Solitude vs. Meditation
by Joe Cachey aka, Yogijoe
At a recent conference I heard a number of people discuss the pleasure of meditating while they ran, gardened or played golf. It was clear that everyone enjoyed these activities and they had an overall calming and serene effect. It’s wonderful to engage in an activity with one’s own self and be comfortable with this alone time but that’s not meditating, it’s actually enjoying solitude.
Solitude and meditation are often confused by beginning practitioners. Many beginning meditators find the practice uncomfortable and difficult. They seemingly can’t “quiet their mind” by sitting and feeling their breath. Wanting to experience peace but frustrated, they typically turn to a solitary activity to achieve a semblance of peace of mind. While such activities produce a benefit, the practitioner is shortchanging themselves and their long-term experience.
Solitude is the separation of oneself from others. In the negative it can produce a feeling of isolation and abandonment (think “solitary confinement”). In the positive it can foster calm, a sense of self and peace. In today’s hyperactive and over connected world, there are tremendous benefits to finding some solitary time to enjoy an activity and unravel from the world’s demands. Solitude, by definition, can only produce a benefit if we are alone. Therefore, while solitary activity can make us feel good, it’s not meditation.
Meditation is the singular engagement of the mind. Its purpose is not to produce “peace of mind” or a pleasant feeling in the practitioner (although these can be ancillary benefits). Its primary objective is to familiarize ourselves with our thinking thereby creating an ongoing awareness of our thoughts, emotions and feelings. Once awareness is achieved we can become mindful of ourselves throughout the day. Awareness and mindfulness, when practiced, can lead us to peace of mind and serenity. And unlike solitude, they can be practiced continuously as we engage with other people and the challenges life throws at us.
Don’t shortchange yourself, give meditation a sustained try. Solitude and meditation are not mutually exclusive. I love working in my garden after engaging in my morning meditative practice. While both activities lower my blood pressure, only meditation allows me to remain calm in the middle of a tense conversation or be mindful enough to practice patience in the grocery line. To learn more about meditation you can attend my kundalini yoga class at the Sanctuary (Tuesdays at 7am) and visit my website, www.yogijoe.com by clicking here