Solitude: You Don’t Have To Go To The Forest

Key West, March 2015. Photo: MBuffett
Key West, March 2015. Photo: MBuffett

Solitude. When people hear the phrase “the island of self,” they often think it means they have to live alone and have to shut people and everything else out of their life. But this practice, this kind of “living alone,” doesn’t mean there’s no one around you. It only means that you are established firmly in the here and now; you are aware of everything that is happening in the present moment… To practice solitude is to practice being in this singular moment, not caught in the past, not carried away by the future,  and most of all, not carried away by the crowd. You don’t have to go to the forest. You can live with people, you can go to the grocery store, you can walk with others – and you can still enjoy silence and solitude. In today’s society, with so many things around you clamoring for your attention and your reaction, the inner solitude is something you have to learn…  You can dwell safely and solidly in your own island… It is because you are comfortable in solitude that you can be in communion with the world. I feel connected to you because I am fully myself. It’s simple: to really relate to the world, you have to first go back and relate to yourself.

-from Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh

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