zen habits : breathe

the lost art of solitude

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Post written by Leo Babauta.

You don’t need to be a monk to find solitude, nor do you need to be a hermit to enjoy it.

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.

Some of my favorite activities include sitting in front of the ocean, still, contemplating … walking, alone with my thoughts … disconnecting and just writing … finding quiet with a good novel … taking a solitary bath.

Don’t get me wrong: I love being with loved ones, and walking with a friend or watching the sunset with my wife or reading a book with my child are also among my absolute favorite things in the world.

But solitude, in these days as much as ever, is an absolute necessity.

The Benefits of Solitude

The best art is created in solitude, for good reason: it’s only when we are alone that we can reach into ourselves and find truth, beauty, soul. Some of the most famous philosophers took daily walks, and it was on these walks that they found their deepest thoughts.

My best writing, and in fact the best of anything I’ve done, was created in solitude.

Just a few of the benefits I’ve found from solitude:

There are many more benefits, but that’s to get you started. The real benefits of solitude cannot be expressed through words, but must be found in doing.

How to Find Solitude

You start by disconnecting.

Take every means of connecting with others, and sever them. Disconnect from email, from Facebook and Twitter and MySpace, from forums and social media, from instant messaging and Skype, from news websites and blogs. Turn off your mobile device and phones.

Turn off the computer … unless you’re going to use the computer to create, in which case, shut off the Internet, close your browser, and shut down every other program used to connect with others.

The next steps depend on which of two strategies you use:

1. Holing yourself up. This can be done in your office, by shutting the door and/or using headphones and the calming music of your choice. If possible, let coworkers know you can’t be disturbed during a certain block of your day. Or it can be done at home, by finding a quiet space, shutting the door if you can, or using headphones. The key is to find a way to shut out the outside world, including co-workers or those who live with you.

2. Getting away. My favorite way to find solitude, actually. Get out the door, and enjoy the outdoors. Take a walk, find a park or a beach or a mountain, find a quiet coffee shop, find a shady spot to rest. People watch, or nature watch.

Other tips:

“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.” ~Albert Einstein



Join a million+ breath-taking readers: rss | email | twitter | +