“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”
~ Audrey Hepburn
What does solitude mean? A quiet room with a hot cup of tea? Silence at the end of a day’s chores? A cabin in the woods? Peace and relaxation? Isolation and loneliness? We each come to the idea of solitude with a very personal definition, based on our life-long experiences with it—or without it.
For some, solitude is to be avoided because it fills our hearts with sadness and a sense of abandonment. Perhaps it brings to mind the forced solitude of being punished and sent to our room as a child. For others, solitude is a welcome respite from the manic business of the day. A few of us may even fall somewhere in between these two feelings.
So, Why Be Alone?
Whether an introvert or an extrovert, and regardless of past experiences with being alone, regular stints of solitude are good for us. I call it a “solitude practice.” What is that, exactly? Simply put, a solitude practice is the time we set aside for ourselves on a regular basis in order to perform whatever acts give us pleasure—reading, sketching, meditating, dancing, or taking a walk, for example. Based on that definition alone, most of us would agree that regular stints of aloneness help clear our minds. However, taking solitary time for yourself has another immense benefit. It’s an opportunity to recharge the soul’s batteries.
These two concepts lead us to the ultimate goal, which is to rediscover the most elevated, most spiritually evolved self we can be. I say “rediscover” because there was once a time when we were intimately connected to our Highest Selves: at birth. Even before. Prior to donning the roles and personas needed to costume ourselves with in order to give our grand performance as human beings on a discriminating cultural stage, we were connected to the perfection of creative energy. That connection was as effortless as a drop of water joining the ocean. Solitude gives us time to re-familiarize ourselves with the innate spark of Source carried within us.
Besides reconnecting with the Divine, why should we bother carving out time for ourselves, recharging our batteries, etc?
A regular solitude practice facilitates living a more peaceful life internally as well as externally. If we grant ourselves permission to relish a few moments just for us, we’ll feel better.
But, wait. There’s more! The benefits don’t end there.
Our cherished time alone, as if by magic, replenishes our resources to give back to others more fluidly and profoundly. In short, when our Self is honored by taking time to reconnect with our soul and celebrate life, not only will life become richer, that richness will, in turn, spill over into our lives with friends, family, colleagues—even strangers.
And there’s the paradox: Spending time alone actually improves our relationships in the outside world. It helps us bring our authentic selves to our interactions with others.
Spending Time Alone Isn’t Selfish, It’s Self-ish
You may be thinking, “That sounds great, but I have a job/family/friends who need me a lot. Isn’t spending time alone selfish?” Here’s a fact: If we don’t care for our selves—physically and emotionally our energy gets depleted—just like a battery. Ever try to talk on a cellphone with no juice? Not very effective, right? Taking regular time for ourselves allows us to recharge our batteries so we can give our most powerful energy to others as well as ourselves. There’s nothing selfish about that.
Gut check: Consult your second brain, the one that lives in your belly, or just above it, where your ribs meet the base of your sternum. How do you feel right now? You. The inside you. The Spark of Divinity you. How’s your Highest Self doing?
Chances are, that Highest Self is struggling to find a voice to answer this question. Or perhaps it’s silent. Most likely, it’s feeling drained and spread too thin. What would happen by continuing in this way? We’d keep giving and giving until we resent the very people we love and wish to help because we have not taken care of our selves.
One of my hypnotherapy clients was a vibrant woman who worked for a humanitarian non-profit organization. She excelled at her job. She was a stellar wife and mother to a son who was doing well as a sophomore in college. She had scads of friends who loved her dearly. Regardless of how busy she was at work, she never turned down a project.
When she came to see me and listed her accomplishments, she was on the verge of tears. I asked why. She told me she felt she had turned away from herself and the things she had once loved to do like dancing and making jewelry. While she was technically a good mother/colleague/friend, she was not being good to herself. The result was that she felt empty inside. When she gave to others, she was actually pulling energy out of a void within her.
Have you ever encountered someone who is incredibly giving but is clearly emotionally fried? Perhaps this person even wears the mask of perpetual exhaustion over how—Happily! Happily!—busy she is just giving and doing and being there for everyone? When a person like that shines their fluorescent light of assistance on us it doesn’t feel right. We don’t feel good about where that assistance is coming from. Why? Because it’s clear that this person has not given love to herself.
Solitude is a Gift You Give Yourself and Your Loved Ones Every Day
We can offer our energy to all the people we love, but we need to recharge our batteries on a regular basis or that energy will be drained. My client eventually took up jewelry-making again, using the time to recharge her soul’s batteries. If she didn’t, she’d have continued on the path of giving when there was nothing left to give.
Trying to help others with no energy is like having a party and trying to fill everyone’s glass with an empty pitcher. Solitude fills our pitcher. Solitude recharges our batteries. In fact, by taking time to refuel our souls, we can actually give more to those around us than if we just plow through—giving and giving even long after our soul’s energy is depleted.
Don’t think you have time? How about two minutes? Even the busiest parent or CEO has 120 seconds to spare. Of course, there will be times you’ll want to devote more time to your Self and you should. Developing a regular solitude practice helps develop our strengths, rejuvenate our soul—and have fun doing it.
Still not convinced? Think of it this way: Solitude is a gift you give yourself—and your loved ones—every day.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Richard May/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Carmen Grandal/500px