Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation
SOLITUDE. Does it serve a purpose for the meditator? Does it have to mean 'lonely'? We are going to explore the writings of a number of notable contemplatives of various backgrounds and explore the role of solitude in spiritual pursuit. These are from a collection published by Chinmaya Publications.
Let us first consider what solitude means to us. For some it is a balm, but there are others who cannot bear the idea of not having at least one person in sight. If we are thinking clearly, we will realise that it is the case we are born alone, live out our experiences alone and die alone… there may be other bodies present in all these things, but the personality "I" is the only one which is doing the actual experiencing. Many people can experience the same situation, but every single one of them will do so according to who they are in their solitary selves.
There is also the interpretation of solitude; for some it is simply to 'be alone', for others it means 'loneliness'. For the one who understands that to be alone has benefits for the body, mind and spirit to recuperate and regroup, solitude will be welcomed. For those who cannot bear to deal with things by themselves, the idea of not having anybody else to whom they can pour out their joys or sorrows is tantamount to punishment.
Those who would follow a spiritual path, however, will find that, regardless of which particular religious doctrine or philosophy they opt for, there will come a point at which the necessity for solitude will arise. Whilst there is benefit in our early stages to congregate, be it in church, mosque or temple, if we are serious about a relationship with the Higher, we must start to separate ourselves. Only in deep solitude, when the mind becomes still, does the state of fullness exist. If we have even a bird for company, does it not tend to become our focus - a distraction from our purpose?
Loneliness does not arise from isolation from others, but isolation from ourselves. What tends to happen when we are alone is that we let our minds take us in all directions to fret and frolic without purpose. Being burdened with such thoughts is not to be with ourselves, but to be with the external world which generated the thoughts. The purpose of solitude in spiritual practice is to leave the external and delve into the internal in order to truly be with the Self, the Higher Essence within us.
In solitude alone can we confront ourselves and thus weed out the unproductive parts of our personality. We are forced to 'come clean' with ourselves - else self-combust!
Thus, over the next few weeks we shall explore, firstly, the requirement for solitude and introspection, then we shall learn a bit more about the process of adopting the solitary life and then finally, (in case there is panic!), we will receive some guidance on how to maintain an attitude of solitude whilst living among many. Yes, it doesn't mean seeking out a forest hut or a cave on the cliff-side, but to bring a level of independence from the external into our daily living. Purification of the mind from excess concerns, communion with our inner beingness, and relating to others out of inner strength; these are the boons which can be ours if we cherish the moments of solitude.