“The act of sitting down is an act of revolution. Sitting down stops you from losing your self-esteem and allowing yourself to be who you are. Sitting down allows you to connect with yourself. And you don’t need an iPhone or a computer to do that. You just need to sit down mindfully and breathe in mindfully.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
It was also the day our dog was adopted by us and we were laid off from our bankrupt ex company. I felt like all of my friends and family had died. Many of our friends and loved ones disengaged from me. I felt alone.
When I took the first steps in the rubble, it was overwhelming. And it wasn’t going anywhere soon.
My appetite was immediately gone and I lost the desire to cook. My skin began to burn from the irresponsible hot baths and showers I took. I decluttered. Pictures and memorabilia went. So I got rid of teabags, cushion covers, and love notes. I stopped vacuuming.
However, I kept running. I started reading. Any book that appeared to hold a secret for ending my suffering was what I read.
My job was no longer interesting to me. I’d wake up every morning with dread, sometimes not sleeping entire nights.
I continued running. I became faster and more powerful. Also, I was injured. Even though the days got longer, darkness continued to surround me. I had lived overseas, but the second wave covid was just returning home. A childhood friend of mine died. A cousin also died. A close friend of mine lost his father. He never got to see the body. My dad became extremely ill, and I was almost killed. My body sank even further.
However, I continued my meditation in solitude. The emptiness of being was causing me boredom, anxiety, restlessness and I felt compelled to sit through the experience. This began to feel familiar. Slowly, I felt like my life was returning to normal. The sense of taste was restored. I got back into cooking. I began inviting friends to my home.
I used to collapse and cry on days when I felt thirsty. Then I’d hydrate and go back to my laptop to run the next zoom meeting, smiling through it.
After my ex-wife left, I saw how much of an empty shell I had become. At the same time, I continued to befriend the solitude and get comfortable with my aching heart—to sit with it, have a conversation with it, and see what it had to say and what it had learned.
This was how I began to understand myself better. The experience was similar to getting to know a stranger who’d lived there for years. It was definitely interesting to meet this individual!
So I was able to share my sorrows with the solitude, and then have a good time laughing again. The solitude became my blanket and my pillow in winters. It also served as my summer picnic blanket. On Sundays, the solitude and me would sing karaoke until our neighbors complained. Our bikes were shared, we went on biking trips together and went to the buffets. We also sat down through dull dates.
I made it my best friend in times when no one was around. It taught me to write, to read, to think, to philosophize, to know what’s good for me, to love everyone unconditionally, and to be kind.
It made me see things for what they really are, and it caught me being judgmental. It took away all my anger, and it helped me to feel hopeful. It gave me hope and carried my hopes.
It is the ability to reveal something about oneself that solitude has. This is where you must train.
People used to look forward, a century ago. To unwind on the porch and relax after a hard day’s work was over. Today, however, most people spend their conscious time trying to feel connected, online or offline. An instant notification can pull us from this moment. There is no place like the present moment. But we spend more time away from our true selves than with them.
We find our true self in those moments when there is no escape from loneliness, such as after a divorce or loss. As I was. It was frightening. The feeling was like being in a corner with a lock on my ankle, and someone watching over me. It was impossible to escape, and I didn’t have anywhere to turn. I tried scuba diving at the tropics but my ghost-of-aself, who was also a wreck, found me in the water.
It is essential to learn more about yourself by being alone. You must take the time to spend alone to feel at ease with your self, with others, and with your feelings.
Try this to find solitude.
1. Consider your favourite meditative activity.
It should interact with objects physically, and not digitally. It should not be a smartphone or some other device with a screen. You should find it mundane, and not require rational thought. You can be your authentic self when you create the right environment. An example is doing the dishes, focusing on your breath, or just sitting out in the garden, hearing and seeing what’s around you.
2. Reserve a time for the day.
If you’re just getting started, this is crucial. The best time of day to do this is before dawn. Recent research has shown that the best time to engage in alpha waves activity is early in the morning. This is linked with attentiveness and restful sleep. However, you can start at any time during the day. It all depends on what your daily routine is. You can start with 10 minutes, and gradually increase your time to one hour. There’s no right or wrong duration, but the more the better.
3. Set a goal.
Decide to choose solitude. Embrace it like it’s your best friend. You will find that you are doing the right thing and that this is good for yourself. That there is nothing better you’d rather do right now, and no one more important to talk to than yourself.
Most importantly, don’t get too serious. Keep a positive outlook and a sense humor.
You may feel helpless at times, especially when your painful past and feelings of loss are relived with great pain. As the thoughts and feelings overtake you, it can seem hopeless. Be assured that your thoughts and emotions are just a screen playing in your mind. These thoughts and feelings do not determine your current reality. Don’t let them control you.
You are the mountain at the end of the storm. When the feelings and thoughts pass (which they will), you can return to your practice. You may need to be almost blindly committed to the practice at the start, as it might take several sessions before you begin to notice the signs of bliss and solidity returning..
You can also go to local meditation or yoga classes to work on the basics if you find it difficult to begin. Next, come back and give it another go.
4. Enjoy your work and enjoy it whenever you get the chance.
You will begin to enjoy the moments you have by creating a routine for solitude. You wait at the subway for your friend before you go to the party. After ordering your favorite hamburger, you’ll have to wait until it arrives.
These brief moments are a gift. They offer you the chance to appreciate the beauty and wonder around you. Do not grab your phone and turn on the music. Do you notice how calm and solid you feel now? What a rich world you live in! Consider giving yourself a high five for all your hours spent in solitude.
If you are forced to live in solitude by an unplanned event or tragedy, that’s great! Because when your heart is broken it’s the most open, and ripe for new wisdom and the richness of the world to take root. Acclaimed author and Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön says, “To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening,”
Be deliberate. Be disciplined. Then you will be able to meet the most intriguing person you ever met. The one who is always there for you no matter how much you may lose.
About Tapas Dwivedi
Tapas was born in India, and now resides in Germany. During the day, he does strategic and management work at tech startups, but he often takes long sabbaticals to travel around the world—to cook, to hike up mountains, and to dive in the oceans. Although he hopes to one day write a book, he is letting the words flow to him for now.
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Tiny Buddha’s post How to Get Comfortable Alone, and Get the Best Out of Solitude appeared originally on Tiny Buddha.