Love · Meditation · Nature

Finding solitude where our hearts can grow in love


“The only cure for loneliness is solitude. This is my companion. I go to the hills and hide myself there. The trees shelter me. I am contained within a wilderness, and the wilderness in my heart grows to match it. My heart is as spacious as the wild around me. Yes I’m alone. But I am good. I am very good.”

~ David Hayward

Here’s sharing this contemplative artwork and the accompanying quote above. It is intriguing to read that “the only cure for loneliness is solitude”. I realise there is a difference between the two – loneliness is a heart condition of feeling insignificant and neglected by the surrounding people because one has momentarily lost sight of one’s own significance and inherent value and preciousness, whereas solitude is a deliberate decision to retreat from the surrounding people in order to recover one’s sense of self-identity and purpose in life. Jesus, for example, would withdraw from the crowds regularly to spend time alone in Nature to pray, presumably so that he could get back in tune with his own spirit and experience oneness with the universe all over again.

I like what David Hayward wrote here: “The trees shelter me. I am contained within a wilderness, and the wilderness in my heart grows to match it. My heart is as spacious as the wild around me”. Yes, in Nature, we reconnect ourselves to the endless expanse of our soul as reflected in the wild around us – the heights of the hills, the shelter of the trees, the stillness of the lake and the vastness of the sky all remind us of the magnificence and creativity and greatness that is inherent in us, and rekindle our hopes and dreams, and reinvigorate us to live life again with zest. I find this to be true when doing my own things, such as going to the library or going up to the rooftop of the office building and gaze at the clouds in the sky. There is a time for fellowship and interacting with people, and a time for solitude and contemplation for our own soul nourishment and refreshment.

Finding Solitude

All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

8 thoughts on “Finding solitude where our hearts can grow in love

    1. Yes, this reminds me of a quote:
      “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs.

      Thank you for your encouraging comment too.

      Peace and blessings.

  1. Oh this is such familiar territory for me!! All of my life, loneliness has been my constant companion…it was Nouwen’s book, Reaching Out, that first helped me to identify the constant tug of war going on inside of me between loneliness and solitude. It was a baffling frustrating reality, how one moment I would be enjoying the profound beauty and serenity of solitude, and the next minute, it would turn into excruciating loneliness, and I never knew what made the difference. It took me a lifetime – no, I’m still learning, not there yet – to figure out the right balance of social community and soul-nourishing solitude. The trick for me is to find that serenity of solitude right here wherever I am, not just in a specific place (though nature has its own healing presence, doesn’t it!) Anyway, thank you for this…your posts are so gentle and light-full…God shines His light here. Thank you.

    1. I can certainly relate to that – both the desert experience of the billowing winds of bitter loneliness as well as the garden experience of the delightful blossom of flowering solitude. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for your kind words. I would like to share this poem that I feel is apt for this topic on solitude. I came to know about this wonderful poet through my best friend.

      “May you recognize in your life, the presence, power and light of your soul.
      May you realize that you are never alone,
      That your soul in its brightness and belonging
      connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
      May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
      May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,
      that you have a special destiny here,
      That behind the facade of your life
      there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
      May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”

      John O’Donohue (1956-2008)
      (from Anam Cara)

      1. Thank you so much…I can tell that you understand. The poem is beautiful and timely, and is a tender answer to a wept prayer prayed only an hour ago. He really does want us to know how beautiful and beloved we are, doesn’t He…I don’t always remember to remember, yet He finds ways to shine reminders through the people along our daily path. Thank you for this, for being open and kind and conduit for His Light. I will be going to sleep with these words in my heart.

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