Does Solitude Have a Place in Your Life?

meditationcollage

Though it’s technically possible to be connected thousands of people thousands of miles away—anytime, anywhere—too much of a good thing can lead to a bad place. Solitude is a human need and to deny it is unhealthy for both mind and body. Living in a technologically connected 24/7 society that undervalues solitude and overvalues attachment is stressful and stress is a killer. 

Mobile use isn’t the future it’s the present. Smartphones are ubiquitous; currently there 6 billion of them. In fact, there are more people who own mobile phones today than there are those who own toothbrushes.  We carry them with us everywhere, have our most personal of all information on them, and some claim they can’t live without them.

Research reveals less than half of smartphone users actually use their handsets for calling. The 2012 study British cellphone technology company SecurEnvoy reveals 66% of the mobile users suffer from Nomophobia ie. the fear of being without a mobile phone or out of mobile contact range.

A respected journalist, a digital pioneer and netiquette specialist,  Steven Petrow outlines just how stressful communicating in the digital age is: anything you share online can be re-posted in other people’s networks and spread like wildfire.

“In the digital age, how we post, tweet, text and otherwise communicate is immensely complicated despite its relative ease. With one wrong click, you can make a faux pas that goes viral in moments – and lasts forever.”

beach collageAddiction in a mobile world is a reality. The brain’s dopamine system allows humans to experience pleasure and reward, but people who are addicted to the Internet have fewer, or impaired, dopamine receptors, making it difficult to feel rewards without extra effort. The more users view their phone’s menu screens, news, e-mail and apps throughout the day the more addicted they become. Nomophobia: Disconnect and Detox

Making resolutions to change behavior are common at New Years and  some companies are taking steps to help wean employees from their electronic devices.

Pssst! Did you know that in December 2011, Brazil passed a law that makes it legal for workers who deal with emails after hours to claim overtime pay?

Psst! Did you know that Matt Cutts of Google took a digital vacation? Taking a week off from the interent

Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days

wintercollageDigital Withdrawl

During the Christmas holiday season my psychologist friends arrived to spend their 10 day digital detox of 2012 in their off-the-grid cabin.  For the last three years they have set aside 20 days each year in two 10 day blocks in August and December to deliberately digitally disconnect and naturally reconnect with nature and with their islander friends. Additionally, throughout the year, they also schedule mini digital detox vacations on long weekends. That’s not to mention that they do make the time for solitude in every day of their lives.

No email contact and digital connections to work, colleagues, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest etc.  did result in a relaxing holiday, but it took them 3 – 4 days to detach and the withdrawal time has not varied over the course of these past three years.

During their cold turkey withdrawal days they have used pen and paper to record each time they felt compelled to make the digital connection but resisted the urge. The pair are intent on recording how being both connected 24/7 and disconnected 24/7 affects them for an upcoming book, a self-help book aimed at encouraging IT professionals to make a place for solitude in their lives.

Connected, but alone?

Jean sent me the link to the TED Talks video Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? video and I’m now looking forward to reading the book featured in it. In Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, Turkle supports dialog on the role solitude plays in conscious living. She writes:

“We recreate ourselves as online personae and give ourselves new bodies, homes, jobs, and romances. Yet, suddenly, in the half-light of virtual community, we may feel utterly alone. As we distribute ourselves, we may abandon ourselves. Sometimes people experience no sense of having communicated after hours of connection. And they report feelings of closeness when they are paying little attention. In all of this, there is a nagging question: Does virtual intimacy degrade our experience of the other kind and, indeed, of all encounters, of any kind?”

Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?

In places where digital saturation is greatest, there are people—especially the young—who are asking the hard questions about costs, about checks and balances, about returning to what is most sustaining about direct human connection.

Disconnecting,  Solitude and Reconnection

Leo Babauta’s 15 Ways to Create an Hour a Day of Extra Time … for Solitude are ways and means to provide you with the ability to make time for solitude to reflect on your life. Reducing your Internet use will force you to use the time you do use the Internet more productively … you can still do the things you love to do, but you have to use them in a more focused way.

“Solitude is a lost art in these days of ultra-connectedness, and while I don’t bemoan the beauty of this global community, I do think there’s a need to step back from it on a regular basis.” — the lost art of solitude

Does solitude have a place in your life?

“There is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.

From the outside, solitude and loneliness look a lot alike. Both are characterized by solitariness. But all resemblance ends at the surface.

Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing.

Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself.” — What Is Solitude?

forest collage“To summarize:  Online connections are a poor man’s replacement for face to face, physical world, interactions. Had I read that yesterday, many teachers would have stood up and shouted, “Amen!” Certainly everyone would read that and relate or agree to various degrees. But…” Overcoming Digital Dualism

We all need to digitally disconnect and enjoy some solitude every day to remain balanced. Disconnecting from technology to daydream, meditate, pray, chant, take a walk, ride a bike, stroll along a beach, watch a sunset or do absolutely nothing at all are effective stress reducers. They are life savers for me. How about you? Does solitude have a place in your life?

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59 thoughts on “Does Solitude Have a Place in Your Life?

  1. Timethief, I found you on here by chance by following links starting with your excellent blogging advice on one cool site…but this article in particular really speaks to me directly. You talk about a lot of issues I face in my own life (and talk about on my own blog) — solitude vs loneliness, finding time for quiet, peace of mind. Thank you for your wisdom. I’ll be coming back here often! Namaste.

  2. When yin and yang are in harmony, wu- wei, it is good. Things are not bad just out of balance. Your post reminds us of the down side of technology. Technology, is it yin or is it yang? What ever, we need to leave time to appreciate nature and calm the mind with meditation. Digital photography, mobile phones and blogging have taken a big piece of my life. I get that feeling ‘stop the world I want to get off ‘ back to life in the slow lane, calligraphy, sketching, pottery and all those hands on things. Concious organised effort is needed in our modern society to balance our life, thank you for your well presented reminder.

  3. Great article here. I too find a lot of joy happiness in solitude and need it (especially in the mornings) to feel more connected and social the rest of the day. Solitude allows for instrospection, growth and mindfulness practices. Although my day job is interacting with a lot of people, I enjoy the moments of solitude in my life.

    As an experiment, I’ve been learning to leave my cell home at home when I have been attending certain events. It’s amazing how much more I get done without glancing at my phone every 2 minutes:) Thanks again for this post!

    1. Hi Vishnu
      I’m the same when it comes to mornings. I like to start my day off in solitude and I intersperse short breaks during the day when I feel I need them.

      Your experiment is already providing you with a benefit – higher productivity and less stress – good going!

  4. Once I opened my heart and mind to being alone, solitude did indeed become sweet. And occasionally, it’s even glorious: I’m able to rest in that state of equanimity that the Buddha described—allowing the world to unfold without grasping at the pleasant or recoiling from the unpleasant. When this happens, I, too, feel part of the rhythm of the universe—a “flow-through of matter, energy, and information” as the eco-philosopher Joanna Macy so beautifully expressed it.

  5. TT, found this great post after commenting on your FB Graph search thingy, and I was so excited by your question about the place solitude has in life. Honestly, I would be absolutely lost without my doses of this precious time. I love my family, friends and connections but I feel I am a better person, able to give more of myself after time spent on my own, either down the back of my cave or out in the crowds of the noisy streets. I grew up in a large family, sometimes the loneliest place in the world – if only because I felt I missed out on the bliss of solitude!

    All best wishes to you!

    1. Hi Patti,
      I’m sorry it took me this long to get back to this blog and respond.

      I also grew up in a large family and know exactly what you mean. I would also be lost or perhaps crazy without solitude. Like you I know I’m a better person when I have my time alone.

      Hugs,
      TiTi

  6. My love for solitude becomes almost a fatal flaw in me, I am now officially a hermit! Yesterday I had to emerge from my cocoon to fulfil a chore which involved entering the dreaded rush hour.

    The experience of doing everyday things in the world like exchanging sons jeans reminds me of my lack of ‘fit’, and it also provoked me into wondering whether my experiencing fibromyalgia was a reaction to a world that I can’t fit into.

    The stress of being a young adult in a pressurised environment perhaps overwhelmed my system and tipped me into the condition. (I I had had symptoms since 15, but undiagnosed and unrecognised). It occurred to me that had I lived a different life contextually I may never have experienced fibromyalgia, but just been me. (in other words, it is not my self that is sick, but the ‘fit’ that is not right.)

    Fibromyalgia has impacted on my life in what I have seen as quite a major way, it informs how I spend time ( gently, as a rule) , and consequently it has impacted on my parenting and on my relationships. ( I am not as dynamic as I had once dreamed of being.) I think my parenting has benefited actually, more tolerant of difference, more listening..I have to make a real effort to involve myself outside the home now. I don’t mind that though.

    I hope this year turns out to be more positive for you, and that you experience better health. With love, Anne

    1. Hi Anne,
      Fibromylagia has been with me for over 25 years now so maybe it was mid-life crisis and burn-out that had some to do with triggering it or maybe not. It took 8 years for me to secure a diagnosis.

      I chose to become a hermit over 7 years ago now. I don’t suffer from agoraphobia. I just choose not to be out and about unless I need to be. I dislike hustle and bustle and I reached a point in my life where I allowed myself to just step back — step way back. That stepping back facilitated me becoming a keen observer of self and to begin to accept “my other” as worthy of befriending and healing.

      It may sound strange to others but fibromylagia has also impacted and benefited me in many major ways too. They are the same ways you outlined above. These days I do what I want to do and spend time with those I want to be with. I don’t do anything I feel externally pressured into doing. I’ve empowered myself so I’m able to live a life that’s not based on culturally inculcated obligations.

      Thanks for your well wishes. May 2013 be a better health year for you too.

      With love,
      TiTi

  7. What a beautiful post ~ thank you for sharing. I feel healthy solitude is essential, and every summer I go out to the mountain campgrounds with my dog for a (minimum) 4-Day silent retreat, and I especially like your phrasing here: “to deliberately digitally disconnect and naturally reconnect with nature”. It’s worth maintaining a tough old truck and camper to keep my mobile retreat. Cheers! ~Gina

    1. Hi Gina,
      It’s good to meet you. I enjoyed visiting your blog and subscribed. I’m so happy we are in agreement about disconnecting and reconnecting with nature. It’s only ignorance and arrogance that leads anyone to believe that humans are not an intrinsic part of nature. We are not above or below it; we are part of all there is. There are so many who could benefit from solitude as without doubt it’s essential for physical, emotional and spiritual health. I hope that in time they will all realize what they need to do to heal themselves.

      1. So well put ~ how solitude is essential for all levels of well-being. Indeed even taking a moment of quiet on a park bench and really noticing the grass, clouds, birds, and breezes. Let us hope more and more of us realize that nature is not that far away, and even a moment of silence is always available. To just be alone amidst nature, and BE.
        Wonderful to meet you and have you over at my blog too. Here’s to many more shared visits!

  8. I feel as I am on the outside, looking in.

    I don’t doubt the difference between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is a time for me to charge my batteries, and to gather my thoughts and ideas. That is how my thought process goes– brood on something a while, put all my thoughts out on the table for a few trusted people, then gather it all in to ruminate on further. But oftentimes, after moments of needed solitude, when I go out to put those ideas out, I find loneliness.

    I am on full disability. I am not able to work, at all, save what I choose to call homesteading. And to be honest, my children with special needs demand more of this free time, especially my son with autism. I live in an “emerging” area, so I am not really surrounded by the urban experience, and I live on the more rural side of town. I have visited metropolitan cities and did not like the crowds, generally.

    Most people my age define themselves by their employment– I do not have any of that. I often lament, “gee, I wish I could be too busy for all my friends, too.” I think the problem goes deeper than technological obsession alone; neighborhood communities seem to have broken down. Most of my peers seem to live in an indoor society, and their families are insular.

    Facebook and much of social networking has left me cold. My goal even with online relationships is that I will eventually meet the best of these friends in person; already I talk to a few people I’ve met online on the phone, because I consider it more personal. But still, I find myself running out of people to see or call… they are all ‘busy’.

    1. Your comment took my breath away. I’m honored that you shared so openly.

      “But oftentimes, after moments of needed solitude, when I go out to put those ideas out, I find loneliness.”

      You made me think long and hard about what you have said for our circumstances are so different. I live in what’s largely an artist’s (musicians, actors, writers, green living, organic gardening, outdoorsy, sailors, fishers, birdwatchers, nature worshipers) community where all kinds of ideas flourish. However, I’m in the forest dweller stage of my life and choose not to be out and in contact with many people. Last year I intended to develop deeper relationships but what happened was shingles, 2 fibromylgia flare-ups, a home reno and the deaths of 3 people I was close to. I don’t know what 2013 will bring but I’m hoping it will be better times for you and for me too.

      1. Thank you for honoring the trust that I have given. I hope that what I said sheds more understanding on the sometimes confusing things I say at other times. The pain and suffering is hard, but I am grateful for those small moments that I am able to let go and find truth and light by such challenges. I know I cannot stop the hard times, so it is my hope that I will continue to find meaning and growth in them, and that is my hope for you, too.

        1. What you have shared has led me to take a close look beyond my own situation and suffering and appreciate that others suffer too.

          You have said: “Most people my age define themselves by their employment– I do not have any of that.” When I became unable to use my hands to make a living as I did previously I felt I had lost part of what defined me. It wasn’t the first time I had to change professions due to health challenges.

          It took some time for me to recognize that I could still create, I simply could not go keep pace with the demands of commercial production and deadlines. I had to stop abusing my body by pushing past its limitations. I had to do what I could do – in my own time.

          I still use my hands and head to make a living today but in different ways and as I’m self-employed I can be flexible when it comes to my working hours.

          Your honesty re: a desire for deep connection with like-minded others is admirable. My wish is that you will find the meaningful relationships you are seeking within the online community in 2013 and the years yet to come.

  9. Superb post, Timethief. I grew up in rural New Hampshire; it’s a tad shocking to see how crowded cities, noise and a disconnect from nature is the norm these days. From the time I was 6 until I was 14 I spent summers at a horse camp with no electronics and some of the summer at cottages at the beach. There were tvs there but we didn’t use them.

    Dateline had a great special called Digital Nation. They pointed out that in the 1950s, parents had to yell at kids to come inside for dinner. Now parents have to yell at kids to get outside. And in the prime of their lives!

    There has been controversy about dopamine and internet addictions; one thing’s for sure, sitting around indoors both removes us from the natural world, with which our ancestors coevolved; and it subtracts years from our lives and gives us poor quality life when we don’t exercise.

    I can’t imagine life without yoga, tai chi or my time running at the local lake. I hope more people discover these times of solitude. Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Amelie
      I’m so glad you liked it. There are so many techno addicts that publishing a piece like this could have exacerbated the receipt of griever troll comments. I thought long and hard about it and decided my readership would be amenable to reading what I had to say and apparently I was right.

      Guess what? I found FRONTLINE Digital Nation: Is our 24/7 wired world causing us to lose as much as we’ve gained? http://video.pbs.org/video/1402987791/

      Program: FRONTLINE
      Episode: Digital Nation
      Duration: (1:26:10)

      FRONTLINE producer Rachel Dretzin (Growing up Online) teams up with one of the leading thinkers of the digital age, Douglas Rushkoff (The Persuaders, Merchants of Cool), to continue to explore life on the virtual frontier.

      According to many sources, extroverts make up 60% to 75% of the population, and introverts make up the remainder. Well, it turns out that Introverts are people who are over-sensitive to Dopamine, so too much external stimulation overdoses and exhausts them. Conversely, Extroverts can’t get enough Dopamine, and they require Adrenaline for their brains to create it. Extroverts also have a shorter pathway and less blood-flow to the brain. The messages of an Extrovert’s nervous system mostly bypass the Broca’s area in the frontal lobe, which is where a large portion of contemplation takes place.

      I don’t want to be in a world of full of constantly connected people. If that’s where we are headed then hopefully, I’ll be long gone before it comes to pass.

      Happy New Year to you too.

  10. Thanks for the thoughtful post. I have always reveled in solitude. Even today I don’t turn on the radio in the car when I’m driving alone. I prefer my own thoughts to the wacky world around me. A few years ago I took the Meyer’s Briggs personality test while I was at work in a busy non profit educational center I created. I was an extrovert at work where I was constantly engaged with other people. But when I want home and took the test again I came out an introvert, happy being alone and in solitude. I’ve always been like this, especially in my gardening work where I worked alone and would meditate on the planting I was doing. Or in the wilderness of course. I think it’s saved my sanity many times to be able to be alone and recharge. I know people who are constantly plugged in and it drives me a little nuts to be around them. I feel sad about what they’re missing out on in their inner lives. I think we all need solitude very much. Alone but not Lonely…
    Steve

    1. Hi there Steve,
      It’s interesting that so many of my online friends revel in solitude just as I do. There seems to be a significant number of us who are self sustaining and self entertaining introverts or as you describe above ambiverts. When I was young I lead the life of an ambivert due to circumstances but my true personality type is introverted. Like you I love gardening. On many occasions I also prefer to drive while listening to my own thoughts, rather than listening to music. In fact I spend a lot of time without a radio or stereo on. I don’t hear people or traffic where I live. I do hear song birds and that IMHO is perfect.

  11. The videclip frame doesn’t appear (on my screen browsser) to be functional… Anyway, I knew Turkle’s video talk would resonate with you and others on several levels. Like you, I appreciated her strong advice how to use social digital tools carefully without making the tools control one’s life and identity. It always needs to be other way around, humans in full control of their digital communication tools. Meaning not so heavily reliant especially with loved ones. It makes me wonder when I hear of people at work in frequent communication with their adult children in their 20’s. Geez, I never wanted to be that closely hooked with my parents by that age!

    Yes, there are some folks who are toxic in our lives. So digital or phone conversation is enough.

    Being alone for a few hours for me is helpful, not a critical necessity. At the very least, I have several waking hrs. not at all tied to any email communicative device nor to the Internet. This is important for my own equilibrium.

    I see enough folks at home who use their cellphone as to give the impression they are important with emails that they have to check (of which most of it is not emergency) while you are talking to them…. Pretty rude and a sign of their own insecurity alot of the time.

    1. Hi Jean,
      I’m disappointed to hear you can’t watch the video and wonder if your Flash needs upgrading. Try confirming Flash is updated http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/ and if required installing the latest version of Flash http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/

      Like you I have been in situations where I have heard colleagues and co-workers blathering away on paid time while chatting with fully grown children. I have heard moms claim their 7 years olds who are school-bussed back and forth and never beyond adult supervision range state the kid needs a cell phone for safety reasons. I have witnessed people driving and speaking on cell phones. I have heard every type of denial a techno addicted person can come up with.

      Now I have zero tolerance when it comes to being in the company of anyone who is speaking to someone else on a cell phone, checking their email, updating their status, etc. I will no longer remain silent. The next time anyone answers a cell phone while in conversation with me or waiting one me I will launch into a full throated aria that will shatter wine glasses no matter where we are. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLcbfF9ypmM

      P.S. No I’m not claiming I have Maria Callas’s voice and I’m not particularly drawn to opera but I can hit a rift of high notes that will definitely cause a cell phone disconnect. lol :D

      1. I don’t have a cellphone –yet. He just has an iPhone to check email but it’s not a phone. At work, I have laptop that I use daily but haven’t yet removed it from its docking station which I do have the choice. Too heavy to haul home. I also have a work iPad whch takes ages to replenish the battery. The iPad 3 sucks up alot of energy fast.

        So as soon as I step away from work desk or home desk, I am not hooked in to the Internet at all. I haven’t ruled out cellphone in the future –but not for now. So yes, I am “alone” –without my electronic hookup fixes. I can’t even understand the concept of monitoring email in a mobile manner while I walk along, etc. What for? Who would phone me so often or vice versa? I would sincerely become a “nag” to my partner and vice versa. We just trust each other to buy the right minimal groceries and allow leeway for other choices. I’m just giving an example that unplugging from constant IV of cellphone, email, is also trusting another party to make some choices on their own.

        When we were snowshoeing for a few days this past Christmas at Lake Louise, dearie decided not to take his laptop since he would have to snowshoe with the weight and with his clothing from bus stop onto the trail to the lodge. He had his iPhone which he only checked 2-3 times during the day…inside a building for free WiFi.

        So we checked our blogs only once per day and email for half an hr. in evening. That was good enough for both of us. The quiet distraction of lush snow was wonderful.

        1. Hi Jean,
          My husband does not use the blackberry or laptop that came with his position. He didn’t even register them or bring them home. He does use the iPad though and we both use desktops, but when we get up and walk away that’s it — we aren’t fretting about what we may be missing … lol :D

          We have ruled out cell phones for now. If we become medically challenged and need to be connected in the future then we may get them then but not now. We truly enjoy being available only when we wish to be available.

  12. I feel the truth of what you wrote, TT. It *is* an addiction. Even as I yearn to go offline, I find myself … still … online.

    I suspect the constant intake of information may also be contributing to my inability to remember things from one moment to the next.

    It’s like there’s too much undigested information just hanging out in my brain, disorganized and awaiting processing that’s never going to happen.

    So the backlog grows, and I feel dumber and dumber as I take in more and more information.

    1. Tina,
      Of course it is an addiction and I ‘m a techno addict. The salient point is that I’m prepared to take the action required to break the habit, despite the fact I’m surrounded by other addicts, who are in a state of denial.

      Your point about compromising our ability to recall, while treading water in a sea of undigested information and feeling dumbed down is an important one.

      I recognize I’m more fragmented and my ability to concentrate is compromised by allowing the information flood to overwhelm me. In 2013 I’m getting out of that flow more frequently and increasing my time spent on high and dry land, so to speak.

  13. Hi TT,
    I think this is a very important post to start the New Year. There is another very important and insidious point to make about our digital addictions, and that is that websites which depend on building traffic are designed specifically to create an addictive habit.

    Ever tried to leave Facebook only to have all your friends pictures appear, with a catchline about how much they will miss you?

    There is an interesting blogger Nir Eyal at http://www.nirandfar.com/ who often blogs on the science and psychology behind creating addictive behaviour.

    Any addiction is like a cuckoo in the mind, it can only make space in our mind by pushing out valuable, but less addictive, habits. My point, we don’t often realise that we’re following a pied piper, and it is so much harder to find our way back on our own.

    1. Hi Jerry,
      I don’t have a Facebook account but I’m well aware of the techniques employed to keep one connected. http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2012/11/15/facebook-deactivation-and-deletion/

      You’re 100% correct when you say “websites which depend on building traffic are designed specifically to create an addictive habit. ” What boggles my mind is how many people are in a state of denial about that reality.

      Thanks so much for that link. It’s a brilliant post.

      “The addict’s path offers lessons to why we can’t stop our technological indiscretions and why we’ll never be able to kick the habit. The real reason we use our phones, tablets, and laptops in meetings is to escape our reality, because reality is uncomfortable. Meetings can be tense, socially uncomfortable, and very often, exceedingly boring. Meetings are hothouses of discomfort that any rational person would want to escape given the opportunity. Our technology gives us the perfect way to be there, but not.”

      I also read another excellent post too. “We are caught in an endless cycle of messaging hell and the pattern is always the same. First, a new communication system is born — take email or Facebook, for example. Ease-of-use helps the product gain wide adoption and reach a critical mass of users. And then things turn ugly.” http://www.nirandfar.com/2012/10/escape.html

  14. Very timely for me to see and read this post, TT. I’m a big advocate for solitude, I think we all need it–some of us more than others–and I don’t get nearly enough. I also spend quite a bit of time online, and every so often need to withdraw completely. I wonder if I wouldn’t need to do so for weeks at a clip if I was able to get more alone time in the physical world.

    1. Hi there,
      This resonates: ” I wonder if I wouldn’t need to do so for weeks at a clip if I was able to get more alone time in the physical world.”

      I have definitely been spending too much time online and particularly, spending too much time answering questions on the support forums. This year I will be spending far less time doing that and instead will be spending more time doing nothing at all.

      It won’t be easy for an overachiever and driver like me to spend more time not doing. However, I know I need more healing time – more down time every day and I’m determined to make and take the time I need day by day.

      1. You’re a valuable asset to the WordPress community and the support forums, but I’m glad to hear you say this. It’s so hard to acknowledge our own needs, even harder to do what we need to meet those needs.

        Wishing you peace and strength.

  15. I believe that it’s by bringing the virtues of solitude forward, we can help to make it more socially acceptable in the West. Many who live a solitary life are regarded still, as strange creatures……Perhaps the pendulum needs to swing to extremes, before it can reach a balance point. And certainly the hectic lifestyle of city dwellers particularly, is a case of extreme unbalance. But then again, if more people slowed down, spent time in solitude, and reflected on Life, they wouldn’t accept the status quo. That would really turn the modern system on its head – that’s a thought isn’t it!

    1. “Many who live a solitary life are regarded still, as strange creatures……Perhaps the pendulum needs to swing to extremes, before it can reach a balance point. .. ”

      There’s no doubt about it we westerners have been raised to believe nonsense such as:
      Only a mental illness would cause people to seek total solitude.
      A true recluse will have no social relationships at all.

      “Life’s creative solutions require alone time. Solitude is required for the unconscious to process and unravel problems. Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers.” — Ester Buchholz

      I hope that there will be many of us who resists the pressure to eliminate solitude from our lives. Solitude enlightens and heals. It’s of vital importance that we all learn how to enjoy our own company and avoid becoming techno addicted.

    1. Hi Christopher,
      I lived in Montana when I was a child. It as a period in my young life when I moved back and forth across the 49th parallel living both there and on the Canadian prairies in farming and ranching areas.

      Like you I recharge my batteries in the wilderness and seeing the sacred in everything and everyone I meet.

      On your About me page you have said something that also describes where I am at: “My spiritual practice is a tapestry from many religions has been an honored direction with love in all it’s forms, making space for forgiveness for myself, the action of ethical relations with others, and an active participant of ownership with my karma.”

      http://earthconnections.wordpress.com/about-me/

      It’s an honor to meet you. To some I am known as brightfeather.

  16. I went out to lunch to reconnect with my very first psychology professor, who just happens to have an office in my building (he was there first). When we almost missed each other, I called his number. He said, “Good thing I was sitting in my office or I wouldn’t have gotten your call!” I replied, “Oh, this isn’t your cell number?’ “I don’t do the cell thing,” he said. “Huh?” I said. Then my mind did a double-take. “Huh!” I said, reflecting. This weekend my husband and I threw our snowshoes in the truck and took off, for just such solitude as you mention.

    1. Hi Linda,
      My hubby and I have made the same decision your psychology prof made – no mobile phones. We have a landline and one or the other of us is almost always in range of the ringing. We have a message machine for when we are both out and unable to answer. We have discussed this at length and concluded that as we aren’t on call as emergency fire, police or healthcare workers, we don’t need to be in contact nor do we want take everyone we know with us everywhere we go. We will remain out of touch until we choose to be in touch, rather than succumbing to the mind numbing addiction that the constant pressure to remain connected online creates.

      P.S. I hope you had a great snowshoeing adventure.

  17. I thrive in solitude. I’m an introvert in many ways so I suppose it’s a natural state of just being – I write, I walk in nature alone, I read, I simply think, and I also try not to think (it’s a mediative practice). I will not fathom my life without solitude – I seek it when I want/need it, openly ask for it (busy mum, wife, teacher, etc), and expect it. But I never take it for granted. I appreciate it, and I am grateful for it. My solitude becomes me – I become, I am me when I’m in it.

  18. Hi TT,

    It’s an interesting issue to consider. I don’t think that any would argue that we have a need for moments of solitude, but I believe that even the hyper-connected can find those moments. During work hours, being connected can be vital to our jobs. Off hours, a certain amount of electronic social interaction can be relaxing. I can enjoy moments of solitude as I write a post — just me with my thoughts. If an occasional incoming Email momentarily distracts me, I can return to my thoughts without travail. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the extremes of no time for reflection and an extended blackout of our devices, in order to force us to reflect, can each affect us negatively. For the latter, I’m suggesting that we can often think of nothing else, except of the thing that we cannot have.

    When I used to have a long commute to the office, (1 3/4 hours each way) I would often turn off the radio and just think for long stretches of the drive. There are usually many ways to achieve the same result.

    I enjoy face-to-face interactions, but not always. Sometimes, a text is preferable.

    1. Hi Ray,
      I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I have a formal meditation practice and an informal one too in the sense that I try to practice mindfulness at all times.

      I begin and end my day in solitude and take many small mini-breaks throughout my working day the way you have described above. I also schedule larger time blocks for solitude and sometimes I spontaneously walk off into the forest or along the beach to heal myself.

      I don’t consider any time I spend behind the wheel of a car to be relaxing, even when it’s a long drive a there are few vehicles on the road. I may think I’m taking a mental vacation but it won’t result in the deep relaxation that meditation in solitude does, for example.

      On one hand, voluntary digital disconnection never results in any damage to us. On the other, digital addiction does cause harm. Research clearly demonstrates the brain’s dopamine system allows humans to experience pleasure and reward, but people who are addicted to the Internet have fewer, or impaired, dopamine receptors, making it difficult to feel rewards without extra effort. Digital addiction is harmful and it’s something the aware will recognize and prevent.

    1. Hi there,
      That’s good to hear. I too am alone and not lonely. I rarely feel lonely and can’t even recall the last time I felt that way, though I’m alone much of the time.

    1. theothersideofugly
      That’s such an interesting practice. Walking barefoot is something I do every day indoors year round but only on grass or the beach in summer time.

      I have fibromyalgia or shall I say it has me? Walking barefoot in the cold and wet is out of the question as I already endure major foot and leg cramps and chronic pain. However, I love the motive behind your practice. I too am focused on living each day fully.

    1. Hi Bert,
      Thanks for the visit and comment too. I’m also a loner and require a lot of time on my own. When it comes to relationships I prefer one on one face to face communication. Loneliness is a feeling I rarely experience. it’s not likely that I will ever become a cell phone addict as I don’t choose to own one.

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