When was the last time you were alone, I mean really alone, with out distractions, noises, other people, or traffic to occupy your thoughts and senses. When did you last really get away from it all and withdraw to a place where you were "all alone" with only your thoughts to occupy your time? Most people find little time or inclination to seek out a place or time to be alone.
We seem to have this need to be doing something, going somewhere, and to constantly seek the companionship of other people. It's as if we are truly afraid to be all by ourselves. Society seems to demand that we not be alone or to occupy ourselves too much in introspection. It's almost as if there's some stigma attached to the whole concept of solitude, that a person alone is somehow losing or missing something, or even dangerous.
The fact of the matter is that we need moments and times of solitude. One of the annual pleasures I enjoyed in New York was a fall hunting trip a friend and I made every year to the Adirondak Mountains. (Lest I alarm anyone, we never shot anything, but it was our reason for this sojourn to the wilderness.) We drove the 200+ miles to a place called Long Lake, backpacked 3-4 miles into the woods and set up camp for a week.
During the entire week we were there we never saw another human, heard any traffic, or anything else that would remind us that others existed. We didn't take a radio, cell phone, or any other means of contact with the rest of the world. We pitched our tent, and after the first day we were sufficiently innured from the "outside world" that we could truly relax. Once you are 4 miles removed from all the trappings of society you hear sounds that you never paid attention to before - you don't need the clamor of society to realize and appreciate that you're alive.
We would have breakfast in the morning and my buddy, who loved to hike, would strike off for the day. I more prefered to find a clearing, pick a comfortable place to sit, and stay in one spot for a couple of hours. For the larger part of each day we were each of us as alone as you can get. I spent my time reflecting on various things, and enjoying the sounds and sights of nature around me, inevitably being truly thankful for this respite from the rest of life.
One of the things that I grew to appreciate was the fact that even in my solitude, I came to know that I was never all alone - God was with me in every step I took. It was a palpable presence, and I could hear His whispers in the wind, the rustle of leaves, or a chipmunk scampering by, unbothered by my presence. Even in the dark, once the campfire had died down, I knew He was there speaking to me if I had the ears to listen. It brought to me a blissful sence of peace and gratitude.
We haven't taken that annual trip for a good number of years now, and while I miss it, I have found other ways and means to find and enjoy moments of solitude. I've also learned that you needn't travel 300 miles and hike into the wilderness to do so, although I would highly reccomend it. I can now enjoy solitude by meditating for even 20 minutes during the day. I have learned to shut out the distractions for this little bit of time in order to be truly alone and to contemplate the universe in all it's wonder.
We always returned from these trips refreshed, rejuvinated, and somehow a little different for having had the luxury of getting away. My outlook was always more optimistic, hopeful and appreciative. I also, more importantly, felt a closer kinship with God and the world. If you feel stressed, unsatisfied, or just exhausted from your day to day life, consider finding a place and time to enjoy even a few little moments of solitude. Doing so could bring to to you that same sence of quietude that promises peace in all you do.