by Aletheia Luna
and Mateo Sol
These people, the
solitaires, have ventured into the intimidating void of solitude to
face themselves, discover who they are and embrace themselves and
the lives they've been given with peace and acceptance.
The truth is that not
only do we experience everything in our lives in the solitary, but
we can never find our purpose, peace or answers engulfed in the
tides of people or society either.
And more importantly, have you ever asked yourself why? It's no secret that our society and the lives we live are the causes of such momentary spurs of exhaustion inside of us.
Many of us unconsciously
realize that the noisy, jam packed schedules we carry, allow no time
for us to live life. Before we know it, our days, months and years
pass in a blur.
This sickly feeling is
the result of one sole thing: noise.
Quietness is the
If the opposite of a virtue is a sin - have you ever thought of noise, the antithesis of quietness, as a sin? Personally I don't like using the word, but noise really does hinder self discovery and self fulfillment.
If a virtue is the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, then quietness is possibly the most underrated virtue there is, and noise is the most forgotten "sin".
Only in quiet, the absence of noisy distraction, can we focus on developing inner and outer awareness, understanding and appreciation.
But is external quietness essential to inner peace?
All these words refer to the state of inner solitude and inner quietness. Is outer quietness always essential for establishing inner quietness? No. But it helps.
But as Lionel Fisher
reveals in his book
Celebrating Time Alone, retreating into
the quietness of solitude provides the first stepping stone to long
Inner quietness is an acceptance of yourself and the world, without any noisy conflicting expectations or desires. It is becoming mindful of the emotions and thoughts that are not you and letting them pass in peace. It is becoming aware of, and cherishing the beauty, fragility and transience of all life around you.
And lastly, inner quietness is making peace with yourself, your flaws and your failures, realizing that none of these are you. They simply belonged to you.
Inner quietness is the
state of ultimate love and joy.
Aloneness is in our basic nature, it is at our very roots.
reality, the world is a subjective experience through the eyes of
one person alone, You.
If you're seeking to
answer the questions of life, discover who you are, and wanting to
gain more internal courage and strength, seeking aloneness is an
essential pit stop on your journey.
These people could be
anything from a close friend who shares our fun, a lover we're
emotionally bonded with, or a group we share a belief system or
genetic relationship with.
We all know that there
are things we do when we're by ourselves, that we won't do around
Aloneness allows us to
escape the illusions we create about ourselves and feed to
ourselves, and replace them with reality, clarity and understanding.
Perhaps this is why we avoid aloneness like the plague?
Loneliness occurs when we
haven't accepted our natural aloneness in life. Instead, we're still
desperately trying to fill that fear of being existentially alone
with external distractions and comforts.
Aloneness brings the marvelous constructive state of engagement with yourself, wherein you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.
Unlike loneliness, aloneness helps us to practice introspection and reflecting inside ourselves to discover our true natures.
Not only this, but aloneness provides even deeper virtue in that it allows us to appreciate and interact better with our surroundings - the very world we so frequently ignore and take for granted.
In fact, thinking and creativity usually requires alone time, as does reading or artistic tendencies of any kind. Not only that but only in aloneness can we appreciate and absorb the nuances of nature and the world we live in.
Being "together alone" is
to relate with oneself and with all.
A lonely person is a dependent person - they exploit others company to satisfy their own deficiency. Lonely people are beggars of attention. Alone people, whereas, are independent by nature. They're centered in themselves, meaning that they don't need others company, which provides them with a self worthy of sharing.
If the alone person
happens to meet someone they like, they welcome them with an open
heart - they don't exploit or take anything from the other, they
simply offer their own company.
Depending on what side of the introvert/extrovert and Highly Sensitive Person spectrum you fall into, each person requires different amounts of aloneness. But the important thing is that everyone needs to be alone and experience solitude at some point or another.
Without aloneness, an
important virtue of solitude, it would be virtually impossible to
find internal peace, direction, insight and interpersonal harmony.
or forward in fear,
but around in awareness.
If you have ever found your life feeling plastic and hollow, you are most likely a puppet of the dream many of us live while we're awake. You're a victim of lifeless living, a plague so widespread it would be called a worldwide pandemic… if only we were aware of it.
The problem is, we
aren't. In fact, we're not aware of many things these days. Before
we know it our hours, days, weeks and years slug by like forgotten
remnants down the drain.
In most cases, we walk
around like the living dead, dressed up as stale and spiritless
mannequins living life in a vacuous vacuum of emptiness.
The answer is that we
aren't aware. In other words, we have no focused and mindful
attention of what is going on inside and outside of ourselves.
Some people say that there is far too much stimulation and busyness in our daily lives to be capable of such a feat. Some say that we fear the awareness that comes with solitude.
In it we see ourselves for who we truly are, and what our lives have become.
Who would want that? Who
would prefer reality over a cut off and comfortable dream?
We were never taught awareness and mindfulness by our parents, education or society. They were never even aware that it needed to be talked about, or practiced in the first place!
Instead we were fed
information about maths, science, art and a whole bunch of
intellectual rubbish which would never help us grow mentally,
emotionally and spiritually.
I rather think this is the reason why we lack awareness to this present day.
As Thoreau said,
If you were to stop and
think you would realize that most of us have forgotten how to simply
It even allows us to
3 Gifts of Awareness
Awareness is essential for experiencing childlike wonder and inner serenity.
It is an important and
extremely beneficial element of solitude, that leads to the next
virtue of appreciation.
only when you can look
into your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams;
who looks inside, awakes.
The Extrospective person directs their mental focus outwards, understanding the processes of the external world.
This is the opposite function of the Introspective person, who directs their mental focus inwards, making sense of the inner world and all its workings in relation to the external world, focusing on thoughts and feelings.
Now ask yourself, which one are you? It may be hard for you to answer definitely at first, so here's a question: do you prefer to see yourself as a Scientist or a Lawyer?
The answer you give to this question says a lot about
how you perceive yourself and the world.
A Scientist begins with an observation, then moves on to research, and finally experimentation. The Scientist begins with the inner, and moves to the outer.
If you chose a Lawyer on
the other hand, you are most likely an Extrospective person,
beginning with an external conclusion, then working backward
developing all kinds of theories and explanation to validate that
pre-decided conclusion. The Lawyer begins with the outer, and moves
towards the surface of the inner.
Unfortunately, this creates a false,
illusory sense of self-worth, as we're unable to truly understand
ourselves, warts and all. In order to develop introspection, we must
first be aware of ourselves and the world around us (yet this too is
rarely the case).
Experiencing an emotion without practicing any introspection reveals nothing about reality - you only know that an external factor makes you sense an internal feeling, which is pretty much the same insight an animal has.
Not very insightful, is
We'll also never be able to discover the origins of those feelings and whether those feelings are an objectively wise response to the reality of the situation (or an erroneous response of dealing with the situation), or a dangerous false perception of the situation.
In order to behave as
wise as we possibly can, we must examine the emotions and beliefs
that govern our behavior. Without introspection, it is possible to
live a life of self-deception.
It examines the causes
and motives of our feelings and the consequences an emotion will
produce if we act on it. We must use our emotions and passions as
the sails to our existential boat, but our examination and reason as
the rudder to guide them.
If you found yourself in a situation that required you to act, would you think,
If you thought you would ask the first questions, you function in an Extrospective way, if you believed that you would ask the second set of questions, you are most likely an Introspective person.
What a relief!
"But if these years
have taught me anything
it is this: you can never run away.
The only way out is in."
(The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)
As you slowly become introspective of your internal reactions to the external world, you begin to feel your life is somewhat unreal, as if you had been acting out a drama.
This drama is formed over
an entire lifetime of education, training, culture and tradition
that is taught through your socialization - of which is not your
Only after finding the freedom of knowing your true self through introspection, can you decide where you want to go.
majority of people in our world function in an Extrospective way,
always asking "how" and turning to the external world for answers,
rather than asking "why" and searching the internal world.
So what's the big deal you ask?
The big deal is the little things we miss on the way. We miss the opportunities for admiration, the doorways to experiencing gratitude, and the chances to appreciate life as a whole.
We miss the feelings of
happiness, the childlike sensations of awe, and the innocent
curiosity of wonder. All these marvelous things we miss out on in
this modern age of noisy capital and labor… sometimes without even
After all, how are we
supposed to enjoy the journey rather than the destination without
appreciating what we see on the way?
If you want to find happiness,
When was the last time
you sat down and thought about all the things you're thankful for?
Or stopped at the traffic lights and felt gratitude for your ability
to work for money, drive, gather food, function normally…
According to the study,
not only can gratitude increase levels of optimism but also boost
alertness, energy and determination, substantially reducing
depression and stress.
The answer is an easy one:
As I mentioned earlier, we live most of our days in an automatic and unconscious state.
This is largely due to
the fact that we constantly live in the past or off in the future,
forgetting about this present moment now. To experience gratitude is
to experience an appreciation of the present moment, of what we
possess right now.
Without Solitude, it's extremely difficult to develop appreciation when we're engulfed in tides of people, noise and drama.
When the suicide arrived at the sky,
the people asked:
"Because no one admired me."
We hear of poets admiring
their beloveds, admiring their mothers, admiring the skies and seas
and mountains. Sounds a bit soppy and overly sentimental, doesn't
it? Not really.
When you pass a mountain
in your car, do you feel a sense of awe and wonder? When you see a
mother nursing her young in the streets, do you feel a sense of love
This is due to the fact that we don't make time and space for ourselves to absorb the world around us. Once again, experiencing admiration in its purest form is closely linked to the need to establish personal Solitude.
How can we live life
fully without first admiring, appreciating and enjoying it first?
all virtues lose their meaning."
I admired courageous
speakers against injustice (at their own personal detriment) like
Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela from afar… but as
soon as I saw a man wearing a pink shirt walking towards me on the
same footpath, I'd across the street to avoid him because brave
people scared me.
This reminds me of something the mystic poet Kabir once wrote:
A lone wolf travels in
courage and solitude, he feels no need for a pack, only sheep full
of fear move in a warm and cozy crowd - it gives them protection.
But courage isn't
is no braver than an ordinary man,
but he is braver five minutes longer.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Courage is being
comfortable with uncertainty. That's it...!
The only difference is
courageous people hear their fear, put their fears aside and do
things anyway, while cowards listen to the fears and follow them.
They feared more the
opinions of others than their own fears. The biggest hindrance of
courage is to pursue dreams that are different, uncertain, or
audacious, especially in regard to how other people will see them,
and whether they will criticize them or not.
Courage is like love;
it must have hope for nourishment.
Alexander The Great, Monet, and Einstein all shared one common element:
They were all courageous
enough to be different, and to conquer their fears of criticism or
The deeper you go into
love through trust, the less fear there is.
Looking for safety isn't
safe, it's taking the fun out of everything, which also includes
Most of all, they trust
their intelligence enough to go into the unknown, they know that
even if the whole known world disappears… they will still be able to
settle and make a home in the unknown.
Great fears can only be appeased with substantial explanations that remove every doubt.
From what I have discovered, trust is,
Courage Brings Self Discovery
in proportion to one's courage.
There are five major structures in our life:
All of these require courage to transcend when the time is right.
Bear with me while I
explain a little bit.
What you decided to study
or work in is largely due to luck.
But once we have stable friendships that share our ideas and tastes, we become complacent and stop actively looking for friends that might challenge our current values and interests.
Pretty soon we become
Few people migrate to
other countries and those that do, do so because of work, war or
love. Very few change countries or even cities because they think
another place will make them happier.
The same applies to your belief
systems, which are dependent on the family or people you were by
chance surrounded with. But these don't make us happy. They make us
bored without realizing it, because as we age boredom starts turning
What I'm trying to say is that most of our lives consist of conditions that we've fallen into by chance.
What are the odds that all the structures that form your current life which were decided by fate, are actually the best possible fit for who you are? Not very much at all.
For instance, you could be a brilliant pianist born into an orthodox Muslim family. Or you could find that snowboarding fulfills you like nothing else in this world, but you were born in the Sahara desert. We need courage to discover who we are, what we like and what we're about.
Any resistance to change out of
fear eventually causes suffering and stagnation. In the end it takes
courage to endure the intimidating feelings of self-discovery, and
resist the dull monotony of our happenstance lives.
To fail is not really a
failure, it's an opportunity to try again.
is like a warm embrace.
Anxiety and paranoia constantly plagued me, but the true disorder was my debilitating inability to accept what I was going through.
I would angrily ask,
Does this sound familiar to you?
For most people, lacking
acceptance of what life throws at them is the major cause of pain
and suffering. How can we embrace the reality of this present moment
if we have conflicting expectations and desires for something
different? The answer is we can't, and never will.
Instead of demanding "why is this happening to me?", I began pondering,
The acceptance I grew of myself soon brought the freedom I had sought after so ferociously.
But no everyone reaches
this stage. It takes a little bit of introspection and a lot of
courage, both of which are inextricably linked to the practice of
What is evil?
Killing is evil, lying is evil,
slandering is evil, abuse is evil, gossip is evil:
envy is evil, hatred is evil,
to cling to false doctrine is evil;
all these things are evil.
And what is the root of evil?
Desire is the root of evil,
illusion is the root of evil.
But Gautama Buddha was right - at least about one thing:
When we want something we don't have, we create pain and tension inside of ourselves, and if that pain is big enough, we're prone to inflict pain on other people as well.
Desires are the sole root of
suffering in this world.
Who cares about her
husband, her kids or their happiness and stability - if he wants
her, he will get her. Desires can blind us. They can bewitch us and
possess us and poison our minds like the toxic drug that it is.
When we desire something,
we are fundamentally dissatisfied with the way our lives are in the
present moment - we find little fulfillment inside of ourselves, so
we feel the need to stuff our empty voids with as many external
acquisitions as we can.
Unfortunately, you, the reader, are just as guilty as me - we're both ruining our lives.
Why? Because acceptance
brings peace, love and happiness. Ever heard or met people who just
seen to "go with the flow"? They're much more likely to be more
accepting people than the average person.
Firstly, we need to understand that the opposite of acceptance is not only desire, but also expectation as well.
Do we expect too much from ourselves, our situations and others? Try this simply test to determine whether you expect too much - all it requires is mindfulness of your thoughts and reactions.
For instance, you could say,
The more dissatisfaction, regret, tension or anger you feel, the more likely the culprit is your expectations.
Look out for these symptoms and the more likely you will be able to see how much of an office working idealist you are.
I still struggle with
this question, and still occasionally live under the illusion that
yes, I can.
The true, long-lasting
changes happen within the other a person, and only the other person
can do that. Not you.
my mother always told me that
happiness was the key to life.
When I went to school,
they asked me what I wanted to be
when I grew up.
I wrote down 'happy'.
They told me
I didn't understand the assignment,
and I told them
they didn't understand life.
Happiness fuels our actions, and at the same time is the most elusive, and seemingly hardest to achieve virtue. Just think of the eternal "pursuit of happiness" people talk about all the time. When it comes to happiness, nothing fails like success. There never comes a moment when you can proclaim to have attained happiness.
Why? Because happiness is
Other's of us are cynical
of the "pursuit of happiness", so that every time we yell at people
to "Act your age!", it sounds like "Be sad with me!"
Happiness Is Not a
People seem to think that
happiness is waiting for us, beyond some kind of future achievement
of a goal, or a change of circumstances. But this mindset only makes
our happiness dependent on factors outside of our control.
This common belief has some truth to it, but when you think about it, reaching and keeping these ideal circumstances creates a lot of anxiety that leads to unhappiness.
The pursuit of happiness is a self-perpetuating task.
Pursuing anything creates a tension, the tension makes you unhappy, and unhappiness will demand to continue the eternal, exhausting pursuit.
Basically, gratification is getting what you wanted. Gratification isn't necessarily bad, it's just not going to get you any closer to happiness.
Why? By achieving one desire and getting
something you wanted will 99.9% of the time result in another new
desire arising, and demanding to be achieved.
Desires aren't directly
the cause of unhappiness, but it's an attachment to these desires
that make us unhappy. This is where acceptance becomes a virtue.
derive from not being able
to sit quietly in a room alone."
Although the world has changed hugely over the centuries, the basic ingredients of human happiness still remain the same.
The Sufi's believe that
everybody is born happy, it is our innate nature, and only through
our socialization do we get lost in the mental fallacies of
suffering. What we call happiness is simply just what the absence of
suffering feels like.
This isn't the suffering
that comes with a major catastrophic event in our lives like the
death of a loved one, but is rather a word that describes the
persistent, almost subtle feelings of dissatisfaction and desires
that most of us feel during our daily lives.
For instance, think about
the well-known desire not to look ridiculous at your next job
interview. This results in worry, unease, insecurity with how you
look/speak/behave, uncertainty and symptoms of panic and anxiety.
Basically, because we are dissatisfied, and we feel as though there's something missing in our lives, or something that we must add to make our lives 'richer':
They are all the result
In solitude we have the
freedom through introspection to find all that has been causing our
suffering and destroy it.
We are told that males should be sexually accomplished and females sexually modest, everyone should be socially extroverted, physically attractive, and well versed in political, historical and social matters.
And all this, towards
being financially secure in our retirement, and able to provide
'properly and sufficiently' for our children's futures.
So think for a moment… are you practicing acceptance? Are you experiencing thankfulness, gratitude and appreciation for all that life offers in this moment, now?
Happiness is the
side-effect of an acceptance of the present moment, without the
preoccupation of wanting the moment to be more ideal, or expecting
it to be different in some way.
Or even worse,
it may have a meaning
of which I disapprove.
Perhaps you've experienced this as well?
Perhaps you've noticed that everyone seems to think that true self-fulfillment lies in some idealistic future, where everything is as perfect and spotless as God's lavatory.
In essence, the people around us and the people we even trust the most, live an illusion and spread the lie that satisfaction, achievement and happiness is waiting in some place beyond the horizon.
While striving for the
future brings our lives meaning, it's a sickly kind of meaning
ridden with anxiety, tension and dissatisfaction. If you're a
perfectionist, the pursuit of self-fulfillment is probably making
your life hell at the moment, like it did with mine.
But first …
Everyone's a Peeping
The people around us have a knack, and sometimes immense interest looking in on our lives, and then telling us how they think we should run them.
especially the case if you're surrounded by rigid people who believe
there's a "right way" to do everything, including how to attain
People bored and unhappy
with their lives tend to have the amusing habit of telling other
people what they should do with their lives. This is why the ability
to find privacy away from life's busybodies is essential.
Personally, I moved away from my parents and left
their religion to stop the noisy interference to find my own path.
Only in Solitude can we find the time to cultivate the awareness and introspection we need to discover what will make us happy and what will bring us self-fulfillment.
can deal with almost any how.
But if you try to look
past that and read the statement above, you'll see that his words
carry some truth. Without meaning, without a "why" our lives are
virtually useless and purposeless.
This is why the
self-fulfillment that comes in Solitude is so important.
Take the story of
Viktor Frankl, a Nazi concentration camp survivor and
psychotherapist. Although he lived in abysmal circumstances where he
was treated little better than a dog day after day, he never lost
Unsurprisingly, he called
his book "Man's Search For Meaning".
about the meaning of life,
and instead to think of ourselves
as those who
were being questioned by life
daily and hourly.
As we have seen, to be fulfilled we need some kind of meaning.
Whether that be personal,
interpersonal, or religious is up to you. But as Sol said in his
previous article on Happiness, true happiness is eternally reborn.
True happiness is adapting to each present moment in complete
acceptance, without any expectations or ideals.
If happiness can be constantly regenerated each moment, so can self-fulfillment. People seem to think that life should be about one all-or-nothing purpose that brings happiness.
But why can't we feel a
sense of achievement, satisfaction and happiness every day?
You see, we can make a
million little meanings every day.
As Viktor Frankl said,
By making many different
meanings every day, we will constantly feel fulfilled.