The Benefits of 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….If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself. And if you do not know yourself you will begin to fear the void. But the void does not exist. A vast world lies hidden in our soul, waiting to be discovered…..Woe to those who prefer to spend their lives saying: “I never had any opportunities!” Because with each day that passes they will sink deeper into the well of their own limitations.

– Manuscript Found in Accra; Paulo Coelho

I started reading a new book on the plane to my meetings in Denver last night. It should be no surprise now that I read alot of Paulo Coelho’s books. His positive messages about life and the way he intertwines varying stories with those messages is always entertaining. I left quite a bit out from the quote above and just referenced the pieces that I highlighted. I find that most people are afraid of being ‘alone’ and don’t enjoy spending time in solitude.

Maybe I’m different but that is one of the things that I enjoy most about landscape photography. I enjoy having time to myself hiking and observing the world around me. The solitude adds to the experience for me because you are forced to look within yourself and if something is bothering you – no matter how minor – you have to deal with it. Unlike when you are at work, out with friends, or washing dishes at home there are often external demands on your attention that don’t exist in solitude when it is just you and your thoughts. There is a great article in this month’s Backpacker magazine called “All Quiet on the Western Front – Can You Walk Off A War?” by Brian Mockenhaupt. It talks about an Iraq war veteran who thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail to help himself deal with coming home and trying to reintegrate into civilian life. It also talks alot about a program called ‘Warrior Hike: Walk of the War’ which is aimed at helping current and future veterans. A big part of this program is learning to embrace the solitude which will allow time for reflecting on what is angering you. In the words of the veteran from the article:

You’re thinking this is stupid or It’s my fault. At some point, you realize you’ve been made about it so often that it’s making you grumpy and sad. You have to leave it alone and drop it. You can’t carry it forever

Photo of the Day – Breaking down Fences

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I thought this was an appropriate photo given the message above which has to do with solitude and breaking down the barriers that prevent individuals from exceeding their own expectations. I took it while we were in New Orleans (Jackson Square) for Christmas and I love the ornate details in the fleur di lis.

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