How To Be Alone.

Via Julia Lee
on Aug 10, 2010
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I recently returned from Wanderlust Festival, which I traveled solo halfway across the country to attend. Due to an impromptu flight cancellation and an unexpected overnight stay in Reno, I ate dinner alone at a restaurant for the first time in my life. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.

Being alone doesn’t have to equal being lonely.

HOW TO BE ALONE by Tanya Davis

If you are at first lonely, be patient. If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.

We could start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library. Where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books. You’re not supposed to talk much anyway so it’s safe there.

There’s also the gym. If you’re shy you could hang out with yourself in mirrors, you could put headphones in.

And there’s public transportation, because we all gotta go places.

And there’s prayer and meditation. No one will think less if you’re hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.

Start simple. Things you may have previously avoided based on your avoid being alone principles.

The lunch counter. Where you will be surrounded by chow-downers. Employees that only have an hour and their spouses work across town and so they — like you — will be alone.

Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.

When you are comfortable with eat lunch and run, take yourself out for dinner. A restaurant with linen and silverware. You’re no less intriguing a person when you’re eating solo desserts and cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger. In fact, some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.

Go to the movies. Where it is dark and soothing. Alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.

And then, take yourself out dancing to a club where no one knows you. Stand on the outside of the floor until the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one’s watching…because, they’re probably not. And, if they are, assume it is with best of human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you’re sweating, and beads of perspiration remind you of life’s best things, down your back like a brook of blessings.

Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you.

Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, there are always statues to talk to and benches made for sitting give strangers a shared existence if only for a minute and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversations you get in by sitting alone on benches might’ve never happened had you not been there by yourself.

Society is afraid of alone though, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements, like people must have problems if, after a while, nobody is dating them. But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it.

You could stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner. Look both further and farther in the endless quest for company. But no one’s in your head and by the time you translate your thoughts, some essence of them may be lost or perhaps it is just kept.

Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those sappy slogans from preschool over to high school’s groaning were tokens for holding the lonely at bay. Cause if you’re happy in your head then solitude is blessed and alone is okay.

It’s okay if no one believes like you. All experience is unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you, for this be relieved, keeps things interesting, life’s magic things in reach.

And it doesn’t mean you aren’t connected, that community’s not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it. Take silence and respect it. If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it. If your family doesn’t get you, or a religious sect is not meant for you, don’t obsess about it.

You could be in an instant surrounded if you needed it. If your heart is bleeding make the best of it. There is heat in freezing, be a testament.


About Julia Lee

Julia is a yoga teacher, lover of all things, and dedicated student of life. She strives to be open to whatever the universe throws her way and practice her yoga off the mat at all times. Julia believes that the best lessons can often be found in the most unusual places. She writes about her experiences at and on Twitter @julialeeyoga.


49 Responses to “How To Be Alone.”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    Ooooooooooooh I love this. And I love being alone. Though it's hard sometimes. It's hard to go to dinner or a movie alone. So hard. I looooove this video. I think it's in Halifax. I love that statue of Winston. I think I know a few folks involved in this vid. Thanks for sharing. Just posted to and and will feature atop itself tomorrow.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Jennifer Wade Ah! I just posted this the other day! Yay! So glad to see it again. Thanks! 🙂

    Laura Luzi ♥ urself and all ur beauty

    Elizabeth Lewis Alone is not lonely. "I'm happy in my head."!!!

    Nicole Cavalier Alone is highly underrated, and it is AWESOME. Thanks 🙂 ♥

    Heather Landry-Dooks love love alone!

    Cynthia Gubish learn to love yourself

    Jim Ward-Nichols long live alone! :p

    Rick Zimmerman I love being on my own skin. I often find myself prefering to be in my own company. I was tickled by Tanya Davis' celebration of self. Go Tanya!

    Jean Pumplin simply gorgeous…

  3. Ben Ralston says:

    Great article Julia. Is it just me or does it read like a rap?!

    I love being alone, but then I do remember being single and hating it.

    However, I always loved walking through cities, watching movies, and going to parks alone.

    We’re all alone really, in the same way that we’re all one. I think it’s perhaps necessary to embrace aloneness before it’s possible to embrace oneness.

    Love, Ben

  4. Larkin says:

    It's a pretty awesome exploration of one end of the spectrum. As whole and complete humans we should be comfortable and aware of the "alone" side as well as the "social butterfly" side. This allows us to choose what is right and healthy for us extending our conscious life a bit further into happiness.

  5. elephantjournal says:


    Thomas P. Mims Alone = All one

    Stephanie Denehan Sagemoon I'm rarely alone, but have never wanted to publically dine alone, for instance. This article makes some good points. 🙂

    Kathleen Starr Warren
    I like my own company.
    Dining, going into some place I've never been. I like to relax and just watch others interact. I enjoy being out in National Park land or hike on BLM land.
    Even as a child I did hiking alone.
    Just being home alone is… good.

    Tenzin Tibet Mitchell Chaktar More often than not, I need to be alone.

    Kristie Orchard Lindblom In Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" she recommends weekly dates with yourself. The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. I always loved that idea.

    Phylanda Barnes
    I love this! I am a loner and I always have been. Many people do not understand the IMPORTANCE of alone time. I revel in my time alone and have discovered so much about ME (the good, the bad and the ugly). No one knows me better than my…self!
    It's great to see and read that I am not "alone" in being okay being alone!

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Well said, Ben.

  7. dukkhagirl says:

    As a society, we reward and encourage extroversion, while introverts are in the minority and are sometimes misunderstood. Many people have difficulty being alone and need or want the constant stimulation of other people. The ability to learn to enjoy and embrace solitude is a useful skill for these people. I enjoy the company of others, but I also find I need my solitude to recharge and become drained if I do not spend time alone, especially as my career involves constant contact with other people with a high level of need. I often wish that the people at the far end of the "social butterfly" spectrum could understand that the need for "alone time" doesn't make a person weak (an extroverted mom I knew worried about her daughter not being "strong" because she was a "quiet type"), antisocial (many of us love social time, but need a balance), or abnormal. For some, I think, the reluctance to be alone in public places, such as at a restaurant, or a movie theater can be more due to the perception of others vs. an inability to be comfortable spending time in one's own company.

  8. julialeeyoga says:

    Glad you enjoyed it,Way! 🙂

  9. julialeeyoga says:

    Ben – such a beautiful response! Sending lots of love your way.

  10. julialeeyoga says:


    What you say is very true. I think that it's important for us to value, build and maintain a positive relationship with ourselves before we are able to invest in community, etc. I find that the more I find peace with myself, the more I am able to reach out to others. What are your thoughts?

  11. julialeeyoga says:


  12. julialeeyoga says:


    I agree that it can be uncomfortable for people to be alone simply because modern society seems to dictate that somehow, being alone is "weird" or "not okay". It appears that you have a very balanced approach – I love that you appreciate the company of others, but also enjoy your solitude.

  13. Michelle says:

    Cute video, lovely words. Ben wisely nailed the sentiment. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. We are all always alone because that is our inherent state of being, trapped as we are in our individual bodies. Loneliness is a temporary state; a feeling of disconnection. To be free, we must all embrace our aloneness just as we must embrace our other physical attributes with which we are born. Loneliness, I'm not so sure about. As humans, I think we are geared to move toward connection; it is not society that shuns loneliness, but our humanity that does. Yoga, meditation, religion, music, etc. These are all things that we (humans) have created to help us achieve greater connection.

    Anyway, my main comment is the interesting fact that she is clearly not alone in the video. Someone is holding the camera… And the credits indicate that a lot of togetherness went into putting this little ditty together.

  14. paxromama says:


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  16. Peggy markel says:

    I enjoy being alone to have the time to do all the contemplative things I like to do. I'm very social when I want to be, but I have n o problem filling the void , so to speak, when I am not. Disciplining myself to stay focused for writing, meditation, or yoga is more of a challenge, for instance, than doing the other things I like to do alone, such as read or take a walk.

    My traveling is not random, yet I have plenty of opportunities to end up alone in lonely transitional places without a clue of what will happen next. Unrest? Will it be One, two or three days before the plane is fixed and will there be anyone to give me good info in a language I can understand? Often situations present themselves where you have to take matters into your own hands and abandon ship, figuring things out for yourself, throwing oneself further into aloneness, far, far, away from home.

    These experiences strengthen the muscle for relying on the core of you, beyond basic aloneness. It's what I love about traveling actually. A chance to hone my ability to respond and use my innate intelligence to move along as gracefully as possible in the world. Those kind of experiences alone, teach you think on your feet, when to be patient, when to push, and
    when to let go and trust.

    Perhaps the biggest lesson is: you are not alone. Someone is always helping you or holding you back. More often helping,
    With extraordinary kindness. We are the often the ones most likely to hold ourselves back, creating a false idea of loneliness.

    Remember, nature is alive and always present. How alone can we be?

  17. Jayney says:

    Great article! I've never had a problem with being alone in public – like the things you mention, going for a walk, or having a coffee. When I was 21 I ended up travelling alone because I had no one to go with me and it was such an amazing experience, I learn so much about myself the world and really grew from the experience. I am now currenlty learning a new "aloneness" I'm recently single and am living by myself. In ways it is very liberating, I have no one to answer to and can do things at a whim, the world is my oyster and I can do what I want with my future. But at times its very lonely too.

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  21. mary says:

    thank you… the right words at the very most alone moment in recent weeks reminds me that I am not alone, really

  22. CynthiaBeard says:

    I've loved this video since the first time I saw it. Dining alone at a restaurant is still the hardest (I thrive on social interactions at restaurants), but everything else seems easy to me at this point in my life. I've found that some of my most memorable, transformative experiences were at times when I was traveling alone, especially traveling abroad. Being able to go where I want, when I want, has allowed me to project an approachability that draws people I need to meet toward me. Thanks for sharing this video and your own experience of traveling and dining alone!

  23. Michelle says:

    I miss being alone! As a new mom, I never am without a certain little someone 🙂 Prior to this, I spent a good amount of time alone, even traveled for business and ate out plenty of times by myself!

  24. Tamara says:

    This was even good the first time around last year when I posted it! :-0

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    Thank you for this beautiful work of truth!

  28. JAJ says:

    Lovely post….I like hiking and biking alone, coffee shops, libraries and even movies, but when I lived alone for many years, I always felt strange dining alone at a restaurant looking at couples and other families. In general I find shared experience to be richer than alone experience. I have struggled with loneliness at times and a fear of being isolated, and find great comfort in relationship and in my friendships. I realize this is a weakness. I like what you say about being patient…feeling the awkwardness than accepting, even enjoying being alone. Sometimes I do!

  29. Fereisa says:

    I loooove this article. I have always loved some quiet me-time. I sometimes go to see the movies alone, I go to a cafe alone to read a very good book. I sometimes have dinner alone in a restaurant. I sit on a bench alone. I walk aimlessly alone. And sometimes, those moments alone are the best moments I have.

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  32. Mallory says:

    I've always loved this video! I'm from Ontario and planning a solo trip to Wanderlust Whistler – fly there, drive back. How did you like going solo to Wanderlust?

  33. Rajni Tripathi says:

    'lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it.' beautiful

  34. muks says:

    I love it!

    Before I went to the US for an exchange year, my friend gave me a tourist guide, explaining that Americans are so afraid of being alone. Indeed, people sitting in a cafe without a book or a non-stop mobile phone conversation are rare 😉

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  46. Grant says:

    Just saw the end of a 3-year relationship, and realizing how much I depended on her for my happiness and self-validation. She was a spiritual and present person, and I always thought of her as completing that part in me. Whereas I completed the rational part in her. Now that she's gone I'm learning to fill the holes she once occupied with my own love and self-acceptance. If I were to enter another relationship now (which is what my heart's screaming for), I'd probably just look for them to plug the holes I'm trying to fill. Instead I think feeling happy and fulfilled alone is a wonderful trait, because relationships will come and go, but you're still going to have an awesome life no matter what.