A Place of Self-Emptying

Solitude is not the same as withdrawal, which has negative connotations. Solitude has positive qualities. In solitude, I stopped running from myself and became friends with myself; solitude gives me space to enjoy my own company. In solitude, I learned that I am not alone; moreover, it taught me there is no such thing as aloneness. Spiritual growth, for most of us, does not come from fleeing the world, but from entering into it fully. However, for the sake of our spiritual health, we each need periods of solitude. And we also need to develop an inner solitude that can be entered no matter where we are.

Entering into solitude with the idea of affirming ourselves, separating oneself from others, even interiorly, in order to be different, or by intensifying one’s individual self-awareness is not in harmony with the purity required for spiritual growth. For the Christian, pure solitude is a place of self-emptying in order to experience union with Christ; in the interior abyss we become detached from our petty false self and open ourselves up to the vastness of the Infinite Presence.

Henri J.M. Nouwen said: “Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self.”

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