Solitude

Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,

or your own genuine solitude?

A little while in your room will prove more valuable than anything else

that ever could be given you.

Rumi

 

The back screen door swung closed behind me.  I paused for a moment to ponder my options for this warm fall morning.   I could visit our farm horse Shorty out in the pasture, or a climb up the ladder on the windmill, romp with the dog, or maybe check on the dirt hole that my older sister and I had excavated the day before.   A cloud that looked like a dragon caught my eye.  It was turning into a flock of sheep.  I plopped down on my back and I was at play with the daytime sky.

Such solitude was normal for me.  The adults around me were from generations of farmers who modeled comfort with being alone – as much as being together with others.   From an early age, I was in training to have ease with both being by myself and relating to the community and surrounding nature.  Whether doing simple chores such as feeding the outdoor cats – we always had a dozen or so – or being free to explore, I was encouraged to be responsibly independent, yet acutely aware that I am part of the greater society and rhythms of life.

It has been decades since I’ve lived on our family wheat farm in Western Kansas, but my inner landscape reflects my childhood experience.  Unlike the current references to the “flattening” of psyche, the nearly uninterrupted horizon at my home breeds a sense of expansive possibilities within me.  It shaped a sense of inner peace and capacity for selfhood where I comfortable with being with myself, being cyber free for a period of time and having an unscheduled calendar for a period of time.   I’ve yet to find solace with being in the deep wilderness alone in a tent, but have roamed around the globe trusting the inner way-finding garnered in the flatlands.

The world’s ancient poets and saints, like the 13th century poet Rumi, lauded the jewels of genuine solitude – inner contentment, steadfastness, clarity, light-heartedness, creativity, and compassion. When each person is rooted inwardly, a thriving community can arise, much like a forest of hundreds of individual trees.   Concepts such as one and many lose their meaning because all are part of the whole and the whole is made of the parts.

Often solitude is equated with the modern form of loneliness and isolation that makes us fearful, clouds our minds, weakens our immunity to the commercial din, and leaves us susceptible to letting others shape our thoughts and lives.  Yet,  the modern version is almost the opposite of the solitude that humans have known from the earliest times where the well-being of the human and earthly forest begins with the strength of each sapling.  In the coming weeks, I will make space for solitude in my life by being cyber-free for one day each week. I hope you will join me.

Practice

This short practice is a reminder that we constantly interact with the world through our senses, breath, hands, and feet.

  • Prepare –
    • Sit with your spine upright. If you are in a chair, rest the soles of the feet on the floor.
    • Scrunch up you face a few times. Open and close your jaw. Stretch out through your hands.
  • Practice –
    • Bring your hands in front of your face with your palms facing you and fingers pointing toward one another.
    • With your fingers, seal off the sensory inputs:
      • Index fingers gently resting on the eyelids;
      • Middle fingers resting lightly on the fleshy part of the nose;
      • Ring fingers resting above the lips on the outer corners of the mouth;
      • Little fingers resting below the lips on the outer corners of the mouth;
      • Thumbs resting on the ear lobes.
    • Breath 6-12 smooth, even inhales and exhales (with the fingers lightly sealing off the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
    • Let your hands rest in your lap. Eyes closed or with a soft gaze.
  • Transition back into your day –
    • Sit for a few moments before returning to your day.

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.

One thought on “Solitude

  1. So true Cousin Kate. I love your blog. It always makes me think about and appreciate the important things in my life. Living in the country is such a beautiful life but sadly, I often take it for granted. Your blog reminded me of how truly blessed I am! Life on my little farm is very busy, yet it provides peaceful rest and solitude via all that nature has to offer. Here, solitude isn’t ever an isolated, quiet space. Even when there isn’t another human being in sight, there is always something going on: the birds and the squirrels are chirping, the coyotes are howling and, in the distance, the neighbors dogs are barking. Bears and cougars roam our woods mostly unseen, but with a presence that should never be ignored. This year there are twin bear cubs on the hill in the forest and mamma bear is the ferocious protector of “her” domain. In the lower meadow, the grand kids ponies nicker at each other. Behind the house the chickens spar with each other in competition for food and the roosters posture in competition for a superior position. The sheep bleat in the apple orchard behind the house, while our cats and dogs vie for attention both physically and vocally. This evening as the sun was setting, a huge buck raced along the fence line behind the house. There are often a dozen doe in the big meadow (and sometimes in my garden as well). This spring there will be a lot of fawns, probably courtesy of that big beautiful buck. 😀 Somehow, amidst all this activity, solitude finds it’s way into the soul. Life on the farm is magical in that way.

    It is now early evening and the sun has disappeared. The stars are coming out and soon there will be millions of them visible in the night sky. Here, there are no city lights to compete and the Milky Way is stunning: it stretches completely across our sky. Nighttime here is a special time. I find peace and solitude in knowing that there are a lot of unanswered questions under the dark skies of the countryside. It reminds me that we are so very small and the universe is so very vast. Sometimes I venture out at 2 or 3 in the morning when most of the animals are quiet and I soak it all in. Occasionally I startle an owl and he or she returns the favor. Even after all my many years of living, walking in complete darkness in the early morning countryside feels like a childhood adventure: risky and exciting. Thank you for always reminding me of what a beautiful life this is and for also reminding me of how technology pales in comparison! I often wish that we could all just step away from the progress of the past 50 years and just “be.” Your choice to be cyber-free one day a week is a good start. Bless you cousin!

    Liked by 1 person

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