I strive to become a recluse. It is something I am working on fully achieving. I work at it each day. Being comfortable and even happy alone. It takes work.
Fully achieving becoming a recluse may be different than how you think of it. I don’t want to become the kind of recluse you most likely have embedded in your mind.
I have wanted to be a recluse for most of my life. When I went on a river rafting trip with my father at the age of 14 or 15 I saw a hermit’s shack on the edge of the river. When my father described to me who lived there and what a hermit was, I knew that I wanted to be that when I grew up.
I am an introverted kind of guy. I like social interaction but only for brief periods. I can only handle so much of people. Also, if my social interaction is not deep, if it is more superficial, I am very drained by it. Because most human interaction tends to be more superficial, I prefer to limit the amount I interact with other people.
I would rather listen to records, read, write, make art, meditate- spend my time doing things that feel like they have more depth.
Being a recluse means being comfortable, engaged and satisfied alone. A recluse does not seek out being social. It is nice being social sometimes, but given the choice a recluse would prefer being alone, doing things they like to do on their own. A recluse values an environment where no one is talking so that they can be more focused on their own inner state.
I suppose you can say that the recluse is interested in self-realization rather than social-realization. But in American culture social-realization is what is valued. You should be social. You need to be social. You need to get out and do things. If you don’t you are missing out. This is what we are taught and told from a very young age.
People who are not that social are labeled anti-social. They are made to feel like they are doing something wrong and unhealthy. A person can develop real guilt and shame around wanting to be alone. As a result, when a person is alone they end up feeling lonley.
For the longest time I have struggled with being more introverted and reclusive. I have felt bad about it. I have felt like I am missing out on having fun with other people. I have felt lonely because I am alone. These are all normal things people who prefer to be alone most of the time go through. Admitting that you want to be a recluse, that you prefer your solitude is almost a taboo in America. Something about it feels very un-American even though America has a rich history of recluses and hermits.
Fully embracing being a recluse has been a struggle for me. My daily practice of meditation has certainly helped me to feel more comfortable in my solitude and aloneness. Meditation has allowed me to develop a deep and rich relationship with myself, which is necessary for the recluse to have. For a long time I did not have this deeper relationship with myself. When I was alone I felt lonely.
Lonliness can happen with people or without them. Loneliness is the result of not being comfortable with yourself. It is the result of being dependent on others to make you feel better. It is possible to be alone and never feel lonely. Aloneness without lonliness is called solitude.
And now that I have cultivated being alone, I prefer solitude. I look forward to solitude. I find solitude to be very enriching, calming and want more of it.
I have a wife. I run a business. For ten years I have been working a highly social job where I have to interact at deep and often painful levels with people. I think that because of the exhaustion this caused, I was compelled to seek out more solitude.
To be in the world but not of the world. This is what the recluse lives by. I still want to work with other people. I still want to spend time with my wife and with family and friends. But spending time in solitude has become more of a priority for me. I need it.
Being a recluse means that I spend more time in solitude than I do not. When I am done working or spending time with people, I return back into solitude. It is the return to solitude that is important to me. I do not need solitude all the time. Normally we think of a recluse as someone who has completely withdrawn from the world. Maybe one day, but for now I am comfortable just seeking out more extended periods of solitude between the noise.
As a recluse, I cultivate these moments of solitude like a farmer cultivates crops. I contemplate, meditate, write, listen and engage “my soul” (for lack of a better word) in a deeper way. These moments of solitude generate something very enriching within me that allows me to be more present for people. But like all recluses, there is only so much I can give to other people before I really need to be alone.
Becoming the kind of recluse that I want to be means knowing when I have given enough, when I am done seeking approval, interaction or acknowledgement from other people and then feeling good about withdrawing from the world, back into my own quiet space where I can do the things I like to do most.