Spiritual Sisters

Spiritual Healing Serene Salad

Spiritual Voices Creativity Bakery

Spiritual Inspiration TeaRoom

Inner Sanctuary Growth Brew

Spirituality In The WorkPlace

Spiritual Parenting PlayRoom

Angels Miracles & Noble Deeds

Spirituality Message Boards

Having Your Cake and Solitude Too - Chef's Choice Four Our last Question of the Month, submitted by �Dual Citizen� of Beaverton, Oregon, asked our Spiritual Sisters and Brothers to explore the ways that 20- and 30-somethings with spouses, kids and careers can partake of �splendid solitude� -- even as we enjoy the many good things about being in the company of others.� Alas, however, D.C.�s request brought no responses -- zip, zilch, nada -- perhaps because those bountifully blessed with spouses, kids and careers are too busy savoring their myriad joys to take pen or mouse in hand to share the ways in which they also partake of solitude, however fleetingly. Not to worry, though. I trolled cyberspace for some creative suggestions and found these for you:

Spouses Deserve Time Alone

At FamilyFun.com, child development columnist Jan Faull responded to a couple that wrote: �My wife and I have three young children, ages 1, 3 and 5. We have great difficulty finding time to be alone together. We schedule dinner dates and other outings, but we also want to find ways to spend a few minutes checking in with one another several times each day. Although this shouldn't be hard, it is. Please help!�

�You and your spouse deserve uninterrupted time alone,� Ms.Faull replied, �but remember that you are the center of your children's lives. To expect little ones as young as yours to stay away when Mommy and Daddy are talking is almost impossible, but you can work towards this end. Tackle it from three angles:

�Hire a high school-age neighbor to come to your house a few times a week. Be very clear about what the sitter and the children will be doing. They can eat dinner, go for a walk or do an art project, for example. Meanwhile, you and your spouse head for a closed-off room. Keep your time together to 30 minutes, and allow a 15-minute transition with the sitter before and after your time alone.

�In the evening, take 15 minutes when you and your spouse sit on the floor and play with the kids. Then put in a video for the older kids, put the baby in the crib with toys and take 15 minutes for each other. Label this "Mom and Dad Time." Your children can learn to manage this break. At first it will be a challenge, but with consistency and determination, you can do it. You may need to start with five minutes and work up to 15.

�When you and your spouse are talking and one of your older children interrupts, say, "You're interrupting. You need to wait one minute." No matter how difficult, continue your conversation. When the minute is up, turn to the child and listen to what he or she has to say. Preschoolers -- not babies -- can delay gratification of their needs. You're doing your children a favor by teaching them to wait and by not rewarding their interruptive behavior by attending to them immediately.�

Ms. Faull concluded her advice with this exhortation: �Even though it's the parents' job to set aside their needs and take care of their children, you're not required to give up your relationship with your spouse. Your children need you as a couple, so keep working at it.�

Resisting the Lure of Convenience

At Gospel.com, �D.C.M.� offered these kernels of advice on taking the time to be alone with God in the old-fashioned way:�Don't have time to eat breakfast? Not even a bowl of cereal or a slice of toast? No problem. Just unwrap a �breakfast bar� made from one of many popular cereal products and eat it on your way to work or school. It may not be the most nourishing meal, but it's convenient, and that seems to be what people want most today. In the US alone, more than 30,000 new beverage, health, beauty, household and pet products appeared in just one year. The most popular of them emphasized convenience.

�In today's world,� D.C.M. continued, �it's easy to become hooked on the �quick and easy� approach to almost everything. But it's dangerous to base our spiritual life on what is most convenient. Even this booklet can become a snare if we read only the interesting stories and fail to read the Scriptures and take time to pray.

�Today's Bible reading reveals that in the midst of teaching, healing, traveling and preaching, Jesus never allowed the pace of life to deter Him from spending time with His heavenly Father. Mark wrote, "In the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35).

�Today, let's resist the lure of convenience and take time to be alone with God.�

The Foundation Is YOU

At Teenwire.com, Danya, wise beyond her years, wrote about the need for each of us to build the foundation of our relationships on ourselves: �Relationships that grow out of feelings of insecurity and worthlessness are often unstable. You may always feel jealous or afraid -- like you're just a few steps away from losing him or her. When you put your self-worth in another person's hands, it's almost certain they're going to step on it, even if they don't mean to. And in the end, you may find yourself feeling worse than you did when the whole thing started. It's much more satisfying to begin building a solid foundation, and let the right relationships grow naturally from there. To get you started, here are a few tips:

�Look for a boyfriend or girlfriend who feels like your partner, not your god(dess). Find someone you think of as an equal, someone you can talk to, laugh with and even fight (fairly!) with. If you feel like an even match with your partner, then you're both more likely to relax and be yourselves -- and get something really good out of being together. Avoid imbalances and power struggles -- they're warning signs that maybe one (or both) of you is in the relationship to bolster a fragile ego, rather than out of love and respect for the other.

�Once you get into a relationship, remember to take a little time just for yourself. It's easy to give your boyfriend or girlfriend every minute of your extra time and attention. (If you're not with her, you're thinking about her!) Add to that school, friends, parents, and whatever else you have going on, and it's easy to give up the most important part of your day -- a few minutes doing just what it is that you want to do.

�Whether that's listening to music, going for a bike ride, writing in a journal -- do whatever you do that gives your head time away from the rest of the world (without the TV on!). Protect those dreamy moments. They're the key to seeing things clearly and knowing who you are.

�Pay attention to who you are. Growing up is a process of becoming more self-sufficient -- learning how to take care of yourself and nurturing the insight and strength to make good decisions that will get you where you want to go. You're it --everything -- so you need to take care of your self-image right along with your laundry and your checkbook.

�What do you like? What do you believe in? What makes you happy? What do you want? Make lists. Get to know who you are. It sounds easy, but it's really one of the hardest things in the world to do. And as you practice knowing yourself, it becomes easier to know what isn't working for you -- like a bad relationship.

�If you do find yourself in a bad relationship, get rid of it. Frankly, it's often easiest to get to know yourself when you're alone (other people just make it harder to hear your own voice). It can take a lot of courage to be alone -- to know who you are as you, not in relation to somebody else. Sometimes, when you don't trust that who you are alone is enough, it can be the scariest thing in the world.

�But rest assured, you are the key to your own happiness. It's amazing how much more attractive, secure and desirable you feel when you know and respect yourself (that's what we're talking about, after all). And as you stand on your own feet, you'll find that you choose better boyfriends or girlfriends, who are more likely to become great partners.�

Co-dependent Rues Her Wasted Years

Reprising the poignant subject of regrets, Patricia, 53, of Spring Lake, North Carolina responded to last month�s question (�Have you reconciled and forgiven your regrets?�) in this fashion:

"I most regret all the wasted years I spent trying to 'save' others instead of myself. I have lived a co-dependent life, always struggling with friends, husbands and mates with addictive personalities. In my solitude years, I have learned to recognize the tendencies to "help make others better" and to back off. That's why the Internet is so right for me. I can put forth a helping hand without getting entangled. �My last involvement was with an absolute charmer with about as ugly a closetful of secrets as ever happened. His personal motto was �Whatever it takes!� He and his children were estranged when I met him, and I spent our years together trying to reunite that family. It only happened superficially. I do not know how it has been since he dumped me, but recently I received one of the most beautiful letters I can ever receive from a member of his family.

�He had gone to the trouble to search for me and track me down. He said I had made a difference in his life. Suddenly, everything was changed. I had learned a lot of �life messages� out of those ugly years but felt that all my efforts to bring beauty into the relationship had been futile. So I did not bring the family together. Yet, I did touch someone. I am so grateful to know that."

Giving Up Her "Hurry" Way of Life

We also heard from Kristi, 54, who replied to our first Question of the Month (�Do you try to find yourself in solitude, to find out who you really are, what you really need?�) with these insights:

�Your question about do we have to take a �time out�...in most cases I believe we do. It is as if we are addicted to hurry and togetherness in this society. I know that when I had worked for a number of years, along with raising my family, and then we moved, I desperately did not want to go back to work but at the same time had quite a time giving up my �hurry� way of life and being around a lot of people.

�Most of the time, I had hardly had anything in common with these folks, but at least I was not alone. I felt like that song by the group Alabama: �I'm in a hurry to get things done, I rush and rush until life's no fun. I'm in a hurry and don't know why, 'cause all I really gotta do is live and die.� That was me.

Now, having been what I would call a natural loner since childhood, even I -- after years of work and rush and hurry --seemed to have become addicted to that frantic way of life. It was a difficult but not impossible habit to break and yet, even now, I have fits of �I MUST get back out there!�

�This seems especially challenging when people ask me what I do all day. I am a homemaker. I stay busy but just do not require a lot of people-interaction -- some, but not as much as most others seem to need. I know this may sound corny, but I just got through taking a beginners yoga class and it was set in a meditative environment. Now I don't know what others got out of the course, but for me it was falling in love with me, with my body, with who I am. Maybe this does not occur until we get later on in life (I'm 54), but it�s like I am now taking time to be with me, to get to know me.

"And, you know, I love me!"

�When I get too much people-stimulation, I feel whatever it is that others are feeling and forget about me. I have always been able to pick up on others� feelings or energy patterns and after awhile it is just too much; I feel overwhelmed, depleted. A few years back, I took one of those tests that determine what one should be doing career-wise; according to my score, only 1 percent of the population is like me. Also, one of the categories for me was �mystic.� Now, I don't know about you, but I haven�t seen any jobs listed for mystics lately. So maybe I�m just meant to be alone.

�As I said before, though, if it was that difficult for a natural loner such as me to give up the �hurry and togetherness� life, I must say that I do believe a sabbatical would be absolutely necessary in most other cases. Speaking for myself, it is then and only then that I am able to hear that small, still, true voice inside of me.�

Question of the Month

In the 1991 movie, City Slickers, when Billy Crystal asks Jack Palance the secret of life, Palance holds up a forefinger and replies with a single word: �One.� Our question of the month, then, is, �What do you think he meant by that?� Write to me, would you? Share your insights and wisdom so I can pass them along to your spiritual sisters and brothers.

- - -

Lionel Fisher is the author of Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude (Beyond Words Publishing, 2001). Reach him at beachauthor@hotmail.com to share your thoughts on magnificent aloneness.