How to Be Alone…with Yourself

I worked with an old-timer who used to say, “Sometimes ya just gotta sit on a stump and think.” His hobby was carpentry so I suspect he may have had an actual stump available somewhere, probably sanded and beautifully finished, without the risk of something slimy crawling across your lap. Not so for most of us. Either way, this iss one of those phrases that’s stuck with me over decades. Because yes, sometimes you just have to sit quietly and think. Maybe that will be on the next list of life mottos.

It’s Not Meditating

I’ve talked about meditating. It was my first blog. I credit it with focus and clarity and creativity among others. But this isn’t sitting quietly and quieting the mind, watching thoughts and feeling come up and then releasing them as you continue to go deeper and quieter.

This is the opposite. This is letting those thoughts and feelings take center stage. It’s running the movie, past reality or imagined possibility, and watching attentively and giving all the associated feelings free rein. It’s letting the chatty mind take center stage.

While it’s wonderful to have a practice to quiet the mind, meditation isn’t training yourself to be unaware. In fact, it will make you more aware but less attached.

But it’s hard to be less attached when we don’t even know how we feel. We don’t want to poke around there, and if so, not that much. We’ll define our responses in a generalized, blanket way. “Oh that doesn’t sit well with me.” “I’m not sure how I feel (yes you are).” “I don’t really want to worry about that.” The block to sitting alone with yourself is what you’re afraid you’ll hear. It’s what we don’t want know, don’t want to face. We don’t want to deal with whatever is going on.

Distraction is Easy: Avoidance is Easy

And it’s easy, in this day and age, to be constantly distracted. How often do we actually just sit and think? Really, alone, doing nothing and just thinking. Nothing means no phone, either.

On my lunch hour, I used to slip out to a coffee shop down the street. It wasn’t a chain, it was busy, but usually with regulars and a few tourists who had managed to find it. I’d sit alone, just relishing the quiet. My reflex at first was to pull out my phone. Like a lot of people. Do I have email? What’s the news? Social media?

But I made a conscious decision not to do that. Because that’s doing something. It’s a distraction. I don’t read or listen to the news. I limit social. But there was reading e-books. We all have our thing. I have mini library on my phone: fiction, non, there’s always a choice right there. A stack of books in the palm of my hand. But that’s also occupying the mind. Getting in touch with yourself is like having coffee with yourself. Would you scroll your phone? Pull out a book? No, you sit and listen.

Coffee With You

Sit with you as if you were receiving a friend who needs to talk. In Jordan Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life, the second rule is Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

Sitting alone with yourself is a time to go poking in all those dark corners. Open all the closets, check under all the rugs, and the bed.

I’ve always said all answers lie inside us we know that we know we just don’t want to hear it. So take a deep breath, go sit with yourself and explore how you really feel about whatever it is that comes to mind. Because that’s going be what needs your attention. And remember, you don’t have to act on your decision right away. So don’t avoid getting clear on what’s going on.

Why do This To Yourself

And sometimes this is difficult but the beauty of it is once you’re clear even if you don’t like what it is even if the exercise wasn’t particularly pleasant you’ve gained clarity and once you’re clear much less time and energy is wasted. Then you can go forward. I talk often of time and energy, whether it’s in terms of boundaries or clearly setting in your intentions and mindset. Because time and energy are finite resources. They must be used wisely.

Photo by Yukitaka Iha on Unsplash

I’ll be sending out more regular newsletters as I begin querying literary agents. I’ll be sharing what’s happening, the pros and cons, what I’ve done and what works. You can sign up below. 

This post contains an affiliate link: 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson, and you can read more on that here. It’s not too early to think about tackling that Christmas list! Only 52 days, people!