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Metta Musings: Navigating Aloneness

  • Written by Deb Langhans

When Henry David Thoreau was 27 years old, he began his famous adventure in “living deliberately.” This was in 1845 on Walden Pond (in eastern Massachusetts). His reveling emersion in solitude, chronicled in his famous, Walden or Life in the Woods, has been celebrated ever since.

Our culture has changed a lot since Thoreau’s time. There’s been a gradual yet endemic trend toward decreased solitude and increased isolation despite our current explosive accessibility to virtual contact. A bizarre statistic seems to reflect this: Between 1825 and 2000, use of the word “solitude” in printed books declined by over 70%, and in that same time period, use of the word “loneliness” increased by over 500%...

Over the past few months, the term “COVID fatigue” has replaced the initial “We’re all in this together” battle cry against the coronavirus. The latest surge, with the return to additional isolation and, in some states, lock-down, intensifies our challenge to cope with aloneness.

That term, aloneness, describes the state of being by yourself; it carries a neutral connotation. But the two conditions of aloneness—loneliness and solitude—evoke anything but neutral responses and experiences.

Loneliness involves feelings of sadness and longing for what or who is absent, e.g., loved ones, home, culture; it’s actually an instinctive response to feelings of social isolation. And given our basic human need to belong and be in active relationship with what makes us who we are, it’s understandable that loneliness would be steeped in negative emotions.

Solitude, on the other hand, is time we choose to spend alone for a specific, typically gratifying purpose. It’s been said that, rather than taking time FOR ourselves, as for R & R and self-care, genuine solitude is about taking time WITH ourselves. It’s time focused on cultivating deeper self-knowledge and increased emotional intimacy with the one we will never leave nor lose.

It’s true that this current intensified period of social isolation and aloneness can elicit difficult feelings. It’s also true that, precisely because of that additional aloneness, opportunities await us.

During his two-year stay on Walden Pond, Thoreau wrote,

“You think that I am impoverishing myself withdrawing from men, but in my solitude, I have woven for myself a silken web or chrysalis, and, nymph-like, shall ere long burst forth a more perfect creature, fitted for a higher society.”

Perhaps instead of fighting this period of increased aloneness, we can choose to surrender to solitude as a means for exploring ourselves and our lives as never before. Reflective of this winter season, that fallow time can be rich with discovery, meaning and growth below the surface; and what has felt at times a curse, we can transform into a blessing.

If you’d like to discover resources for befriending solitude in your own life, I invite you to explore my website: http://www.journeystohealing.com. …….

May I, we & all beings summon courage to pause and venture within to discover the unimaginable gifts waiting there for us.

My best,



Deb Langhans has worked in the wellness field as a coach/counselor, writer & speaker for over 25 years. She currently owns & operates Journeys to Healing on San Juan Island where she offers "wholistic" life coaching, mindfulness & grief recovery coaching, reflexology, Inner Journey Collage© & a developing line of products designed to encourage healthy habits.

Most services are available in Deb's studio or via phone or Zoom. For more information or scheduling, please go to www.journeystohealing.com (website). bethechange5@rockisland.com (email), or 360.317.4526 (texts preferred).

Last modified onMonday, 07 December 2020 12:58

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