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Why solitude can be such a good friend

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Being alone can be a treasure if we learn how not to fear it.

At some point in our lives we have all experienced solitude. In certain circumstances, it could become particularly intense — for example, when our house grows silent at the end of a holiday, or when we are away from our family for the first time. 

We have all had our moments of solitude. Even children cannot escape it. Unless they’re sharing their room with a sibling, they may dread bedtime. But the experience of solitude is important so long as it is gradually introduced and adapted to each child, based on their age and temperament. 

The benefits of spending time alone

I once saw this written on a wall of a convent: “Too much solitude can kill you, but a little time alone is life sustaining.” While it is indispensable for children to learn how to be alone, it’s unthinkable for them to spend hours in front of a computer in an empty house every time they get back from school.

We gradually learn how to deal with solitude, and it is a tough experience but does us good. Even if we fear it, to different degrees, we all need to spend some time alone since our spirituality cannot be cultivated without some level of solitude and silence. If it is not developed and we keep leading superficial lives, we won’t be able to fully become ourselves and establish a genuine form of communications with others. This in turn will inevitably make our relationships  shallow. And naturally, will we not be able to cultivate our relationship with God either. So, a little solitude is indispensable if we wish to reach the inner spiritual peace where a soul can meditate in silence. It’s a place where God dwells and where we can always find Him if we also choose to reside there. 

Different kinds of solitude

The solitude of a lonely person is terrible, and the silence of the one who has purposely withdrawn into an “ivory tower” is proud.

But the solitude of a hermit left alone with God is fruitful, as is that of an elderly woman whose days are filled with prayer, or that of a musician or an artist who withdraws to create a masterpiece deep inside his heart. It’s not that solitude in itself is good (or bad), it’s what people do with it and what they’re able to discover.

How does one master solitude?

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To master solitude, we should first get used to it. We cannot master something we’re trying to avoid. It’s a vicious cycle — the more we do to avoid and reject solitude, the more we fear being left alone. 

To begin enjoying it, we need to fill our solitude with all the wealth we keep deep inside us. To become aware of this wealth, we need to spend some time alone. It is only by jumping into the pool that we can ever learn how to swim – it is only in experiencing solitude that we can learn how to master it.

Let us see to it that the lives of our children contain these “empty” time slots, too — without activities, television, and friends, even if they seem bored or lost in daydreams. Otherwise, accustomed to running from one activity to the next, they risk learning how to fear solitude instead of discovering what a friend it can be.

Christine Ponsard 

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