April 26, 2014

Using Alone Time to Be Our Best Selves.


Photo: Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/mathiasbarbagallo/3973383879/in/photolist-747CAB-94ztfd-6zopP8-aSc9j-4gpiq-5sFkC5-b4uAFk-ajsfnd-cFV55Y-JQUa7-4Jfcdh-3w3S25-BmFs7-5SFPAf-buTCh2-Nm6h-9eL4at-8seUV7-8Vqp8f-D2pEg-7VhzES-4WQuRv-43CTcB-FGFb1-5BKtNy-6w883L-pwF6Q-97nqVF-4nJhW6-bTr7KK-grCob-8ZKiGE-7wkAYr-bbFu5e-s7WdQ-51EUFM-6M91Ps-h7J4Pa-5Ggmrn-66kiTh-4kXy33-78sSGw-7EPiQu-eDiz-bXNNG5-6mpfBm-9VNo9-bU9Xue-8ZkPow-bMyGDr-QQa5r/

“I can elect something I love and absorb myself in it. ” ~ Anaïs Nin

You’ve made the decision to carve out a chunk of alone time. Great. Now a big question looms: What should I do?

Answer: Whatever you want. That’s the beauty of spending time with your Self. These two minutes or two hours are yours to do with what you want.

These are your batteries being recharged.

Your solitude practice is a wonderful opportunity to discover what makes you happy. Which projects, hobbies, interests, or obsessions you want to pursue on your time with no judgement from others. The key is to find some activity that you can turn to when in solitude that gives you unabashed pleasure. What you choose is irrelevant, so long as it rejuvenates you.

One of my dearest friends is a knitting fanatic. She has probably knit, purled, and crocheted enough to clothe all the inhabitants of a small (and very cold) country. Every Friday night, we’d meet after work at the same Irish bar on Restaurant Row in New York. Each night she’d have the same shot of Crown Royal and a side of Sprite (or vice versa; I’m not sure which was the dominant beverage). I’d have the same Shiraz.

Besides our attire, the only difference from week to week was whatever piece of apparel she was knitting. Yes, at the bar. My friend was so at peace with her solitary pleasure that she brought it with her everywhere she went, like a fuzzy little mohair lap dog.

My mother—queen of solitary women—is a crypotgramaholic. (There should probably be an intervention in her future, but I won’t initiate it; the stacks of cryptogram books that line her bedside fill me with vicarious joy.)

As for me, I’m a Bollywood addict. And I like archery. If I have time alone, I may very well be found on my couch absorbed in a Hindi filmi or in the back yard slinging arrows at a big boxy target, pretending I’m an amazon. (All the while hoping I don’t hit a passing UPS guy on the other side of my fence.)

A Word About Words

A big part of my solitude practice is writing in my journal. I highly recommend that everyone take up this activity. A journal is the place to record conversations with your Self-as-best-friend. You can work out existential problems, gripe about how every product you love gets discontinued right after you discover it, confess your crushes, or just log the details of the café (or park, or desk, or waiting room) where you’re sitting.

No one needs to read what you write, so keeping a journal is a wonderful opportunity to explore intimate thoughts, theories, and half-baked notions with the one person who will never judge you: Your Holy Self.

You might also like to collect tokens of your life and create a series of multi-media collages. What a perfect project to celebrate your solitude. Each collage will represent in image form what is going on in your life at that moment. Over time, you’ll have a collection of artwork, each piece of which is explicitly you. If you choose to share those pieces, others will have an opportunity to understand you better, and chances are you’ll learn more about yourself as well.

Whatever you choose to do with your alone time, let it resonate with the energy that is purely you. In your sacred space, you are in control. You are the leader, you are the lawmaker. You are the only one you have to answer to.

So What’s My Thing?

If you’re unclear about what project or hobby might speak to you, try this exercise:

  1. Sit quietly and say the following, “I am looking for an activity that speaks to my truest self.”
  2. Take three long deep breaths in and out. (I mean, long—count to five slowly with each inhale and exhale.)
  3. At the end of the last exhale, imagine your are pushing out all images of what “you” means. Push out the hard worker, the dutiful son or daughter, the taxpayer, the gym-goer, the Prius owner, the loyal supermarket shopper. All of it. Outta there.
  4. As you inhale—slowly—you will breathe in an image. It will come to you, trust me. If it doesn’t, breathe out to release more YOU stuff and try again.
  5. The image you receive on your inhale will be (or will lead you to) your new project, hobby, or exercise.


Don’t worry if your image seems odd. For example, if all you see is a circle with lots of colors, begin looking for things like that in your daily life. It may mean you should start painting mandalas. It could also mean you should begin baking vibrantly hued cookies or cupcakes. Your gut will know. How? You’ll get that little vertigo drop in your belly that feels like you’re about to kiss someone really gorgeous.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Flickr

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