What My Spiritual Training Has Taught Me About Embracing Solitude
‘Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul’ – Marcus Arelius
I’ve always been someone who likes being busy. I am passionate and driven, and I thrive in an environment where I feel like I am able to help others. It’s not surprising that a change of career in my thirties saw me training as a therapist and healer, going on to launch a holistic spa business. But despite my love of busyness, and filling my day with things to do, I am also very much an introvert.
I’ve always been a deeply sensitive soul, by that I mean sensitive to others energies. Even in my teens it was if I could ‘read’ peoples energy. Often sensing peoples sadness or inner turmoils, even if they were presenting a completely different picture to the world.
When I undertook one-on-one studies with my spiritual master, they impressed the importance of understanding energy, and how these subtle energies can effect every aspect of our lives, even if we aren’t consciously aware of them. I found this subject deeply interesting and started to study everything I could about the Chakra’s (the energy centres of the body) and auras (our own personal energetic vibration), as well as continuing to receive teachings on this subject from my spiritual mentor.
At first it was difficult to sense anything within myself, I found it easy sensing others energy, but my own was an entirely different matter. My early spiritual studies encouraged me to have a daily meditation practice, one that ‘checked in’ with my personal energy every morning. Over time this practice taught me how to understand or sense when something was out of kilt. I’m not going to lie it took a lot of discipline and patience, but gradually over a long period of time, it became relatively easy.
Sensitives are often introverts and also the type of people who will find themselves in a career where they unconsciously give out a lot of their subtle energies to others. This is of course in many ways is a wonderful thing. I believe our lives are truly enhanced when we serve others, but we must not forgot the importance of sustaining a healthy balance of how much energy we give out to others and how much we reserve for ourselves.
In the early days of my spiritual practice, when I wasn’t really aware of my own energy and how to balance it or influence it, I found I often developed relationships with people that rightly or wrongly, I felt needed healing. At this point in my life I was beginning to work on myself more spiritually, cultivating more self-awareness and a deeper view of why we experience the things we do. Despite this I would often find these relationships draining and difficult. At the time I came to the conclusion that these troubled relationships, with all of their sadness and pain had been brought to me because maybe being a sensitive meant I had a role to help people heal? Years later, I realise that wasn’t the case at’ll, that wasn’t the lesson I needed to learn from these connections. Although my desire to help heal others came from a place of compassion and love, it was a view that also came from my ego. And it’s often our ego that gets in the way of us of actually seeing the deeper lesson we are being shown.
My spiritual tutor of course knew this, and with her gentle encouragement, but also some hard truths about the illusions our ego creates, she opened my eyes to the real teaching I was being encouraged to embrace. I was in fact repeatedly being asked to recognise that I actually needed to become more connected to myself and my own energies, because in time this connection would in fact cultivate a deep awareness of my own personal need to heal myself and things from my past. It was in fact as a direct result of my lack of self-awareness, that I was projecting a need and want to heal others, as a means of of trying to heal myself. It was probably one of the most valuable lessons my spiritual practice has ever gifted me with.
That healing started the moment I decided to commit to my spiritual tutors advice, to retract from the world and focus only on my own energies and not other peoples. She would remind me (quite regularly) that I wasn’t here to heal anyone, only myself. And without the foremost, I certainly couldn’t do the latter anyway. I had to embrace the art of getting out of my head and into my body. Letting go of my ego to allow me to step into a more honest space of where I needed to be. A quieter space. A space of solitude. One with a deeper connection to the truth.
Almost twenty years on, I still have times when I need to implement that same level of self care to keep my energies in balance. Like all those years ago, I need to completely retract from the world and focus on what my spiritual training has taught me. The end of last year was one of those periods. After almost a year of being ridiculously over-worked, a personal betrayal, and the death of a dear friend, I had neglected the honour of allowing myself the space and time to remain in energetic balance. It was time to go inward.
Don’t feel guilty about pulling back from social engagements, certain family members or friends. For me, restoring my energy when it’s thoroughly depleted means I need to completely disconnect. And by that I mean total disconnection. I need no real human contact, other than from my immediate family, my husband and my beloved dog. Sometimes this retraction happens consciously and other times it happens unconsciously. When it happens unconsciously, that is when I know am in tune with myself. What I have learned is often when we are stressed and tired we are not grounded. And when we are not grounded people and situations can drain our energy without us even realising it’s happening. So for me, I retract. This isn’t being self absorbed or selfish, it’s about honouring your own health and well being.
Get out in nature. Like seriously, get out in the fresh air. Walk amongst the trees. Feel the grass under your bare feet. Sit by the ocean and just breathe. I have spent a huge amount of time over the past three months just being out in fields and forests with my dog. In silence. No phone, no ipod, no podcasts. Just myself, my dog and mother earth. It’s deeply cleansing and rejuvenating for the soul. I often practice ‘mindful walking,’ consciously being aware of my surroundings, the colours, the sounds and the smells that nature gifts us with. For me it’s one of the most healing things I can do for myself.
Disconnect from technology. I have two businesses, so for me to completely disconnect from technology is hard, but over the past three months I have limited my access to it considerably. I deleted all my social media accounts from all my devices bar one. I also deactivated all notifications from all of my apps, including my emails. Technology as wonderful as it is, can act as a constant distraction. We are currently living in a world where we have never been so connected, but so disconnected at the same time.
Embrace Solitude. Meditation is my go to practice that enables me to deeply connect to stillness. We live in a world so full of noise, one that’s saturated with constant stimulus. Many forms of stimulus presented to us day-to-day do not nurture the mind and body connection. A connection that so many of us lack. How can we deeply connect with ourselves and how we are feeling within, if we are constantly distracted by things outside of ourselves. I encourage people to truly sit in stillness, even if this brings up feelings or thoughts that make us uncomfortable. Stillness gives us the opportunity to connect more deeply with our own energy. Stillness doesn’t always have to translate as meditation, you can just take the opportunity to sit in a quiet space. It could be in the garden or a calming room in your house. Just sit, and pay attention to the scents, sounds, light or energy around you. Then gradually bring your awareness to any feelings in your body. Is there any tension or discomfort anywhere? Any stiffness or feelings of anxiety? This encourages the mind and body connection, which is hugely important to us energetically.
Don’t feel as if you need to explain to the world why you have gone off grid. People are so used to us being contactable all of the time, our phones, social media, emails, whatsapp, the list goes on. When I reach the point where I need to disconnect, the last thing I want to be doing is feeling pressurised to explain or justify why I need time out from people. It isn’t because I don’t care about my friends or their feelings, it isn’t because I am in a bad place, or I am sad. I just simply know that I need to rest and concentrate on restoring some balance for myself.
I used to feel incredibly guilty about stepping back, and I would find myself contacting people in order to apologise for not being touch, or arranging social meet ups. I didn’t want anyone thinking I didn’t care anymore or they had done something wrong. But in truth that in itself can prove to be incredibly exhausting. When you feel pressurised to explain your need to disconnect, you are actually doing the complete opposite. What you are in fact doing is putting others needs before your own. You do not need to explain to anyone why you need alone time, or why you aren’t contactable, or why you are feeling you need space. It isn’t wrong, selfish or rude in anyway if you don’t wish to explain to the world why you need to just be. Those who love you will respect your needs without you needing to justify them.
When I disconnected recently one of my closest friends sent me a text, it simply read
‘Hey Beautiful, I know you’ve taken a bit of a battering this year, I just want you to know I love you and I am here for you if you need me.’
She couldn’t have put things any more perfectly. There was no pressure for me to call her, to explain or to apologise for my lack of contact. She simply recognised that for whatever reason I had stepped back, and she just wanted to let me know I was in her thoughts, she cared. If I wanted to talk about it I would, and if I didn’t she was completely comfortable with that too. That simple text was comforting and full of wisdom, she knew instinctively that my lack of contact was about me, not her and I loved her even more for it.
Introverts and Extroverts recharge differently, and that’s perfectly o.k. Extroverts recharge by being around people, they thrive on connection, conversation and interaction with others. Introverts are the opposite, they crave solitude, alone time, stillness and a connection to the natural world. If we all consciously took the time to pay a bit more attention to the personality types of our loved ones, colleagues or friends (just as my friend had done) maybe it would enable us to offer the support and love that they need, in a way they need it. If like me, you are an introvert, don’t think of yourself as being unusual or weird for having a need to completely go inward, to retract, to say no and to disconnect at any time. As human beings we all radiate a beautiful and unique energy, and it’s imperative for our own emotional, physical and spiritual essence that we honour the importance of taking care of it in a way that resonates with us fully, on a deeper soul level.