“Loneliness is the doorway to unspecified desire. Loneliness can be a prison, a place from which we look out at a world we cannot inhabit; but loneliness fully inhabited also becomes the voice that asks and calls for that great, unknown someone or something else we want to call our own.”
– David Whyte
I. Consider Jim Tolles
Recently I discovered a random happy soul speaking so vividly and clearly about solitude – it says so much in merely 60 seconds. Full video here.
II. Consider Thoreau, Walden
Pictured above is a small memorial by Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Each stone was left by a single passerby as they came to appreciate what took place here.
In 1845, Henry David Thoreau spent two years in near-complete solitude in a small cabin next to this pond, writing about his feelings and insights. Thoreau, in his view, discovered everything he could possibly want to discover here. What was he seeing, exactly? And, almost 200 years later, what is it that people continue recognizing as so special about Thoreau’s written experience? There must be something here.
“Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find
A thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered. Travel them and be expert in home-cosmography.”
– THOREAU, Walden
The Magic of Solitude
Odds are great, if you’ve never explored solitude for weeks, months, or years firsthand… you might really misunderstand it. It may be something pleasant you’ve experienced for a few hours, before some terrifying feeling creeps in and you say – alright, enough! Yet, authors, philosophers, poets, artists, spiritual explorers, have been trying to demonstrate for thousands of years: the most profound happiness can be found within.
Inner Bliss? Preposterous!
“That’s just something lonely people say”
“Solitude is just another word for isolation, isolation is unhealthy”
“Being alone is antisocial and selfish”
Any of these ideas pop to mind?
This is Actually GOOD For Relationships
None of the above suggests that loving relationships should be avoided. Of COURSE, we ought to care deeply for family, friends, romantic partners, and humanity-at-large.
The tragic error happens when we feel like we NEED these things to breathe. That without them, life has no meaning and we will literally suffocate, psychologically. Feeling that our life is being wasted – that our soul is malnourished somehow. Or – that without company – or romance – we will be forced to sit with ourselves, and reckon with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that arise.
Whatever the motivation to never be alone – it places enormous pressure on ourselves and other people. It’s like trying to pour water into a bucket with 50 holes in it. You will never fill it. Though it’s possible to live your entire life believing you can, and should!
This belief, whether we realize we have it, or if it’s something deep in our psyche that’s been conditioned into us, can cause us great great pain, and further, it can mask one of the greatest sources of bliss and wellbeing – truly discovering ourselves.
Being Alone Can Be Frightening. (At First).
“Underneath everything, in your life, there’s that thing… that empty, forever empty. You know what I’m talking about? Just the knowledge that it’s all for nothin’ and you’re alone. Ya know it’s down there.”
– Lewis CK on Conan
It’s undeniable that we are born with some scary void inside. The great novel Infinite Jest famously shined a spotlight here – how the void can drive people to flee from themselves, in fantastic and creative ways. What a trip.
If we can all admit we have this thing, this void, what do we do about it?
We really only have two choices…
- Sit with it and understand it
- Run away
Spoiler: Number 2 doesn’t work so hot. No matter what you do, no matter how busy you keep yourself, no matter how fun your goals and dreams are, no matter how “happy” you declare your life to be, you will feel the warm breath of the void on the back of your neck. It wants to chat. The good news? Doing so will change your life.
Keep Your Mind Open
After considering Thoreau, and Jim, and all other references here, consider they are merely single voices among thousands and thousands of people who have been quietly trying to turn humanity on to this. The evidence is all over if you pay attention. A completely happy, satisfied, blissful state that just seems to stay and stay and stay… and does not need anything else. This is very real. You can find it too, I am convinced.
“Don’t go outside your house to see the flowers. My friend, don’t bother with that excursion. Inside your body there are flowers. One flower has a thousand petals. That will do for a place to sit. Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty inside the body and out of it, before gardens and after gardens.”
Discover Your Glow. Share With the World.
Coming full circle, to other people!
Finding your inner bliss requires you to really take a hard look inside. To spend time with yourself, to live through any discomfort and anxiety, to pull a thread of inquiry that goes and goes, until you finally emerge as someone who feels truly OK, in the deepest possible sense of that word.
Once you get that far, every moment with every person will be a gift, or at least you’ll be hard pressed to not see it that way. Not because you NEED others in your life, but because human relationships really are beautiful. The self is an illusion, after all 🙂. We are members of massive interconnected existence, with irrevocable influence upon one another. We are nothing on our own. But this is not something you can read about and understand. The only choice is to explore for yourself.
Wouldn’t you prefer to touch others with your light, rather than your lack?
OK, But Solitude Is Not an Option For Me!
Physical isolation it not the objective, it merely supports an important insight. Obviously people with established lives and commitments can’t simply run away to a cave in Tibet (or a pond in Massachusetts) for a year after deciding they need to discover themselves – leaving everyone and everything behind.
Every moment spent with yourself is a moment of discovery. Even if it only starts with 10 minutes per day. This journey accumulates over time. Weekend and week long retreats are a thing, too. There are infinite ways to embark on this journey in harmony with your life circumstances.
Throughout this article I have embedded many resources and links that hint at a way to light this fire. Only you can decide how you want to approach this for yourself.
If you have any questions whatsoever please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. I truly hope you discover something wonderful for yourself, because if you haven’t deduced by now, I am a fan. I sincerely wish this for everyone. 🙂