To be alone means being physically separated from other people.
Solitude on the other hand is an inner state of being, in which we cease to be identified with the groups or groups that surround us. To be in solitude is to stand alone, grounded in one’s own experience, without needing to associate ourselves with something greater.
We can be in solitude when we are alone—or when we’re with other people. This is not dependent on our environment. Solitude is a quality of consciousness, a way of being, that implies having no authority outside of our heart’s purpose. To truly live in solitude is to move through the world while never losing touch with our soul—never cutting ties with the roaming spirit of our inner child.
I have been seeking solitude lately.
I realized in a moment of clarity that I’ve really been alone my whole life, and that any notion of being part of a group or a community was an illusion. Having moved around from school to school growing up, I never really established my roots in one place. I was always an outsider.
I never really understood how people saw me. The group dynamics changed wherever I went, so fitting in always took some adjustment. I learned a lot about people in that time, because even though all of those communities were much different, there were some similarities that seemed universal. There was a curve, a hierarchical energy force, a sense of normality that everyone adapted to. Even if the individuals disagreed with what was happening around them, they still gave into the power of the group.
I guess this isn’t news to anybody, but recognizing these patterns in my experience has been essential to me understanding the meaning of solitude. I don’t think we need to constantly spend time with other people to be social. In fact, oftentimes it’s when I’ve been soul searching on my own for awhile that I find I can come back and connect with people the most.
The group is the group—it never changes. Whether we’re hanging with hipsters, hippies, or bankers, it’s all fundamentally similar. It is people trying to affirm their status and assert their ego in the context of “groupthink.”
There’s nothing wrong with this, necessarily—though it can go wrong very quickly. It only becomes problematic when we lose touch with our soul’s purpose, the deepest parts of who we are, our intimate sense of being alive.
I’ve been judged for not being more involved in groups, in spite of the fact that I’ve had a severe chronic illness for the past few years and have more than enough reason to disassociate from my alleged community. In all honesty, I don’t really give a sh*t anymore. Individual relationships last. The group doesn’t last. Be an individual, instead of identifying with the group.
I am inviting people to seek solitude—through meditation, self-inquiry, and inspirational self-talk. When we find this state of solitude within, this feeling of being completely ourselves without needing to cave into a group setting or make other people more comfortable, we can engage with other people without feeling the pressure to be something other than what we are.
We can interact with the group without giving into groupthink and without identifying with the dynamics of our social group, society, or culture. It just takes noticing when we’re lying to ourselves—and feeling comfortable going off on our own and doing what makes us feel good. It’s simple. Don’t make it more complicated than it really is. Breathe deep and seek peace.