Alone Time

Question: How can I reconcile my desire for alone time with the Course's emphasis on joining? I really like to spend time alone, especially in quiet meditation. Yet it seems to me that the Course frowns on this, since it emphasizes joining with others. How can I reconcile my desire for alone time with the Course's emphasis on joining?

Answer: The Course certainly does not object to our spending time alone. True, it does emphasize joining, but it also has a very positive view of stillness and silence. So many of the Workbook practices are about stilling the mind. The introduction to Review I of the Workbook says the exercises in that review "should be done with your eyes closed and when you are alone in a quiet place, if possible" (W-pI.RI.In.3:3). The Workbook teaches three different forms of meditation, and I'm sure the author assumes that most of the time we'll be doing those meditations by ourselves. (Though he also smiles on the idea of doing them with others—see W-pI.183.5:4.)

Moreover, we can join with our brothers in our minds, even when we're physically alone. In a paragraph that debunks our conventional beliefs, the Course's author says, "You really think you are alone unless another body is with you" (W-pI.76.3:4)—clearly implying that you are actually not alone, even when another body is not with you. Indeed, one of the most powerful joining experiences of my life came while I was on a three-day solitary retreat. My mind experienced an amazing joining with God and my brothers, even though I was physically alone.

I think the key question to ask regarding time alone is the question the Course would have us ask of everything: "What is it for?" (T-17.VI.2:2). Do I want to be alone because I'm listening to my ego and want to distance myself from all those annoying people out there (this is true for me sometimes), or because I'm listening to the Holy Spirit and He really wants me to spend some peaceful time in solitude? There's no one right answer to this question—in one instance it might be ego, in another it might be Holy Spirit.

So, listen within, try to discern your motivation for being alone, ask the Holy Spirit what to do, and go from there. And when you are guided to do so, enjoy those wonderful times alone in the stillness of the peace of God.

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