Rather than taking time for ourselves, genuine solitude is about taking time with ourselves: time devoted to cultivating a deeper, more intimate, ad more authentic relationship with ourselves.
We become who we are in relationships. The very sense of being a self a “me” who is different from “you”- develops through an infant’s attachment relationship to their mother, whose voice and smiles and reactions teach it that it possesses agency, the ability to cause things to happen outside of itself.
As we grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, eventually our most fundamental relationship becomes the inner relationship with ourselves. This relationship is not always easy or comfortable, but it is through consciously recognizing and taking responsibility for our feelings and needs and desires, rather than seeking solutions from others or blaming them for our problems, that we develop inner strength. That inner relationship can be fostered in solitude, which can provide us a kind of strength that can counteract the frequent demands to be shaped by others’ agendas to the exclusion of our own deepest aspirations.
In solitude, the relatedness of our lives doesn’t go away, but its demands become less immediate, giving us the opportunity to check in with feelings and values at a deeper level, to experience a positive quality of aloneness. In this deeper engagement with ourselves, our sense of identity and self-worth becomes less dependent on input and affirmation from others.
Practicing mindfulness can greatly enhance the benefits of solitude. At the same time, mindfulness is about cultivating a life-enhancing inner relationship between whatever arises in our experience and our simultaneous awareness of its arising. This special quality of awareness is referred to as “witness consciousness.” We start to notice what is going on below the level of our everyday discursive consciousness. We get more in touch with our body and how it has its own, nonconceptual way of knowing. This bodily or somatic knowing is intuitive, holistic, and open-ended. And because, unlike our thinking minds, the body never lies, it gives us trustworthy feedback for navigating life’s ups and downs as well as accurate insights into right next steps.
Literally as well as figuratively, we see more clearly and are able to act in the world more skillfully and effectively.
when I see “the other” as a dim memory rather than a fluid companion, I must pause and notice….
inquiry for today~ what have you missed in your careless, but hopeful tradition of wellness?
The notion of connection comes from the early Christian mystics, the desert fathers of the third century, who gave us the metaphor of the Great Spoked Wheel. Imagine that each soul on Earth is a spoke in the Infinite Wheel and that no two spokes are the same. The rim of that Wheel is our living sense of community, and each spoke does its part to hold up the rim. But the common hub where all spokes join is the one Center where all souls come from.
As I become myself out in the world, I discover my unique gifts and find the one particular place on the rim of the Great Wheel that is mine to uphold. And so, as I move into the world, I live out my uniqueness. But when love and suffering cause me to go inward, I discover the common Center where we are all the same. When I dare to look into my own core, I come upon the one common core where all lives meet. In our becoming, which grows outward, and our being, which grows inward, we live out the paradox of being both unique and the same.
This image of the Great Spoked Wheel shows us how we need each other.