For me, there is real joy in solitude
My favorite time of day is quiet time. Every morning before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, before I turn on my laptop or check social media on my phone, I spend at least 30 to 45 minutes in stillness with my thoughts, with God, with the whispers of the universe. It’s become a daily ritual for me, and one that’s a lifeline.
My quiet time began in earnest when my mom passed away last August. After saying good-bye to her, I realized the only way to truly grieve was to be alone. While I appreciated and still do appreciate encouragement from friends and advice from those who’ve had the same experience, true healing began once I embraced solitude. Only then were the memories clear, my new reality processed and the tears raw.
I recently read a passage about “ritual” that resonated with me. When I came upon it, I’d already started benefitting from this ancient practice. This excerpt is from a goal-setting book called Rituals for Living: Dreambook and Planner by Peter and Briana Borten. It says,
“Historically, we had rituals for everything that mattered. But ritual is gradually disappearing as people find they’re too busy for it or can’t see the value in it. Even a ritual as simple as enjoying the peace of a new morning is so often sacrificed for whatever new alerts our phone might have for us. There’s more depression and anxiety than ever before, more uncertainty about where we fit in, and yet, the opportunity to reconnect is always available. Ritual brings order, specialness, context, and focus to our lives.”
My quiet time has a clear ritualistic rhythm. I thought about not sharing it here in the column because it’s such an intimate time for me. I changed my mind because I think sometimes it helps to hear someone else’s example.
Each day before I begin my quiet time, I turn off my phone and take off my shoes. I pour a cup of coffee and fill a Mason jar with water. I put one drop of Lemon essential oil and a straw into my water. I put my beverages beside my books so I don’t have to get up for anything once I begin reading and journaling. I then light a candle, add essential oils to my diffuser and turn it on. I put a couple drops of Frankincense on one palm, rub my hands together and inhale deeply three times.
After these initial steps, I begin my true quiet time, which consists of journaling, thinking, short bouts of writing and reading scripture and other inspirational/spiritual material. Once I feel relaxed and grounded, I just sit in the quiet for a while and breathe deeply, trying to be mindful of the smells and sounds around me as well as anything going on in my body.
I then fold a blanket into a rectangle and place it on the floor. I use the same blanket every day, one from the Middle East my sister gave me as a gift. I kneel on the blanket and pray for a long time, always beginning my prayer in gratitude. No matter what’s going on, I am always thankful for something or someone. At the end of the prayer, I bow down and touch my forehead to the ground (as one would do in a Hindu temple) and say the Lord’s Prayer aloud in a whisper. I then cross myself, put away the blanket and end by blowing out the candle.
And that’s it. I’ve added to it over the months, but the basic ritual remains the same every day. Occasionally, on weekends, I’ll sleep in a little, and I won’t get the opportunity to be totally alone for my alone time. It affects me all day. It’s something I now crave, so if I have to, I get up early even on the weekends.
There’s simply too much noise in this world, both from external stimuli and from our own thoughts. If we don’t consciously turn down the volume, we could become more and more desensitized, even completely losing the ability to connect with ourselves, with others and the natural flow and beauty of life.
The Lenten season begins this Wednesday. I’ve known folks who instead of giving up something for Lent, they add something beneficial to their lives. The season is meant to be one of repentance and fasting, so it makes sense to give up something that’s negative. But the season is also about reflection and reverence, so perhaps you can add something to your life that will help you reflect and reconnect.
I love travel and adventure, and I hope to see much more of the world during my lifetime. But I know wherever I am, I will make my ritual of solitude a priority. When I was young, I wasn’t sure what to do in the absence of others, so I filled my time with TV or other external noise. I confused being alone with being lonely. It seems the older I get, the more I enjoy and appreciate being alone and embracing the heightened awareness it offers.
As Albert Einstein mused, “Solitude is painful when one is young but delightful when one is mature.”
I couldn’t agree more.