Embodying Solitude

Chapter 8 of the Bodhicaryavatara is all about perfecting meditative absorption. It speaks of the criticality of reflection unto oneself, in disassociating from worldly distractions. Within the text, one verse stuck out to me: “Thus one should recoil from sensual desires and cultivate delight in solitude, in tranquil woodlands empty of contention and strife” (85).

As I read that verse, I could not help but think of its relevance to current events, of how universal the feeling of solitude is during this time. With the mandatory stay-at- home order throughout the nation, I had told myself that this solitude would become an opportunity for me to focus on my mind and body. A time for reflection and healing. Like the verse had said, I imagined this solitude to produce an equanimity that I desperately needed in this time of uncertainty. But I had hoped that this would come naturally. By resting and taking care of myself that that calmness and delight would sprout organically. But now that I’ve been dealing with this solitude for weeks now, I have realized how crucial it is to be deliberate in engaging with my solitude. In reality, I have been partaking in solitude, not embodying it. From now on, I want to interact with my solitude that directly demands my actions and mentality. Like verse 88 posits, “One’s conduct and dwelling are one’s own choice. Bound to none, one enjoys that happiness and contentment which even for a king is hard to find”.

2 thoughts on “Embodying Solitude”

  1. Samuel, I find that I face a similar issue. As days pass, the inclination to evoke “self-care” comes and goes. Some days, it is difficult to workout and be motivated (especially, when alone). As long as quarantine is maintained, I am finding that it is essential that I deliberately engage in solitude(as you said). It is a constant choice to remain engaged.

  2. Interesting how Śāntideva notes that happiness and contentment are difficult “even for a king.” People seem to crave power but power often comes at a cost. Maintaining close human relations when you are extremely busy or powerful seems uniquely difficult. What do we want for ourselves? Does money matter more, or friendliness? Can we imagine being happy in a modest home with a loving family? Or do we need a mansion with tons of servants and big empty rooms?

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