The Miraculous Power Of Solitude
That's Philosophical #30
Glad to see you all back! Thank you for sticking around, I hope you had a great time during the holidays :) This break was beneficial for me, now I am back and ready for some philosophy.
The gift everybody needs, yet nobody is asking for is solitude.
The best company you will ever have is yourself. Being alone is not about the idea of being with no one around. It’s about letting your mind think. Giving space for yourself. It’s about seeking calmness. Our minds are incredible at analyzing our lives and everything we do.
A study led by Timothy Wilson found that “many people chose to give themselves a mild electric shock rather than be deprived of external sensory stimuli”. In a world built on short-term pleasure, instant entertainment, and stimulation, the hardest thing to resist is letting your brain do nothing.
For thousands of years, most religions and philosophies had different concepts of a mindfulness break. Be it prayer or meditation, we always needed them. But once we understood that the time spent doing nothing could be monetized or spent on entertainment, we lost the natural connection to our soul.
Now is the time to realize its importance.
I bet most people right now are not able to watch a movie from the 1960s. Everything is happening so slowly, why would we watch that?
We are used to instant entertainment everywhere in our lives. TikTok is built on exposing users to more entertainment in a minute, than a person 100 years ago could access in a month.
The habit of consuming rewires the brain. It becomes harder to see the point of doing nothing. It seems pointless. Time alone doesn't need to be killed. It should be embraced and used wisely.
Our brains can think objectively, form memories, and analyze situations only when they are not actively occupied by anything. You are not really thinking while scrolling through Instagram or reading a book, for example.
The brain’s consumption mode is not designed for deep thinking and evaluation. That’s why we have to take a step back and activate our brain’s default mode.
We enter the default mode is when we are not focused on any area and we can see a bigger picture of our experiences and knowledge. This is the mode that is responsible for our “eureka!” moments.
Shower thoughts are an example of this. The brain is not actively used to perform any activity, we are bathing on auto-pilot. This leads to connecting dots from different areas of knowledge and coming up with ideas.
Invite solitude into your life
It’s actually easier than you think. The main selling point of podcasts and audiobooks is that you can consume them while doing something else. While that’s a pretty genius way to occupy your time spent on monotonous tasks, it still might harm you if you are doing that all the time.
Next time you feel like you want to listen to a podcast while walking home or putting music on so you are not alone in the shower, try to resist that and not stimulate yourself in any way. Get used to the boring stuff.
Try to value moments when you are left alone and not doing anything. These moments are not always supposed to be spent listening, watching, or reading. Sometimes, the most valuable thing to fill this time is mindfulness.
A lot of progress in your head is happening without you being aware. It’s similar to building muscles, they grow at rest, not while lifting the weights.
Activities like swimming, running, bathing, driving, cooking, washing dishes, or eating can all become a type of meditation for you. The only thing you need to do to make them therapeutic is not multitask. Don’t distract yourself with anything else.
Buddha famously spent a lot of time alone before his enlightenment, he even said:
“Such was my seclusion that I would plunge into some forest and live there. If I saw a cowherd, shepherd, grass-cutter, wood-gatherer or forester, I would flee so that they would not see me or me them”.
Sometimes while reading a book, I stop to think about something, and then boom, I’ve been daydreaming for 20 minutes. And for me, this is incredibly valuable. In a world with so much noise around us, stopping and focusing on yourself is refreshing.
I like to isolate myself with gaming. Not all gaming types count though. Most games I play are pure entertainment. But some of them act as a therapeutic experience that doesn’t take much of your attention and you can even focus on yourself while playing them.
Running or walking without music also helps. Especially if you have the privilege of doing this in nature.
Change of attitude is all it takes. Instead of thinking about how doing laundry or gardening is taking so much of your time, look at it from another perspective. Suddenly, such chores become an escape from a world that doesn’t want you to be entertained by your own mind.
Susan Cain, in her book “Quiet”, argues that introverts like to be kept alone because they are in control of the environment. I feel the same thing. I can’t work at a coffee shop or with a bunch of people around. It’s distracting. I like to be alone and do my stuff in isolation. That’s how I do most of my writing.
Writing is also a process that requires deep thinking and analysis. I need so much focus to write these articles, so sometimes even music in the background I put on can be distracting.
Sometimes I would still watch a video on youtube while doing such tasks though. That’s when the information addiction kicks in. What I found is it can quickly become one. If I watch a youtube video once while doing laundry, I will likely continue doing that because it’s enjoyable. I will not see a point in just doing laundry and nothing else at the same time. Be aware of that and don’t let it become a bad habit quickly.
Of course, sometimes it’s okay to multitask. I still watch videos with most of my meals. Sometimes you just don’t feel like being alone and you crave entertainment.
We had to lose solitude to understand its significance.
Information addiction is a real thing. Don't deprive yourself of the magic power of solitude.
We are confined by systems and responsibilities in daily life. This makes it easy to forget about stepping back. We start moving on autopilot.
You can’t do that when you are alone, there is no system to follow, nothing to do. You just have to think and go inside of yourself. Once you remove all the external factors controlling your life, you can focus on yourself.
This doesn’t work for everyone. There are people who find it easier to think with music or maybe a TV in the background. I guess we are all created differently and everyone has their own type of coping with their mental health. I hope my words will help you find yours.
Renaissance poet-philosopher Petrarch once said:
“Solitude rehabilitates the soul, corrects morals, renews affections, erases blemishes, purges faults, reconciles God and man.”
Thank you for reading the first issue of 2022! See you next week :)
Let me know if you enjoyed this week’s edition!