“Lonely is healing if you make it. ”
– Tanya Davis
Meaningful alone time, as it turns out, is a powerful need and a necessary tonic in today’s rapid-fire world. Indeed, solitude actually allows us to connect to others in a far richer way. We live in a society that worships independence, yet deeply fears alienation: our era is sped-up and over-connected. The earth’s population has more than doubled since the 1950’s, and in cities across the world, urban crowding and the new global economy have revolutionized social relationship. Cellular phones now extend the domain of the workplace into every part of our lives; religion no longer provides a place for quiet retreat but instead offers “megachurches” of social and secular amusement; and climbers on top of mount McKinley whip out their cellphones to upload a picture to Facebook.
We are now in a time when, according to the New York Times, “portable phones and data transmission devices of every sort keep us terminally in touch.” Yet, in another, more profound way, we are terminally out of touch. The need for genuine and constructive aloneness has gotten utterly lost, and, in the process, so have we.
Now, more than ever, we need our solitude. Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much needed rest. It brings forth our hopes for freedom. Alone time is fuel for life. Both the needs to be alone and to engage with others are essential to human happiness and survival.
Mother Nature gives aloneness a high priority: sleep is nature’s way of ensuring solitude. But given the rise of the number of sleep-disorder clinics and the sale of soporific drugs, even this one fundamental outlet for aloneness is in trouble.Our error is in presuming that aloneness and attachment are either/or conditions. They are at odds only when they are pitted against each other.
“Alone” did not always mean an absence of others. The word was coined in medieval times, and originally signified completeness in one’s singular being. In religious terminology, “solitude” typically meant the experience of oneness with God. Yet, all current meanings of “alone” imply a lack of something. Invariably, solitude meets with social questioning, if not censure.
Loneliness is indeed the most obvious risk of aloneness. The very idea of solitude may evoke childhood fears of abandonment and neglect, and cause some people to rush toward connectedness. But I do not believe that loneliness can be totally banished from life, or that it should be. Like anxiety or guilt, it’s part of the human condition. I often feel the need to go for a walk, go shopping in the mall, or simply go for a drive. Something inside urges me to devote a few moments to myself, with nobody around me. I also know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. It is essential that people recognize the importance of such quality time, and start encouraging those around them to pursue their impulses whenever possible.
Perhaps our biggest mistake is the way we view solitude. Just as the need and love for food is satisfied in many ways, a gourmet meal, snack, cooking lessons, or a barbecue, alonetime can be found while with another, in crowds, in sleep, or in alert and chosen isolation. It does not even require quiet and stillness. Alonetime can be found in a room full of people dancing, in nature, in the creative act, at the computer, or with your mate.
Check out this vid on How to Be Alone by Andrea Dorfman!