Solitude as a Virtue, with Susan Cain

Book Reviews, Soul + Spirit

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect: halfway through Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Shop your local indie store), I embarked on a trip to the most sublime of all places — Grand Canyon.

I’ve been poring over Cain’s book for the past two weeks, unearthing the dearth of differences between introverts and extroverts, as well the symbiotic relationship of both personality types.

As I get older, I am finding solitude more and more enjoyable — finding delight in the quiet, beauty in stillness. At one point in my 20s, I remember going to work full-time, going to school full-time and leading a grassroots women’s organization. I didn’t think that I was doing too much back then, and I still found time to enjoy night outs with friends and attend family parties with my huge Kapampangan clan.

It wasn’t until I started meditating that everything changed. Those thirty minutes proved to be substantial and significant, in a time when even my own 30-minute lunch break felt like five seconds. Something started to shift, and I remember looking out my window by Lake Merritt in Oakland after a thirty-minute sit, feeling like a different person, refreshed and anew.

What I found within was not the most agreeable nor beautiful. Old wounds resurfaced, as well as things I’ve refused to name for a long time. It wasn’t until I started to cultivate a life of quiet that I learned how to see more openly, to look at the things I’ve ignored for so long just because they were intangible.

This life of quiet helped me understand myself even better, as I worked to nourish my own inner life. I started to see that understanding my own struggles and finding the courage to weather them that I was able to give to others even more, in ways that are more genuine and reflective of my intentions.

I used to detest Sunday evenings, afraid of the impending alone-ness of those times that depressed me. Being around people energized me and those Sunday evenings were too quiet, too slow for my own liking.

Suddenly, I started to look forward to those Sunday evenings — the quiet times it afforded me as busy weekends end and busier weekdays begin.