Book Review – The Power of Solitude: Discovering Your True Self in a World of Nonsense and Noise by Annemarie S. Kidder

by Mark Votava


In this book by Annemarie S. Kidder she explores the discipline of solitude.  The first part of the book engaged me as she talks about how we need to have longing for eyes to see ourselves, others and God more clearly.  I was encouraged to see my eyes as having longings.  This is becoming the desire of my life that I am longing with my eyes in new ways to reimagine all of life differently than what I had known.

There are a lot of themes about community, connection and solitude as integrated together.  The paradox of this is mysterious and risky as it puts us into a posture of living out our questions.  This path of mystery, risk and the unknown will help us to find our true self that has been buried within many years of illusion that we have created throughout life.  I like how she goes into the roots of this practice through the Benedictine’s rule of life.

Overall, this book will help us on our journey to an awakening in our soul to value this liberating practice that is paradoxical, mysterious and vulnerable.  We need to find space to detach at times from engaging the world that we know to get a new perspective on life.  This is essential in the twenty-first century as we navigate a highly changing culture.  Highly recommended reading for anyone searching for an authentic path in life.

  • An invitation to solitude, where I can recover the boundaries of a true self

“Community, whether loose- or tight-knit, has the potential of drawing out our ingratitude, our unforgiving nature, our potential to manipulate, our inclination to force our preferences on others.  Like a mirror, community reflects back to me the dissonance between my own will and that of the group.  It issues an invitation to solitude, where I can recover the boundaries of a true self, consider whether I am just talking for talking’s sake, and observe the degree to which I am buoyed or drowned by it.  Community exposes vices – and virtues – I never thought possible, and it shakes me awake from the dreamlike pleasantries of an imaginary self I thought whole and well.”

  • Open ourselves to our questions

“…open ourselves to our sacred questions: the questions of our attachments and ties, our passions and dislikes, and the immediate and practical claims placed on us by our environment.”

  • The value of solitude

“Those shoved to the periphery of society and forgotten behind bars give eloquent testimony of solitude’s value.”

  • Contemplating our aloneness

“Contemplating our aloneness is a frightening experience…”

  • Finding ourselves and the true ground of our being

“Practicing solitude and detachment leads to an increased vision of union with all things.  In the paradox of separating ourselves from the external world, we find ourselves and the true ground of our being…”

  • A great paradox

“It is a great paradox.  What seems to limit our self-expression brings us to a deeper expression of self.  What appears to confine prepares us for new freedom.  What appears like death births life…”

  • Experiencing solitude

“…experiencing solitude comes at a price…”

  • Letting down our defenses and preconceived notions of reality

“When we stop identifying with our doing, we can begin being, and as we stop doing just for the sake of doing, we can begin communing and seeing the stranger as part of ourselves.  In communing with one another, we let down our defenses and preconceived notions of reality.  We receive the true presence of the other, and in doing so we receive the presence of Christ.  Communing presupposes an act of solitude in which we allow both ourselves and others simply to be. And in that being, in that sacred solitude, we recognize Christ in others and ourselves.”

  • Becoming more fully one’s self

“The cultivation of solitude is a process of individuation and self-definition, of becoming more fully one’s self…”

  • A deep inner listening

“How do we enter into a deep inner listening and an acute awareness of ourselves and God so that we may be set free in Christ?  We do this by embracing and entering into solitude with longing eyes and open hearts…”

  • Solace, refreshment, and revitalization

“…we receive solace, refreshment, and revitalization in solitude…”

  • Staying put and in place

“Staying put and in place is uncomfortable and disquieting.  It means sticking things out in the situation in which God has put us and in the context of the people we find there.  But it also creates in us the recognition that our self-worth is not defined by our work.  The one doing the same type of work, year in year out, may be closer to the truth than the one forever looking outside of self for fulfillment…”

  • Invites perseverance and patience

“Stability blocks the escape route and invites perseverance and patience on our part…”

  • Opening myself up to see and understand what has kept me asleep

“Our task is to ask questions that fit our height and weight, questions also that are not bigger than life but come in bite-size format.  No one can answer for me or offer a one-size-fits-all tool that will magically fix everything.  The question for me – at this point… in my journey, in my interconnectedness with others – will be a gauge, a barometer of my internal state.  Rather than being a springboard toward a resolution and a defined end, it is a tool to measure my state of awareness, my being awake to the blinding and binding ties, inviting utter honesty to myself and to the God who made me.  No one has to know how I am doing with the answers, or whether I am finding any answers at all.  What I am concerned with is opening myself up to see and understand what has driven me and what has kept me asleep.”

  • Cultivating our solitude in the wilderness of the soul

“Living into such realized solitude takes us into the wilderness of the human spirit and of God.  Our loneliness… reconstructs the loneliness of God…  Thereby, we are confronted with our aloneness and taught to live there.  By cultivating our solitude in the wilderness of the soul, our aloneness converges with the aloneness of God, drawing spirit to Spirit and uniting the two as one.”

  • Losing our firm grip on life

“By losing our firm grip on life, by contemplatively measuring our present pain and discomfort against the eternal now, we are ‘losing our life’ and entering into solitude before God in whom the temporal and the eternal converge and connect and unite.”

How have you practiced solitude in your life?