Why Turn Isolation into Solitude?

BMS Rathore

Solitude is where one discovers that one is not alone- Marty Rubin

Isolation, confinement, quarantine, social distancing! This is the new grammar and vocabulary to defeat COVID 19. Curfew and total lockdowns have been imposed worldwide to achieve this. “Thou shall not move out”, the line has been drawn at the door step. It is hoped that with this, stage 3 of COVID infection can be avoided, failing which the cost will be too high in terms of human lives, more so in the densely populated south Asian countries.

While abiding by the new dictum of isolation, many are facing stress, anxiety, depression and trauma. The confinement woes get worse when fed with plethora of information, being streamed day in day out, both on social media and on the electronic and print media. Notwithstanding the virtual connect through digital highways, the actual cut off from the family, friends and outside world can lead to serious physical and mental health issue, turning the very remedy into another malady?

Is there a way to deal with the isolation in the time of a unprecedented pandemic?

Isolation whether self-imposed or enforced one, has connotation of negativity. Not being able to meet the near and dear ones, family and friends could be very hard to cope with. On the contrary, the solitude is choosing to be alone, it is willingness to break away from the noise. The moments of solitude are the moments one cherishes and feel recharged. To many, it provides space for the inner journey, to understand the larger purpose of life. We are definitely asking different questions while being subjected to isolation vs seeking solitude. What is happening or will happen to me, my family, my job, business, my possession etc. are the key concerns when in isolation. The external world dominate the thought process, centered on me and mine. The questions defining solitude are rather existential in nature, looking inwards. Who am I? How do I connect with the life around me? How my behavior & actions help others?

Some of the often used tools to convert isolation and loneliness into solitude are: breath awareness, mindfulness, meditation, a reflective walk, contemplation of nature, and of course pondering over the existential questions.

Breath awareness has come to stay as one of the simplest tools to enhance awareness, calmness of mind, relaxation and bringing mind body connect. Setting aside 5-10 minutes in morning and evening is all that is needed to begin with. Reflective walks during COVID 19 time can be done in the home premises or even on roof terraces. Some of these tools can be accessed on line and put to practice without much of the hassle. Personally speaking, reflective walks, coupled with breathing awareness have been my constant companion for quite some time.

Solitude is about seeking freedom and expansion, soaring high in the sky like Jonathan Seagull before getting back to the daily noise of the world around us, refreshed and rejuvenated. Isolation and loneliness limits, imprisons and saps our energy and leaves us with negativity. Solitude is known to improve psychological well-being, boosts creativity and productivity, improve relationships and plan better. Solitude when cultivated over time becomes the most important relationship, the relationship one has with self.

Does it make a case to turn isolation into solitude? More so, when we all are facing varying degree of isolation and confinement in the time of COVID 19?

1 Brij MS Rathore @ICIMOD

2 https://youtu.be/FCq8-XvqU1Q; https://youtu.be/c2Jfbj7Th7M

3 Jonathan Livingstone Seagull; Richard Beck

The author, Brij Mohan Singh Rathore, is a professional forester from Indian Forest Service, has over 30 years of professional experience in the field of participatory forestry, regeneration of degraded lands, watershed management, and landscape approach to bio- diversity conservation, rural development, and environmental education. He has worked in Government (at field, state and national level), research & training Institutions and NGOs. As Joint Secretary in Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, he was country focal point for United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD), and represented country as Vice Chair on UNCCD CoP Bureau, as well as Chair of Asia & Pacific region. While working with UNDP, FAO and WWF, he was engaged with countries of South Asia and Asia /pacific in capacity building for biodiversity conservation and eco development.

Rathore is Member Madhya Pradesh State Wildlife Board. He is recipient of the national “Indira Priyadarshini Vraksha Mitra” Award for community based forest management, and State Government’s Gold Medal for professional excellence in forestry. A gold medallist in Masters of Science (Botany), he holds Masters diploma in Forestry from Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy Dehradun.

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