Solitary, lonely, alone—these words breed terror in us. We run away from these desolate friends. We instead seek for company, togetherness, belongingness. We find security, comfort and pleasure in being with others….all for very good reasons. But despite all our efforts, oftentimes we find ourselves stranded in those desolate islands, where we feel cut off from life, from everything that is near and dear to us. 

Whoever leads an intense life, will feel this most certainly. People who live on the surface reality of life, may not experience this, or even if they experience, they will lack the wisdom to see the depth of life, and will be reluctant to dive deep into themselves and find the gems that remain ever undiscovered.

Solitude is that dive. Not everyone is ready or willing to take that dive. But there are others who plunge into the depth of their inner selves, dive deep to find their true identity, to discover those hidden gems that are the real treasures of the soul. 

Understanding Solitude

Solitude is not a negative state. It may feel like darkness…which envelopes our whole mental world, but it’s more like the endless stretch of sky—its immensity makes us think that we are solitary travellers in this journey called ‘life’. Solitude is that solitary journey which we are afraid to undertake. But neither the endless sky, nor the endless road, nor even the journey itself is frightening. We are all actually frightened to face the inevitable, unavoidable and raw existence, which is always a singular experience. Solitude is coming face to face with this raw existence. It’s raw because it’s not clouded by human illusions, uncluttered by the multifarious desires of the human mind, original and bright; so bright that we cannot stand its dazzle. It evaporates our false sense of self—by its scorching radiation of truth. It destroys our illusions—which is always a frightening experience for us. We invest so much of our life, time and energy into these illusions, that we don’t want any truth, we want these illusions to perpetuate—because it gives us a sense of security and pleasure, which is actually a trap. But the truth is, there is no such thing as psychological security, because the psyche is made up by primeval desires and instincts—which always remain unsatisfied and insecure. And as far as the question of pleasure is concerned, all pleasures are momentary, however beautiful they may be. Isn’t it so? So, why hanker after false security and momentary quirks of pleasure… isn’t this a waste of life? It takes a deep understanding to come out of all this. People whom we revere, are all somehow solitary souls, who found their own individual paths— Isaac Newton, Nicola Tesla, the Buddha, the Mahavir, Saint Kabir Das, Diogenes of Athens, Socrates, the great saints and sages of all cultures (not to forget our very own Om Swami Ji!)—they were all solitary souls. In solitude, they found themselves. We are also trying to find ourselves, but we are, ironically, moving away from our true selves more and more…such is the irony of human life. 

Loneliness & Solitude

This 21st century is the era of social connections. We are more connected globally than we could ever dream of. Yet, loneliness lurks very close. A loneliness epidemic seems to greet us in the near future. Already the global loneliness scenario is quite intimidating. In a scenario like this—solitude seems drastic. But, we have misconceptions about solitude.

Firstly, solitude is a state, whereas loneliness is a feeling. You can feel lonely even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. On the other hand, even if you are physically alone, you may not feel lonely. So, being physically alone and feeling lonely is not the same thing! It is important to keep this context in mind. 

So, when you are physically alone, but don’t feel lonely—only then you can go into the state of solitude. I am saying ”you can go” because, to be in solitude, it has to be a conscious exercise. If you unwillingly go into a solitary state, but continue to feel lonely—that’s not real solitude. You will suffer more. Solitude doesn’t make you feel lonely—that’s why I said in the beginning, it’s not a negative state. If it does make you feel lonely, you are not in solitude. As long as there is this feeling of loneliness, you can not experience true solitude. Once you go beyond this nagging feeling, you are truly ‘solitary’. Not just physically, but psychologically. That means, you are internally independent now. Now you are ready to take that solitary journey to come face to face with your true self.

The Gifts of Solitude

If you have ever experienced true solitude, you’ll know—the healing effect it has upon you. It’s like going into a different zone altogether, free from distractions and complexities of our day to day life. Solitude gives us that space where we can stretch our minds and relax, without worrying about the past or future. This internal space, as it broadens and becomes deep, dissolves our anxieties and slowly transforms us from within. 

Spiritual seekers and saints live their lives mostly in solitude. Great artists are all solitary souls—in fact, without solitude, they will lack depth in their arts. Arts, in its essence, is a solitary exercise. 

Solitude builds strong inner fortitude and resilience, because you learn to live without the security of human affection. Evolution made us as social animals. Without human affection, we will not develop mentally. But as we get mature, our soul wants to expand, and wants to be free and independent. But for the sake of security and comfort, we compromise with that and stay grounded. It takes courage to walk alone…but unless we walk alone, we will never be able to experience life in its depth and richness—we will always live on the surface. So, it’s like a compromised deal: remaining within the boundaries of our individual selves Vs. going within and exploring the immense world we all inhabit. This internal world keeps us occupied and we keep running like the hamster inside the wheel. 

All the treasures, beauties, adventures and breathtaking journeys of life are within. Fear is our only obstacle. But, as you know, freedom is on the other side of fear! So, are you willing to break free from your fears and set off on the spellbinding journey of self-exploration?