Thursday, January 24, 2013

Four Days of Solitude

The last two days of 2012 and the first two days of 2013 I gave myself the good gift of staying at home for four solid days.  I didn't leave the house once.   It was wonderful—peaceful, relaxing, creative, inspiring, and reflective.  I live alone so I'm use to and enjoy my alone time.  I teach 165 middle school students and am in a building with approximately 800  of these middle school students Monday through Friday, so evenings and weekends I often only want the quiet company of myself.  I savor the silence. I delight in the minimal decision making.  I practice mindfulness with the still life of the home I have created for myself. 

Mindfulness is certainly easier when you live alone and need to only pay attention to yourself.  Being able to practice mindfulness wholeheartedly without interruption except of my own devising is one of the reasons I like living alone.  I like people and I like spending time with people.  Some days, like these four days at home, I just prefer being with only myself more.   I have lived with people and I enjoyed it.  I would enjoy living with a roommate again or a boyfriend who becomes my partner again, but right now, as Henry David Thoreau states, I haven't “found the companion that [is] so compatible as solitude.”    

Each morning I woke up  at 5 a.m. without an alarm clock.  I felt refreshed and optimistic and at ease.  I sat in front of my fireplace,  drank two cups of coffee, and read five chapters from Walden, my favorite book ever since I first read it when I was in the tenth grade and my high school English teacher and drama coach, Mrs. N. (Peggy Noskowiak nee Killoren), gave it to me in 1986.  It's her copy from college,  complete with sentences she underlined and paragraphs she bracketed and asterisked.  I've read the book five times, more than any other book I've read.  I'm a Thoreauvian.

Before each morning dawned,  I went upstairs to my bedroom where I keep my meditation cushion and I sat mindfully for twenty five minutes.  I paid attention to my breathing, the steadfast sign that we are alive and the ready reminder of the present moment.  I listened to the clock ticking in the nearby master bathroom.  I silenced my mind when it began to wander, relatively quiet from the tranquility I had created and the early morning stillness of thought.  I watched the morning light slowly and softly fill the room.   

By choice, I had no company.  I talked to only one friend on the phone for about twenty minutes.  I texted only seven friends and family members on New Year's Eve and Day.  I stayed offline.  I watched TV once—CBS Sunday Morning.  I watched the last four episodes of Doctor Who: Season Seven, Part One on DVD, my favorite TV show ever since I watched my first episode in 1985. I've seen every episode and many of them multiple times.  I'm a Whovian. 

I drank tea.  I read. I wrote.  I prepared and ate meals with mindfulness.

On New Year's Eve day, around two o'clock, I opened a bottle of my favorite white wine, Kim Crawford's Sauvignon Blanc and kicked off my Zen party for one.  I listened to my current favorite CD, Ultra Lounge Bossa Novaville.  I made habernero enchiladas. I wrote in my journal and reflected upon and celebrated the past year.  I took my last sip of wine right before midnight, wished myself and the universe,happy new year, and went to bed, falling asleep quickly since it was two hours past by bedtime and I was up late partying zen style. 

On New Year's Day I spend most of the day reading and I also wrote in my journal again, this time looking forward into 2013—milestones I hope to create, things I hope to do, accomplishments I hope to achieve, things I hope to be thankful for, and what I hope to learn.  It's all about hope.  Hope for a happy new year and hope for a happy life.  Hope is the seed of a plan and a plan is the seed of action and action is the seed of reality.  Or as George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Imagination is the beginning of creation.  You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will.”  

We only take delight in what we have when we notice it; when we become mindful of the moments.  I attempted to do that as often as possible during my four day retreat.  Sequestering myself from the world——from other people and screens and online reality—time slowed down, and at the same time, time seemed fleeting.  Either way, those four days were a drop of water in the bucket of water called my life, and I'm glad I got the drop. 

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