A few months ago, I wrote about the not quite whole week I spent without a phone. It was enlightening, mostly for all the reasons I wasn’t expecting. I set out to go to places and realized I had no idea how to get there. I tried to pay for parking and didn’t know how. I had to ask strangers for the time. Most of all, there was the silence. Not just the literal quietness of certain spaces, but the fact that I had to notice it. I sat in a doctor’s waiting room with the option to sit and wait, or…sit and wait. I talked to a stranger waiting in line. Why? Because we were both waiting to get our phones fixed. All we had was each other.
At first, with the exception of moments like that, it was kind of a lonely experience. Until I realized I wasn’t actually alone. There was so much happening around me, almost at all times, and I was missing a lot of it. I went running to the sounds of nature, and the city. I noticed signs in my neighborhood that had (apparently) always been there. I woke up a little more. I connected with my surroundings. I noticed more.
It wasn’t just the external case, though. Another thing all that silence will get you is a direct line to all that communication your body and mind are sending themselves – sending YOU – all day long. When you’ve lost all your distractions, and taken in your surroundings, the one thing you’re left with is you.
So, how’s that relationship going?
Moments of true solitude are few and far between these days. Technology keeps us all constantly connected to the world far beyond our fingertips, on-demand. It’s easier than ever to avoid discomfort. And why wouldn’t you? It’s…uncomfortable.
It’s one of the primary reasons people fall out of their mindfulness practice. Whether your focal point is your breath, a visualization, or movement, mindfulness will eventually bring you into the discomfort zone. You might get bored, frustrated, judgmental, or even bump up against sadness, regret, or some other less-than-fun feeling. The idea is to encounter them, and let them pass. No engagement, no force, but also no denial.
Denial is so much easier though. Numbing discomfort with distraction is so much more fun. It’s a universal truth, for all of us. It’s just also kind of the physiological equivalent of throwing everything in that drawer at home (we all have one), and shoving it closed. It’s all still in there. Eventually, it’s gonna start bursting at the seams, and you won’t be able to avoid dealing with it, whether you like it or not.
Solo time is a perfect opportunity to practice your practice. You don’t even need to be formal about it. When you realize you’re alone, and you reach for the phone, or anything else, just notice. What are you feeling? How are you responding to that?
Maybe a little “No-Fail” Friday mindfulness challenge preview? Perhaps… ;-)
“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” – Michel de Montaigne
Phot credit: Aleksei Bakulin