The Power of Solitude

When was the last time you unplugged your phone and other devices, retreating to a place where only you and your thoughts could meet?

Last month, I decided that I was going to go on a media fast throughout April except for Youtube and Facebook for event coordinating purposes. The idea behind this fast was to allow me some space to think and declutter my mind while focusing on some important aspects of my life.

I didn’t think it would be difficult; after all, I wouldn’t regard myself as a media addict. But I was wrong. Halfway through the month, I found myself suddenly on Facebook browsing through pictures and funny video clips. What happened to my resolve to stay focused? I couldn’t entirely blame muscle memory for this as I had managed for a good two weeks before this incident without slipping up. I realised that there are far too many distractions around us, screaming at us daily. Please rest assured that this blog isn’t about social media and its adverse effects on you. For me, it was becoming an escape from doing what I’d planned to achieve in April.

Solitude, which is the state of being or living alone; seclusion to enjoy one’s silence and therefore the absence of human activity, the ability to spend time in a lonely, unfrequented place is something that we seldom practice in the 21st century. The lack of solitude in our lives is one of the reasons why we feel anxious, stressed and dissatisfied these days. Our lives are crammed with long and unattainable to do lists. We endlessly drive ourselves to do more, achieve more and strive for more even when we don’t have room to enjoy some of the benefits.

I, for one, cannot believe we are already starting May, the fifth month of 2019, and I have not sat down to write one single blog this year. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking or reflecting on things but rather, I have been so busy and unfortunately somewhat careless with the remaining time that I have. It’s almost as if I have been up against waves of busyness that I couldn’t climb over no matter how hard I tried. Through this, I have discovered that creating a margin in our day to day life isn’t something that we ought to leave to chance.

So, as I reflect today on what needs to change, I realise that there is no point waiting for a time when everything will stop. That time will not come.  I need to plan with what I have got. This reflection brought me back to the reality of the power of solitude. It is sometimes in the quiet times that we can hear the whispers of our soul and the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. It is at times of rest that we hear God the loudest, are inspired by a great idea or suddenly receive an insight to solve a long-standing problem. At a time when our workplaces need our attention the most – so they can maximise their profits, when our social diaries are bursting with activities, social media experts are getting cleverer at monetising our attention, and our family needs are growing, that’s when we must perfect the art of solitude the most.

Some people cannot bear the thought of spending time alone, yet I recall a time during my pre-teenage years when my dad would tell me to go and spend some time with myself whenever I complained of boredom. As absurd as it sounded at the time, I am beginning to wonder if my dad knew something that I didn’t. I am beginning to crave his advice more than ever. The reason for this: because I know that solitude provides us with space to de-brief and process our thoughts, to energise our souls and get away from all the noise and intrusions. It is the time and place where I can be still and have meaningful conversations with God.  

For others, solitude is found in their early mornings or late night spiritual devotions. While that is good and I agree it is one way, I am thinking more of something beyond prayer times. I am thinking of those moments when we intentionally unplug from the hustle and bustle of life and when we allow our minds to rest rather than wandering.

Just in case you were wondering, what are some of the benefits of practising solitude?

• Improved physical health and mental wellbeing
• Happier disposition and greater optimism
• Increased motivation to achieve goals
• Greater spiritual awakening – Even Jesus always took time out away from his disciples
and ministry work to rejuvenate, rest and pray.
• Increased productivity and creativity

So how can we practice and harness the power of solitude in our day-to-day lives?

1. Set an allowance to manage screen time usage on devices or disable some social media
accounts if using more than 2
2. Have regular media fasts. Pick a day or two in the week when you will not be using
social media
3. Practice meditation
4. Go away on retreats that allow you plenty of me time 2 – 3 times a year
5. Set regular devotion times
6. Find time to spend in a lonely unfrequented place such as the mountains, beach or a
holiday hideaway
7. Try and read at least a book every month
8. Journaling and taking long walks alone or with someone close to you – hiking.