Al(l)one - The Need for Solitude
How many times do we argue, simply, because we are overstimulated - in need for space just for ourselves? Many mistake solitude for loneliness. They either blame those conscious of their need for solitude for isolating themselves, or they are incapable of spending a day without company. But solitude is being alone. It means being one with all.
This is beautifully put in 'Women who run with wolves' by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (female friend, any woman, read this book, if you haven't yet!). Under the subtitle 'The Practice of Intentional Solitude', Pinkola Estes explains the oldest meaning of aloneness as being 'wholly one, to be in oneness, either essentially or temporarily.' The purpose of solitude is hence, to reconnect with oneself, one's intuition, and with all that surrounds us, too. According to Pinkola Estes, 'purposeful solitude was palliative and preventative care' and a way to receive guidance in the daily, busy life. Ever since reading these words (they are, of course, highlighted in my book), they are stuck with me. I have felt this way before: a need for solitude that I expressed in many journal entries and poems.
The thing is, we are constantly surrounded by frequencies, energies, stimuli. Electricity, news, friends, family, music, traffic, work, worries (oh so many), pressure. We are involved in relationships, we are surrounded by so many voices, so much noise that it sometimes becomes hard to hear one's own voice. But when we open up to our spirits and listen to our gut, we realize that our bodies give us so many signs, constantly communicating our needs. How does a lack of solitude, of being one with all look like? I observe irritability, sadness, anger, impatience and projection of these negative emotions on others in others and in myself. It is not a punishment to feel these feelings. It is not a punishment to struggle. It is a language that many of us are no longer fluently speaking, the soul trying to make itself heard. What it wants you to know might only be to close that door behind you for 10 minutes. To get back to yourself, only with yourself and connect. Someone once told me it's like living in a village (your community) and sharing all. But having to climb up that mountain from time to time, all by yourself. To be able to remain grounded, balanced and aligned with yourself, you need to make time for yourself on that mountain and you also need to be part of something bigger, a community that is loving and understanding. In order to appreciate both, there needs to be space for both. Make it.
What makes al(l)one time so difficult, is that it requires the ability to say no, set boundaries, being enough for yourself. Making time for yourself means sometimes saying no to opportunities, to invitations, to adventures that you could enjoy. A(l)lone time also means being present and daring to embrace every emotion. It means being open to oneself and honoring that what you need may not make anyone else happy, but you. Maybe it won't make you happy. Maybe all that it does is give you room to breathe and reset and start a conversation in the language you've forgotten a long time ago.
In order to open up to yourself and reconnect with your needs and intuition, you do not need to meditate (though you can). You do not need to move to an isolated island and become a hermit (you also could). Do your art. If you don't know what your art is, make something, anything. Creative expression is one of the strongest outlets allowing us to truly connect with ourselves and release what's stuck. Do sports, go for a run, do yoga, go swimming or hiking. Be in a place completely alone. Experience that it's not a scary place at all.
I think that everyone's al(l)one place might be different. The only thing I strongly believe it is not, is watching Netflix, TV, or scrolling through your Instagram account for hours. These are ways of distracting and numbing yourself from being with yourself. There might not be a right or best way to be alone. I'll say: Meet your needs, that's it. From my experience, once you get closer to yourself and consciously make room for your needs, you are able to find clarity and make better decisions for yourself. You will be able to support your loved ones more. To indulge in activities together. Every minute spent with yourself can clear the fog that seemed to softly cover your relationship. In order to be with anyone, you need to be able to be with yourself first. You will gain confidence in your own decisions and as you consciously spend time with yourself or others, you will build trust within your community, as your honest choices result in true authenticity. Don't fear that 'saying no' translates to not loving your partner, family, or friends. In the end, it is exactly the opposite: when you're there, those close to you can feel that you are there, because you want to be. And not because you have to.
Photo: Me on top of table mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, credits: Aubrey Ndiweni
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1992), 'Women who run with wolves', Ballantine Books, USA