Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
Simon and Garfunkel
Life today happens almost instantly. One thing we might be missing in our lives is some time alone, in other words, solitude. The lyrics I opened this blog with might be familiar to some. The song is “The sound of silence”. I always enjoyed the irony of the title. We are constantly exposed to a stimulus of one type or another. I am amazed at the number of people that watch television on their tablets, phones, kindles and just about anything else you can imagine. We stream music, we listen to podcasts, we text, tweet, post to snapchat, and on rare occasions make a phone call. This constant bombardment of noise is having an effect on people, whether they realize it or not. Yet, when we slow down, and relax and turn everything off an unusual thing takes place, we feel all alone. If you allow this strange sensation of “quiet “to occur on a regular basis, you might actually find yourself saying “Hello darkness, my old friend”. Is quiet and solitude becoming an abnormal event for humans in 2018? Let’s take a brief look at a life partially disconnected from all the noise.
There are mountains of data to support the health benefits of a person taking time to meditate, walk in the quiet of the morning or just sit and watch a beautiful sunrise. Isn’t it quite interesting that all the items listed cost you absolutely nothing but your time? The strange thing is you have to schedule the time to do nothing. If your schedule does not allow for periods of silence, you are in desperate need of solitude. I warn you, your first attempt at being alone might not go well. Being alone with our own thoughts might bore you the first time you try it, but don’t give up. You will quickly find it hard to survive your day without some alone time. I have allotted an hour a day of solitude for the last 20 years and my days would be harder to handle without that time alone. Start off slow and try 10 minutes as a starting point twice a week, but just be warned, it is addicting.
Solitude can change the way you interact with other people. When we have time to process our thoughts, we learn to slow down and listen to ourselves, which enhances our ability for listening to others. There is no magic bullet for learning to quiet yourself and turn off the noise. It is a discipline much like a good eating regiment, getting proper sleep and a host of other things that are essential for good health. Why do we fight against the things that will make our lives more fulfilling? Maybe we are afraid to venture off from the things most familiar to us? Either way, it will take a bit of courage, mixed with discipline and sprinkled with expectation. In the quiet, when all external factors are removed, we find our true identity. As we look in a mirror, we position our bodies, hold in our bellies, re-comb our hair (if you are lucky enough to have hair) and wait for that split second until we are convinced our appearance matches what we want to see. The first look most likely was the most accurate. In the moments of solitude, we are able to see ourselves and without distractions. Take a look at yourself when you are alone, this is the picture others see every day. Don’t be discouraged by what you find, be encouraged that you now have a starting point in which to begin your work. It is these moments when our lives come into focus. It is these times we begin to have an intimate meeting with ourselves.
The last thing I will discuss concerning solitude is the need for it when we are in a crisis. If you have ever flown on an airplane, it is amazing the difference in the view. I once flew over a place I had lived for 5 years and could scarcely recognize the terrain, or find my house from the maze of objects below. Our problems are much the same. Many times, we need to see them from 10,000 feet and be removed from the middle of their presence. How can we elevate ourselves above the fray? You probably guessed it, being alone allows unfettered access to reason through the situation. One caveat I would give you about this procedure. Do not go into solitude with a martyr’s complex. Do not be a victim, just be a casual observer of the situation. Sometimes, it even helps to talk out loud to ourselves. Ensure no one is around or they might try to baker act you on the spot. I have found the combination of solitude with self-talk an amazing, therapeutic procedure. I am not a psychology major, I am unsure of exactly what takes place by being alone and having a discussion with oneself. I only know this; many problems appear different when I act on this procedure. It is in the still, calm of the early morning, or late night that I find my greatest therapy. I look for the sound of silence daily. It has become my dearest friend.
In conclusion, if you find yourself alone for a few minutes, don’t reach for the television remote. Take any free minute to let your mind wander and check in with your current situation. If you follow a regular routine of seeking solitude, removing noise will become part of your daily routine. This reminds me of the Kenny Chesney song, titled “Noise”. Here is the chorus:
Yeah, we scream, yeah, we shout ’til we don’t have a voice
In the streets, in the crowds, it ain’t nothing but noise
Drowning out all the dreams of this Tennessee boy
Just trying to be heard in all this noise”
Is solitude a scary thing to entertain? Yes, being alone can be unsettling for some people, yet, many times it is exactly what you need. Start slow and make time to be alone even if just for a few minutes. When you are alone let your thoughts direct where you will go. The items that need your attention will come to you. Do not try to direct them, think and try to allow yourself to relax. Solutions that are needed many times are not the first ones that come to our mind. Enjoy the silence, just listen observe and allow yourself a few moments to be thankful for your life. It may not be glamorous, but you are alive and that is a gift itself. Schedule a time to do nothing. It will be filled with more than you can imagine.