How To Be Alone

It's a strange thing, being by yourself.

Especially these days, when, you are never really alone.

Perhaps you will have Facebook on the laptop in the corner of the room, making periodic little 'blips' signalling messages or updates from friends, or maybe your phone is buzzing every few minutes with text messages or 'whatsapps'. Perhaps you have the radio on, or the television, or are half-watching some half-good movie.

There is always background noise, always something to distract you from the present.

Something that I am really trying to do at the moment is be by myself, truly by myself. Switching off everything and being silent in my room. Allowing myself to really focus on what ever I am doing in that moment, and be entirely present.

It's difficult.

I've noticed that my attention span is really awful - reading a book for more than 10 minutes without checking facebook/twitter/email/text messages/whatsapp/pinterest etc seems almost impossible.

Or even if I switch off all social media - I will still alternate between reading for two different courses, whilst intermittently working on a paper, and making my shopping list, at the same time as colour-coding my weekly schedule.

And that's not even taking into account coffee breaks, lunch breaks and any-other-kind-of-excuse-breaks.

I have decided that, in some way, being by yourself, quiet and calm - forces you to confront yourself, which is both uncomfortable, and seldom done. But why is this so uncomfortable? Why do we find it so difficult to be silent, with only our own thoughts for company? Why does this terrify us so much?

I think those questions are probably not going to be answered in one measly blog post, and are complex and deeply-rooted psychological/social phenomena, but I do know that there are benefits to at least trying to be alone.

It means that you must choose what you want to do in that moment, almost entirely cut off from outside social influence. But in doing so, you begin to feel more calm and grounded with yourself when you do inevitably have social contact again.

One of my friends recently went on a sort of meditation retreat - and he has returned entirely relaxed. He still meditates every day, and I find that interacting with him socially feels more natural, less superficial and much more 'grounded' and down to earth.

I am not suggesting that everyone take up meditation immediately, but this kind of 'being alone' and introspection, reflection and peacefulness can be done in many ways and I think it's something that we often forget to do in modern society.

Tonight, I will still be listening to the radio and my phone will remain switched on - but I will be trying to make my food and completely focus on doing just that, without running away every five minutes while I am cooking, to check my Facebook.

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