Sitting in solitude beside Springer Mountain, I mystically sense a gracious, indiscriminate love. The sun freely offers light, bidding a warm farewell as it descends over the horizon. The dead wood before me is a gift of earth that will soon provide me with another source of glowing comfort. The wind howls, the birds sing, and all creation is splendid.
At this moment, nothing matters, neither my grandest accomplishments nor my most significant flaws. Yet, at this moment, everything matters because the truth often speaks in paradox.
Solitude is not a stroll in the park. To remove oneself from a world of endless projection invites piercing introspection.
Violence, hatred, and fear feed off our projections. That elected official is corrupt. That neighbor is hateful. “They” are consumed by fear. But in solitude, there is no “us and them” because there is no “them,” only “I.”
In solitude, I wrestle with what to do with all these emotions of violence, hatred, and fear when the objects of my projection are nowhere to be found. Contemplation and mindfulness are holy postures that open doors to inner peace. Projection seeks to assert control over my self-centered world, but I long for an inner peace that unmasks the facade of my power.
My true self is worthy of love – my true self is loved.
Holy solitude is intensive work. It’s an extended time to be still and know my violent, hateful, fearful projections are false gods that shape my false self. My true self is worthy of love – my true self is loved. In solitude, I sift through the clutter of my mind and rest in the secret chamber of my heart, where I find a terrifying love.
My false self is powerful; it shares my intellect and knows my Achilles’ heel. Its power lies in judging the worst moments of my past and filling my mind with self-condemnation. My false self seeks to crucify all truth; I do not know to what end.
Solitude is a crucible moment. I am naked and too often ashamed. Images of my past and false selves hang on crosses beside me. But in solitude, like the two thieves beside Jesus, I am made whole by love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
The gift of solitude is to rest and know that the true God is love. It’s in the stillness of my inmost being that God beckons me to rest in the grace of unmerited love and understanding. God’s self is love; therefore, God can only project love.
My call is to abandon all falsehoods and cling to the truth of love.
Essay, photos, and video by Anton Flores-Maisonet