November 30     

Today's quotation:

Great minds are like eagles, and build their nest in some lofty solitude. . . . People can be themselves only so long as we are alone, and if we do not love solitude, we will not love freedom, for it is only when we are alone that we are really free.

Artur Schopenhauer

Today's Meditation:

There's so much that I can do when I'm alone, and so little that I can do when I'm with others.  Many of my favorite things to do-- writing, reading, running, etc.-- require a certain degree of solitude, and who knows?  It may be that requirement that actually makes them things that I like to do.  Artur says that we can be ourselves "only so long as we are alone," and I tend to agree with him.  My true uniqueness is allowed to shine only when I'm not with other people, facing a host of expectations from them simply because I'm in their company.

Solitude doesn't mean loneliness, and it doesn't mean that we always have to be alone.  I love being with other people, but I also love being alone, and finding a good balance between the two is extremely important to me.  I love when I'm alone and I don't have to answer questions from others.  I don't have to tell anyone why I'm doing what I'm doing, and I don't have to choose words carefully when I'm speaking.  I can read or watch or listen to whatever I wish at the moment without taking someone else's wishes into account, and that frees me up immensely.

I believe this is one of the qualities of a strong relationship, too-- the ability to feel as if we're alone even when we're with the other person.  With some people we can simply be who we are without fearing judgment or censure, and that allows us to feel free in a world that so often wants us to be someone else so that we can be "acceptable" to the rest of the world.  If the person we're with doesn't help us to feel free, then it probably is a good idea to re-evaluate that particular relationship so that we can know if it's helping us to thrive in freedom or if it's keeping us down.

Some people do feel lonely whenever they find themselves in solitary situations.  Some people always want to have others nearby, and that's a shame because they don't allow themselves to feel the benefits of solitude, the benefits of not being answerable to others all the time.  We need to find those solitary moments for ourselves so that we can experience the freedom that we all need to experience in order to get in touch with ourselves-- to get in touch with the persons we really are rather than the persons we let the world see.

Questions to consider:

How often do you seek out solitude?  What kinds of effects does solitude have on you?

Why do you think so many people have a hard time being alone?

Why do people in our cultures seem to place so little value on solitude?

For further thought:

To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of loneliness and change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.

Henri J. Nouwen

more thoughts and ideas on solitude



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