Until a few years back, I had never heard the term “sacred solitude.” It sounded like some kind of new-fangled new age something. Actually though, examples are found throughout history of sages and religious leaders going off by themselves to spend time in solitude and prayer. Jesus spent time alone, as did the Buddha and countless others. This time spent alone was allocated for contemplation, building strength, fortitude, spiritual renewal and prayer or meditation. Sacred solitude.
For me, the need for that alone time gets stronger as the holiday season ramps up and the winter solstice draws near. Much has been said about depression, grief and the holidays. The grief regarding a lost loved one can be especially painful during a season that is so focused on festivities in relationships and family. Being forced to be alone in those circumstances can be truly overwhelming. In this regard, there is no doubt that we need to look to our own wellbeing and that of those we love. Alongside that though, there is the lingering inclination that something is wrong if we want to spend time alone during this time of the year. It could be that the very thought of a little bit of sacred solitude scares some folks. But the truth is, whether we are any kind of religious or not, sometimes we all need some good quality time to sit down with ourselves and do some good hard thinking.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the festivities of the season, the time spent together with family and friends. However, with this season, especially, I consciously take some time, generally an evening, to honor that sacred solitude.
We all go through many changes in our journey through life. At this point in my journey, the season is not so much a celebration as it is a rebirth of the sacred and the spiritual, a going within for mediation, contemplation, renewal and growth.
As much as there are people that we love and companionship that we cherish, there are some things that we all have to come to terms with alone and on our own time. Nobody else can do that for us and some of those things are never going to be fully confronted and resolved until we spend the time alone to do it.
None of this is to short-change the holiday or its spirit. It is just that, with the years, I have found it to be a time of great strength and renewal, also to spend some time removing myself from the bustle. To spend that time in thought, prayer and sacred solitude.
On this evening, I will prepare a good and nutritious meal, feeding both my body and my soul. There will be candles, maybe some seasonal Christmas lights, incense, some soft music, probably Tai Chi for me. It could be that you have your own gentle exercise, yoga perhaps, or some plain old stretches. It can be that too. The point is to take care of your body. I will also spend some time in prayer and meditation, contemplating the spiritual aspects of the season. Since I am a musician, I may very well make some of my own music as well. It could be that I will do some writing. My spirit will be renewed, but each to his or her own path as to the specifics of your own sacred solitude. The point is that you deliberately take the time to renew your body, spirit and soul.
— On the Winter Solstice
A poem by Regina Pickett Garson
The barren trees of life’s departure
must meet death before rebirth.
Without genesis, there is no resurrection.
So embrace the cold isolation,
the chill of the twilight,
and the longest night of the year.
Renewal must needs the respite of sacred solitude.