What I Learned from Time Alone & How to Create Your Own Beautiful Solitude!

Happy Young Woman in Solitude

As we approach the second year of the COVID pandemic (and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, head into a second winter), how do we handle it? What will we do with our one and only precious life as we face yet more time under all these restrictions?

Well, I believe we could all do with some solitude to help us figure it out. So this week I’m sharing my own personal solitude experience—how I did it and what I learned. Followed by a quick 4 Step Guide to help you create your own beautiful solitude.

Solitude is not the absence of company, but the moment when our soul is free to speak to us and help us decide what to do with our life. Paulo Coelho

My Personal Solitude Learning Experience

A couple of years ago in October, my husband Duncan booked a 5 day meditation retreat (Wednesday thru Sunday). I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, so I decided to have a “retreat” of my own.

This meant working gently during the regular workday, finishing work promptly and taking a half-day Friday. Then I would enjoy the evenings and weekend.

I called it a “me-treat”: I treated and took care of my every need. I didn’t meditate and didn’t do anything I didn’t want to. There were no rules, and instead I fully focused on—and treated—myself with loving-kindness.

This means I did everything at my own pace, regularly checking in to see what I felt like next. I woke up when I wanted to. I made a point of being gentle, kind and considerate of my needs and wishes—whatever they were.

Some examples of what this looked like:

  • One lunch I chopped up sticks of carrot, cucumber and celery and had that with hummus—I just couldn’t be bothered to make myself a healthy salad.
  • One dinner I had boiled eggs and toast “soldiers” dipping the sticks of toast into the egg yolk with my favourite squirrel eggcup like a child!
  • I gave myself permission to eat not one—but 3!—(healthy, vegetarian) frozen instant meals because it was quick and no washing up afterwards!
  • I picked flowers from my garden and put them in vases all around the house.
  • I lit candles some evenings, just for me.
  • Friday, I read a good book late into the night.
  • Sunday morning, I journaled in bed for 2 hours on what I want from life.
  • I didn’t pick the fruit and veggies in the greenhouse for 2 days.
  • No messaging anyone or checking email outside of office hours.
  • I ate (some) chocolate and drank (some) of my favourite wine.
  • I walked in nature and imagined how, only a few thousand years ago I would have been a woodland ‘creature’ just like the birds, frogs, raccoons and squirrels—just another animal who belonged here. Now that was mind-blowing!

But my ‘me-treat’ wasn’t easy.

There were many, many times I caught myself rushing:

  • Hurry up! Come on!

Or judging myself:

  • You should have made yourself a ‘proper’ lunch
  • You should be going to sleep now
  • You’re so lazy, who do you think you are just lounging around?
  • Oh and, What, are we 5 years old again?

Yet it was also heavenly.

Because I was alone, there was no explaining myself to, or considering, anyone else.

As I slowed down and consciously (and repeatedly!) let go of my judgements, I had these beautiful moments where I felt deeply connected to myself and the world. There were moments where I unconditionally appreciated my life and everything and everyone in it.

I learned—a lot!

I noticed how much I rush myself—ALL the time. And I noticed how much I still criticized myself.

And I also noticed what gives me joy, like permission to love what I love (like my squirrel egg-cup), arranging flowers and even just going slow! I saw clearly how I stop myself from enjoying life.

In my two hour mammoth journaling session, I wrote about how I want to feel, what matters most to me—and why. I wrote down my observations about how I get in my own way.

Solitude helps us see what we need to change in our life

Other people will always need something from us—especially those we love—even if it’s just a smile, an acknowledgement, to listen or help with homework or dinner. 

Without others around, solitude allows us to connect with our true selves. It helps our brains and bodies to settle enough that we can 1) figure out what we want and what’s missing, 2) clearly see our obstacles and what needs to change.

Now I haven’t had another big ‘me-treat’ since my experience above, but I have given myself several evenings where I follow this process!

It doesn’t have to be a multi-day affair. There is power in making shorter periods to be alone with ourselves: to just be and follow our impulses, and crucially, get time and space to figure out what to do with our lives.

How to Create Your Own Beautiful Solitude…

Step 1) Decide what, where and how long

  • Consider how long – and importantly where – you will spend this time.
    • Ideally give yourself a morning, an afternoon or an evening.
      • Allow 5 mins beforehand for set-up and prep and 5 mins after to slowly re-engage with the world!
    • If that’s too long then give yourself at least a full 30 or 60 minutes!
      • Ad if you enjoy that 30/60 minutes, you may just find yourself booking longer next time…

Step 2) Block out the time in your diary

If you don’t protect it, this time will get eaten up by other people’s requirements and all the distractions of life so:

  • Block out the time in your calendar. Make it non-negotiable!

Step 3) A little preparation!

What do you need to do beforehand to make this work? Because while spontaneity is important, it’s also helpful to prepare. Is there something you might want to do, or that could spoil your beautiful solitude?

Consider:

  • What could get in the way?
    • Are there people you need to inform ahead of time (so they don’t disturb you)?
    • Will all essential tasks already be done/covered off (so you can relax without worrying about what’s next)?
  • What would make the experience really enjoyable?
    • Do you have candles, matches, a beautiful journal, pen, snacks, tidy sitting area, bubble bath, your favourite wine etc. at the ready?

Step 4) Enjoy your solitude—and learn!

Do whatever you want and need. Be present to yourself, your wishes and needs. Notice what you think and feel. And then be kind. Do whatever you feel like in the moment. Treat yourself.

And yes, it’s harder than it sounds! So if you find a part of you is judging yourself, be kind to both yourself and the judge. Expect it. Allow it. And then just go back to treating yourself.

Lastly, I recommend you journal about your observations and/or discuss them with a friend afterwards.

  • What did you learn about yourself in this time?
  • What might you do differently going forwards?

And right now with the pandemic settled in, it’s a great time to ponder and reflect:

  • How do I keep moving through this pandemic?
  • What changes could I make in my life to take care of myself?

Wrap-up

Fierce Kindness Logo

Solitude is a powerful, soulful practice—the ultimate in self-care.

It will be beautiful. And it may be hard at times! But it shows us who we are.

Change the world. Start with you!

If you enjoyed this article about what you can learn from solitude, you may also like:

Image of Woman enjoying solitude and alone time by @lookstudio via freepik

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