I often ask clients how much of their time they allocate to solitude and what they do during these times as well as whether they do spend time on this crucial activity. Most individuals answer that they do not have time to do this and that they find it problematic and difficult to be on their own away from others. They also tend to use “solitude” and “loneliness” synonymously.
I see “solitude” as different from “loneliness” in the sense that periods of self – imposed solitude, or temporary withdrawal from the buzzing world, enables us to focus entirely on our inner world in silence without any outside distractions. It allows us the opportunity to rest and simply reflect on – and assess the quality of our emotions, thoughts in a completely relaxed manner; re- energizing and filling our “inner cup” without the interference and demands of others.
“Loneliness” has more of a negative connotation and many of us are afraid of it. We associate this with desertion by others and shy away from being alone with ourselves at all cost. It is a fact that our number one need as humans is to belong and our number one fear is rejection.
Short, regular period periods of solitude is not meant to be loneliness. It is simply self – imposed periods to turn inward, take stock of what goes on in our inner world and above all taking a break, becoming still and resting from the literal “onslaught” and the “noise” of the outside world.
In my own life I first had to turn forty and experience a serious life crisis before discovering the crucial value to escape into regular short periods of solitude.
For me it is often also simply getting lost in a good book or going for a solitary picnic in my garden, lying on a blanket and watching the clouds take on different shapes. A necessity for me is also to make a short period available before my day starts to make journal entries. These are just three of my personal examples.
During these periods I often critically assess and challenge my own general ideas and opinions and those of society. Solitude also enables me to mull over- and make notes of the inputs of my mentors for which I did otherwise have time.
It is amazing how many new solutions and ideas I have been seeking present themselves during these periods of complete withdrawal, silence and above all rest. It is a matter of feeding my soul. After these periods I tend to have new energy to face the world with renewed strength, insights and hope.
Buddhists like the Dalai Lama emphasis solitude as periods of practicing emotional hygiene. Jesus also set a powerful example by withdrawing into the desert for forty days. I certainly don’t mean we have to follow suit in terms of the latter but short periods of self imposed solitude and reflection can do wonders for our personal development. Why not try it? Maybe a professional can help you set the process going?