We have all at some stage in our lives had to deal with loneliness or the feeling of being left alone. I’ve always had to deal with different facets of loneliness on my pilgrimage walks on the Camino. There is a subtle but important difference between feeling lonely and finding solitude.
Pablo Picasso once said that without solitude no great work of art is possible and the singer Naomi Judd describes solitude as “refreshment of the soul”. Transmuting loneliness into solitude is a deep dive into the true self.
But the feeling of empty loneliness is pervasive in our modern society that then turns into an obsession with external and illusory gratification. This comes from the lack of solitude in a noisy world with the echo-chambers of the media world tugging at us. There is a constant drumbeat of how we are supposed to be living our lives.
Living a life of having or a life of Being?
Living a life of having instead of a life of Being is bound to disappoint. But the lie that life begins when we have that house, that car, that perfect spouse, or that perfect job is robbing you of the preciousness of the present moment. Ask anyone having heard the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease, or having suffered a great loss on how priorities can change overnight.
A disconnect from the spiritual lies at the core of loneliness. There is a deeper meaning to Jesus’ teaching: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like, unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Self-care and self-love as the path to bliss
It is a commandment to connect the heart to the soul – in essence, to connect with God. But this is only possible if you love and respect yourself. If you don’t practice self-care and self-love, you will be constantly pulled out of alignment. What you are you will attract. If you are feeling angry, frustrated, and judgmental, you will attract that energy. You will especially be blaming others for your feeling of unhappiness. Current politics is a reflection of society and its underbelly of the unconscious mind that seeks to blame, vilify, distract, distort, and turn the lie into the truth. Unhappy people have the tendency to pull other people into their unhappiness. It is the fuel of nationalism and xenophobia. Our time is incredibly vicious with its bombardment of noise and visual sensation.
Connecting to the heart, to the innermost being of the soul, is only possible during solitude. The 13th-century Mystic Meister Eckart describes the process as a “detachment” from the external world and to be empty. “The detached heart does not ask for anything at all, nor has it anything at all that it would like to be rid of. Therefore it is free from all prayer and its prayer is nothing else than to be uniform with God.” He describes what the masters of Zen Buddhism call bliss in the space of emptiness.
Befriending inner solitude
While personality and ego is still focused on the validation from the external, the soul nature finds a connection to the divine during solitude. The divine is felt in nature itself, in the vibration of deeply inspirational music or in the quiet contemplation of a work of art. There is no fear of death as this is merely a pathway to another dimension. We are eternal souls currently having a human experience.
As you start befriending your inner solitude, the contrast between the chatter of external thoughts and the authenticity of the deeper self becomes clearer. At times you need to withdraw from the world to get a clearer picture of who you really are and for what purpose you were born.
Making room for silence
Having conducted a multitude of workshops on stress resilience and preventive health during the past decade, I am convinced that our modern lives have become so noisy and cluttered with stressful thoughts that too little room is left for silence. It is almost as if we are running away from the blessings of the spiritual.
Fyodor Dostoevsky is quoted as saying:
“A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies become unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and, in order to divert himself, having no love in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest forms of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal. And it all comes from lying – lying to others and to yourself.”
Recognizing the inner truth is the recognition that soul and purpose are closely intertwined. The growth of consciousness is an ongoing process of discovery, re-definition, and reconfiguration. It is part of the wonder and mystery of life.
Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker