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February 10, 2020

from On the Arts, by Naomi Beth Wakan

Solitude isn’t loneliness; it’s different. With solitude, you belong to yourself. With loneliness, you belong to no one. You choose solitude, you drift into loneliness. When you experience loneliness, you’re not happy about being alone; the reverse is true when you experience solitude. Solitude is a paradox, for in its depths one realizes that, though alone, one is linked to everything.

Loneliness is being painfully alone, existing in an impoverished state, and feeling that the action is always somewhere over there. I remember after a long meditation period abroad, on the liner coming home, friends knocked on my cabin door and asked me why I wasn’t where the action was. I recall telling them, “The action is here.” On looking back, I see that moment as a very liberating one. Isolation kills. It can certainly tip one into illness. The obvious one is depression, and anxiety follows on its heels. 

Solitude is the enriched state of being alone. But it is not just being on your own. Solitude is you experiencing yourself, providing yourself with sufficient company. You can attain the state of solitude by having a certain independence from day-to-day matters. We need solitude to find a balance that daily life knocks askew. 

—Naomi Beth Wakan, On the Arts

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