Solitude

After living like a hermit for nearly 7 years, now having a room in town and an increasingly busy life because of it, I am finding the thirst for solitude to be an issue. Previously I did not thirst, I was nearly drowning in it. A new balance demands to be struck.

Looking into a couple of books recently for different reasons, I rediscovered long-time favorite passages on Solitude that hit me between the eyes as I found them, their impact notifying me of a need to reorient. Protecting solitude is a little valued concern in this busy, twittery, facebooky, achievement driven, masculine value oriented culture. I had almost forgotten.

Robert Johnson’s genius little book The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden discusses the difference between masculine and feminine responses to addressing the wrongs of life. The masculine aspect of the psyche (in men and in women) goes out on his white steed, sword in hand, to protect and conquer through heroic action. The feminine aspect, on the other hand, goes into the forest and drops down into her own nature knowing instinctively that all healing comes from within. He writes: “Solitude is the feminine equivalent of masculine heroic action.”

My masculine side, even when I am on the mountain, can maintain a heroic stance of outward focus, tirelessly working to achieve whatever my perceived goals are – developing business, maintaining the property, trying to grow “it”, whatever “it” is so that I can survive and thrive in the world, much to the detriment of my feminine nature. Spinning wheels in this way while alone is not the same as solitude. Solitude is about focus upon and permission for deep interiority. About stopping. Stillness. Listening. Attention. Intention.

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke speaks emphatically and eloquently of the necessity for solitude. Holding to it, he says, is difficult work – we would rather any distraction, no matter how banal or cheap,  than stay with the challenges of solitude. He advises the young poet to drop his attention to the humdrum, paltry, status-oriented vocations that enslave him and to “only be attentive to that which rises up in you and set it above everything that you observe about you. What goes on in you your innermost being is worthy of your whole love.” Cherishing solitude “is itself work, and status, and vocation.”

My body arrests me at times and demands that I attend to solitude, but I learn more every year how to be in content and happy occupation with it. Holding to it, even in the face of screaming demands from my own torturous, though well-intended, masculine side, is, as Rilke stated, difficult work. It is a vocation. Muscle for it has to be trained and developed.

Which thought brings me to a moment in which to share sheer, unapologetic maternal pride. This will seem like an aside, but I will bring it back to the theme of this writing.

My daughter, Arlene Ward, came in 4th in the nation in her category for weightlifting in the National Championships held in Council Bluffs Iowa held two days ago. Her drive,  joy, will, purpose and integrity in developing such extraordinary balance and strength inspire me beyond my capacity to declare. She is a Teacher to me, in the highest sense of the word, because of who she is. If you knew her you would know whereof I speak. This woman… the carefully developed power of her body is the tiniest glimpse of the internal forces of will and beauty that drive her.

In my solitude I hope to allow for her influence to help me develop muscle I need for what I do. The value of drawing on figures that truly inspire us as we go into the well of our own being can never be underestimated. These mirrors help us to see and identify ourselves. Of the many great persons that inspire me and move me to want become all that I can be, my two offspring, Josi and Arlene Ward, are at the top of the list. This is because of who they are.

What a nice metaphor for the value of what come out of one’s deep inner being. The womb of the Self for both male and female is a gestation and birthing place for all manner of surprises and miracles that inevitably, by nature, will be delivered to the world.

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