The greatest gift is solitude

Late summer trees
Out of the Broomcloset photo by Leon Calafiore

Out of the Broomcloset

Possibly, the most precious gift you could obtain for yourself in these waning days of summer is solitude. You can neither walk into a store, nor shop online for it; it is as innate a need as food or shelter. And it is the one thing that we most deprive ourselves of. Only we, through intent, gain it for ourselves.

Please don’t misunderstand me, this is a thing quite different from being alone, or becoming antisocial, or in some way throwing in the towel. You would greatly misunderstand me then.

Many would refer to Thoreau’s experiences as related in “Walden” as an example of solitude, but they would be wrong. He exhibited a certain kind of self-reliance; but he was hardly alone, still engaged with guests coming to visit and visiting town for supplies. As a man of his time, he was slightly more removed from society than others, but not so very much so.

Various spiritual systems do intersect with this concept. The goal is realizing that all is illusion, or to completely clear one’s mind of all thought, and simply be, or to become one with all. Both are useful practices and should be a part of any serious magician’s toolbox when engaging in any of the various strains of western occultism.

“Classical” magical texts will often suggest that to perform a rite successfully, one needs to prepare a location away from the general populace. Maybe a location in the wilderness, or at least in a room especially dedicated to one’s purpose. Considering how rare actual privacy, as we might understand it, was then available, and the potentially lethal consequences if one’s activities were discovered, this combination of being set apart, and away was certainly prudent. It’s always a prudent course to separate the sacred from the mundane.

But this is the main point. We are constantly connected, and there’s always something to react to (unless you are devoid of compassion, intellect, or empathy, then there’s always a trip to Walmart). The problem is, all we do is react to every situation, and make ourselves the immediate response; we wither, we burn out. Even Gandhi, bringing down the British Raj, would take time away from the struggle, to make himself anew.

A vacation is not the answer: we tend to carry other distractions along with us. They are all enjoyable, indeed, but still an escape, an evasion, if you will.

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So, if I may suggest an exercise; find a nearby spot as isolated as possible, or take a trip someplace, not to be engaged by the sights and activities one can engage in, but to really be away. Leave the phone, books, knitting and the like behind. Your task, the hardest one, is to be alone with yourself. Rather than, say, thinking about how your body feels after a run, focus on how it feels to be in a body, how the sun or wind feels. What odors do you encounter, what do you hear?

Try to not analyze or identify any of this; drop the filters. And just be alive to the world around you. Stay as long as you like. I’m confident that once you get over the panic of “what do I need to do, or what didn’t I do,” you’ll return anew. You will be a more effective, creative you.

Now go and recharge your battery.