The Strength of Solitude
The need for belonging is a core aspect of our psyche since time immemorial. Our ancestors lived in communities where every person fulfilled a responsibility for the survival of the tribe.
This social construct of community is prevalent even today, where we yearn for meaningful connections and harmony with family, friends, peers, neighbours, and acquaintances.
Human beings are social creatures and connect with other beings at the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. Our relationships make us feel secure, connected, and loved.
Science also validates the notion that the quality of our relationships influences our emotional well-being. But, we often forget to nurture an essential bond - the relationship with oneself.
We have excessively invested our time and energy in external pursuits of success, fame, relationships, and money. As a result, we have lost touch with nature and our authentic selves.
The outcome of alienated living is evident in the rise of the epidemic of loneliness - which affects our health, state of mind, and quality of life.
The Mask of Loneliness
One can be lonely when feeling isolated due to one's living situation or lack of a support system. But, one can also feel lonely despite being surrounded by family and friends.
The sad reality for most people is that we are portraying a virtual identity that is not in alignment with our core beliefs, values, habits, and emotions. As a result, we don't express ourselves genuinely and often feel misunderstood by others.
The feeling of loneliness is so evident that we resort to unhealthy behaviours, overstay in toxic relationships, seek validation from the world, and fill the void with technology, work, and pleasure.
But, what is the root cause? What are we trying to escape? Why do we cling obsessively to people, places, and possessions?
It is the fear of being alone. It is the aversion to accepting ourselves unconditionally. It is the lack of inner peace due to the masks we wear.
We wear masks due to not only the external factors such as the pandemic, but also due to the internal war of the good-bad, right-wrong, and positive-negative within us.
This conflict leads us to continually externalise ourselves at the expense of looking inward and being comfortable in our own skin.
"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." - Blaise Pascal
Filling the Void
Seeking comfort, prosperity, and peace are the core needs of every human being. But, our modern society has conditioned us to become slaves to consumerism.
We constantly receive information that tells us that we are not enough and need an external commodity to feel complete. This commodity could be a person, object, experience, course, or philosophy.
We project our happiness with the external aspects of having the best job, ideal relationship, dream home, and perfect vacation.
Yes, external aspects of relationships, possessions, and achievements offer a sense of security, comfort, and confidence. But should we rely on them solely for our happiness and peace?
We must remember that nothing lasts as long as we feel complete in ourselves.
The masters say that desires, relationships, and possessions are not obstacles in themselves. But, suffering arises due to our attachment towards them, which makes us cling desperately to fear losing them someday.
After all, everything in this world is constantly changing. We enter the world alone, naked, crying. We leave the world alone, in ashes. This eternal truth of impermanence is overwhelming to digest for all of us.
Life is an experience of opposites. There is suffering, but there is also joy and beauty. We must be grateful for every blessing in life. It is truly a gift to be surrounded by loved ones, have the privilege of a job, the luxury of travel, and the comfort of a home.
But, it is helpful to remember that every blessing and obstacle in life is a fleeting experience. Everything we experience is for our spiritual evolution. When this realisation dawns, it serves as a beautiful catalyst for the search for inner peace.
The Doorway to Peace
In our world of connectivity and extroversion - solitude often comes with an air of taboo of loneliness, being a hermit, and is usually associated with monkhood.
But, solitude is an essential part of our nature and serves as a balancing act to the constant extroversion of the senses and mind.
Sleep is a form of solitude, meditation is an act of solitude, reading a book is a part of solitude, sipping a warm beverage in silence is solitude, listening to the sounds of nature is solitude.
Solitude is medicine for the soul. We need this the most in the present times of uncertainty, technology addiction, and digital noise. It promises to offer us the much-needed space to reflect, look inward, and heal.
Other's opinions and stories convince us easily, but we lack the courage to face the darkness and light within. So, rather than looking inward - we look outside for answers, we pin our hopes on others to make us feel better, we blame the external situations for our inner turmoil.
Yes, the external aspects of life influence our internal state and vice versa. But, we have no control over external factors. However, we are solely responsible for our healing and well-being.
An Inward Journey
Solitude is a beautiful way to listen to our inner voice, silence the critic, and befriend the child within. It also offers a space of silence and stillness, which calms the turbulent mind.
We all need retreats occasionally to rest and rejuvenate. For the moment, we might not be able to get away to a rusty cabin in the woods or mountains, but we can retreat into our inner landscape.
If you are not used to this experience very often, it may seem alien and uncomfortable initially. I would suggest starting small and getting comfortable being by yourself, with limited sensory distractions as a first step.
As the external chatter reduces, you might experience repressed thoughts, emotions, and memories surfacing to find a release.
One might even feel like a fish out of water. But, remember that it's the mind revolting against its usual distractions and tendency to message friends, browse social media, watch TV, or resort to food - to escape from the underlying thoughts and feelings.
I can assure you that this transition is temporary, and like every other suffering, it eventually fades away. As you get comfortable with solitude, you'll notice that the internal thoughts are just like external sounds.
They arise, and they pass. And, just like the clouds in the sky or waves in the ocean, they come and go. Sounds are external noises, and thoughts are internal noises.
With time, you become familiar with the thought patterns and witness the ever-changing landscape of the inner world.
That's when this naturally creates inner space to step back and observe, giving way for deeper insights and creativity.
There is a fountain of strength, wisdom, and creativity in all of us. We have spent the majority of our lives looking outwards for solutions.
When we learn to be comfortable alone and tune into the inner frequency - magic happens, and things reveal themselves.
But, this is difficult when we are overwhelmed with professional, domestic, and digital distractions. We need to take periodic breaks and be comfortable in solitude.
What might start as an uncomfortable process blends beautifully and effortlessly into a journey towards inner peace. But first, we have to take the leap of faith and look inward.
And when we do that, we connect to the strength and resilience within. This inner strength enables us to be more present in daily situations, handle challenges with conviction, and be grateful for the blessings in life.
It connects to our deepest essence, which is divine.
"Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god." - Aristotle
NOTE: This article does NOT intend to offer advice or remedy for mental well-being. Kindly discern and apply the knowledge as per your situation.