The month of March was unique for me in many ways. As one who has naturally tended towards silence, and lately towards stillness, it surely was a month filled with a lot of activity, including change and travel. Two of the #SpiritChat conversations in March were about silence and stillness (with Janet Nestor). There was also the beautiful conversation on serendipity (with Elisa Balabram).
We filled three of the four S-quadrants in March – in April, we return to color in the fourth S-quadrant – Solitude. On the face of it, solitude could pass for the fraternal twin of silence, and a close cousing of stillness. In the context of spiritual practice, solitude bears sweet fruit when it is a choice made with a sense of freedom. When imposed upon us, solitude can be a form of bullying, of punishment, of retribution. Solitary confinement was (and still is) often used as one of the most effective forms of “breaking the spirit” of prisoners.
Solitude as imposition, often bears bitter fruit, which creates an energy of insecurity, fear, anger and more. One other undesirable fruit of forced solitude is that of loneliness. When we feel isolated, a sense of loneliness invades our heart and weakens our light. After the basic necessities of life are met, one of our greatest needs is perhaps the need to belong. It takes great inner (spiritual) strength to be in a state where we can feel absolutely content in being, and staying alone, without a sense of loneliness eventually creeping in.
Even though we may occasionally, by choice, turn away from the world, deep, prolonged solitude is a tough mountain to climb…
I asked the boy beneath the pines.
He said, “The master’s gone alone
Herb-picking somewhere on the mount,
Cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown.”
— Chia Tao in My Country and My People
Yes. It takes a certain Mastery of our own self to be at peace, even joyful, in our choice of solitude. And yet, it is often unnerving to be alone with this stranger that we often only know in the context of our relationships, our jobs, our accomplishments. We are often at see when left with our own selves, aren’t we? The regular practice of silence and stillness do help us along the way. Serendipitious discoveries on the path – an unexpected burst of spring blooms as we turn the bend, an unfamiliar yet welcoming bird call, a flash of sunlight through the trees – reinforce our choice and our practice.
And then, spring comes, and we learn to bloom, to thrive with the stranger whose silent, still company once made us uncomfortable. Solitude begins to produce that sweet fruit which we feel comfortable to share with the strangers around us. In embracing solitude, we truly embrace Oneness. In embracing Oneness, we become the masters who look forward to traveling alone, to a destination unknown…
P.S. I invite you to join us on Sunday, April 8th at 9amET on twitter, as we gather to talk about solitude… in the community that is #SpiritChat. Namaste 🙂
Fruits of Solitude – Passionfruit and Pomegranate (on farm in Brazil)