To the Hermit’s Cave

I love reading what search terms people use to find my blog.  A day or two ago, someone searched on “being a hermit in everyday life.”  I had actually been thinking of writing a post on this, but never did because I didn’t think anyone but me would be interested.  So, this is for that reader that searched for this post before it was written.  I hope you are still around and like this post, created for you but with the anticipation that if you and I want to be hermits, maybe others do, too…

From the time I was little, I wanted to be a hermit.  My life’s goal was always to live by myself in a little cabin on a mountainside, spending my days gazing at the sky, gathering herbs and flowers, and writing pieces that I would somehow send out into the world without leaving my cabin (kind of like blogging on a computer!).  Of course, it hasn’t worked out that way.  Being a hermit has not been considered to be an appropriate career choice for several hundreds of years.  In fact, I think that hermitry fell out of favor at just about the same time as women have been persecuted for being healers and witches, oddly enough, or not.

To me, being a hermit does not mean being anti-social or even just going to live by yourself, Thoreau-like.  It means being the stillpoint around which the rest of the world revolves.  A hermit is someone who makes a mission of being in that place of solitude and contemplation where the voice of all beings and the earth can be clearly heard, where what is really happening and the intentions of people and institutions are obvious, where visions come to land like so many crows on a tall tree and where the future is not commanded by the past, where creativity flows and can be imbibed with your morning tea. 

Being a hermit means is a courageous calling because it means sacrificing the security of being part of society, however painful that may be at times.  It is waking up every morning without a day’s worth of activities to distract you from whatever you need to face in yourself at that moment.  Being a hermit means actually believing that thoughts are things and have value, that contemplating goodness and beauty can make it come about, that the human mind is a thing of value apart from the economic goods it may command the body to produce.

In short, a hermit is the status quo’s worst nightmare.  Can you imagine an entire profession of people whose job it is to think clearly apart from the strictures of society?  Who are not beholden to the community for basic necessities?  Who do not care if they are thought of well by others?  Who can look at themselves in the mirror each morning without fear or regret because they are accustomed to seeking out their true selves every day?  No wonder you cannot major in hermitry at universities and there is no way to make your living from being one.

In fact, it is almost impossible for most women to be hermits in today’s world.  We have family responsibilities to parents or others even if we have no children.  Most of us marry. We do not make the kind of incomes that allow us to save enough to be financially independent early in life.  We are taught to distrust our instincts and our thoughts and not to look too deeply into ourselves. 

Yet, hermits are needed now more than ever.  We need people who see clearly and are willing to speak about what they witness.  We require envisioners to help us steer clear paths to a kinder and ecologically sustainable world.  The re-emergence of the Sacred Feminine gives me hope that, perhaps in our grand-daughters time at least, we will love and nurture our hermits.  Hermitry is a talent that will be valued when action is not considered the only way to solve a problem, when power comes from integrity within and not only the ability to coerce others, when people are valuable for their sacredness within rather than their economic benefit to others.

Still, if we see being a hermit as a way of looking at the world rather than a way of living, we can still be hermits.  We can make time for solitude and contemplation in our lives and not give it away everytime someone asks to do something for them.  We can make an effort to make decisions and witness people and events in a way that relates only to our values instead of what is considered valuable by society.  We can spend time in prayer, or contemplation, or meditation, or simply having faith, and genuinely believe that these are activities that change what happens in the outside world and are worth doing. 

I am a hermit and I always will be.  Solitariness is what comes natural to me.  It is something I have fought all my life because preferring to be alone was always somehow a bad thing, an indication of something wrong with me.  Today, I choose to be a hermit, a time-honored, valuable way of being. 

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. onelittlepagan
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 20:32:55

    Wow. I just stumbled upon your blog yesterday, but this post described how I’ve been feeling so perfectly that I may need to print it out, to remind myself. That what I want, what I need, is not only perfectly sane, but also possible. I may not know how to create a hermit’s life, but it can be done.

    Thank you!

    I’m so delighted that you found the post and that it will be beneficial!

    Reply

  2. Lillithmother
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 21:13:31

    I can see the attractiveness of a hermit life Carolyn, especially the way you’ve expressed your vision here.

    Being a mom of a toddler, I often fantasize of solitary times…endless and copius amounts of it…

    Truth is, although I’m an introvert…I long to live in an “intentional community”, otherwise know to the hippie generation as a commune. I could go on, but I’m saving this for a post on my own blog. ;-)

    IN a fantasy life…I could live in a valley below you…come out every morning with home-baked muffins and a cupa chai tea and meet you half way up the hills to sit on a big ol’ tree stump and muse about the different ways time drifts by in our opposite ways of living!

    Peace & shakin’,
    Lil

    I can’t wait to read your post about your own dream of a communal life! I remember the days of having a toddler and they do, indeed, cause one to dream of solitude! I love the image of meeting each other halfway and sharing tea and muffins and musings! That must be a universal image among women — a close friend and I are always talking about how we wish we could have tea and muffins and talk (she lives several states away) and just ten minutes ago we were wishing we could both do the same for someone we know who is also involved in solitary work at the moment. Well, just imagine that we are passing the muffins and tea through the computer, because I would say that, through our blogs, we do indeed meet sometimes and muse!

    Reply

  3. Lillithmother
    Nov 13, 2007 @ 14:08:23

    Carolyn, we DO meet through our blogs don’t we?! Now that’s a wonderful image to hold in my heart today… :-)

    Yes, it is!

    Reply

  4. Cynthia
    Nov 13, 2007 @ 21:03:36

    Hi Carolyn~ I even managed to make my trip to the laundromat a bit heretic. I too have resonated to the life of a hermit. Although at times I am also a very social being, I tend to enjoy my solitude a great deal.

    We use our blogs to “We need people who see clearly and are willing to speak about what they witness.”

    and “I am a hermit and I always will be. Solitariness is what comes natural to me. ”

    Nice to meet you hermit sister. Thanks so much for sharing your life with me. I’m enjoying the connection a great deal.

    Thank you, I’m enjoying our connection, too!

    Reply

  5. Livia
    Nov 15, 2007 @ 00:45:48

    Another hermit here. I quite agree with you, our society has made us feel bad when we prefer to be alone. And I have always preferred to be alone in my life to the point where I don’t ever plan to marry or have kids. Solitude is magical, it is sacred; it forces us, as you said, to deal with ourselves with no one else to distract us. Beautiful post.

    Hi Livia, thank you! It is inspiring to know that someone is following her solitary path despite the pressures of society as you are.

    Reply

  6. motherwintermoon
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 17:26:12

    Ahh…we cherish our solitude, yet we are not alone. :) Count me in as a solitary, a hermit, one who relishes the blessings and the sacredness of hermitage. I have two posts written about natural loners and solitaries which I never published, for reasons I cannot define. They’re there, waiting to someday emerge.

    Natural loners are greatly misjudged and misunderstand. I highly recommend the book, “Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto” by Anneli Rufus, a lifelong loner. It was Part I of two unpublished posts I wrote on world of lonerdom.

    There are so many misconceptions about natural loners, and so little acknowledgment of our valuable and necessary contributions to society and the world. I thank you abundantly for your beautiful tribute to hermits and hermitage, kindred spirit.

    Thank you so much! I will look forward to reading that book! And I hope you do publish your pieces someday — I would love to read them.

    Reply

  7. Jo
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 09:53:47

    You appeared on p.5 of my google search ‘hermit solitary’. Thank you for being here. Haven’t read any but this post yet… anticipation abounds!

    Among the many gems you’ve penned, this:

    “It means being the stillpoint around which the rest of the world revolves. A hermit is someone who makes a mission of being in that place of solitude and contemplation where the voice of all beings and the earth can be clearly heard… ”

    is very beautiful to me, most closely expresses my own feeling and experience of being an introverted, self-contained, naturally solitary person.

    Strangely, perhaps, I was often most clearly aware and present in this sort of self during my now teen daughter’s early childhood. I would go so far as to say that practising the art mindful mothering through/while parenting was something of a refining ground, for me.

    I’ve been a bit distracted by a few things, politics for one, satisfying a curiosity of the intellect, for some years, felt I’d lost my centre, though am journeying or circling back now and fuller in many ways for the foray – a lengthy curve of the spiral it’s been.

    I’m so glad you found me — even on page 5! — and that you liked the post. I am fascinated by what you said about your daughter’s early childhood being a time of centering. Actually, it was during the same time in my son’s life that I was most creative and able to produce a longer work, which I’m having more trouble doing now that he is a teen! I hope you’ll come back and visit me again!

    Reply

  8. Jo
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 14:46:06

    Oh, I’m back already – after watching a movie with my daughter. Would it be altogether too dramatic for me to say that I haven’t felt such excitement in some time, a quickening of some sort, as I’ve begun to read through your writings and the weaving webs of words shared by other women you link to and who correspond with you here. *quietly swoons in a most un-hermitty way*

    May be a 7 yr cycle thing for me, this sense of quickening I mean… 28-35 began with birthing and all that follows (hot of the heels of an intense few months of a spiritual kind of awakening), and was in many way a most magical time; 35-42 was somewhat more laboured in various ways, chock full of all sorts. I’ve just turned 43 and am clearly entering some new era in my life, within myself.

    Lol! Yes, young people growing bodily, mentally, emotionally, exploring and coming into their own values… it’s huge, really and consuming, for us and them in ways I hadn’t anticipated. It, she, her process, her beingness, is a joy to me, but, whew, talk about overloading my circuits sometimes! The easy rhythms of late childhood had rather lulled me, though this period of intensity, too, shall pass. And I’m glad to have again, still, been present for and with her. Is that something, anything, like your experience?

    Ah, I’m overflowing with thoughts. Thank you for being part of sparking me. What might I now next contribute to the collective consciousness, I wonder?..

    Back to hermitty goodness, if I might be indulged in comment hogging a little longer. I do love the piece you wrote about peppers :) and find joy and something special and sacred, oftentimes, in my garden, kitchen and day to day surrounds. Breathing consciously, simplicity (the real deal, rather than marketed simplicity), being in the moment… for me, it always comes back to that.

    Along with sites like The IntrovertZCoach which helped me along the way, this book _The Call of Solitude: Alonetime in a World of Attachment_, by Ester Schaler Buchholz is one I found affirming. There’s a short review at www. hermitary. com, which is another site I enjoy that may also contain or lead to something of value for other solitary folk who may read here.

    Thank you, again, Carolyn, for being out here in cyberspace.

    Wow! I’m so thrilled that you found other things you like here, too! I do agree with your description of the effect of mothering on us. It is, indeed, all-consuming sometimes. I wonder if it will continue past early teenagerhood. I’m already in that time (my son is 14) when he is appropriately setting boundaries to make his own life and identity, but I’m not sure, knowing some parents of adult children, that that all-consuming sense ever really leaves.

    Thank you for the leads on resources for being solitary! I will check them out!

    I’m so glad you also enjoy the everyday things. The older I get (I’m 49), the more I find pleasure in those small elements of life that I never paid much attention to before.

    Thank you for coming to visit!

    Reply

  9. Denise~
    Dec 02, 2007 @ 01:16:29

    Carolyn,
    Beautiful essay. It’s wonderful to read your work.

    From one hermit to another –
    Thanks

    Denise, thank you so much for visiting! I’m glad you liked it!

    Reply

  10. gypsy-heart
    Jan 08, 2008 @ 23:38:58

    I have always felt the same way…as you said from childhood on. I can be alone in a crowd too..nothing negative about the crowd, for I love people. I am most at home in my woods and with my creatures though. :)

    I enjoyed your site very much.

    ~gypsy-he♥rt.

    gypsy-he♥rt, thank you so much for your comment. That bond with the woods and creatures can be such a sanctuary.

    Reply

  11. TheOtherIvy
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 00:32:44

    I recently added the book Party of One to my ever growing book list. It looks like this book would suit you well, too. I was picturing the hermit tarot card as I read your essay, the cloaked figure navigating the solitary world with a lantern. It’s a delicate balance, the solitary with the social observationalist. One needs a certain level of detachment to achieve any kind of objectivity but cannot be too far removed.

    What a wonderful observation! Yes — living in a solitary way is a question of balance, in many ways. Another balance is the need for being solitary, with all its benefits of seeing clearly, and the responsibility to participate in social action.

    Reply

  12. diaryofarecoveredbulimic
    Apr 10, 2008 @ 19:54:44

    Ah, your piece came at just the right time! I was feeling a bit unsure in my hermitty existence, but realized more strongly the need after having my parents visit for nearly two weeks. One afternoon I sent them off on an excursion alone, just to have a couple of hours to myself. I do seem to mingle with the outside world, but remain an observant hermit, no matter what. There doesn’t seem to be much choice about membership in this little community – which, after reading the other comments, may not be as tiny as I thought! But a bunch of hermits in a commune-type setting with lots of quiet time… that could be interesting.
    I guess the challenge to being a hermit is to admit it, accept it, and create the job description by yourself. But you did a great job! I actually feel important, like I belong somewhere!!! Thank you!

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece! Yes – this post has gotten the most response of any — I think a lot of people enjoy a hermit-like existence but don’t get much support for it. Well, we’ll all be hermits together!

    Reply

  13. thomasdosborneii
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 08:22:28

    Wow, very cool blog post, if you don’t mind a male making a comment regarding “celebrating spirituality and art in women’s everyday lives”. It was, too, a search that brought me here to this entry. After some recent relatively minor events (but that I realized strengthened my observance of certain negative patterns), I was both thrown physically in pain (in a mind-over-matter kind of way, meaning that my thoughts were creating this physical distress) and emotionally depressed all weekend and realized that I was actually “scared” in a non-specific, but all-encompassing almost “pan-phobic” way. I started to write some kind of poem about it in my head, but I was too depressed to make the effort of actually fashioning the poem, so, unfortunately the flow of words and the rhymes that were building up have now dissipated, but the gist of it was that when EVERYTHING we hear and see from every quarter (in the news, from politics, everything dealing with economics, pronouncements from doctors, things people write or say, and the behaviors of people around you) is nothing but SCARY (making people afraid and the herd spreading mutual fear sells products and allegiances, keeps you enslaved and weak), and the forces who exist (or claim to exist) for the purpose of HELPING you also add to the fearful atmosphere, it makes sense that finally your own individual resistance will crumble and you will actually BECOME scared. It was intolerable and I felt that the truth was that there was no external solution–no healer, no practitioner, no other person that I could go to for help or guidance, since so many of them seemed to be contributing to the problem, that the whole point of their service was to keep alive a sense of evil that they had the unique solution for that would keep you busy but that somehow never would quite get you where you wanted to go. I wanted something that actually would point the way to goodness.

    I realized that what I needed to do was shut out all the external messages that were filling up my reality with a sense of evil from without, and live totally outward from what was within me. That only in connecting with the seeds of my solitude would I find my true healing and salvation. I saw that what I felt I needed to do was somehow become a hermit while still IN society, because I wasn’t going to quit my job, move out into the wilderness, leave behind everything that was important to me.

    But how to do that, live as a hermit while being active in the middle of an immense megalopolis and with access to the tendrils of the Internet reaching out to every single nook and cranny of the globe?

    I think that you and your readers, who have a similar desire to live from what is within you, understand that you have responsibilities here that cannot be run away from, nor do you want to run away from them, such as if you are a mother with children you need to take care of. You do not want to run away from those children who are as much a part of you as “You” are. But from reading your post I can see that just having this particular perception of wanting to “be” a hermit and accepting how valuable of a force that is for the world somehow gives you a way to create that even while remaining among all the others of your world. It becomes part of the “art” of your daily life that you will always bring yourself back to. For sure there will be distractions and forces that will knock you down periodically, but retaining an awareness of that inner “hermit” self that is the true reality of you will pick you right up and set you to rights again.

    Maybe this is what Clarissa Pinkola Estes meant when she was referring to the concept of ones “practice”, as a path or a way, for inherent in the concept of “practice” is something that you “do” over and over (like practicing scales on a piano) except what you are doing over and over here is placing yourself back into your own solitude. So, the way I see it, those external distractions are also part of that practice, for they are what make you continually put yourself back to where you want yourself to be.

    Reply

    • carolynlboyd
      Feb 28, 2012 @ 01:45:55

      I’m so glad that you found the post and commented! I really enjoyed your comments – they were very thought-provoking and meaningful. Learning to find that balance between inner and outer, responsibility to others and to ourselves is certainly a universal, lifelong journey.

      Reply

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