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Ode to Solitude

By • Mar 25th, 2008 • Category: Habits, Lifestyle Choices

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What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it – like a secret vice.  ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

That quote summarizes my life to a large degree. After 52+ years, it still amazes me how people can still be puzzled, suspicious and critical of how comfortable I am with solitude. Call it what you may, but please, allow me my right to seek and enjoy the benefits of solitude.  

What are your thoughts on solitude? Does it convey negative visions of loneliness and isolation? That’s understandable. We are social beings and we derive a large portion of our happiness from our connections to and relationships with others. Plus we are accustomed to the constant physical and verbal activity that surrounds us. Still, the need for occasional periods of solitude is just as vital to our mental and emotional welfare.

Let’s consider some of the areas in our lives where solitude can have a profound effect and bestow her priceless benefits.

Solitude and spirituality.

The Bible tells of leaders in the Old Testament, like Moses, who often pulled themselves away from their families and other companions to talk to and hear God. In the New Testament, it was Jesus’ habit to withdraw from the company of his disciples for private sessions with God the Father. Many people have testified that they felt God’s presence, heard his voice and sensed His guiding hand in their moments of solitude. Solitude draws us in and ushers us into the portal through which, we seek and commune with God, through prayer and meditation.

Don’t you sometimes feel the need for this practice in your life? Don’t resist it.

Solitude and creativity

Researchers, psychologist and persons of almost every creative persuasion, can attest to the benefits of solitude. Sometimes, in solitary moments inspired ideas surface to reveal how they can be merged with old, new or emerging skills. Or they appear as innovative sparks to prompt us to try something we have been avoiding. We can make use of solitude’s gentle probing to develop our creative inclinations or delve into a new adventure.

Solitude and you.

It’s where we can ask, "Who am I?" Can we really lie to ourselves about who we are? In solitude, there are no caves or walls to hide from ourselves. In our solitary moments, we can identify the person who lives in our skin and walks in our clothes.

Solitude sequesters us from the pressures to conform and compromise. It helps us to understand who we are thus explaining the reasons and rational for our emotions, individual tendencies and preferences. It creates the atmosphere for heartfelt reflection, acceptance, forgiveness and the resolve to be true to ourselves. 

Solitude and rest.

It’s wise and healthy to set aside our compulsion to get everything done at the expense of our sanity and our health. Stealing away for a few moments of solitude will restore our energy as we give our bodies the rest it deserves. Additionally, solitude will provide the much-needed break from the presence and chatter of others. When our pace slows or stops completely, solitude helps our minds to adopt the same pace and our mental functions improve. Overall, we will emerge from our time of solitude physically rested and mentally refreshed.

Solitude and life.

Solitude quiets the noise of our normal exist and allows us to hear our true thoughts, and feel our most intimate and genuine feelings. It opens our minds to find solutions to our life puzzles and to consider possibilities previously silenced by the humdrum and clatter of our normal routines. Solitude very often, holds in her hands, and in the folds of her cocooning garments, the inspiration for change in various areas of our lives. If we adopt the practice of regular periods of solitude, we will no doubt notice a slower, more thoughtful and positive response to the road bumps in our lives.

All through history men have sought after and practiced seasons of solitude. And for just as long, others have ridiculed them for it. For that reason, quotes on solitude litter the literary world online and in print. I share some of my favorites below.

* “The soul’s best friend.” ~ Charles Cotton

* “Often the best society.” ~ William G. Benham

* "We hear voices in solitude, we never hear in the hurry and turmoil of life; we receive counsels and comforts, we get under no other condition."~ Amelia E. Barr 

* "We live in a very tense society.  We are pulled apart… and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together…. I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude." ~ Helen Hayes

* "It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts." ~ K.T. Jong

* "We visit others as a matter of social obligation.  How long has it been since we have visited with ourselves?" ~ Morris Adler

* "Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul." ~ Marcus Aurelius

* "When we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death – ourselves."
~Eda LeShan

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One Response »

  1. Even three years after, this is a great post! Thanks for your words.

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