Monday, January 18, 2010

Solitude - How can we get some?

When we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death - ourselves. ~Eda LeShan

Being alone may be frightening for some, or seemingly impossible to obtain for others. But solitude is to me, one of the most important elements of personal growth. I love the company of others - friends, family, companions - but I like my own company just as much, if not better. I enjoy not needing to talk, not needing to explain, and not needing to be concerned about the welfare of anyone but myself. It gives me time to think and to feel, to create or do nothing, if I so choose.

As women we often feel that having time on our own is selfish, or not the right thing to do. Without it though, we risk becoming nothing but a machine, programmed to churn out everything for everyone else, leaving us no energy or no will to become one with ourselves. No time to just sit and question, 'Who am I?', or 'What do I want to become?'.

Our ancestors had the answer. Many of you may have heard of 'menstruation huts', 'red tents' or 'moon lodges'. In ancient times, women were honoured and revered when it was their time to bleed, and during this part of the month, many retreated to their huts or lodges. Food was brought to them, and they were given time off from homely duties, thus giving them time to turn inward. Time for solitude. Most women cycled together (as some women who live together today do), bleeding on the new moon and ovulating at the full moon. This meant that their chores and duties were left to the men and to the children who were old enough to take on these responsibilities. This was part of life. Menstruation wasn't a curse, or an inconvenience. Women were considered magical beings who could bleed for days without dying, when warriors would fall with a single wound! Ancient women had days alone, in solitude, and it was expected of them. It was healing. It gave them the rejuvenation they needed to be able to work hard for the other 3 weeks of the month.

I can't always get time alone. Sometimes I rarely get time to think! Life is busy, and life as a mother of three is hectic! It's not practical these days to expect that we can shut ourselves off for 4 to 5 days a month. We work, we raise families and we run our homes. Today we don't live in communally, and mainstream thought processes are different. We are expected to just 'get on with it'! I wonder how many of our pre-menstrual symptoms, and things like cramping would be eliminated if we were allowed the time our ancestors had? Food for thought...

Anyway, from now on, I am giving myself permission to rest and rejuvenate when my cycle tells me to. The house won't run itself, but I will choose what gets done and what doesn't. What doesn't get done, will wait. I will use those days to reflect, to sit and read, to quietly let my body do what women's bodies have been doing since the beginning of time. I will harness the solitude in small pieces - 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there - and use them to carry me along peacefully.


  1. How did our ancestors have the answer to solitude when they sat in those huts together? Isn't the whole purpose of solitude to be alone?

    Personally I withdraw from the world once a month - take in an hour or so a day in the garden alone, just reflecting on the sensations of my body. Sometimes it makes me angry but mostly amazed at the sensations of life.

  2. I think we can be alone in our thoughts but still be around others. The fact that the huts contained women only, all at the same point in their cycle, would have created a very healing and calming energy anyway, regardless of the women not necessarily doing it alone. Each culture would have done it differently too. Some may have had their own huts, others would have gathered collectively. Either way, the objective was to remove themselves from the greater society and turn inward.

  3. It has to be built into your day and made a non-negotiable part of your daily rhythm ... which takes commitment and practice ... and I haven't quite achieved it yet, but I am getting better :)

    I love being alone, and I crave a whole weekend alone more than I crave a family holiday!

  4. Oh Jen, wouldn't that be just wonderful! I've been trying to plan something like that for years. Mother guilt always gets in the way.

  5. I keep telling people there is a huge difference in being alone and being lonely. I love my own company and am happy to sit and be by myself most times. It gives me a chance to really think without having two noisy kids running around!