Rethink Aloneness: Why these Seemingly Intolerable Moments are Essential for a Fuller Life

When was the last time you were alone?

And by “alone” I mean not only the absence of people, but also of all means of distraction. No book. No phone. No TV. No music. Nothing.

Try it, for 15 minutes, and see what happens. If you are like the majority of people, you will soon find it pretty intolerable. You will feel useless, cut-off, desperate. You will feel itchy and aching for your mobile phone to find out who else has liked the profile photo you uploaded an hour ago. If you are so unlucky that your phone, which is put on your bed next to your pillow, suddenly beeps, you will feel a rush of intrigue and excitement about the new message, what is happening? you want to know! And you will curse this stupid experiment.

Have you ever asked yourself why?

You may consider these reactions normal because everybody seems to behave that way. The problem is that we are shaped and molded to behave that way. For a long time, entertainment and technology – the two giant industries – have promised us at the purchase of a cable TV, a laptop, a magazine subscription or a smart phone that we will never be bored or feeling lonely again. And look at us! An over-stimulated generation that is more than ever prone to boredom, and loneliness, and depression.

We are surrounded by so much distractions, so much noises. Worse, we have grown so accustomed to these incessant noises that we become frightened whenever silence dawns on us.


The first thing my father does right after arriving homes from work is to turn on the TV. But then he doesn’t watch it, he goes on doing something else. The TV is left on all evening, throughout dinner, until bed time. Sometimes in the weekend I find him sleeping in his bed with the TV on. I love my father so much, sometimes I wonder why aloneness is so unsettling for him.

I think it’s unsettling for many of us. We can’t stand being with ourselves. In that moment of aloneness and silence and nothingness, what are we so afraid of?

Stripping bare of all distractions, maybe we are afraid to realize the lonesome, tedium, and triviality of our existence. Maybe we are afraid to face with the fact that we hate our jobs, suffer in our relationships, decay in our indulgence. Maybe we are afraid to realize the very notion that we are afraid.

All that is too much. Therefore, we find ways to escape. And the modern society helps us well.

I meet young people who tell me that they are lost, that they don’t know what they want to do with their lives – those are whom understand enough to know that they are lost, which is unfortunately not often the case. I wonder how they can. How can they understand their own beings, their thousands of joys and sorrows, if they keep running away from them?


This is the challenge for those of us who want to practice stillness: to reach deeply into our souls, through layers of pains and torments and agonies to face with our angles and demons, in order to find out the truth of who we are. This demands courage, because as you reach into your core, if you are like me, you may find things that are hard to deal with, you may have to stare in the face of your worst suspicions, of things you rather not look at.

During the weeks that I began meditation, there were afternoons that I thought unbearable, afternoons when I quitted the meditation immaturely, lied on my blue sofa, staring at the white ceiling, thinking of ending my petty existence altogether. Nevertheless, I reached a bit deeper every day and finally touched the truth of my being: goodness and love. When I emerge, the water is clean. I feel this core of me, which is made of goodness and love, radiating warmth, speaking to me, guiding me, embracing me with peace. 


I think it’s important to aid your discovery with the help of a teacher, whether in real life or in book. I’ve walked the path with the help of my own yoga practices, my yoga teacher Pradeep, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh through Peace is Every Step, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle through The Power of Now, Gurus Iyengar BKS through Light on Yoga, and Yoga Master Erich Schiffmann through his soul-stretching book Yoga: the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. There is a  Schiffmann passage that I so much adore:

Underneath it all, or surrounding it all, embracing it all is the creative energy of Consciousness, Identity, or Presence that we really are – grounded in love and goodness.

This is like dipping cloth into dye. Each dip of the cloth strengthens the cast of the dye and enhances the color. Here, however, you are dipping yourself into you. You are experiencing you. Each time you do so, you become more you; that is, your sense of the authentic you is enriched. Each dip into the silent experience of you washes away more false ideas, which enables the real you to shine forth more clearly to yourself and others.

Reach deeper into stillness with other articles on Stillness Tuesday

Or expand your read on the topic of mindfulness with my favorite two articles: There are Two Ways to Wash Dishes, and to Achieve our Goals in Life, and Want to Change the World? Mediate and Wash the Dishes

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