The healing power of solitude

I often reflect on how differently I connect with all that is around me these days. I wonder about what I used to hear, what I used to see, what I used to feel. Which then makes me think about all the things that I did not hear, did not see and did not feel.

We live in a world that suffers, as Omid Safi phrases it, from the ‘disease of being busy’. We don’t sit with the people we love and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul. Why are we always in a rush to fill the silences?

The author Pico Iyer moved from New York to Japan to live a life of stillness. In a recent interview he spoke about restoring inner peace through solitude:

Part of my interest in having a little space to collect oneself has to do with long-term reality that whoever you are, life’s going to throw up its share of crises at you. It’s like if suddenly somebody knocks on my door saying, “I want 300,000 dollars”. Well I can’t give it to him because I don’t have that in my bank account. When life does the equivalent and says “This person you love is dead”, the only place I can go is inward. And if my inner bank account is empty, what am I going to do?

Solitude can teach us many things. When I needed a little space to collect myself, solitude taught me how to breathe again and filled my inner bank account. It continually teaches me how to be a better person. A Zen teacher from a Japanese monastery once told Pico Iyer that ‘the point of meditation, solitude, is not the moving away from the world. It’s what we bring back to the world at the end of it.’ Actually taking time out from this disease of being busy is not just doing ourselves a favour – it’s doing a favour to everybody around us too. We come back into the world more generous, more understanding, more forgiving and more accepting than we would otherwise be.

I fell in love with the way that Alan Watts describes the art of proper timing:

No rush. No dawdle. Just the sense of flowing with the course of events in the same away that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it nor lagging behind. Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present.

I don’t rush anywhere anymore. Our time on this world, and the company of the people we love, is precious.  What if I miss something?