We often hear people refer to the importance of their alone time. What is it and why is it important, especially in very busy lives?
Alone time surprisingly is on the minds of many. Our Internet search for that term produced more than 750,000 results. Like other important aspects of our lives, living the right balance is not easy. In a world full of distractions, we need to give priority to time for ourselves. On the other hand, loneliness can stem from alienation from ourselves as easily as not having enough meaningful contact with others.
If we think of it, with whom do we have more in common than ourselves? Alone time that reinforces and deepens what we treasure about ourselves and others is good. Being alone and plotting revenge or wallowing in self-pity is unhealthy and self-defeating.
People who are their own best friend tend to cultivate and treasure time alone. Those who are their own worst enemy understandably experience aloneness as too painful. People who draw from their inner life to give to others need solitude to drink from their spiritual well. Anyone who has a deep, intimate relationship with another needs alone time to tend to her or his own needs, and supports the other person’s need for space.
Some of our most recent experiences likely were marked by engagement with others, but some were solitary and led to fresh insights and creative ideas or solutions. Ironically, when we are alone, we often carry others in our minds and hearts, and we deepen our appreciation of and commitment to them. Likewise, special experiences with others can spur us to follow up with important solitary reflection that ultimately deepens our bonds with them.
There is no time like the present to take a step toward balancing our solitude with our active contact with people and the world.
“Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present, you will not find it,” wrote Thomas Merton, the late spiritual writer.
As we grow older and realize the limits of time, we may experience a gnawing need to increase and relish time with ourselves. We may even ache for it at certain times of celebration or transition. There is no time like the present to give ourselves that gift and to perhaps share the ensuing inner quiet, joy, wrestling and pain with others who are struggling to strike their own balance between outer engagement, disconnectedness and inner satisfaction.
Sandy Cohen and Roger Cormier (email: [email protected]; free blog: starguide4growingolder.wordpress.com)