Homage to Solitude
The year-end holidays: Shopping in groceries and malls with well-equipped merchandise and clamoring crowds. Baking and boiling. Sweeping, mopping and dusting. Roasting and toasting. Food and fun with family and friends. At home, love abounds.
Each year my husband and I look forward to spending the holidays with our daughters, son-in-law, and the rest of our family and friends. Our children’s presence enriches us emotionally and makes me feel whole.
But there are moments when I feel physically and mentally exhausted. It is time to stop and be quiet.
Writing in my study with the door closed for nine to ten months each year has trained me to be by myself. I have discovered that in the hush of that space I find my balance, get to know myself and feel connected to the universe.
Sometimes in life we find ourselves alone. We don’t seem to please anyone. No one seems to like us. We feel helpless and hopeless. Being alone makes us afraid, guilty, anxious, even depressed: this is loneliness. How can we change an empty feeling of being alone into joy? What can we do to transform loneliness into solitude?
By solitude, I don’t mean feeling alone and empty. I’m talking about being by yourself, and in the process enriching your life.
I developed an appreciation for solitude when I was forced to spend time alone first as an artist, in my studio, and now as a writer, in my study. In addition to writing I read, meditate, cook, grow indoor plants and outdoor flowers – all activities done alone. (Other activities such as painting, listening to music, cleaning, gardening, laundering etc. are also “lonely” chores.) In the calm of these activities I feel uncluttered and focused. If I take away the object of attention (book, painting, or music, as in meditation) I’m essentially forced to face myself.
In the beginning, sitting still was a scary feeling. I was forced to face cobwebs I had so skillfully crammed in the unlit basement! Fear. Guilt. Hatred. Jealousy. Unbalance. It took me years before I could even face the fact that the reason I wanted to be in the company of others most of the time was because I didn’t want to clear the cobwebs away.
In order to find our true friend within — our Self — we must clean our basements and see our Selves reflected in our inner mirrors. With persistence and patience, the terrifying loneliness we once felt will transform into an enriching silence and state of solitude.
Cleared of our mental clutter, we experience silent surroundings that trigger calm within. We experience a level of reality in which creative energy is generated. Its warmth soothes us with feelings of beauty and bliss. We must pay heed to the necessity of meeting our Selves and spending time alone in order to know ourselves.
In solitude I feel enveloped by a gentle orb of light, much like what I feel when I am loved as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister or a friend. In this state, conflicts and contrasts are absent. It is a state of solitude that is both vibrant and still.