Solitude is an elusive thing that needs to find us rather than us finding it. We tend to picture solitude in a naïve way as something that we can “soak ourselves in” as we would soak ourselves in a warm bath. We tend to picture solitude this way: We are busy, pressured, and tired. We finally have a chance to slip away for a weekend. We rent a cabin, complete with a fireplace, in a secluded woods. We pack some food, some wine, and some soft music and we resist packing any phones, iPads, or laptops. This is to be a quiet weekend, a time to drink wine by the fireplace and listen to the birds sing, a time of solitude.
But solitude cannot be so easily programmed. We can set up all the optimum conditions for it, but that is no guarantee we will find it. It has to find us, or, more accurately, a certain something inside of us has to be awake to its presence. Solitude is not something we turn on like a water faucet. It needs a body and mind slowed down enough to be attentive to the present moment. We are in solitude when, as Thomas Merton says, we fully taste the water we are drinking, feel the warmth of our blankets, and are restful enough to be content inside our own skin.
Ron Rolheiser, Longing for Solitude