As the dying embers of 2011 fade away into the rising horizon of January and the increasing frigid temperatures experienced in northern climes, it is a good opportunity to turn-about from all the crazed excessiveness of the holiday turmoil and just gently settle-in to the contemplative dimension that Winter Stillness can offer, namely Solitude itself. Usually when one considers solitude, images of locations that offer seclusion and solace from all sensory stimulations—like monasteries, temples, retreat centers, a mountain escape—immediately come to mind that define the exact parameters of what constitutes solitude. Having experienced such “retreat” locations in the past—for many years I frequented a Carmelite House of Prayer that was neatly nestled in the majestic mountains of New Hampshire—I can say with certainty that it was good and healthy and spiritually nourishing to frequent this setting from time to time to relish in the quietude it so graciously offered; yet, what about the other 99% of the time—is solitude necessarily defined by a location?
It is so easy to fall into the trap that “holy places” alone defines what is necessary, even a prerequisite, for one to thoroughly embrace a meditative and spiritual life. When one seriously reflects on this, however, it is clearly evident that the trap is sprung for falling into the darkest hole of materialism itself. Secluded locations can be nice for that spirit of reverie, yet they do not in and of themselves define the essential nature of solitude. If solitude is predicated on location, then it is materialistically dependent. Solitude is an inner-affair and is not an objective singularity. One can experience as much solitude walking down a darkened street alone at night as a secluded Carthusian monk does within his isolated cell. A Soto-Zen monk sitting on his zafu twirling his mala is not somehow spiritually superior to someone preparing breakfast for the kids on a frigid January morning. Solitude is not a particular location—indeed it is location-less and is a cultivation of that Recollective Resolve to remain centered in the Unborn at all times, irregardless of exterior temperament.
May the Unborn Spirit quieten your anxious mind so that you may truly cultivate your own sense of solitude in 2012—another imagined year in your apparent mind-realm.