print by Kiara Mucci
Time spent in solitude is an art and a gift. Even when we are alone, solitude still requires intention. It is not always a given to be instantly comfortable in our own company. As with any relationship, our connection with ourselves is cultivated over time with awareness and care.
What does it look like to turn time spent alone into nourishing solitude? We need to remove digital distractions - phones, screens of all types.. even podcasts can prevent us from truly being present in our seclusion. It is a conscious decision to be attentive of and even to revel in the delicious solace that only solitude can bring.
Different personalities require different amounts of time alone and whilst some people find it natural, it is incredibly difficult for others. But I would humbly suggest that even the most extroverted individual can only truly know and love themselves if they take time to be purposefully and comfortably alone. If it is a new experience for you, be gentle on yourself and start small and slow. Resist the urge to distract yourself the moment it gets hard and slowly build up the frequency and length of your time spent in solitude. Like all art forms, if you are new to it, time will be required to master it. Perhaps a lifetime.
Solitude allows us to check in with ourselves, listen to our bodies and our inner wisdom (that are easily ignored when we are busy), to truly and deeply ponder, to pray, to consider, to foster gratitude and then proceed back into 'life' with clarity. It isn't always peaceful. Sometimes solitude may involve observing, sitting with and processing difficult emotions and experiences. But the consequences of not acknowledging and possibly healing these wounds are far worse than the discomfort of being present with them.
It is incredible just how rejuvenating and personally enlightening time spent in solitude can be.
I have had the privilege of attending silence retreats and travelling solo in the past but the reality is (especially now) that to practise this art regularly, I need to find ways to cultivate the practice of solitude at home, even amongst a bustling and sometimes chaotic household.
A few years ago I made a decision to live more aligned to the seasons. For the benefit of my health and wellbeing but also as the days and weeks seemed to be whirring by and I found that becoming more observant of seasonal shifts helped me slow down and experience gratitude.
It was at this time that I really became conscious of the moon. I have always loved a starry sky and a full moon but I usually caught them by chance - when I happened to be camping or taking the garbage out on a night the moon was full. When I began taking note of the cycle of the moon, I felt like there was more of a rhythm to my days and my months. I began using the full moon as a reminder to indulge in one of my favourite rituals - a late night, moonlit bath.
My home is over 100 years old and it has plenty of quirks, but two things I love about it is that is has a bath and a skylight in the bathroom. This means that unless it is a cloudy night, I can have a bath in the light of the full moon once a month. I don't believe that the moon gives me superpowers or that moonlight infuses my bath water with magic (as cool as that sounds). It is just a beautiful thing to close the door, slip into the warm water and have no light in the room apart from that of the moon shining through the window in my roof (and maybe a candle).
Even when my babes were young and self-care felt elusive, I could manage a solo late night bath once a month. A chance to love on myself, to reflect and consider how I wanted to proceed into the next moon cycle.
Perhaps for you, your ritual of solitude might be sitting in the sun on your balcony, walking along the beach, an early morning walk past sleepy houses or, like me, you will treat yourself to a peaceful late-night bath once a month, perhaps when the moon is full.
I will leave you with my favourite poem, 'How to Be a Poet' by Wendell Berry. A poet I am not, but these words speak to me on the wisdom of solitude.
How to Be a Poet