When you need to make a personal transformation, the ability to stay alone is a valuable resource. Our culture is suspicious of people who want to be alone; it is seen as a sign that something is wrong. And while prolonged solitude may be a sign of underlining issues, it is not necessarily so. Persuading well-meaning helpers to accept solitude can be challenging. Solitude can be beneficial, providing emotional support.
I believe that solitude can be helpful precisely because we have so little of it in our everyday lives. When one is alone for even a few days, it allows an uninterrupted train of thought to continue for longer than usual –without disruption.
This enables an individual to dig into a subject far more deeply than they usually would be able to. It is easy to live life on autopilot, and just become a creature of habit. This is because habits and the external environment are intrinsically linked, with the environment often triggering subconscious habits. Changes in attitude take time precisely because of this. Solitude, especially in a new or unusual place, can catalyse change in attitude.
Solitude enables complete control of the faculty of attention. People don’t try it because they are scared of boredom.
But that is precisely the point.
We don’t need to be entertained 24–7. We don’t need our minds wondering all over the place.
We need our thinking to pause, so we can pause to think.
What comes from several days of doing nothing can be some excellent insights you can take back into the real world.
In numerous religious traditions, there is a practice of spiritual leaders venturing into seclusion and reemerging with newfound knowledge to impart to the community.
The Buddha’s profound meditation under the tree on the banks of the Niranjana river is widely considered to be one of the most outstanding examples of reflection on the human condition, symbolized by the insights that now form the core of Buddhism.
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness undergoing temptation by the devil before returning to proclaim his message of repentance and salvation.
A more recent example is that of Henry David Thoreau, who wrote a classic book titled Walden Pond. It chronicles his two-year experiment living in a cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. He observed nature and reflected on life to explore the idea of living deliberately and in harmony with nature. He also analyzed the influence of society on individuals and the significance of living a purposeful and meaningful life. Walden Pond has motivated generations of readers to contemplate their lives and the world around them.
Solitude can be a positive experience for an individual, as it can provide a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It can be a time for reflection, introspection, and self-discovery. In solitude, one can take a step back from the world and better understand oneself and one’s place in the world. It can be a time to explore one’s thoughts and feelings and to gain a deeper understanding of one’s values and beliefs.
Solitude offers a way to cultivate inner peace and contentment. Taking time to be alone and reflect can help us appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world. It can also be a time to explore our spiritual side and the deeper meaning of life. In solitude, we can find clarity and purpose and gain insight into our place in the world.
Then, it is time to go back into it!