“We live in a society which sees high self-esteem as a proof of well-being, but we do not want to be intimate with this admirable and desirable person” – Sara Maitland
There is so much pressure from college, work, and from friends to be actively doing something. Whether that is socialising, studying or shopping, it’s always about keeping busy, looking like you’re having fun or doing useful things with your free time. It is hard to find a moment of quiet or even justify some ‘alone’ time, and ‘doing nothing’ time.
To make things harder, it’s really hard to be alone. There is an art to it; for most people being alone brings up all those unwanted thoughts and feelings. It’s much easier to watch TV or switch off by engaging our brain, than to stop and listen to ourselves.
We can become afraid of being with ourselves, afraid of what might come up.
Sara Maitland has written a book called How To Be Alone, here are some interesting thoughts:
“Being alone in our present society raises an important question about identity and well-being. How have we arrived, in the relatively prosperous developed world, [whilst] free, self-fulfilling individuals are terrified of being alone with themselves?”
Illustration by Maurice Sendak from ‘Open House for Butterflies’ by Ruth Krauss.
The benefits of being alone:
– If you know who you are and know that you are relating to others because you want to, rather than through outside or inside pressure and expectations, then you are more free.
– Some solitude can in fact create better relationships, because they will be freer ones.
– It can help you get to know yourself better and overcome some of the fears about what happens when you stop engaging.
– It can increase your creativity, and help you process and digest the day like after a meal.
Illustration by Marianne Dubuc from ‘The Lion and the Bird.’
How do we practise being alone?
– Lying down in the grass on a sunny afternoon, in a park or in your own garden
– Taking yourself for a walk
– Lying in bed and looking at the ceiling
– Making a toasty fire and gazing into the flames
– Listening to a stream or running water.
There are many many more ways, be creative!
So the challenge for this week is to spend 5 minutes or more alone every day, and see if you feel any different by the end of the week.