Do you avoid spending time alone or relish it? In this episode of Breathe Love and Magic podcast, I speak with Rachel Astarte, the author of Celebrating Solitude about the importance of alone time, looking within and connecting with your higher self.
The Importance of Alone Time
My guest for this episode of the Breathe Love and Magic podcast is Rachel Astarte, a holistic psychotherapist, transformational life coach, educator and the author of the book Celebrating Solitude: How to Discover and Honor Your Highest Self. She’s also the host of the podcast Self Talk with Rachel Astarte.
Today, we’re going to talk about your book which I read and really enjoyed. I’m definitely going to think about some of the elements in there to see how I can incorporate more solitude and spending time alone into my own life.
One thing I’m curious about; was there a defining moment or factor that shifted your focus from what you did before to becoming a transformational life coach and holistic psychotherapist?
Rachel Started Acting at 4
Rachel said, “Yes, there was actually. I started my life in the arts. My father was a poet and a professor of poetry. My mother was an actor and still is, and writer as well. I joined the family team as a writer and an actor.
I started writing at four and was on stage at five. It was everything I ever wanted to do and the whole point was communication. I wanted to be able to reach people through the arts as a writer and actor.
I began to realize over the years that yes, I loved writing and sharing my writing. I loved being on stage and film.
But I wasn’t reaching enough people in the way I wanted. I wanted to actually do more healing work with people. My own spirituality was also blossoming in my early twenties, thirties, and into my forties.”
How Rachel Started Her Practice
“I started practicing shamanism and all of these elements began coming together. I became a transformational life coach and started my practice.
Then I became a clinical hypnotherapist adding that to my practice in 2012. I was doing a lot of talking and therapeutic stuff but there was only so much I could get into as a life coach. It wasn’t really satisfying either and legally as a life coach, I wasn’t allowed to do talk therapy.
So, it occurred to me that it would be wise going back to school to get my masters and license to do it the right way. Now I could incorporate everything.”
Responding, Ronnie said, “Oh that’s amazing. It’s always so interesting to hear how the spiritual journey intertwines with career. I’m fascinated that you made this big change in 2012, which was the end of the Mayan calendar.”
Rachel said, “That’s right. I knew there was going to be some major shift coming and we’re still feeling it. It’s not like a mark on the calendar as much as an energetic shift.
I believe what’s going on with the pandemic has been part of that shift for a lot of people. The isolation we all had to go through gave us an opportunity to go inward.”
Ronnie reacted, “Yeah, good point about the pandemic and your book. So many people have mentioned that their lives shifted dramatically as a result of spending time alone with themselves which they suddenly had to do.”
Continuing, Rachel said, “It had a lot of people looking within who were not accustomed to that kind of thing at all and maybe even had a little bit of fear and aversion to it which I also address in the book.”
Solitude vs. Being a Hermit
“What is the difference between solitude and being alone vs. being hermit?” Ronnie asked.
“Sometimes being a hermit and solitude do cross on the Venn diagram,” explained Rachel. But solitude is a conscious choice to remove external distractions for the purpose of regenerating your soul.
When you’re doing something in solitude that means there are no other human beings around. There might be plants and animals but to really focus on your own inner being, you have to do this by spending time alone.
You want to discover how to look within which is the act of connecting with your higher self. The idea is to celebrate solitude, learn about it, and get to know it. You can also interact playfully with your higher self and rely on it as an amazing resource.
Being alone is something that happens to you when there’s nobody around, which can can also lead to loneliness. That is a different thing entirely. Loneliness is the absence of connection and solitude is gaining connection with yourself, higher self, or spirit.
The blurb on the back of the book says solitude does not mean being a hermit. It’s the opposite, like one step into you’re bigger purpose in the world. That’s why spending time alone gets yourself right to deal with your inner demons, play with them, and love them.
You also want to grow into the kind of person you want to be and bring her back out into the world. The whole point is for you to be the best people you can be, so that you function in the world better with other people.”
Time to Recharge Your Batteries
“That makes sense,” Ronnie agreed. “And it gives people a positive way of looking at alone time. That’s what you’re talking about, so you can share more with the world.
It’s also similar to reminding caregivers to take care of themselves before they can give, give, give. You have to replenish your own energy first, like recharging your batteries before you can go on giving.”
“What you just described is perfect about giving too much, whether it’s to our families, friends, a job, or our community. That’s beautiful and we need to do that. That’s our art. How we connect with all life around us.
However, it’s also really important to take that time to make sure what we’re giving is genuine. A solitude practice is not the only way to balance this. Spending time alone, figuring out who we really are and honoring that.
Letting go of those responsibilities for a little while allows us to give back in a more positive and more genuine way.
For people who are caretakers and people pleasers, it would be like having a party and trying to fill everyone’s glass with an empty pitcher. You need to refill your pitcher and that’s what spending time alone can do for you.”
Make the Most of Spending Time Alone
Next Ronnie asked, “How do you define that solitude and use it? Is it just meditation? What recharges people’s batteries?”
Answering, Rachel said, “That’s the beautiful thing about solitude practice – you get to decide how to do it. The only requirement is that what you choose gives you joy and a way for connecting with your higher self.
You want to create space for two minutes or two hours in your day. Even the busiest. CEO in the world has two minutes to just sit, breathe, and come back to themselves before they start their crazy day.
So, if you can do two minutes a day, that’s great. And if you have more time to go on retreat for two days, that’s great too. Whatever works. The point is to make a commitment to a minimum amount of solitude every day.
Drop into your body taking some long, slow, deep breaths. Don’t try to change anything, just be a witness to and present in your body for two minutes. That does a lot of good for connecting with your higher self.
If you have more time then you can get creative. Maybe start with the breath and then you do some knitting or play your favorite music and dance around the kitchen, which is what I like to do.
You can take a walk, a bath, or you spend time journaling to look within. Whatever gives you joy. It’s an important type of self-care.
If You Avoid Being Alone with Your Thoughts
A lot of people avoid spending time alone because they don’t want to be alone with their thoughts. One things you have to realize is that no thought you have defines who you are.
When you have disturbing thoughts or feeling of not liking your life the way it is, sit with those thoughts as though you’re having them over for tea like a friend. There’s no need to be caught up in the negativity that might be going through your mind.
The negativity exists to encourage you to shift it. That’s a great opportunity in your solitude practice to ask, “What is it really working in my life?” We certainly had a lot of time to do that during lockdown.
People made shifts their careers, beginning or ending relationships or getting closer with their children in a way that they didn’t have the opportunity to do before.
Become Your Own Best Friend
Rachel continues, “The idea conveyed in the book is to do this on your own because you are your best resource. That’s why spending time alone gives you a chance to look within and for connecting with your higher self.
There’s one thing that’s absolutely certain. We are born alone and we die alone. This is your journey. Becoming your own best friend is the best thing that you can do for yourself and for everyone else you encounter.”
“That makes total sense to me,” Ronnie said. “You need to rely on yourself, so when you spend that time with yourself, you get to know yourself better.
Be Conscious of Your Time Investment
One of the things I loved in your book is about dating. I’ve been a love and dating coach for 20 years, so my favorite quote is how the amount of time you spend primping for a date is directly proportional to how badly you’ll feel if things don’t work out.
This is so true. If you’re primping so you feel good about yourself, that’s a little different. There’s nothing wrong with supporting yourself to feel confident. However, if you’re only primping to please a man you haven’t even met, that’s when you can end up with massive disappointment.
I had a client who told me how she spent all day getting ready for a first date. She had her hair and nails done, bought a new outfit, and was aiming for everything to be just perfect. Then unfortunately, the date and the guy were boring and she was terribly bummed out.
It’s true, if your investment in time and money are overstated for the value of the date, it sure can be crushing. She invested her entire day in what turned into one boring hour.
Solitude Is a Date with Yourself
Ronnie added, “The other thing I loved in that chapter was planning an ‘after date’ with yourself. What an amazing concept! I love this idea because if you’re meeting people and you’re having coffee dates, how wonderful to plan a date with yourself for when you get home.
What a beautiful idea whether that’s coloring in mandala book, journaling, meditating, or watching a great movie. It’s like decompressing after the date, which counts as your solitude practice.
Plus, it gives you something to look forward to and a treat for making the effort to get out and meet a new man.”
“Yes,” Rachel agreed. “You’re doing something that gives you joy. As a therapist and life coach who helps people struggling with relationships or dating, knowing you have a date with yourself afterwards, puts you first. It’s like putting that oxygen mask on yourself first.
It also gives the date a time limit so that you’re not lingering or waiting to see if he’s going to ask you to go somewhere else or getting another drink. I learned this from a girlfriend who said, ‘Always have a curfew for yourself.’
I thought well I can do something fun afterwards by having a date with myself. After that I always planned my post date spending time alone, so I had picked out a movie to watch with my glass of wine, and relax.
It was really fun and changed the energy because I wasn’t clingy during the date. There was something to look forward to. For people who struggle about first dates and feel uncomfortable this is actually like a reward system taking the chance and going on a date.
People Pleasing Behavior
So, your point is well taken and this is such a clear concept as it applies to dating. Where else might that apply in life?” asked Ronnie.
“This also speaks to people pleasing,” Rachel replied. You’re doing things your heart is telling you to do, but do you want to do them?
It could be something as simple as going to someone’s party and you’d rather stay home in your jammies and watch Netflix. You’ve had a long week. But you wonder what your friends will think. Or you think if you just push yourself to go, once you get there, you’ll be fine.
This is doing a head trip on yourself because you’re not looking within or listening to your needs. That’s why if you do this on a regular basis, you might have a fun, but over time you start to feel energetically diminished.
Turn Alone Time into a Positive
Remember that you’re spending time alone to recharge and reconnect with yourself. This is how you can make aloneness a positive in your life and it’s really helpful. This is not a selfish act because you’re doing this to be the best person you can be out in the world.
You get to see the connection between honoring yourself through your alone time and honoring yourself as you have interactions in the external world. You want to be able to trust yourself and know you’re doing the right thing for you. That makes a big difference.
What Happens When You Aren’t Spending Time Alone?
When you are spending time alone, that eliminates any ambivalence you have about saying, ‘No,’ to others. Your alone time and inner work makes interactions with other people so much easier.
When we skip self-care, this is what turns into the big meltdown. What happens when you aren’t spending time alone, don’t take care of yourself, and don’t honor your true nature? Burning out is one strong possibility.
In addition, you’ll end up with compassion fatigue, which is a clear indication of not spending enough time being with yourself.
When you forgo self-care, you are likely seeking external validation. You’re saying to yourself that your own life isn’t as important as everyone else’s. You focus on being there for others which makes you a good person.
You go and do until you’re battery is dead and depleted. That turns into bottled up resentment, which shows up as rage, explosive anger, or addiction. There’s some kind of pain you can’t put your finger on, so you drink, eat, porn, gamble it away, or whatever you do to avoid the misalignment in yourself.”
Celebrating solitude is the answer to all of this. Honoring yourself, taking time to look within, and connecting with your higher self will all work to recharge your batteries while you also nourish your soul.
You Are Here for a Purpose
In closing, Ronnie said, “Rachel this has been so wonderful. Is there any other piece of wisdom that you want to impart before we tell people how to get in touch?”
Responding, Rachel pointed out, “Don’t forget how powerful you are. You are here for a purpose and the creator is not in the business of making things that fail and that includes you.
You’re here for a purpose and the game is to figure out what that is and rock it, you know what I mean? Enjoy this journey and getting to know yourself.”
To wrap up Ronnie said, “Thanks Rachel, I don’t know why we need to be reminded of that, but thank you for doing it. And thank you so much for sharing your ideas about celebrating solitude.”
Connect with Rachel on her website: RachelAstarteTherapy.com
Listen to her podcast SelfTalkPodcast.com
Get her book Celebrating Solitude on Amazon