Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote “your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.”
To spend time alone is a precious way to reset and resource. To have solo time in nature, is even more transformational for our energy, wellbeing, perspective and creativity.
Yet many of us don’t do it. And even avoid being on our own – busying our time with activities and perhaps drama. As poet David Whyte recognises “the first step in spending time alone is to admit how afraid of it we are”.
Sometimes, we just need the encouragement to stop doing, and go into nature to just be.
Dedicated solo time is one of the most appreciated and transformational aspects of the leadership programmes I help run at Impact. We tend to keep it as a surprise and when we disclose to the participants that they will be spending 2 hours alone on a hill side, it is met with trepidation, intrigue, resistance – or on the odd occasion, a plea of “can we have more time?”. For one particular executive programme, the participants are asked to reflect on their leadership in solitude, in nature, without distractions of watches or phones. It is a simple action or rather non-action, which proves to be a turning point for many.
For example, in his reflections, a senior executive realised he felt guilty for taking time out for himself, and had the insight that “If I don’t care for myself, I can’t care for others”. The experience completely changed his philosophies and leadership practice. Another senior manager came up with his own motto and a commitment, which he named “888”, no work before 8am, no work after 8pm and aim for 8 hours sleep. One described how her mission “just came to me while I was sitting there”. Others simply and profoundly realise how important is having time to think.
Back at home in Mallorca, I have started offering ‘solo together’ sessions whereby I invite people to come and experience a 2 hour solo, but which begins and ends as a group. It is not done in the context of a leadership programme, but just as curious individuals with their own intentions and open to the experience. Some want to have this thinking time, some have a specific issue they want to contemplate. Some are just curious about what happens. Here is feedback from two recent participants:
"As somebody who finds keeping still very difficult, the Solo Together showed me how beneficial solitude (without distractions!) can be. Guided by the lovely Penny and safe in the knowledge that my companions were close by, my very active brain was able to rest and focus on more creative thoughts. I returned home energised and determined to make the effort to really get away from it all more often. Thank you!” (Participant)
“The Solo Together was a fantastic experience. A small group, with an accessible (not strenuous) walk to a lovely clearing, where we all experienced 2 hours in nature alone, yet knowing others were close. A powerful experience to slow down and connect with the self. The facilitation was just right to gain from the experience. Will definitely be attending again, and highly recommend for all (participant)”
Solo time - how will you make space for it in your life?
Whyte, D. (2016) Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words”, Many Rivers Press, USA