Finding Solitude in a Noisy World
By Dakota Earth Cloud Walker
“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly, we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul, we know ourselves to be one with all being.” Hermann Hesse
It took me a long time to befriend solitude, even though I have spent much time within its company. While growing up, solitude was the place I found myself most often. I was the youngest child, an introvert, and found myself seeking companionship among the trees and stones, the wild forest, and animals. Then, solitude was thrust upon me by circumstance; it felt more of a prison sentence to my life than a companion of presence. As I grew up and found my life calling in serving others, solitude became a necessity to refueling my weary spirit after absorbing others’ energy. A common work hazard for anyone working in the healing arts. Solitude then was a tool and a practical way of carrying forward in my work.
Two years ago, I took a year-long journey to travel the USA. Prior to traveling, I had been in a 6-year relationship where loneliness and aloneness were prominent landmarks within the relationship itself. In the beginning months of my traveling, solitude was often an uninvited guest, and I remember many nights crying myself to sleep, wondering if this loneliness was my own personal curse. The more I traveled, the more I came to appreciate the solitude and to see it as a gift, not a curse. I remember driving along the Lost Coast of northern California, where I had lost all reception to the outside world. To lend to the emotion, fog settled in and I could only see about 1/3 mile ahead. The environment hosted a foreboding feeling but for me, it felt like a lifeline to my inner knowing. I had been looking for clarity about where to land and settle after my travels, and my drive along the Lost Coast provided me the much needed quiet to hear the voices of my inner wisdom. Solitude now is a treasure of resplendent time spent communing with my soul, my Higher Self, spirit guides and God.
There are a few ways to experience solitude. One way is our conscious retreat inward, where we take the needed time to refuel, reconnect, and to re-establish a baseline for ourselves. The North Direction of the Medicine Wheel naturally offers us this retreat by default. Nestled into the winter months, the North is the house of our spiritual body and it is here, during this time, that we dig into the internal world and tend to our souls to recalibrate our belonging in the world. It’s a time to shake off the external influences that have led us to drift away from our true nature and to begin cultivating our sacred purpose once more. We can escape into this solitude whenever needed through meditation, silent contemplation, and conscious disconnect from the digital world (news, social media, radio, TV, etc.). During this time, inward focus only on the present moment. Conscious of your breath, your body, how you move in the space around you, and what emotions naturally percolate for you in these quiet moments? When most of our life is submerged in the noise of the world, we tend to lose ourselves in a myriad of ways. We forego our dreams and ambitions to assure ourselves we’re taking a safe route. We sometimes live in a sea of sameness, taking the same route to work, visiting the same restaurants and stores, locked into a familiar routine day in and day out. Before we know it, we’re operating from a robotic lens that offers us a safe, reliable routine but one void of spontaneity and creativity. This disconnect from our passionate, vibrant, soul leads to multiple “symptoms” of life measured not by moments, but a life lived in avoidance. These symptoms include exhaustion, illness, mental fog, a sense of overwhelm, deep sadness, irritation, anger, judgment, emotional roller coasters, and strained relationships. It begins with slight irritation, a pinprick to our sense of inner peace, and if not given the time needed for recovery, the pinprick turns into a gushing river flowing with compromise and sabotage.
If we endure years of this type of malnutrition of solitude, if we haven’t heeded the call of our soul for respite and silence, we risk losing our sense of self. We carry with us the dead weight of all the moments we sacrificed ourselves for another or carried other people’s burdens, or unknowingly latched onto false claims telling us the rat race leads to success, and that success comes at a high price.
Being alone and experiencing solitude can hover on a slim edge between healthy and unhealthy, balanced, and imbalanced energy. Navigating it takes mindful preparation and attention. If you are seeking isolation and detaching from the outside world because you feel disconnected from others, then the edge of the line blurs from quiet reflection and solitude to unhealthy isolation. If you have skated into that arena, you risk falling into a deep depression. Isolation is a mark of deficient energy in the North Direction. It’s the place people land when they are not able to cope energetically in the world around them, when they have unformed boundaries and energy breaches are common. Without the tools to maintain healthy boundaries, relationships, and a solid self-love/care plan in motion, the soul falls into the deficient North as a way to cope.
We can seek solitude, however, for the purpose of spiritual development, and for personal refueling, tapping into our inner wisdom, and using solitude as a tool for self-discovery.
The other way to immerse yourself into a blanket of soul-soothing solitude is a bit more drastic and reliant upon your ability to be flexible, adventurous, and earnest in your quest. You must be willing to forgo the modern conveniences that you surround yourself with every single day and willingly take part in a Vision Quest.
A Vision Quest is a rite of passage, most common to the Native American cultures, but can be attributed to many cultural and spiritual subsets. The goal of a vision quest is to sequester ourselves from the noise of the world to hear the voice of our Spirit Guides and to learn from them our sacred purpose, or our role in our community or how we are to be of service to others. The Vision Quest circle is a sacred circle creating a containment for us to sit within as we pray to the spirits. During this time, you might be visited by dreams, images, and even animals who will bring to you their medicine and messages.
We do a metaphorical Vision Quest when we enter the North Direction. When I traveled as a nomad for a year, I feel I was participating in a modern-day Vision Quest, particularly when I found myself in places where there were no signs of modern civilization. It was in those times when I had to also confront the fears and blocks that often hold me back before I could polish the view and pluck the medicine and messages that solitude held for me. However you come to experience solitude and quiet contemplation, it will be a gift that elicits inner peace, a sense of knowing, a release of judgments, salve for your soul wounds, and the fuel needed to counterbalance our noisy world.
Here are some ways you can begin to cultivate the space for silence and solitude:
- Create a tech-free day where you can disconnect your devices and turn off the TV
- Take time to sit in nature without needing to “hike” or reach a destination, but to simply sit and observe.
- Spend a day in silence. Let those around you know that you are taking a vow of silence for a day and ask them to respect it. Avoid the need to “fill the space” with noise and distractions.
- Go camping. There is nothing better than being out in the wilderness, sleeping under the stars, and getting in tune with the natural rhythm of Mother Earth
- A few hours before bed, turn off your devices, dim the lighting, and sit with a cup of tea. Use this time to wind down the day, journal, meditate or do some type of ritual. Sacred space begins inside you.
- Go on a weekly Soul Date – time spent alone, doing something that is filling and fueling for yourself.
- Create room in your life by not over-scheduling yourself, knowing what your limitations and needs are, and by disengaging with overwhelm.
In closing, solitude is a good tonic for your soul. Befriend it and you’ll find more clarity, vitality, and inner peace. We could all use more of those qualities!
Dakota Earth Cloud Walker (Druidic Shamanic Witch)
Sometimes I write in a coffee shop, or the bookstore. Sometimes I venture to the Irish Pub and sit by the warm fire in a dimly lit room, sipping on Guiness while I hammer out an article. And other times I write at my desk, with dogs at my feet and cats on the back of my chair. No matter where I am, or what I’m writing, I write from my heart and from years of experience.
I love the Medicine Wheel, it has so much to offer us and so much of my writing, and teaching, is in hopes of sharing this powerful tool with you.