Taking Your Time Alone

  By Diane Kennedy Pike


     How much time do you spend alone in stillness each day? That quiet time is a holy time. It is a time to remember who you are. It is a time to nourish self as an emerging spirit coming into personal expression. It is a time to assess the state of your character. It is a time of renewal.

    In the quiet of these summer days following our intense sessions, I have been reflecting on the importance of silence and stillness for our spiritual life and well-being. There is a frantic quality about today's way of living that heightens my awareness of the spirit-saving quality of time spent alone, in quiet, and still.

    Who can hear the still small voice within while racing from one appointment to the other, talking on the cell phone as you go? Who can touch subtle promptings of spirit while the television blares and people are talking above it? Who can be receptive to inner guidance while rushing to complete the tasks of an over-full day? Who can maintain the inner sensitivity, the tender responsiveness, and the eager readiness that responds to the heart's deepest longings while being assaulted with demands from everyone around?

    Living a life of the spirit takes practice. Each day we must renew our intention and our inner awareness.

    All of us need time alone, even if we love to be with people. We need to be present to self. We need to breathe deeply into self and then listen to discover what is asking for our attention.

   If we have learned to know ourselves as the Real Self, these solitary moments are opportunities to be present to our characters, or personality selves. We listen to the personality, or character, the way we would listen deeply and intently to another.

  1. We pay attention to what is going on in our bodies. If there is tension or pain, we are present to it, asking what the body needs, and then responding to it. If we do this on a daily basis we are not as likely to have physical crises or illnesses.

  2. We are aware of feelings registered but not expressed. If those feelings are still alive in us, we breathe into them and take time to express them in sound or movement or to write them out in a journal.

  3. We are aware of thoughts occupying our mental space. The only way to guide and direct the mind is to be fully aware of its activities. Once we are aware of our thoughts, we can make choices about whether to continue with those thoughts or to redirect that energy in more creative and productive directions.

   If we are still identified with self as character, or personality, then time alone provides the opportunity to tune into the Real Self. It is very easy in the course of a day to completely forget that there is an inner presence that observes us in all our activities and that would guide and direct us if we were responsive. In solitude, we contact that Real Self, are aware of that presence, and reaffirm our intention to know ourselves as the Real Self. We embrace the Real Self and are embraced by it.

   In seclusion, we can also attune to the larger energy fields in which we function. We are nourished by those larger fields and inspired to bring forth more of our potential. We can allow ourselves to be consciously embraced by the larger whole.

    Recently we spent three days and two nights with friends in Colorado. When we were actually in the same room or riding in the car together, our friends never stopped talking. If one paused for just a moment, the other immediately jumped in, often changing the subject. Often they both talked at the same time. If they weren't talking to us, they talked to each other.

   When we retreated to the guest room, they talked to each other, often shouting from one room to another, and they turned on the TV loud enough to hear it wherever they were in their home. The phone rang often and conversations on the phone were loud enough to hear in every nook and cranny of their beautiful living space. I went off to sleep at night, sinking into my inner silence while the TV was still blaring, and woke to the morning news and talk shows playing on the TV in the kitchen.

   Also very recently, we went to visit a family member in the hospital in Florida. She was in a room with three other patients. The TV was on almost constantly, care givers were coming and going, interrupting conversations with cheery remarks, business-like questions, or pertinent instructions. Machines were humming and beeping. Visitors came and went, talking in loud voices to make sure elderly patients could hear them above the din of the TV or other conversations.

    I stepped out on several occasions in order to find a quiet place to be alone. None existed anywhere in the hospital, and I explored all the floors. TV's were blaring in every visitor's lounge and there wasn't even a hospital chapel. When I sat in the open lounge by the elevators where there was no TV, nurses and aides were busy coming and going, talking to one another, and if by chance I had a moment of stillness, someone soon interrupted it.

   I had already intended to write this article on the importance of a quiet time, but these two experiences made the point urgently clear. Our psyches need a rest from the constant stimulation of noise in our environment. They need the quiet that an absence of talking creates, an absence of music, and an absence of TV.

   There is never a complete lack of sound in the environment (unless you are in a soundproof chamber), but stilling the invasive sounds frees us to hear the sounds of nature and of our own breathing. We can even learn to listen to the background of silence behind the more subtle sounds.

   To nurture ourselves spiritually, we need to learn how to be still. Having practiced being alone and in quiet, we can focus even more intently on stilling the character-life so that we can nurture the spirit.

   Perhaps you can recall a time in your life when something totally wonderful happened, when you were in the presence of great beauty, or when you entered a grand cathedral. At such moments you may have felt a great hush come over you. That hush is much more than being alone or being quiet. It has to do with stilling all activity so that we can be present to the Great Unspeakable All. The sense of the holy is something our spirits crave.

   To enter into this holy of holies, the body must become so still that breathing almost ceases and the heart beat seems almost silent. A great calm must fall over our feelings and our minds must be as clear as a cloudless sky. The whole self must be empty of all activity so that it can be flooded by the Presence of the Unspeakable. It is in this stillness that we can be utterly renewed.

   There was an article in our newspaper recently exploring why there is so much rage in our society right now. The article offered five explanations:

* there is an accelerated rate of change and people don't know how to deal with it;
* there is an increasing lack of privacy;
* there is a lack of any sense of personal responsibility;
* there is an increasing sense of entitlement;
* and there is a lack of connection with loved ones.
     All of these together, the author said, have created a nation of overstressed people and a reaction of rage. I would add three more causes to the list:
* people do not take time alone,
* time to be quiet, or
* time to get still enough to access spiritual renewal.

   You and I can reduce the level of stress in our own lives, and in the lives of all we meet, if we will attend to this basic need. We can take time apart at least once a day, in quiet, engaging in those activities that prepare us to become utterly still. Then we can go deep within and allow ourselves to be nourished and fed in spirit.

   Will you join me in that commitment?


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