“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.” Rainer Maria Rilke Letters to a Young Poet
At around 3-years-old my son would become lost for a couple of hours in the corner of our family room. Consumed by his pack of dinosaurs and his all-encompassing imagination, we would often find him in active conversation and manipulation of those irresistible toys.
Such a treat. If only… if only we might discover that same fondness for uninterrupted silence and solitude. Just to “ponder” or to “To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours,” as Rilke suggested.
In keeping with the thoughts of Rilke, Blaise Pascal also wrote, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” While intentional times of solitude and silence may be “just what the doctor ordered,” it is not often our first choice in this hectic and busy world that demands our full attention.
Lessons Learned in Discomfort
Extended periods of solitude and silence are obviously dreaded these days in which even gas stations play to our need for noise with sound and visual entertainment on gas pumps. And yet, I believe that no activities at all may be the best medicine for that ails our weary souls.
Throughout history great thinkers and spiritual influencers have preached exactly what they lived, times of sequestered silence in which they were faced solely what commonly turns out to be their most powerful demon—the self! And anyone who has experienced hours (or days) of solitude will inevitably speak of thoroughly unexpected lessons learned.
When Solitude is a Challenge
I know this from experience. I am often disoriented in a world of chaos if I can’t make room for some kind of alone time daily. But I am fortunate. I am an introvert and I live alone with my wife in a house with plenty of room for hours of personal solitude. During the Covid isolation I would of tell people that “I have been practicing for this time my whole life.”
Still, learning to live in solitude is challenging, even for the most introverted because human beings are created to be relational. We all have a need for distraction and attention and camaraderie. But without extended periods of reflection, thought, and deep contemplation you easily lose our bearings on life. You run the risk of living a life that impresses others rather than one that may be consonant with that special unique being you were created to be.
Solitude… Check It Out… Even Briefly
So what is the solution when solitude sounds like a radically alienated prison?
Hmm. I am at a loss for an answer to that question, except… check it out… even for fifteen minutes. Grab an inspiring book. Read just one page (or less) and then simply think about what inspires you. And in the end, you will indeed be inspired by your own ability to imagine just who you were intended to be!
Solitude is Tough
But Isn’t That True for Most Good Medicine?
Photo courtesy of PIKSEL at istockphoto