By Punya Srivastava
Enrich and nurture your life by embedding it with pockets of solitude, says Punya Srivastava
There have been many cherished moments of aloneness in my life. Once, while walking out in the country, I veered away from the main road to an untrodden path, and marvelled at the splendour of the wilderness spread before me. Another time, peering out of a ferry deck, I was overwhelmed by the majesty of the vast ocean. Then there was the time I became quietly intimate with a gurgling steam, while sitting on a slippery boulder above it.
Those were moments of just being in my own company, out in nature, thinking nothing and doing nothing. Solitude has been my favourite state of being. I grew up reading Ruskin Bond and falling in love with his aloneness. His solitary state had the power to transport me to the verdant valleys and rolling downs of Dehra Dun and Mussoorie. How wonderful to live alone in the lap of nature away from nagging people, I enthused as a teenager. His detailed narration of the hills of Dehra and the beauty of Mussoorie had me craving for a faraway space of my own, as I sat dreaming in the confinement of a flat in a metro city.
Being on my own has been an insatiable dream of mine that I have satisfied time and again, yet crave to relive the moment I return to company. Whenever I close my eyes and think about solitude, I imagine myself to be the solitary reaper about whom the great William Wordsworth wrote ‘Behold her, single in the field, yon solitary highland lass!’ Though Wordsworth’s poem talks about the melancholy of solitude, solitude for me has stood for freedom. The freedom to just ‘be’.
Solitude is not isolation
“Pleasures of solitude? The phrase is an oxymoron,” commented a friend. According to her, solitude is a state of loneliness and alienation. How can anyone be happy alone? Where is the fun in doing something which doesn’t involve others, she asks.
|Anupama Sharma : Meeting herself in aloneness|
Anupama Sharma, energy healer at Yoga Prana Vidya, Delhi, has the answer to that. “One should not confuse solitude with loneliness. Loneliness is unwanted aloneness, and solitude is voluntary detachment from everything that is keeping you in distress.” She further adds, “Solitude for me is a space where I can confront myself. Be with the whole that is me. No pretence and no prejudice. Just a confrontation with my own inner reflection. But where do I find it? In a moment of silence. Utter silence that engulfs your inner space. The silence that unites your heart, body, mind and soul which otherwise are always in conflict, and keep us away from our peace. This space can be found at any moment of oneness be it a bus stop, a traffic signal, a movie theatre, anywhere.”
Maybe that is why the famous German-American theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich once said, “Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”
|Anjali Srivastava: Performs kathak in an empty room to be with herself|
Pleasures of solitude
Solitude is cathartic, and Anjali Ratnaker vouches for it. A painter and homemaker from Lucknow, Anjali has felt the sublime power of solitude. Battling depression since years, she had given up on her painting, and indeed on life itself. “Depression had robbed me of the zeal to live,” she shares. But then she discovered the power of silence and solitude in an AOL programme three months ago. Since then, she has made a point of taking out some time exclusively for herself daily. “I meditate daily. Those moments of aloneness fill me with calm and tranquillity. I feel like a new being. Not only do I get to introspect, but am also filled with energy to execute my daily chores,” she says. Such has been her turnaround that she is off anti-depressants
Anjali Srivastava, a final year student of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, cherishes her moments of solitary dance. Putting on her payals, and performing in an empty room helps this trained kathak dancer to go within, and know herself. “Whenever I am alone and tense regarding a problem, I dance. Whatever is going on inside me comes out in the form of ‘bhav’ or expressions, whether of anger or worry. This helps me manage the emotion, and eventually find an appropriate solution,” she says.
Samarth Bajpai, assistant manager in Sahara India Parivar, Hyderabad , adds, “One can touch solitude even in the midst of action by becoming aware of one’s breath. Solitude is precious because it is during this time that we stand the best chance to be creative and constructive, device ingenious solutions to our life problems. and differentiate the gross from the sublime.”
“I believe that spending time with myself helps me gain a better understanding of who I am and what I want exactly in life,” says Vibha Sekhar, researcher in a central government institute called LaCONES, Hyderabad. “Solitude also helps a person discover and maintain their unique identity.”
Indeed, it is only in the solitude of our minds that we can meet and befriend ourselves. It has been a year since I joined Life Positive, and the most significant takeaway for me has been of knowing that who I am is a happy, whole and perfect being. Whenever I feel down in the dumps, I spend some time alone. And in those few moments, I allow myself to just be. External situations stop mattering. There is absolute oneness within the self. And this experience is beyond any kind of high that a drug can provide.
Moments of enrichment
Going for a swim or a walk helps you reconnect with yourself, and brings clarity to your thoughts. Albert Einstein’s penchant for long walks is well known. “Although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday, and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualise what goes on in my imagination,” he is believed to have said.
Franz Kafka, a noted novelist of the 20th century, has waxed eloquent upon the goodness of solitude. “You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet,” he said.
The busier we are, and the more networked, the more we need these solitary moments to recharge ourselves, and tune out the din in our heads. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you for these precious moments of aloneness. You can indulge in any activity to enjoy a date with yourself. Give yourself a head massage, have your favourite cup of tea nestled in a corner of your balcony, prune your plants, or simply put your feet up and go within.
So let’s ditch whatsapp for a while and enter the zone of oneness with self. Even if we don’t have access to vast meadows like that lucky lass from The Solitary Reaper, let’s make do with our verandahs and kitchen gardens. Even bus stops and office cubicles would do. Because moments of bliss do not need a physical address to reach us.
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