Anne Lindbergh told the story of Andre Gide who was traveling fast through the jungles of Africa. One morning the native guides sat in a circle and refused to leave the camp. When Gide urged them to get moving they looked at him and with firmness said, “Don’t hurry us–we are waiting for our souls to catch up with us”
We live in a frenetic and connected world. We fear anonymity. Everyone wants to be known. We live chronically overscheduled. We conform without thought. And we lose our ability to be alone. Too many of us have left our souls far behind us.
I lived for 14 months on the side of a mountain above the vast Uncompahgre valley between Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado. I lived alone and spent much time by myself. Ouray has wonderful hot springs pools and I spent about 250 sessions in one of them. Sometimes I read. Other times I sat and thought. Once in a while I talked with another person.
My dog and I drove the 4-wheel drive mountain roads in the San Juan Mountains that surrounded Ouray. I photographed the mountains and the valleys. I took long and quiet walks on dirt roads and looked down on the farms and ranches in the valley. And I had authentic conversations with my friend whose home I shared and with clients who visited me. I felt connected to the life around me.
I grieved the loss of my mother, my mentor and my long marriage in the mountains. I thought about life and leadership and reflected on what really mattered to me. I went face to face with my inner demons, doubts and decisions to be made. I contemplated my values, vision and purpose. I deliberated about what, for me, constituted a life well lived.
This time in the mountains was a time to be alone and to slow down–a time for reflection and thought. I wanted time to think and ponder — to try to see the patterns and order of life in a chaotic world where making sense of so much nonsense may not be possible. The time of solitude in the mountains, away from conformity and on the edges of the systems of my life, brought forth new perspective and new possibilities for me. My commitment to my idealism grew stronger.
Time alone sowed the seeds of my next adventure. I felt new and deep stirrings. I felt connections grow stronger and deeper. I did not know where my new sense of calling would take me, but I would listen and heed the message because I must if I wanted to feel alive.
Creation requires the fear, discomfort and loneliness of separateness. In isolation we listen to our inner voice. Silent concentration and contemplation provide the place for connections to be made and insights to be gleaned. From quiet reflection inspiration grows, intuition surfaces, and understandings emerge. We reflect on our experiences and imagine possible future scenarios. Solitude became a comfortable friend.
I go too fast for my soul sometimes. My spirit gets angry. I need time to catch up with myself. I want time to think. I crave solitude. I look forward to upcoming extended time in the natural world.