In life, it’s perfectly natural to have doubts, or questions, or even just difficulties. The question is, what do you do with them? Do you suppress them, do you distract yourself from them, do you pretend they don’t exist? Or do you confront them directly, honestly, courageously? If you decide to do so, you will find that the answers to these dilemmas are not to be found on social media or in the news. They can only be found within—without distractions, without peer pressure, without conflicting opinions and fad solutions. They can only be found in solitude.
But let me be clear that solitude doesn’t have to mean a blissed-out meditation retreat focused on self-transcendence and introspection. I believes in the need to find yourself just as much as anyone does, but I believe the way to do it is through work. Solitary hard work. Concentration. Training for an event, building a house, cooking a meal, even reading a book.
For me, it's found in climbing mountains. Setting a seemingly insurmountable goal; planning, preparing and stepping into that goal. On a mountain, you climb, fall, get up again, fall again, feel hungry, exhausted, thirsty, cold, beat up, elated and terrified all at once. The process of being fully exposed and vulnerable to the elements changes you. Being both crushed and empowered by the reality of what you have taken on. Choosing to continuously step one foot in front of the other, for miles and hours and days, irregardless of how inspired or defeated you feel. Being in solitude, even in a group, each of you alone with your thoughts and your struggles, and making the push to keep going until you reach the summit.
It's glorious, looking out at the expanse of wilderness all around you, and realizing how small and finite and yet wonderfully capable and uniquely made you are. After enjoying the victory of having climbed to the top, briefly soaking up the sounds and smells and sensations of being so very alive in this great big world, inevitably you begin your decent. Because getting to the top, of course, is only part of the journey. And no one can stay there on the peak for long. You must come back down and reintegrate your newly expanded mind into the reality of life down below the mountain, where people have not been through as formative a transformation, nor will they fully understand your solitary experience on the mountain. Because we each have our own mountains. And this too offers an opportunity for solitude. Finding satisfaction and contentment within yourself to savor the experiences you've been given without the impulsive need to boast them, or have others approve of them, or force them on everyone you know. Changed by your own ability to embrace the process and make the time to hear your own voice so you may know yourself better, for your own benefit.