After work one day last week, I set up a lounger in our backyard and started a fire in our firepit and just sat for about three hours. It was exactly what I needed. No devices. No other people.
Over the last couple of decades, I’ve found more and more time regularly to be completely alone. When I was a kid and in my early adult years I was always on the go, often in the company of friends or family. I participated in sports. I signed up for many extracurricular activities. I was very social.
I didn’t realize until I was in my thirties that when I was a kid I also spent a lot of time lost in a book. I read A LOT.
When I recognized this about my younger self, I realized that my time lost in a book was my way of finding solitude, or some semblance that was socially acceptable in my context at the time.
I knew how to find solitude(-ish) as a child and young adult; I just didn’t realize what it was and why I sought it out. It was my time to slow down, connect back in with myself, and get re-centered.
As I’ve realized my need for solitude, it has morphed into for-real, deep solitude, without any distractions. Me, by myself, no devices, no people, and as much as possible in nature. I also find lots of time for “solitude-ish” — also alone, without devices — but perhaps meditating, reading, or creating.
Deep Solitude vs. Solitude-ish
There is a reason I distinguish between deep solitude and solitude-ish, as the deep solitude is where there are absolutely no distractions and I am doing nothing besides being.
It is in the deep solitude that I am able to tune completely into myself. I do not have a book to take my mind somewhere else. I do not have a canvas to paint my way through something. I certainly don’t have any devices that connect me to what is happening in the outside world.
Often the deep solitude will lead to solitude-ish, but not until I am still and completely disconnected from every other thing do I truly come all the way back home to myself. It’s not until I find time for deep solitude that I feel like I’ve found and re-inhabited my true self.
When was the last time you spent a significant amount of time in deep solitude? When was the last time you were completely alone, 100% disconnected from any type of device, and present in the moment with nothing but your own self?
While many of us have spent a lot less time around others over the last three months or so, we have been incredibly connected to the pulse of the world, through the news, social media, and our devices.
Socially distancing ourselves from others has not meant deep solitude for most of us. In fact, I would imagine for many, you have found yourself on devices and tapped into the pulse of the world even more than you may have prior to COVID-19. It’s completely understandable why. No judgments — just noticings.
Many people feel very uncomfortable with deep solitude if it is not something they already practice. It can feel or sound lonely, overwhelming, boring, scary, wasteful, and maybe even impossible. I see you and honor you if that is what comes up for you.
Finding Deep Solitude
I can honestly say that it has taken time and practice for me to seek out and inhabit deep solitude and be OK with it. I was pretty good with solitude-ish, as that was where I was comfortable, even at a young age. But letting go of every single distraction to do nothing more than BE for long periods of time took time and patience on my part.
For me, it was worth the effort, though. Knowing and inhabiting my true self, with no one else around and no distractions, has been a gift. It is the place I return to time and again when the world feels like too much or I need to find my way.
Often in deep solitude is where my feelings finally come to the surface. I am able to feel them fully and then move on.
Often in deep solitude is where I find answers that I didn’t know I needed or answers that I had been looking for intently for so long. They just needed the space to blossom.
So much is being asked of us.
The world is not going to slow down.
We are more connected with more people than ever before.
We are going to continue to be challenged.
The social changes we are seeing will become greater.
For us to show up in the world in the aligned way that we want, we have to do so from a place of deep rootedness in self.
I strongly believe that now is the time to cultivate your practice of deep solitude. It is a self-care practice that will support you now and into the future.
Is there a way you can find a day for yourself? If not a day, maybe a few hours? How might you be able to begin or further your practice of solitude?
This post is also a part of the Daily Anchor email series, which we’re sending out to help provide you support and grounding and hope during this challenging time. If you’d like to receive the Daily Anchor in your inbox each weekday, you can sign up here.