Been learning from avowed hermits lately. Not recluses, who isolate out of basic human disdain. But hermits. Who live a life oriented to solitude, filling extra time with contemplative practice rather than social interaction. They come in all shapes and guises. Some hermits follow religious guidelines, some answer to no spiritual authority. There are hermits who live in caves or neighbor in plain sight in suburbs and cities. Cultivating solitude unites them.
This pandemic has created levels and forms of solitude brand new for each of us. For some, way more than others. How is this aloneness for you? Love it? Hate it? Love/hate it? If you’re paying attention, you might be feeling some preference by now. I’m sure some have tapped their latent love of solitude, a sentiment that was maybe hiding in the depths of previous warp speed life obligations. More alone time sets the stage for daily rituals and contemplative tendencies to flourish.
If you’re a “hate it ” you might have mastered the art of automatically, even unconsciously, seeking distraction or connection. Anything to avoid the scourge of being alone. And you know what? If that’s working for you, awesome. Really. But maybe you’re intrigued with what this new amount of solitude has to offer, wonder if there’s something there for you. Would consider a bit of a shift.
Raven’s Bread, a loose organization tended by two elderly hermits, expounds ways to transform anxiety-ridden isolation into nurturing solitude. They believe that “anyone could benefit from eremitic fundamentals: being rooted in place, practicing austerity and committing to a daily schedule prioritizing prayer or meditation.” I love this simple solace in solitude list.
Rooted in place. Ms. Fredette of Raven’s Bread defines ‘anchorite’ as “a religious solitary who takes a vow to remain in one place, though even non-anchorite hermits tend to be homebodies.” What does this notion stir in you? I spent the first fifty years of life as a perennial vagabond. I lived in twenty places before I landed in my current home at thirty-one. Travelled extensively until about five years ago. Then, except for local camping trips, I just kinda stopped. Lost the urge for several reasons. Right now I spend more time at home than I ever believed possible. Been in this same home 40 years. Pretty rooted in place. What’s your story?
Practicing austerity. Another great quote: “eschews rabid consumerism”. This is so up for me. Human supremacy: the unconscious worldview, operating as background assumption, telling us we humans are entitled to treat nonhumans and their habitats as we please. Stunned every moment I look through this lens as I throw out a plastic bag, run the heater, flick on a switch, drive for groceries. For now, my right action is to keep this issue front and center. I know, I know…with everything else falling apart around us, who wants to include something else? But this is the exact reason everything is falling apart all around us. How do you stem the tide of consumerism in your life?
Committing to daily prayer or meditation. I’m about this, have been for a long time. Even holding space for others who want to cultivate daily practice. Prayer and meditation can take so many forms. The obvious: cushion, prayer rug, mat, dance floor. What about the not so obvious, the personal, the unique? What daily rituals pull you into contemplative presence? Most days I’m down for some of the obvious. But it’s a prayer when I walk outside in nature. Writing is one form my meditation takes. Music often delivers me to spirit, touching a place inside nothing else does. My pandemic surprise meditation? Cooking from scratch. A lot. Never have I taken time to find this degree of culinary expression. It brings me a great quiet joy. With the bonus of extending that joy to others.
We’re living through a time of huge global pain, chaos and transformation. Are these eremitic ways selfish? Do they have value beyond personal peace of mind? Couldn’t I be out attending marches, ministering to the sick, volunteering at a food bank? This internal listening is so different than a call to activism. Cliches become clichés for the truth they hold. Peace begins as an inside job. When we slow down, our desire to seek satisfaction from what’s outside slows down, too. Our deeper being feels safe enough to emerge.
“Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.” Seraphim of Sarov
When we become still, we become witness. I’ve been a very public person for a long time. And I still am, albeit in this altered fashion. And I’m listening to you. The topic of isolation is up. Finding viable ways to maintain social connection is critical. And then there’s learning to be still, finding how to be comfortable just sitting there, cultivating solace in solitude. Isolation. Solitude. Different, connected somehow. When we practice on line, the isolation-solitude conundrum is right there. Second time for Dance Essentials—roll, dance, stretch—this Saturday Dec 12 at 10:00. In any class you can feel how we’re learning to negotiate this conundrum alone together. Amazing.
What we’re up to in Essentials….
Saturday December 12 10:00-11:30am
Sunday Sweat Your Prayers
Fundraiser New Year’s Eve Essentials