The Gift of Solitude

Winter morning at GCPark
Winter morning at my home in Virginia

In less than one week I’ll be on a plane to Cochabamba. Off to immerse myself in language school and get better prepared for the next step on my journey. Whatever that may be.

It’s crazy that I’m sitting here writing in the midst of all that I have to do before leaving, but this post feels important. Important to the journey that I am on. Because it keeps me honest. And vulnerable. And humble. All qualities I need.

I’ve had a lot of alone time over these past several months since returning home from El Paso. Lots of quiet time for reflection. And, as a result, for some painful stuff to show up too. Recently even more so when we had a foot and a half of snow and I really felt isolated in my house in the woods.

One thing about living in the midst of all this quiet — my shadow’s bound to show up. All those painful voices of my lower self that try to keep me small, hidden, and defended. Voices that try to make me believe that what my mind is telling me is true. That this is who I really am. Then my pride chimes in and says, I can’t believe you’re still dealing with these issues. They should be gone by now. Over and done with, thank you very much.

But that’s not how it goes.

I know from my years of studying with the Pathwork Transformation Program and with spiritual teachers of the past and present, like Teresa of Avila (14th century Carmelite nun and mystic) and Pema Chodron (contemporary Buddhist nun), that the secret is not to reject these parts of myself, but to embrace them. Yes, embrace them. And in doing so, find the gift they offer.


I’m still learning how to do this. That’s why I’m exactly where I’ve needed to be. In the silence and the solitude.

Joan Chittister says that “Silence is the gift that throws us back on ourselves. Which is exactly why there are so many who cannot bear the thought of it. Without external distractions, we are left vulnerable to the voices within that demand that we come to grips with all the pieces of the self we have so carefully concealed.” (Between the Dark and the Daylight)

That’s definitely been true for me. I’ve certainly been vulnerable to these voices, and some days it’s pretty challenging. But if I don’t jump up to turn on the TV, call someone, or dash out the door to go see a friend, if I can sit with the feelings and stay with the pain, I finally surrender. In this place of pain and helplessness, I surrender to my absolute need for God.

John Welwood writes in his book Journey of the Heart, which coincidentally is the same title as my blog:

“The profound question love poses is, ‘Can you face your life as it is; can you look at all the pain and darkness as well as the power and light in the human soul, and still say yes?’”

I know that if I am to promote love and compassion “out there,” I must first have them for myself. That means being able to say ‘yes’ to all the pain and darkness. Yes to embracing and loving all the parts of myself.

But in those tough moments, without an awareness of God’s loving Presence, I simply can’t do it. That’s when solitude is a gift.  Because in the absolute silence, Love makes me aware that there is nothing I need change or reject. I am the Beloved. I am already healed and whole. And everything is gift.



15 thoughts on “The Gift of Solitude

  1. Stephanie

    Godspeed Pauline! I wish you all the best and lots and lots of faith in your new journey. You will be a blessing to those you meet along the way.


  2. Connie Porter

    You have expressed so beautifully what I am also experiencing as I approach 75: the power and necessity of transformation. Awareness of one’s total dependence on the Source of everything is cerrtainly the prime key to ongoing transformation. Thanks for sharing with so much open vulnerable integrity. Love you,Connie


  3. Maureen Morrell

    A deep and beautiful reminder Pauline. Thanks for taking the time from your travel preparations to share this with us.

    Hope your trip is filled with wonderful adventures and you feel you are just where you need to be.

    Maureen (Morrell)


  4. Yes, indeed my friend, you are whole, and you are YOU: divinely, faithfully, lovingly, unique and special YOU. You are so loved, by God and by others. I am humbly blessed and thankful you are my friend. Love you lots.


  5. Sue Dougherty

    Thank you once again, Pauline.I think this is one of your most profound posts. I’m touched by your humility and the amazing truth of your recognition that we need to both embrace the darkness and be assured of the light of His unconditional love. You are indeed being prepared to minister to those “out there” with compassion and love. Godspeed, my friend.


  6. Pauline: You are about to board that plane, off into many knowns and many unknowns. Know one thing….for sure….God has His hands on you and will guide you during your six-week adventure. Listen closely, love quietly, feel everything, see the good, touch hearts, taste the experience and hear Him as he leads you into a different chapter of your life.


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