“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Nothing makes me feel better—calmer, happier, and clearer—than being immersed in a book or a piece of music, away from the bustle of life.
It’s actually something deeper than just a feeling of ecstasy. It’s only when one loses oneself in the stillness by stepping briefly away from family and friends that one receives the boldest strokes of creativity. It’s only when you view the world from a distance that you are able see it whole, and understand it better.
It’s in isolation that we are able to do most of our sharpest thinking and yield a harvest of our best ideas. It is in this state that all the meaningful strands come together and the debris is cast away, leaving our thoughts pure and pristine. We are able to create an ambience that is enabling for magical visions to flash in full brightness.
Solitude is an opportunity to renew ourselves. Solitude gives us time to explore and know ourselves. It is the necessary counterpoint to intimacy and allows us to polish the self to make it worthy of sharing.
Solitude gives us a chance to regain our perspective. It allows us to get back into the position of driving our own lives, rather than having them run by schedules and demands that are out of our control.
Solitude allows us to connect to others in a far richer way. As Pearl Buck sums up beautifully, “I love people. I love my family, my children…but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.”
Solitude is an important route to creativity. However, the artist in all of us must risk disconnection, for forging a happy and worthwhile life. Buddha pointed out that there was an “island of calmness” within each one of us, and we should take refuge in that island and not allow people and events around us to upset our inner poise. It leads us to a transcendental state that is indescribable in its beauty and tranquility.
Solitude is the path to the realm of silence. Silence is the universal matrix, the vacuum that makes fullness possible. When we enter silence, we enter the emptiness wherein the distinction between self and other, while not obliterated, is transcended. We enter a realm of experience, one that does not divide subject from object, and is therefore open to authentic love, to our sharing in each other’s love.
Silence opens us to love. In silence we can hear the still, small voice of God. It is the voice of the inward teacher, wordlessly inviting us to open ourselves, to be centered in the oneness of mind and heart, self and other, in which we live.
To enter that sustaining silence is to go behind the visual image of the universe, to understand the secret of divine artistry, to be invited to join in the work of creation. It is to dwell in interstitial space in the emptiness between. To dwell in the emptiness is to be close to God, everywhere and nowhere. In Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse writes, “Within you, there is stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”
Many gifted artists have worked best alone. They were often considered recluses, when in fact they were merely introverts who found freedom in the quiet and drew inner energy from it.
We should all learn to protect the solitude of each other.
A life of solitude is a much more demanding prospect to accept, or to recommend, but its rewards are equally commanding.
Solitude is beatitude—and where there’s a state of perfect serenity, there resides divinity.