To sit, in silence — sometimes to think, or to read, or to listen. And other times just to simply sit.
Today the skies are grey and the room around me is filled with the soft sounds of rain on the windowpane and the gusting of wind through the trees. My cabin-fevered children have finally chosen to occupy themselves with a quiet activity, and are painting ceramic plates together at their tiny table in the kitchen. The music of Ludovico Einaudi is providing a beautifully contemplative soundtrack from the stereo.
And yet I still crave that greatest and most elusive of gifts, solitude.
The American poet, novelist and memoirist May Sarton once wrote that “Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.”
Not just because in a life filled with the raucous laughs and hot-throated shouts of children I seek silence. And not because I fail to delight in my girls’ crazy, imaginative games, their freewheeling play, their lightsaber battles, their inevitably chaotic interactions.
I crave solitude because it is in that sublime and oft-missed state that I have time to listen to the universe and right the troubles of my soul.
Without the opportunity “to walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours”, as Rainer Maria Rilke put it, my life and my head can feel far too full.
But after time spent cultivating that inner vastness: then…then I can breathe again. It is as though I need to separate myself out from all that engages and entwines me to feel that I belong to it again — but on my own terms.
We live lives today characterised by an interconnectedness and immediacy that would have utterly baffled our ancestors, attuned as they were to far more organic, seasonal rhythms. The information age has provided us with a profusion of knowledge that can be accessed at speeds we once never dreamt possible. But what of true connection with the steady stillness within ourselves?
For me, some of the most powerful words written about solitude I have ever encountered were not found online, but between the worn and time-stained pages of a book I first picked up in Galway, Ireland during my first solo adventure around the world: a Blessing of Solitude written by John O’Donohue in his beautiful volume entitled Anam Cara.
Perhaps they will resonate for you, too…
May you recognise in your life the presence, power and light of your soul.
May you realise that you are never alone and that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realise that the shape of your soul is unique,
that you have a special destiny here
that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful, good and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.