to me, as I try to let them quietly go.
There is no noise to distract me, there are no demands on me, and there are no expectations of me when I’m alone. I’m not under pressure to do or be and as such I have this feeling of relief that then permeates my whole being and as such I find myself calmer more times than not.
2) Contemplation and Reflection
“The quieter you become,the more you can hear”-Ram Dass
As we sit alone and listen to our thoughts, we begin to see them for what they are. When you want to get to know someone better, the first advice we get is to spend quality “alone” time with them and yet we ignore that when it comes to spending time with ourselves.
The more hours we spend alone contemplating, the better we get to know ourselves.We start seeing where we have gone wrong and what steps we need to take to correct our behaviours. We look at the grand scheme of things and become clear on what matters to us and not what matters to people and society.
3) Appreciation of Life
In solitude, I often find myself appreciating the people and things in my life as when I’m alone I truly see their worth. I often practice what the Stoics called “Negative Visualisation” which simply means to visualise our lives without the people we love, without the things we love to do and without the small things that we have in our lives.
I find this contemplation very positive as it makes me appreciate much more what and who I have in my life. I often call or connect to my loved ones very quickly after this practice.
“You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”-Franz Kafka
Solitude and removing ourselves from the noisy activity of life is the bedrock of creativity, as we start hearing our thoughts, and reach deep into ourselves to find our true voice.
The deeper we reach, the more likely we are to meet our muse, and suddenly wonderful ideas and insights appear magically. The time we spend alone also helps us cultivate the ability to focus for longer periods and as such I find I do my best writing after long periods of solitude.
Einstein, Goethe, Kafka, Tesla are only a few of the many greats who changed our world and being alone played a big part in their creative process as great ideas would flow to them during solitude.
5) Isolation from other’s influences
No matter how we look at things, environment and people do affect us. We intend going for a short lunch and before we know it, plans change and friends want to do something else, and now we are under peer pressure to spend more time with them instead of the time we wanted to spend alone.
However, if we truly have started practicing solitude and start valuing our alone time, then we find ourselves strong enough to say no more times than we would have said yes.
It’s like we have to be alone and it becomes an inner need that must be fulfilled every day, and when we cultivate a friendship with our genuine true self, then we find that it is quite demanding and possessive of our time.
There are many ways in finding the time for solitude, and I’ve found it by rising early, and just before the sun comes out is a beautiful time to be truly alone.
I’ve also found long walks to be a great way to spend time alone, and whenever I’m in a big city where walking is easy and practical, then I would walk either through the big parks or discover the city itself.
Also being out and about in nature, whether living on a farm, beach, river, in the countryside or going on weekend retreats to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city is a great way to get solitude.
We need to enjoy our own company more as at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, we would have spent the most time with ourselves.