Solitude

Solitude…

While such a word can conjure images of mountainside cabins and far off, secluded places, far more often than not, solitude has little to do with whether we’re around people or not. In fact, true solitude has nothing to do with the presence, or lack thereof, of others. Solitude is a heart-narrated quietness of mind, and it is a state of settled beingness that enables us to transcend our normal impulses to run from uncomfortableness and to, instead, stay with what we’re feeling and experiencing in the moment.

Practicing true solitude (which is really just the practice of choosing to be our own best friend) increases our ability to surrender to life and to feel, deem as “good,” and even enjoy whatever arises from within us—including (and as paradoxical as this might seem) our most painful, touch-me-not, and I-don’t-ever-want-to-go-there-again feelings and memories. Through such practices, we learn to rest in our loneliness, our joy, and our pain; to develop great curiosity about the hooking qualities of our triggers; and to revel joyfully, playfully, and innocently in our very peculiar clumsiness and inviolable identity and sanctity as Jesus-imagers, -lovers, -imitators, and -followers. We learn, too, to rest in ways that break us open rather than those that shut us down, cause us to run away, or push us to escalate the aggressiveness we perpetrate on ourselves and, inevitably, those around us. As we partner with the moving and inspiring Graces of God’s Presence for, in, with, through, and (mysteriously) as us, such restful openings—sprouting, almost spontaneously, from within us—can inspire us to develop a greater compassion for ourselves, those around us (including our pets and other creatures), and those who mistreat us—even those who do so intentionally and maliciously. For such people do exist; and, sadly, we all, at times, act and behave like such people.

Each of us, whether we’re living as our True Selves or just lazily manifesting the residuals and echoes of our crucified (and, thus, annihilated) fallen nature, act, more or less, autobiographically. What I mean by that is this: We tend to treat others the way we treat ourselves. Similarly, other people tend to treat us the way they treat themselves. For example, if someone is behaving particularly harsh toward me, what I’m actually experiencing (and witnessing) is often just the spilling over of the self-aggressive harshness that person is already expressing, via his internal storylines, toward himself. Similarly, the harshness I express regularly toward myself can slosh out—like boiling water from a pot—and scald those around me, even without my intending to do so. This is why, I believe, we human beings seem to mistreat and hurt each other so much: Without even realizing it, we treat those around us the way we treat our own selves and, in doing so, propagate our own feelings of self-hatred (and, yes, to some extent we all carry these) out into the sea of humanity. Make a self-aggressive, self-flagellating wave, and those closest to you will suffer in its wake.

Coming to such a realization can, if we open ourselves up to it, enable us to deescalate our own hostile, self-aggressiveness, interrupt the hurtful (and false) internal storylines we habitually tell ourselves, and see—perhaps for the first time—the frightened, abused, and traumatized child, who exists within us. To finally see that little one—he (or she), who right now is trying desperately to eke-out a disabled existence within us. And to finally hear that little one—he (or she), who right now is clamoring at us in the hopes we’ll finally hear him and courageously come to his rescue. In seeing and hearing such desperations properly, something else—something more—can arise from within us: The almost overwhelmingly compassionate and broken-hearted desire to help that little one in us, and also those little ones living in those around us, find healing and connect (or reconnect) with the True Self (and the True Story of that Self)—the Person, Presence, and Life-giving Narrative of Jesus living (individually and corporately) for, in, with, through, and (mysteriously) as us (and as those ones). Did you know that when you help another person find healing (find their True Place of places in the True Love Story of stories), you also find healing? And that the converse is also true? To witness and be a part of such healing and such evolutions of the soul—within your own self and in the lives of other people—is to stand on holy ground.

Life, my friends, is about fullness—a shedding of tears kind of fullness. And it’s a fullness that can be experienced only as we decide to lean into our own sufferings and let them prick us right where we’re at. Solitude is not an escape from reality; it’s an intentional and continual sprinting toward it… a welcoming of it, in fact. Much the way one might welcome a hoped-for visit from a very dear friend or family member. “Solitude,” as Thomas Merton wrote, “is the very ground of ordinary life.”

Aside from the retreating solitude of rest and soul-recovery (which, at times, is absolutely necessary), being alone for the sake of being separated from others—so no one can bother us—is of little benefit to us (or anyone else, for that matter). Practicing genuine solitude, though, which I again define as the living into and the living out of a Divinely Narrated settledness and quietness of mind, can be very helpful in enabling us to live more bravely and warrior-like. And if there’s one thing the world needs desperately, it’s bravery and warriorship—especially in the lives of those who desire nothing more than to be an open and ventilating conduit (to themselves and to the people and creatures around them) of God’s healing and of His perfect lovingkindness, joy, compassion, equanimity, wholeness, and freedom.

Peace to you, friends…

Daver

Today’s MRL Maxim: Each of us, whether we’re living as our True Selves or just lazily manifesting the residuals and echoes of our crucified (and, thus, annihilated) fallen nature, act, more or less, autobiographically. What I mean by that is this: We tend to treat others the way we treat ourselves. Similarly, other people tend to treat us the way they treat themselves.

Today’s MRL Call-to-action: This week, do your best to pay attention to the stories you tell yourself about yourself and your life. Don’t try to do anything about them yet, just pay attention.