The term solitude has often such a negative connotation amongst the majority of people, especially in the West. Somehow most of us have learned from a very young age that being alone is an undesirable or bad thing. As a consequence we almost instinctively spend our teenage, early adulthood and adult years avoiding it; to the point of sometimes even fearing it tremendously.
You can find proof of this predominant phenomenon by just look around you as you wait for the next bus or train or maybe while waiting in the customer service area at the bank; isn’t it hard to see a person that is calmly sitting down waiting for their turn or for their transport to arrive without having their smartphones at hand literally all the time? This is one of the most obvious symptoms of what happens to be a problem in our modern society because the need for constant stimulation comes from the core feeling of wanting to avoid solitude at all costs.
Many people fear solitude, not only because we have been taught and nearly conditioned to associate it with concepts like rejection, unpopularity, depression and so on; but because of one key thing: solitude gives you no choice but to direct your attention from the outside towards the inside instead. And if you have been brainwashed about how bad solitude is, plus you have never actually experienced it, let alone benefited from its incomparably wonderful rewards; the act of being alone might seem quite intimidating.
Various facets of the Eastern culture on the contrary, tend to be very appreciative of solitude and a very different perception of it as well. Usually, solitude is seen as one of the practical means for reaching a spiritual goal. This is probably why, if you look at most spiritual figures’ lives, such as the Buddha, they were said to spend a great deal of time on their own.
Indian Sage Ramana Maharshi used to affirm that “solitude is in the mind of a person… one might be in the thick of the world and yet maintain perfect serenity of the mind: Such a person is always in solitude. Another person may stay in the forest but still be unable to control his or her mind. He or she cannot be said to be in solitude. Solitude is an attitude of the mind; a person attached to things of life cannot get solitude, wherever he may be. A detached person is always in solitude” (Hermitary, 2003).
Therefore, the act of being alone in the East does not reduce to the physical state but includes a mental condition too.
It is time to once and for all learn to embrace solitude and to begin associating this pleasant state with positive concepts such as calmness, peace, growth, grace, and joy. The gifts behind getting to know your quiet inner self as well as the quiet infinite energy field that surrounds all of us hold the key to spiritual transformation.
Hermitary “Silence and Solitude in Ramana Maharshi” (2003).
House of Solitude.
Hermitary: Resources and reflections on hermits and solitude, 2013. Web. 31 July 2017.