Friday, September 20, 2013

Seeking my Solitude: Ways to Connect with Self

I was a lonely child. I had no siblings, and though I did have friends and cousins, day camp and swim lessons I also had large chunks of time where I was alone.  I remember long summer days when I had played every game I could think of. My Lego spy devices bored me, my Barbies laid on the floor in their pirate costumes. (Why didn’t they have Pirate Barbie? Or caveman Barbie? That was where it was at as far as I was concerned.)

I would stare at the clouds through the silver maple in my back yard and listen to the birds and the june bugs because there was simply nothing better to do.  I learned how to make cardinal sounds and grass whistles. I sat and thought of nothing, nothing at all, and watched the clouds move by and longed for someone else, anyone else, to do something with.

Fast forward a couple of decades and here I am now. I live communally with adults and children and pets.  There is always someone around and I never need to be lonely.  Life is good, but there’s an ironic twist to my happily ever after:

I need solitude.

I need to be alone.  Living communally is teaching me lessons on how to honor my need to turn inward.  In case you hadn’t caught on yet, I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean that I dislike people, but it does mean that it is more restful for me to be alone than for me to be with other people.  Personally, I think it’s good for everyone, introvert or extrovert, to make sure and spend some time just with themselves simply as an exercise in self-awareness. The trick, in my opinion, is to make sure that alone time is high quality.  What I mean by saying “high quality” is that just like we can spend time with our children in a way that creates connections and good memories or we can spend time that creates frustration and powerlessness, we can also spend meaningless time by ourselves or we can turn inward in a way that creates meaning and value.

So in an attempt to marshal my own thoughts about the topic, here are the ways I create a space to commune with my own self:

There are a lot of ways to go about meditating, and it’s not just sitting there counting breaths, though I do that too.  Dancing, walking, listening quietly to my surroundings, and pondering dreams or images are all ways I spend time turned inwardly.

I work through my emotional side in my creativity. I also find peace in creation. I prefer to create art, but even cooking or tidying can be creative when I come from a place of creation of harmony, attention to detail, and a job well done.  I will admit, I go to a special place in my mind when I paint, what sometimes is referred to as flow.

Feeling my emotions:
Sometimes I need space to reflect on my life experiences by myself.  When I am with others it’s too easy for me to harmonize my actions with their needs and emotions.  We all are empathetic beings.  Sometimes adjusting to what other people are feeling is just too easy.  By being alone I can consider my own feelings and motivations in isolation and understand more clearly what I feel about a situation.

Spending time with the non-human:
This one is particularly important and all too easy to disregard.  For years now I’ve known that I need what I call “Tree Time”.  I go out into the woods, or find a hiking trail and disappear for a while.  In a way I mean that quite literally.  The self that I think of as me fades and I become a part of something much larger than me for a while. I love David Abram’s ideas on the subject; he writes a wonderful essay on Reciprocity and the Salmon that is worth reading.  The idea that we as humans need to get away from our own creations on a physiological and psychological level is compelling.  We didn’t evolve in cities or with video games.  We evolved within a matrix of other species with their own needs and drives quite different from our own.  Allowing ourselves to be re-immersed within that matrix, even for a short time, can be quite powerful.

Courtesy of Magpie Photography and Design
I could write an essay on each of these categories, (and probably should) but for now I find that I need to finish up typing this stuff and get my butt out into the warm rainy day so I can smell the loam and the pine pitch.  Take care kind reader, and may the blessings of the sweet earth be with you this day and every day.


  1. Thank you for this post.
    I can relate to your need for solitude, I know that I need that too, and silence, much noise everywhere!
    As I get older I feel the need for solitude more and I must say that sometimes I find that a little unsettling.

    Jane x

  2. I think it can be unsettling. I know I have a hard time admitting that I need solitude, and an even harder time asking for it. I think it's worth respecting our bodies wisdom, and listening to our inner needs.



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