About solitude

In the quotation from Uwais al Qarani, recently posted here, we are told that ‘safety lies in solitude.’ This would mean safety in the spiritual sense. No doubt, life in the unstable, unpredictable physical world provokes anxieties, and we often worry about security, self-protection, the provision of basic necessities, loss of our possessions, and our health. Nevertheless, from the spiritual point of view our physical safety is much less significant than our search for truth. Even with every precaution, what we enjoy on the physical plane may be snatched away without warning, between one breath and the next, whereas the truth, once discovered, will shine eternally through all circumstances.

It is not surprising, then, that the solitude counselled by Uwais al Qarani is not physical, but spiritual. ‘Taking solitude literally is a mistake,’ he says. Going into the desert or hiding in a remote cave isn’t the answer; by solitude, he means holding only one being in our heart, the Only Being, or to put it in another way, being alone with God.

It is a thought understood by the wise in all ages. In Gayan, Boulas, Hazrat Inayat Khan says, “There is no better companion than solitude,” and, “Wisdom is attained in the solitude,” while in Vadan, Alankaras, we find : “Alone on the sea, alone on land, in the crowd and in solitude alone I stand.”

But how do we attain such a condition? The average person, when worn out by the stress of a busy day, may want to retreat into their own ‘space’, so to speak – but what then? Most often the hand reaches for a telephone or tablet, or perhaps a book, a film, a game or a hobby, and some music is set to play, so that before one knows it the solitude has become filled with still more activity. Many people, because their inner space is unexplored, are unable to be alone in it.

In the Sufi understanding, the spiritual journey begins with the awakening of a Divine ideal, and as this grows and becomes more living for us, the beauty draws us inward. We are subject to distractions, though; we can be easily seduced by the superficial, and that is why we need to heed the advice of Uwais al Qarani.

If we have been able to assimilate some of the lessons of the path of discipleship, (described in numerous posts of the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, beginning here) our inner solitude can be protected by an attunement to our guide. When we find our inner focus is distracted by roaming thoughts, it is possible to place an image of the guide at the doorway of the heart, and that link of sympathy will help to foster the solitude which is, in truth, the longing of every soul.

That could explain why, in the Invocation, we affirm that we make the journey to the Only Being ‘united with all the illuminated souls.’

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