The Uncut Diamonds of Solitude

Katherine Burrows

Photo by Jack Millard (

Diamonds are formed deep beneath the Earth’s surface, under extreme heat and immense pressure. Those diamonds are brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions, already fully formed. That formation occurs in solitude.

As humans, we don’t just turn from carbon atoms into diamond crystals and then stop. We continue to grow, evolve, and rebirth ourselves throughout our lives. Solitude is essential to that rebirth.

A blog compared the cleansing our minds receive in solitude to the cleansing our bodies receive from fasting. The article emphasized that true solitude is not just screen time in a different room; it is walking alone, working in silence, and meditating both inside and out.

When we remove the distractions of our usual lives and make space for solitude, we see the facets of the diamond begin to shine.

Solitude is an opportunity.

When we take time to practice solitude, we clear our minds of clutter and see the glimmer of what is deeper within. It is an opportunity for healing the past, re-examining our present goals, and setting a course for future success. To take advantage of the opportunity offered, we must be intentional and persistent in seeking moments of solitude as a lifelong habit.

As an introvert, I find seeking solitude comes naturally to me. But even those people who are extremely extroverted can benefit from occasional seclusion.

Thomas Merton advises, “Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.”

Solitude is essential to the value of life.

Solitude is part of what increases the quality of life. Exploration, learning, and critical thinking are all improved by being solitary for a season. Taking some time alone to practice gratitude improves the enjoyment of life’s many aspects.

When I focus on being present in the current moment and being grateful for the elements of that moment, I find peace and strength in knowing that I am exactly where I am meant to be at a particular time.

Albert Einstein, who packed a lot of value into his life, advocated “Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.”

Solitude promotes the enjoyment of community and satisfaction with life.

When we have time to retreat from the business of tasks, people, and routines, their absence causes us to appreciate their presence, and we find greater enjoyment the next time we experience them. But we also learn to find deep satisfaction in those times apart for their own sake.

Spending time in positive interactions with others makes me feel energetic, inspired, and productive. But unless I maintain an adequate balance with solitude to recharge myself, the contact can become overwhelming.

Lord Byron expresses it well. “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,/There is a rapture on the lonely shore,/There is society, where none intrudes,/By the deep sea, and music in its roar:/I love not man less, but Nature more”.

Solitude is essential to the growth and progress of self. 

In solitude, there is time to get to know ourselves, face the qualities we like and dislike, and spend time to polish and improve what we find. This time for self-examination and evaluation facilitates progression. It allows us to grow toward our best selves.

My deepest insights into myself are often made while writing, journaling, or walking in solitude, preferably in a forest. I thoroughly identify with the sentiment of going into the woods to lose one’s heart and find one’s soul. Those are the times I feel closest to my true self.

William Shakespeare wrote, “I myself am best/When least in company.”

Solitude is productive.

There is a time and a place for collaboration. But solitude is also a necessary component of productivity and invention. We can take a step back, consider ideas and perspectives without interruption. We may find that we have responses or complementary suggestions that we would never have thought of in a crowded room, or even a coffee shop.

Introspection is part of the writer in me. I know that to improve my writing, I must improve my awareness of myself and that of the world around me.

Thomas Edison asserted that “the best thinking has been done in solitude.” Pablo Picasso believed that “without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”

Solitude gives birth to wisdom.

Frequent and continued solitary thought and analysis bring wisdom. We have time to process what we’ve learned, felt and observed. The understanding and enlightenment that come from the wisdom of experience contribute to the depth of rebirth.

Cultivating wisdom is a personal goal of mine. The more insight I have, the more I can benefit others and my community, hopefully leaving the world a better place.

“Solitude is the state that allows personal experience to transform into wisdom.” (Mindcoolness blog)

Solitude is fundamental to the acceptance and enjoyment of self. 

If you don’t know yourself, you can’t like and accept yourself. The enjoyment of hanging out with ourselves comes from the growth attained during that solitude.

I have often been alone, but I am rarely lonely because I’ve enjoyed spending time with myself as long as I can remember.

Henry David Thoreau noted, “I have never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

Writers, artists, philosophers, spiritualists, and nature-lovers have known for centuries that solitude is an opportunity for the rebirth of self.

Recently, we have been blessed with an unprecedented opportunity for solitude. Whether you live alone or with others, in a town or on a rural road, this is your time to make the most of solitude.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”