Certainly the most crucial step toward personal sovereignty is to know our Selves. After all our years as mothers and others, we need to reestablish who we are as individuals, separate and distinct from our relationships with those around us. Who am I if I am not a mother, a daughter, a lover, a wife, a friend, a partner, a teacher, a student, a boss, or an employee?
Who am I if I am not associated with some undertaking, enterprise, creation, project, product or service? Who am I, in fact, if I just am? As I live and breathe?
For these answers and the answers to all of life's questions, we must look into our heart and allow ourselves to feel our feelings, to own and embrace them for the wisdom that they convey. Marion Woodman, the Jungian analyst, writer, and specialist in feminine development research, calls this process, "coming home to ourselves."
Soul searching, like the practice of any devotion, requires solitude, quiet and quality time. But life is hectic and our inner needs have often been relegated to the bottom of our endless to-do lists, our dreams and desires deferred, left on the back burner to simmer.
Over a hundred years ago, Florence Nightingale observed, "Women never have a half-hour in all their lives (excepting before or after anybody is up in the house) that they can call their own, without fear of offending or of hurting someone. Why do people sit up so late, or, more rarely, get up so early? Not because the day is not long enough, but because they have no time in the day to themselves."
If our intention is to know ourselves and to grow our power, we require dependable periods of uninterrupted time and inviolate space that we can call our own, a protected seclusion conducive to our sacred Self-communion.
Seclusion is withdrawal on all levels. It means separating our identity not only from other people, but also from outwardly dictated and directed activity, as well. Sometimes it is necessary to step back a few paces from our bustling lives, stop racing around and slow down enough so that we can absorb and process our experiences and our emotions.
In a culture that defines itself in terms of clocks and dollars and duty, it is difficult to allow ourselves to claim the time and mental space to devote to an occupation that results in no visible product. Non-product, however, and nonproductive are definitely not the same thing.
Down time is not negative. It is not not doing something. What we are doing when we jump off of the treadmill is resting, reflecting, ruminating, regenerating and rejoicing. We are opening our hearts to the myriad ways of receiving the reassurance and guidance that we need.
When we carve out a niche in our busy lives to do the sorts of things that feed our soul, we are affirming our self worth, acknowledging that we crave and deserve our own undivided attention.
When we claim the psychic space and set aside the personal time to pursue the knowledge and mastery of our Self -- when we assume the entitlement, the ability and the authority to do so -- we are able to access and transform our perceptions, our perspectives, our experience, our expectations and, in the process, our entire reality.
A practice of solitude and separation teaches us to honor ourselves as unique, individual entities, who do not need the approval or permission of any outside source to validate our personal understanding and outlook. Sacred Seclusion -- be it occasional, frequent or constant -- empowers us to know what we know and to feel what we feel.
By taking the time, by taking our time, we bless ourselves with true devotion. We consecrate our precious lives, and celebrate the continuously wondrous miracle of the unfolding of our Selves.
And what better time than a blustery winter weekend?