The difference between solitude and loneliness is your state of mind. If you value peace and quiet, you can enjoy your own company as you pursue your own interests. If you value how others perceive you, you will see your isolation as a curse. The mind determines if the isolation is a positive experience of self-reflection or if it is a damaging trial of patience and yearning for human contact.
Reshaping the state of mind is the only thing that you should be focusing on if you need to leave loneliness behind and move to solitude. There are no tricks or life hacks to get over this hurdle, and you cannot face this problem on any other plane than within your mind. Working out in isolation and building your body will not bring the fulfillment it can truly offer until you deal with this, focusing on your hobbies or expanding your mind or growing spiritually does not change the fact that the root of the problem is in your perception of reality.
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”
The wild beasts enjoy their own company, but they can’t explain why. They follow their basic feelings, and these feelings show them that they are most comfortable and productive in solitude. The Gods of Men found their place in solitude through rigorous introspection and determined that the tribe was only holding them back from what they truly desired. Both the wild beast and the God found peace of mind, but the foundations of the beast are weaker than the God’s.
Facing these ideas and honestly looking at your dependence on external validation is required for you to never be lonely again. While this is dealt with in your mind, your physical surroundings influence your perception of reality. If you are in a restaurant alone, are you insecure and lonely as couples and families enjoy a meal around you, or are you content with the meal prepared for you? If you see a couple walking towards you on the street, do you feel pangs of jealousy at their companionship, or are you savoring your freedom?
Once you enter solitude, it is an eternal state. You may enjoy the company of friends, or the loyalty of a dog, or the companionship of a girlfriend or casual relationship, but these relationships should not change your independence from external validation. The friends will go their separate ways, the dog will die, the woman will leave or force you to leave to preserve your freedom, you cannot become dependent on these things because they are temporary, whereas your solitude is with you until your final day.
The act of solitude is practiced every waking moment, no matter your surroundings. Being surrounded by people at your workplace, at your school, in your community, you are always on your own path, separate from the tribe. Solitude is not just the physical practice of isolation, it is a mental separation from what ties everyone else to the rat race. It is freeing yourself of the cycle so that you can enjoy the short amount of time you have left and to explore things at your own pace.
When you begin to feel pain from your isolation, when you feel a yearning for something that you don’t have, then you are lonely. Your loneliness can only be cured by another person or thing, so you are dependent on something outside of your control and require external validation. This removes all of your power because you have to play by someone else’s rules and are operating within nature’s boundaries. If you are curing your loneliness with a woman, you have to do what she says because you need her more than she needs you. She can find another partner because you are expendable and a utility, but you have placed your dependence on her shoulders, and leaving the relationship would leave you in a state of loneliness and agony. And so men put up with things any sane man in solitude would laugh at.
You can still enjoy company and love those close to you, but nature will remove them eventually. Being dependent on their existence allows nature to dictate your state of mind and your actions. The act of detaching yourself from the physical realm is a long journey, but essential to reaching solitude.
Even more difficult is detaching yourself from your own thoughts. The ego you have built with your mind was built with the ideas of external validation. Letting go of ideas and allowing your mind to move beyond the walls you have placed in your own path requires isolation and meditation, but once you have achieved this, you are closer to reaching solitude than the overwhelming majority of all humans that ever lived.
There are many milestones that you may encounter than can be indicators of where you are on your path to reaching solitude and escaping loneliness. Operating in the physical realm with no self-doubt, drifting through social situations with the grace of the wind and not being disturbed by people’s perceptions and judgments of your path are all signs that you are leaving the realm that everyone else operates within and are moving on to something greater.
Being able to entertain ideas that not only hurt, but absolutely destroy the ego as it was made before your journey to solitude is essential. When you can acknowledge your own faults and see how every action you took was in the pursuit of someone else’s path, you can begin to lay the stones on your path and learn to walk for the first time.
When you can accept criticism and remain steadfast, you have entered the impenetrable fortress of solitude. Simply ignoring what people may say is not enough, you have to honestly consider where they are coming from. If you ignore and shun them, you are afraid at the damage it might do to the ego you are reshaping. If you accept their perspective, which is tied to external validation, and compare it to your independence from their validation, it will bounce right off as you continue about your purpose. If it does not, then it just shows that you still have work to do, which is a blessing in itself. You need to constantly test your boundaries so you know that you are truly protected in your solitude.
Don’t feel pressured if your path takes longer than you thought. It took me a long time to overcome ideas of loneliness and to accept solitude, but yours may be longer. No matter where your path takes you, as long as you remain on the path, you can never be truly lost.