“Peace is letting go—returning to the silence that cannot enter the realm of words because it is too pure to be contained in words.” —Malidoma Patrice Somé
Upon heading out for an evening constitutional around the neighborhood with Norman and Nelle this past weekend, my attention was captured by the newly blooming row of Lady Jane Tulips that stood alongside the deep pink hyacinths lining the walkway toward my home.
The day before, I strolled in the heart of Bend, en route to a lunch rendezvous with a friend, and the blue skies and warm near-summer-like temperatures created an energy of revitalization, a bounce in the step of the day that I couldn’t help but smile about as I perambulated along.
While walking at a favorite river walk on a spring morning offering the ideal weather we haven’t experienced for some time, observing the bounding of Norman and the inquisitive curiosity of Nelle as she followed his every step needed no commentary, only gratitude to see them enjoying themselves so much, and able to do so without a care in the world.
The peace and joy experienced in each of the moments shared above occurred in the presence of my own company, and as is most of the time, with my pups nearby taking in the moments too. And while in each of the situations above, I was soon to be meeting someone or be walking with someone or someones else, in each of those moments, the contrast of the joy and deep peace I experienced in my own company exceeded anything I felt with the people who brought their energy to the space we temporarily shared while in conversation which is less a commentary about them, and more a revelation as to the deep enjoyment I find in my own company.
I share this truth that I have known for many years because to live in a culture that prompts and prods, pushes and extols the necessity of being with others in order to live well, it is a limited thinking that is revealed, a limited joy of experiencing the fullness of life that is revealed. To each their own discovery of what brings them deep peace and contentment has always been part of the mantra of living simply luxuriously, but too often, the culture that surrounds us doesn’t objectively offer, support or nourish differing opportunities to explore all of the potential ways one may find fulfillment because varying experiences haven’t been part of their life experience or welcomed, let alone celebrated, and one such way for a large portion of people to find fulfillment if they would only set aside the outside world’s opinion is through solitude and savoring our own company without the niggling voice of society saying we need to spend more time with other people.
Understandably, the time shared with people all deepens on the quality of the connection we are making and exchanging with those we share time with, and perhaps that is what spurs my curiosity to have new experiences and meet new people, not being afraid to say hello or strike up a conversation with a stranger; however, it is also what prompts me to just observe and not engage, be present in a sea of people, for example at a farmers’ market, and be most perfectly content just strolling about on my own, no need to go with a friend and just taking in all that is unfolding.
Of course, our life choices as they pertain to relationships and family, our careers, will play a role in our ability to find time to be in our own company, but that doesn’t reduce the power, nor the necessity, of finding time to give time to ourselves and dare to explore where deep enrichment and nourishment can be found.
In my own company I am gifted so much:
—A strengthening of awareness to what makes me feel comfort and what makes me feel discomfort, so that when I do engage with others, I am more clearly aware of negative and positive energy, aware of what they are really saying without actually saying it, whether through their inability to extend love in their words or through their actions toward me or others around them.
—A deepening strength and thus ability to hold myself in the present, to really see what is around me, and appreciate all that is going well, that delights, that brings awe, that makes me smile.
—A deep understanding of who I really am, what tickles my curiosity, what my genuine passions and loves are and why I am drawn to such interests.
—And from that deep understanding of myself, an ability to then notice when I shrink or change myself when in the presence of certain people thus indicating to me who I genuinely enjoy sharing time with versus who drains my energy and/or won’t accept me for who I am.
—Insights and ahas, even solutions that never before had been considered or entertained as I am free from societal judgment or limitation of thought.
—Discoveries and solutions found in my own company often point me in a better or new direction, such as suggesting a person more knowledgeable than myself on any number of given topics that I may be pondering, but I first needed the time alone to reach the conclusions knowing indeed they were sincere and not influenced by others, to know I wasn’t doing or seeking something in order to please or be accepted.
—Deepened appreciation and discovery of all that is going well, of all that is well and that most worries are not a burden to hold in my mind.
The key to relishing time in our own company is to have chosen the solitude we find ourselves. However, I can remember during my twenties feeling at times that I shouldn’t be alone due to societal modeling and nudging, that it was ‘bad’ to be alone, whether it was not being in a romantic relationship or not having many social outings planned with friends, and upon reflection, it was during those times of ‘unwanted’ solitude that I actually learned more about myself, and it was in what I learned that began guiding better decision-making that lead to the beginning of consciously cultivating a life that has lead to deep everyday contentment.
Paradoxically, it often is when we avoid time in our own company that we actually need such time the most. When we are fleeing our own company, our own being is telling us that something needs to be healed. Even if it is time with ourselves to be kind to ourselves, to silence the inner critic and remind ourselves of how yes, we have something very special to share with the world if only we would have the courage to sit with our temporary discomfort long enough to discover the best way forward to unearthing it.
What I unearthed along this journey is unique to me as to what brings me contentment, and yours and every TSLL reader will make discoveries unique to them, but what we all share is that our individual companionship with ourselves is a friend that will travel with us for our entire lives, and to savor time in our own company is a powerful and deeply nourishing gift we can give ourselves, but then by extension, also a constructive and uplifting gift we give to the rest of the world. How is this so?
When we take the time to take time and consciously use the time in our own company to receive all of the gifts listed above, when we then do engage with the world, with our loved ones, with our colleagues or with casual acquaintances as we go about our errands and outings, we know how we are showing up, and we are better able to know the energy we are bringing to the situation and to that moment. Even if we, because we are human, say or do something momentarily that reveals a bad habit we are trying to step away from or is not from a place of loving kindness or integrity, we are more quickly aware of the error and can either apologize if it is warranted or change course immediately.
Often unwanted or unhelpful engagement with others, whether it is whining, complaining, saying hurtful things, always saying negative comments, never daring to share what is going well or what we appreciate or enjoy, is an indirect clue that more healing is needed regarding something in our lives. Upon reflection of my own life journey, I now know why certain unwanted comments or frustrations would arise in conversations, and more often it had more to do with what was unresolved or unhealed within me than anything to do with the outside world or another person.
And yes, people far wiser than me have helped me to understand these invaluable life truths, pointed me in the direction of books, content or another expert in a particular field that would be helpful to explore; it was my time alone where I contemplated how to apply the knowledge all that I learned while honoring who I was that was crucial to making better decisions moving forward.
Even after the time we spend in our own company to reach the discoveries that can only be found in this space with our own company, we may make decisions that while best for us, may limit our alone time, but that doesn’t mean we should forego carving out this precious time. Some of us will need less solitary time than others. I personally, discovered how deeply enriching and nourishing time in my own company is, and paired with the companionship of my dogs, is ideal the majority of the time. Ironically, my unwanted alone time in my twenties returned me to my inner child who reveled in time in my own company – creating, wandering about and just being giddy about that moment and being alive, so that now I knowingly protect my time to myself and savor such time quite often and regularly.
For others, you will make your own discovery, but you will know it is yours and yours alone, and that well of eternal strength of knowing can be returned to when the connections you may make along the way give you pause. Return to your own company to know what the best way forward is, trust your own companionship, and begin to see the time in your own company as an opportunity to nourish yourself and thus the decisions you make moving forward.
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episode #91, The Power of Solitude
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