One reason we do sitting meditation is to strengthen our capacity to be with ourselves. It is, as has been said, a profound act of gentleness towards ourselves, because we allow ourselves to simply be, without any need to achieve or do. It is a calm moment, touching genuine natural calmness within. This development of our capacity to be alone with ourselves is a key to happiness, growth and to real relationships with others. It is not a surprise that all the major wisdom and religious traditions recommend setting aside time, or a day, to pause, rest and be with ourselves.

No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.

Henri Nouwen

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