On stillness and being alone

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars… Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees…”
― Eve Ensler
“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

solitudeAs part of my meditation through writing course, I have been thinking about stillness and being alone. It is an opportune time as I have finished the school year and have gone from the one extreme to another: from the noise and constant company of a busy school to the quiet and seclusion of my parents home.

I have always struggled with the stereotyping of extraverts and introverts. I can be extremely sociable leading a class with enthusiasm, humour and energy or speaking out with confidence in a large group of people; nevertheless I find social interaction exhausting and I re-energise by being alone. I suppose that makes me an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I am socially awkward or don’t enjoy socialising.

What I have noticed about myself is that the more busy I am and the more I interact with the others, the harder I find it to be still and savour times when I am alone. The social interaction makes me agitated and on edge and as a result I forget how to be alone and when the time comes I need to relearn.

So I am going to explore what being alone means to me as a way back into solitude.

Places I like to be alone:

At work I am restricted to a desk in an office or classroom. Here I can work in the garden or even from a hammock!

  • My parents’ living room with a good book – my parents home is a haven for me where I feel safe, secure and removed from the world. I know my family are around me, but at the same time I have the space to be alone and still.
  • A hammock on a sunny day – I love the be surrounded by nature and absorb the sounds, the light and the smells.
  • In bed on a Saturday morning with nowhere to be or nowhere to go – my bedroom is calm, clean and uncluttered.
  • A bookshop – books have always been a source of solace, comfort and strength for me.
  • On the beach – being by the sea is a very special experience for me. It has an amazing ability to make me feel calm and to feel a sense of perspective.

Activities I like to do while alone:

  • Cooking – I prefer to cook alone as it allows me the space to concentrate on the task of cooking, to think and reflect and perhaps listen to an audio book or music.
  • Cycling – I love the opportunity cycling provides for stillness and how the repetitive movement can become a form of meditation in its own right. This activity also allows for connection with nature.
  • Running for similar reasons to cycling. I used to listen to music when I ran but now I prefer to enjoy the sounds and sights around me.
  • Meditation.

The following is a first for me: I am going to write whatever comes to mind under the title ‘Being Alone’. Control is hugely important to me and when I blog I think through what I write carefully, organise it and structure it. I am going to try breaking away these barriers and see what comes.

Being Alone

Being alone is to explore who you are and what you really truly believe. Being alone is a balm, a counteraction to the noise, the demands the forcefulness of society. When you are alone you have the space and the time to work through and process what it all means and what your place is in it. What does it all mean? I don’t really know and maybe I never will, but it is a work in progress and that work will only progress if it is given the stillness and solitude it needs to breathe. Solitude is air, which I need to breathe. If I do not breathe it in I will suffocate, slowly, imperceptibly, but completely. Being alone gives me strength, but at the same time leaves me vulnerable. Perhaps it is making me vulnerable that makes me strong. One of the greatest barriers to solitude is the feeling that we are missing out: that by being alone we are not making the most of our time. Society is increasingly becoming obsessed with social interaction and activity and we are in real danger of fogetting how to be alone.

Photo credit: Peter Krtochvil http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4429


  1. I couldn’t agree more that society directs us away from solitude. I used to need to be busy every second, because that’s the model of life that I was taught….but I have relearned the precious nature of silence. It is truly as necessary as food and shelter.

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