Finding the essential facts of life

Lately I’ve been thinking more about undergoing a retreat for a period of time, whether to a monastery like one mentioned by Kamal Ravikant in Live Your Truth or to a spartan dwelling in some forest (a la Thoreau at Walden).

I wonder what sentiment is struggling to be expressed…a need to step away from what’s currently happening? A desire for simplification or focus? Rejection of commercialization, excess, scarcity?

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” —Thoreau, Walden

Must I go into the literal woods to approach deliberate living, and more important to approach the “essential facts of life”? I see why deliberate living can be difficult when in “civilization”, being surrounded by false urgencies and fear of missing out. There’s something faintly ironic about how the greater connectedness brought about by technology contributes to a wider but shallower net of relationships and a greater sense of isolation (better expressed by Anais Nin).

In fact, let me quote her here:

The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters, meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a greater amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.

—Anais Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 4: 1944–1947

For now, building sacred space into each day and continuing to build a deliberateness habit will have to suffice. Part of me suspects that regardless of my physical environment, an ultimate aim is to nurture and cultivate an inner deliberateness, a stillness perhaps, that I bring to any environment I’m in.

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