Ode to Time Alone

We’re busy. Over and over, we run from point A to point B to point Z to get things done. We’re surrounded by people who need something from us, by phones ringing, by email boxes filling up. We catch ourselves wishing for time off, for time alone. Yet when there is a window of opportunity, what do we do? We reach for our phone, we doze off on facebook, we switch on the TV (if you still have one of those). Are we all collectively afraid of being alone?

I took part in a weeklong silent meditation retreat once. I thought it would be the hardest thing I would ever do. Turned out that speaking up during a staff meeting at work was harder than spending a week in silence. The silence was purifying. It felt soothing to be alone with myself, and to finally hear all the chatter in my head. Stripped of conversation with others around me, I had to tune within and listen to myself going on and on about what I didn’t have, what I wasn’t, why I wasn’t good at this, how others seemed to be getting it so much better than me. And I found it interesting. <strong>I guess I found it interesting because meditation showed me that I wasn’t telling myself the truth.</strong> I was entertaining myself with my fears. Fear of being inadequate, fear of not being smart enough, fear of being left out and forgotten. This last one was the crux of my fears during this silent meditation. Without others to send me approval and acceptance signals, I was left all alone with my own acceptance issues. Could I accept myself as I was, could I sit with myself without judgement? And could I do so without searching for diversion, such as my phone or a book? Simply put, was I able to be alone?

Fear of solitude is true and deep. But it’s fear. And it can be melted away, it can be overcome with a little courage. Try it, and see for yourself. Turn your phone off, and take 20 minutes alone, doing nothing. If you’re bored, it means you find your own company boring. Ouch. Tune into your thoughts, your senses. If this is really hard, pick a simple activity and focus on it completely for 20 minutes, like steeping and sipping tea, going out for a walk, dancing in your living room, eating your meal. Be curious about what is happening within and without. You might be surprised how entertained you will be when time is up.

Time alone is time for intuition and checking in. When I have quality time for myself, I am more available and present with my loved ones when we are together. I am more in tune with my needs, and I am better able to discern what’s important from what isn’t.