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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss


In the search for peace, contentment or enlightenment solitude can be a friend. Whatever you seek, even those things that can only be accomplished with others must first begin within oneself. Understanding who we are, what we hope for, how we see the world and how the world sees us are the first and necessary steps of our personal journey. We must begin as we came into the world, alone.

It is not a simple thing to find solitude and to be clear by that I mean being alone is not solitude. Solitude is a conscious decision, not a happenstance. For me, a walk in the woods with no destination in mind never fails to set me in the right frame of mind for self-discovery. There are other places to be sure, but I tend to find my chapel in the forest, in its not so silent quiet. I am small and insignificant in a forest, dwarfed by trees and foliage, surrounded by works of nature both more ancient and in deeper harmony with their surroundings than I can easily be. It’s there I can lose myself, let go of the trivialities that occupy my mind and distract me from answers to the questions my soul yearns to know.

Perhaps your solitude is by the sea, or at the top of a mountain or somewhere else known only to you. If you have known solitude you will recognize the journey to understanding—the awareness that creeps upon you rendering meaningless the troubles and cares that occupy our daily lives. If only we could carry that pause back with us into the busy distracted lives we lead, but it is an exceedingly difficult thing to do. The world tears and snaps at our heels, presenting thorns and attractions as it sees fit but neither are real—only transient shadows on the cave wall. What we can take back with us from our moments of solitude is the knowledge that nothing is as it seems however it may feel real to us when we are in the midst of life’s play.

Perhaps you may think me foolish to dismiss reality such as we know it. Be assured I do not dismiss the power of people and things to affect us, but rather I question why we allow meaning to be filtered by our reactions and not our peace. This essential truth has been spoken by many, from Jesus to Ghandi, “to find yourself you must first lose yourself”. But not lose in the sense that we have simply misplaced ourselves or temporarily forgotten who we are. We must lose ourselves to something, or rather to someone else, because it is only in service to others that we can find our own sense of purpose. To come full circle, we must first be alone so that we can be together; we must begin in solitude to find our expression of joy, and to find contentment and peace in service.

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