Any place we live must accommodate a number of activities: socializing, sleeping, cooking, eating, bathing, relaxing. But what about quiet alone-time? Renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell insisted we all need a place to "simply experience and bring forth what [we] are and what [we] might be."
If it doesn't already exist in your home, consider creating a kind of sanctuary (or sanctuaries) where you and other family members can go to experience silence and solitude. This space will be welcoming as a function of its serenity, beauty, and privacy. Suggestions include:
- A corner of a bedroom or spare room works well. Most of us don't have space enough to devote an entire room to such a refuge, and there is no particular need to do so.
- Place yourself beyond the sounds of TV, radio, electronic games, music players, and so on.
- Get rid of background noise, which is distracting when we seek quiet.
- Minimize clutter. Having too much "stuff" around is another kind of distraction, which can drain our energy and undermine our internal reflection.
- Make the area aesthetically pleasing. Plants or flowers tend to promote a sense of peacefulness, as do favorite beautiful objects, photographs, or paintings. Positive associations may arise from pictures of loved ones (including pets), past and present.
- Leave work somewhere else. Any reminders of obligations beyond your retreat space may make it more difficult to settle your mind and rest your spirit.
- Sound-masking devices, ranging from white noise generators to self-contained fountains, may make it easier to forget what is going on in the clamorous world beyond your home. Soft, soothing music is another option.
- Consider using your space for other mind-body activities that are potentially stress reducing or sacred to you, such as yoga, meditation, prayer, and chanting.
:Positive Attributes & Benefits of Silence & Solitude
While great attention is devoted to the perceived negative aspects of being alone, surprisingly little has been written about the positive attributes of silence and solitude. Our most celebrated thinkers and pundits tend to reflect the prevailing view that humans are social, gregarious, and crowd-loving animals by nature. Many insist that a desire to separate from the group is somehow a dysfunctional or even a hostile act.
A growing number of commentators, however, offer alternate interpretations of human needs, desires, and behaviors. Here are some of the most frequently observed associations with quiet alone-time. What would you add to this list?
- Freedom to fantasize.
- Development of the imagination.
- Cultivation of abstract thought.
- Heightened awareness.
- Healing during stress, mourning, or other trauma.
- Improved concentration.
- Access to religious, spiritual, or mystical experiences.
- Better problem-solving abilities.
- Liberation from unwanted distractions.
- Effective pain management skills.
- The rich company of one's mind, body, and spirit.
- Expanded self-understanding.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Red Wheel/Weiser, ©1990. www.redwheelweiser.com
Stillness: Daily Gifts of Solitude
by Richard Mahler.
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About the Author
Richard Mahler is a writer who lives in Santa Fe when he isn't off in the wilderness alone. He has written widely about travel, the environment, spirituality, and politics. Author of eight books including Secrets of Becoming a Late Bloomer and Tending the Earth, Mending the Spirit, Richard also teaches a form of stress reduction that relies on meditation and yoga. Visit his website at www.richardmahler.com.