THE POWER OF SOLITUDE

It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…
Thomas Merton

Language… has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone.  And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.
Paul Johannes Tillich

I love people. I love my family, my children . . . but inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that’s where I renew my springs that never dry up.
Pearl Buck

Twenty-five years ago, I attended a professional training program in Taos, New Mexico. I didn’t quite realize it at the time, but later, I realized I was a bit burned out when I arrived. Tired. Not interested in anything that was going on or even anyone who was there. I was flat. I had no spark. It was not like me. I was not like me.

I mentioned how I was feeling to our trainer, Bob Martin, a brilliant therapist from Los Angeles. He asked me, “Have you spent any time alone lately?”

I pondered Bob’s question. “No,” I finally answered.” My new private practice took most of my time. Home life was full, with my wife and three young children. And in my spare time I always hung around with my buddies–cutting firewood, going on long runs, hiking, skiing, eating…always something. But no, I didn’t spend ANY time alone. It never even crossed my mind to spend time alone.

Bob looked at me and smiled–like he knew something I didn’t. “You should try it,” he said. He knew I was sharing a room with a few other guys for the week. “Why don’t you take that single room down the hall? It might be good for you.”

It was an undersized room. A single bed. A tiny desk and chair. White walls. One overhead light. It was like monk’s quarters. And it changed my life.

I spent a lot time in that little room. It was odd, being alone. Disorienting at first. No one to talk to. Just me and the walls. Quiet. I wanted to leave. Go talk to the other folks. I wanted to stay. And enjoy the quiet. I stayed. In just a few days, I began to regain my interest in what we were doing. My spark slowly returned.

Remember, each of us is here for only one reason–to shine! Each one of us shines in our own way. But ultimately, it is our responsibility to shine. In order for us to shine we only have to do a few things. One, do our best in whatever we are called upon to do. Two, be kind to everyone we meet. And three, care for ourselves so we can continue to do one and two.

Creating solitude in our lives is one of the key ingredients for taking good care of ourselves–and it is the one too many of us overlook. After all, we are busy people. We have work to do. People to see. Places to go. Emails to read. Emails to delete. Groceries to buy. Bills to pay. Floors to clean. Children to transport. TV programs to watch. And a whole lot more.

Who has time for solitude? We do. And how do I know that? It’s simple. It comes under the ancient wisdom: Pay me now or pay me later. When we unplug and recharge we have a better chance of doing our best in every thing we do and being kind to everyone we meet. When we don’t do one or two well, we make little messes that need to be cleaned up. And cleaning up takes time and energy–away from shining.

Take time every day for yourself. No TV. No phones. No nothing. Five minutes. Ten. Half an hour. An hour. Two. Start small. The more you do, the more you will want. Guaranteed.

Breathe. Listen to the wind. Contemplate. Reflect. Refocus. Take a walk or a run. Be thankful. Pray. Meditate. Dance. Unwind. Unplug.

Have a great week!