“I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people:  that each protects the solitude of the other.” Rainer Maria Rilke

When you share your home with other people, finding peaceful moments of solitude can sometimes be a challenge.  No matter how much we love our famiy and friends, we all need some quiet time to ourselves every now and again.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have the house to myself for the last few days, and suddenly realize that it’s been several months since I’ve had the chance to sit quietly by myself.  Until recently, I lived alone and spent entire days in quiet solitude, happily occupying myself with whatever little project struck my fancy.  But life has a way of moving on, whether you want it to or not, and I’m learning to adjust to having people around all the time.

I had planned, during these few days alone, to catch up on work that had fallen behind.  Instead, I found myself sitting quietly in the yard, feeling the fresh air on my skin and getting lost in the sounds and smells of a warm winter Florida day.  I find that if I sit quietly for a little while, I begin to actually hear the sounds that escape me when my brain is full of things I need to remember and places I need to go.  When I’m still, I can finally notice the delicate scent of the orange blossoms on my neighbor’s tree, and I have time to watch the kittens playing in the yard.  When was the last time you were able to just sit quietly all by yourself for even a few minutes?

When I take the time to sit quietly and just soak it all in, I notice a feeling coming back to me that I remember from childhood days spent lying in the grass, staring up at the sky.  Do you remember what that was like?  Remember when a summer afternoon felt like a whole lifetime?  There were no appointments, no bills, no worries.   The day seemed to go on forever.  On days like that, something very magical happens:  a single moment turns into eternity, and nothing exists in your world except for that one, peaceful slice of time.  Instead of skimming along the surface of life like you normally do, your entire being gets focused into that one moment, and time really does stand still.

If you’ve ever had moments like these, your memory of them is extremely vivid:  you remember the leaves on the trees, the sound of the waves, how the clouds moved in the sky, the temperature of the air on your skin, the exact shade of blue of the sky.  You can remember that moment, and instantly you’re back there in your mind, in full detail.  Moments like these are one of the greatest treasures we can give ourselves.  Five whole minutes of being completely still and totally present can recharge your body and your spirit in a very profound and lasting way.

When you live with other people, it can be difficult to find moments to be silent and alone.  Some people wake up very early, so that they can enjoy the quiet before everyone’s day begins.  I have a friend with four children who manages to find quiet time soaking in the tub at night after everyone else has fallen asleep.  I once had another friend who woke up regularly in the middle of the night to write poetry.  Yet another friend goes out to the beach every morning before work and just sits on the stairs for a few minutes staring out at the waves. Whatever strategy you need to find to carve out peaceful moments of solitude for yourself, you owe it to yourself to make it a priority.  Several minutes of quiet stillness every day will go a long way toward giving you a healthy perspective on your life’s drama, and the more distance you can put between yourself and whatever you think your problems are, the easier it becomes to recognize all that you have in your life to be grateful for.

And while you’re at it, give the gift of solitude to the people in your life.  If you sense they may need some time alone, conspire with them to make that happen.  Take the kids on an outing for an afternoon so they can have the house to themselves.  Don’t grumble and pout if they want to spend a day fishing or puttering around in the workshop instead of spending the day with you, even if you haven’t seen much of them this week.  Remember that you’re not the only person in their life, and if they need to be alone it may have absolutely nothing to do with you.

A quiet moment of peaceful solitude is one of life’s most valuable gifts.  Whenever you’re lucky enough to find some time for yourself, be sure to cherish it.  Sometimes just taking a minute to be completely grateful to be alive is the most important thing you can do for yourself.  And if time stands still in the process, well that’s just bonus.