“The spirit of silence must… pervade the whole of life. That is what matters most of all. It is said sometimes that solitude is the mother of results. Not solitude, but the state of solitude. So much so that we could, strictly speaking, conceive an intellectual life based on two hours’ work per day. But does anyone imagine that having set those two hours aside one may then act as if they did not exist? That would be a grave misconception. Those two hours are given to concentration, but the consecration of the whole life is none the less necessary.” — A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life
Living in a state of solitude sounds lonely, but really it’s just the opposite. Lonely is feeling apart from the world, living with a spirit of silence opens you up to the world, to be a part of it. And this is where the magic happens, or, if you will, the consecration of life. To live sacredly, fully alive, fully aware, and full of possibility. This isn’t derived from background noise and distraction, but from quieting the mind and truly seeing.
“A crowded world thinks that aloneness is always loneliness and that to seek it is perversion”
— John Graves
A coworker resigned earlier this week to return to a job he’d previously left, not because the current position wasn’t lucrative and full of growth potential, but because he felt lonely. What he meant by that was he couldn’t drop by to see old industry friends every week in a route, like someone delivering milk. This is a life of the familiar, and there’s comfort in it that we can all understand. The pandemic robbed us of much of this, and even as variants spike people stubbornly hold on to interaction with others because it’s a part of their lives they don’t want to be away from any longer. Who doesn’t understand the draw of the comfortable and familiar?
A state of solitude turns inward, not to be antisocial or reclusive, but to open up the senses to awareness. Awareness of the inner tension inside of us helps us see that battle others have inside themselves. And this awareness leads to a state of receptiveness—to take in the world as it comes to you. I’m no expert on such things, but I can see that those hours of concentration have brought me closer to it.
“When someone is anxious about being aware all the time, you can spot the mild anxiety. They want to be awake, to find out if they’re really awake or not. That’s part of asceticism, not awareness. It sounds strange in a culture where we’ve been trained to achieve goals, to get somewhere, but in fact there’s nowhere to go because you’re there already. ” — Anthony De Mello, Awareness
Do you want to dance in your awareness? Seek solitude, wherever you might be. Walk in the natural world. Breath deep, listen and look at the world buzzing around you, look inside, and see. And you’ll find, in the stillness of that moment, that you’re already dancing with it.