“They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude”
Daffodils by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milkyway,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
This iconic lyric poem by William Wordsworth is his best-known work. The poem was inspired by an event on 15 April 1802 in which Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy came across a “long belt” of daffodils. Written in 1804 by Wordsworth’s own account), it was first published in 1807 in Poems, in Two Volumes, and a revised version was published in 1815.
Mary, his wife contributed what Wordsworth later said were the two best lines in the poem,
“They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;”
Solitude can be a physical or mental condition. There is a marked difference between loneliness that is marked by a sense of isolation and solitude that is being alone without being lonely. Solitude can lead to self-introspection. Solitude and silence should be mates…but in today’s digital world, the external does intrude on you however much you may avoid it.
Sages in our traditions would spend time in meditation. They would retire to the forests and spend their time focussing on the Eternal Truth or Brahmam. Meditation on a daily basis was part of the ritual prescribed for all the stages of a human life. The prayers were taught to kids and then more complicated chants were gradually added to the repertoire. The chanting was a means to focus. The primordial chant of OM itself is an experience of solitude when it helps you to become one with the universe, nature and all its individual segments.
The drop of water on a lotus leaf is the common metaphor for solitude. Traditional practices of Vedantic life says that you need not leave home or renounce anything. You should come to that stage of mind where like a stem of lotus in a murky water pond, you rise above it and are untouched by it.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa gave a wonderful analogy. Fire consumes ghee and whatever the amount of ghee poured on fire, it will be burnt, annihilated. However, when we pour a pot full of ghee all at once over a spark of fire, the flame will be extinguished. “The fire should first become a huge conflagration. Then we can pour the entire fuel of the world into it, and it shall burn it to ashes. Our fire of aspiration will then be capable—only then, and not before—to burn all the dirt and dust of this world even if it is thrown upon it in huge heaps. But when we are only a struggling spark who has not been able to take even the first step in yoga, if the whole weight of the world is to sit upon us, what will happen? We cannot face it. We will be crushed to dust”.
The older I get, the more I like my own company. I do not miss going out, or eating out, or missing other company. Yes!! I am in constant touch with the world outside through gadgets and media. So I do not feel lonely. I am also in interaction with my husband…and my moments of mediation are when I stand on my terrace and see my plants, feel the sun and hear and watch the birds flying, calling to each other and roosting in the trees. I love to see water flow that enhances the feeling of solitude. I enjoy the movement of my fingers as they knit or crochet creating form, structure, shape and comfort. That is a great way of meditating.
Finally, I think, solitude is what people want when they say “I need my space!” Space goes beyond the physical surroundings to a psychological, mental solitude that allows me to breathe without another’s presence or influence. All religions and cultures have talked about solitude. Prophets have withdrawn into solitude be it the ancient Rishis of Bharat/India or Moses, or Mohammed or Jesus. Buddha of course is the immediate connect in the mind’s eye to solitude.
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Ramana.
The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Raju.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they say about Power.