The Practice of Solitude
By Silas Rose
This is the first practice offered in the free e course Connecting During Covid: 3 practices to fill your love bucket during a pandemic. To learn more and sign up check out the course overview.
Week 1 practice and homework
The practice of solitude is similar to mindfulness meditation, where we learn to relax in our own skin and feel what we are feeling.
By placing attention on the breath and assuming a good posture, the hot agitation of loneliness naturally transforms into the still, cool lake of solitude.
It is possible to surf the peaks and valleys of any emotion, rather than drowning in the waves. Like strengthening a muscle, the more often you do the practice, the easier it will get.
1. In a place free of distractions, set a timer for 5–10 minutes. Check in with how you are feeling. Take a few deep breaths to relax any areas of tension.
2. Sit comfortably in a chair with feet flat on the ground or cross-legged on a cushion. Uplift the spine, tuck in the chin slightly, relax the shoulders and soften the front of the body. Rest your hands comfortably on the thighs. Your eyes should be slightly open with a loose gaze towards the ground.
3. Begin to notice the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the nostrils. Focus lightly on the exhalations, and relax. When your mind wanders, return to the sensation of the out-breath as it dissolves into space.
4. Acknowledge any thoughts, emotions or sensations in the body that distract you from the moment by labeling them silently as ‘thinking’. Return to the breath as soon as you realize you have wandered.
5. Be gentle. If you find this practice hard or uncomfortable, take a break or shorten the duration. There is no goal beyond noticing the ebb and flow of feeling.
6. At the end of the session take note of your experience, without judgment.
During the week
- Using a journal, write down what you are feeling emotionally and physically at the beginning and end of the week.
- Figure out roughly how much time you spend on social media. If you want to be granular you can use an app to help calculate your screen time.
- Open your planner and pencil in three or more time slots during the week to do the practice of solitude for 10 minutes. You can reclaim this time from your social media use. Mornings or evenings are best.
- Find a calm spot in your home to practice. If this is not possible, go to a local park or some place with natural beauty.
- Bonus points: During the day if you feel distracted or lonely, try doing the practice for a few minutes before reaching for your phone.
Fixing a leaky love bucket
Besides feeling more calm, you might also start to notice other activities or relationships that take your energy, but offer nothing of value in return. Social media is just one place where our attention wanders in search of validation.
When resting in solitude there is the potential for moments of contentment, where being alone is not a problem to solve. While fleeting, these experiences point to an underlying truth; you are whole, and the leaks in your love bucket are temporary and fixable.
Stay tuned for the practice of community.