(In My) Solitude
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”
(In My) Solitude is a 1934 jazz standard by Duke Ellington. According to Wikipedia, the song was recorded 28 times between 1934 and 1942. Personally, I remember the song as recorded by Billie Holiday.
I sit and I stare
I know that I’ll soon go mad
In my solitude
It seems solitude may have a negative stigma. As punishment, prisoners go to solitary confinement and children go to time out.
Not only that, nowadays, with so many things vying for our attention, makes it difficult to choose meditation which means:
- Not scrolling through social media.
- No watching television or just letting it play in the background.
- Neither listening to music.
- Nor read any material.
- No writing.
- No talking.
I know from personal experience because I live with one of these individuals. LOL!
In Oprah Winfrey’s book, What I Know For Sure, she recounts a road trip with Gayle King, her long-time bestie. During the road trip, she stated Gayle always wanted music playing while she preferred “To be alone with her thoughts.”
I thought to myself, this is so us, me and Daniel.
I’m Too Busy
On a serious note, we tell ourselves there is not enough time to meditate especially if we have super demanding schedules. Contrary to our beliefs that is the perfect time to SIT STILL.
A Zen Proverb states
“You should sit in meditation for twenty mintues every day — unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
One of my favorite bible quotations reads
“Be still, and know (recognize, understand) that I AM God”.
I understand that there are only 24 hours in a day.
You sleep 6 to 8 hours.
Therefore, remains only 14 to 16 hours. You have to eat, $#!+, shower, and get dressed. Not necessarily in that order.
Don’t add a spouse, children, pets, parents, other relatives, friends, philanthropic work, and recreational activities to that equation.
On top of that, you work for 8 to 12 hours a day. Possibly more if you own your own business.
And we can’t forget daily household chores.
There’s a possibility that something is going undone or someone is being left behind.
Leaving your child at home alone may be a little extreme but it proves life can be hectic and result in you forgetting some important stuff or people in this case.
The practice of meditation is easier said than done.
Believe me, I know. I sat for 10 hours (not consecutively) in silence for 10 days.
In the beginning, it was challenging. The more I practiced, the better I became at focusing my thoughts which is meditation in a nutshell.
The Elephant In The Room
Based on the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory Assessment found on the American Institute of Stress website,
- 300 points or more constitutes an 80% chance of health breakdown in the next 2 years
- 150 to 200 points imply about a 50% chance of a major health breakdown in the next 2 years
- 150 points or less means a relatively low amount of life change and low susceptibility to stress-induced to health breakdown
Daniel receives a lot of funeral announcements of people dying in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s. Sixty is still young.
I was like “AH” why are these people dying so young “OH”.
Now, I get it, especially from a first-world citizen perspective.
Everyday living in Ghana can be stressful.
- Driving on unpaved roads,
- living in homes without air-conditioning,
- the probability of attracting malaria,
- no free healthcare,
- blackouts (electricity goes off unexpectantly and not because you did not pay your utility bill),
- drawing your water to cook, drink, and bath from a well
In 1936, Hans Selye defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. In other words, the rate of wear and tear on the body. Hans discovered constant stress can transmute into diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and even rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, increased stress has proven to accelerate the aging process. The diagram from Healthline below shows the physical effects that stress can have on the body.
“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own.”
The Importance of Meditation
One reason is to build a stress buffer.
“Spending time alone in your own company reinforces our self-worth and is often the number-one way to replenish your resilience reserves.”
Stress is inevitable. It comes from positive and negative events in our everyday living. Most importantly, it’s our pro-activeness to those stressful events that determine the effect on our health.
According to the Very Well Mind,
“research has shown that those who practice meditation regularly begin to experience changes in their response to stress that allow them to recover from stressful situations more easily and experience less stress from the challenges they face in their everyday lives.”
A second reason is to shift your thinking.
“fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.”
A study in 2020 revealed that the average person has more than 6,200 thoughts per day.
A prior study in 2005 reported we had two to ten times (12,000 to 60,000) as many thoughts per day than stated in the 2020 study.
I’m not sure which study is accurate but the shocking discovery pertaining to this study was that 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before. Therefore, we are thinking the same negative thoughts each day.
I love the fact that a John Hopkins researcher in a Forbes article states that
“A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing, but that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness,
From my personal experience and introduction to meditation during a 10-day course, gradually, I learned to quiet my mind, organize my thoughts, and question each thought. The practice of “being still and present” produced calmness and peace. Fear of being on a compound in rural west-central India seemed to dissipate over a matter of a day or two of focused meditation.
A third reason to meditate is to receive wise counsel.
“In silence, we listen to ourselves. Then we ask questions of ourselves. We describe ourselves, and in the quietude, we may even hear the voice of God.”
I believe God talks to us. We may be unable to hear because over time we’ve tuned Him out. Or we just ignore the voice. As we intentionally pay attention to the voice, it becomes more clear and we become more self-aware. We begin to trust the voice.
This passage sums up the voice for me:
“Intuition (inner spirit) will guide you. When you trust what you are feeling and do not discount or let other people’s opinions interfere with what you actually think, you will be able to make decisions that are right for you. When you move from the noise addiction — you clear space for the subtle signal of your guiding truth. Spend time alone to get clearer on your intentions analyze your life and make critical decisions about the direction of your life.”
Meditation is just one of the nine foundational practices I utilize to manage everyday stressors. Try it for yourself. Start with 20 minutes then increase the time as you become more comfortable with the practice.
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