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The Lost Art of Being Alone with God

By: for on Aug. 17, 2012
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"So what is the value of solitude?"

The most pure and essential aspect of all yoga, spirituality and religion is our relationship with God, the Divine.

God as a person—a person like you and me, with emotions, preferences, loves, beauty and complexities, but also quite unlike you and me.

In my own life at least, how I grow into the living reality of my very own relationship with God defines the health and wealth of my spiritual journey.

One of the most important ways we can come to a full understanding of our relationship with God is by spending a little “alone time” with God. However, in our amped-up, wireless sphere of reality, I think this has become a lost art.

I have always been a solitary person, and I have been feeling this disconnect my entire life. I very much like being alone. I remember as a young lad taking great pleasure in being in a quiet space, staring out the window at the world around me, letting my imagination run naturally, not inhibited by the expectations or presence of others.

I remain very much the same today. I prefer to be alone, and am most comfortable when I’m alone.

Few things in this world have left me feeling more alienated and isolated than being forced into “being social” for the sake of being social. I have always valued my ability to be comfortable on my own, and while I am learning more and more the value of healthy relationships and community, the art of being alone has become more important to me as my spirituality grows and matures.

I think that some of the friction between those who are social and those who are solitary comes from the fact that real solitude, real “alone time,” is something that is not really very well understood. Those who are overtly social may not see the need or value of solitude. Those who are overtly solitary may not choose to ever come out of their “cave” to explain the value of the space they choose to be in, or they may not also understand that value in their own way. They may have instead, as Paul Tillich mentions in his classic The Courage To Be, built castle walls around themselves to protect the neurotic mindsets they carry within.

So what is the value of solitude?

It allows us to dive into the divine reality that is within us, a reality we are largely shut off to because of how externalized we usually are, reaching out to gadgets, gizmos and other unhealthy manifestations in our outer reality (including other people) to find the happiness we really seek.

I think one of the great champions of real solitude, Thomas Merton, sums up this value best in Love and Living:

“Life consists in learning to live on one’s own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one’s own – be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid.”

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[ god ] [ learning ] [ reality ] [ solitude ] [ spirituality ]