Celebrating Solitude

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
Even though I’ve been in a couple for 35 years, I love being alone. It’s been a part of my life since childhood. I grew up as an only child on five acres in rural Illinois, where I spent a good portion of my childhood playing outdoors alone (or with my dog) and sitting in trees reading. I don’t ever remember feeling lonely. My parents and I were close, so I was with them a lot too, and I had school friends who came to visit, but at the core of my life was time spent in solitude. It became the peaceful center from which I lived outward into the world. As an adult, I always relied on time alone to come back to myself, away from jobs and social situations. Don’t get me wrong—I loved my friends, but there was a certain point at which I had to step away and be alone. It was like breathing to me.

I have so many memories that involve finding joy in being by myself. One of the most vivid was when I worked for a senator as a student intern in Washington, DC, in college. One lunch hour I wandered around outside the Capitol Building alone and then sat in the sun in a quiet spot where no one else was walking. I can remember having a sudden flash of absolute exhilaration when the thought crossed my mind, “No one else on Earth knows where I am right now.” There was something incredibly exciting about that to a 19-year-old living in a new city, trying out grown-up life on her own. I’ve never forgotten that feeling—of being an alive, independent, free spirit in the world.

When I took up bird-watching many years later, I felt a similar thrill being alone in nature: a magical aura that surrounded a sudden encounter with a migrating bird in a bush or tree. If I were absolutely still and silent, the birds came closer and continued with their bird lives as if I weren’t there. It was a precious gift. There were even times when a wood thrush or warbler would land in a branch close to me and sing its heart out. Some kind of special connection occurred then—a living awareness that passed between us. I treasured those moments. It was perhaps my first conscious experience of the spirit of life that is in all beings.

After I embarked on a spiritual path in my 30s, time spent alone in meditation or contemplation became central to my journey. I found it absolutely key to have those daily periods of solitude in order to connect with my own soul and with God. In solitary silence, “stillness speaks,” as Eckhart Tolle has written. Divine connection is an inner experience that comes only when we set aside all external distractions and open our hearts and souls to something greater, beyond the material world.

These quiet moments are extremely precious to me. They are at the core of my life as a human/spirit on this Earth. Ultimately, too, they bring me closer to those around me. I am fortunate in having a life partner who understands and supports my wish to have alone time. She too needs time to herself. When we come together from our separate solitudes, our connection is even deeper and more loving.

Words are often unnecessary with friends and family who share this kind of connection. Something beyond verbal language is passing between us. We recognize and celebrate one another’s souls when we are together and carry our heart connection with us when we are apart. This is life on Earth at its most expansive and wonderful. To me, time spent alone is an essential part of being human, of being conscious spirit in physical form, which is why we incarnated at this particular time on this particular planet. The world is full of so many distractions. It is only in stepping aside and looking inward that we find the true nature of who we are in this extraordinary universe. Every day I say a prayer of gratitude for the solitude that is a sanctuary of peace in my life.

 

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