By Lana Turnbull
“The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit.” – Marya Mannes, author and critic
Silence…since I am writing this less than a week before Christmas, while trying to get the January/February issue to the printer before Christmas Eve, the thought of stillness, peace and yes, silence sounds really good to me (no pun intended). There is probably no time of the year that I look forward to more and then need as much time afterward to recuperate from than the holidays. As I was reading the review for In Pursuit of Silence, by George Prochnik in this issue’s “BookShelf,” I began thinking about just how hard it is to find a quiet place where we can be alone with our thoughts.
Time alone to contemplate, to pray, to “be still” and listen to the still small voice within, is probably the most uncelebrated most unfulfilled of human needs. It should be right up there with our need for food, water, shelter and sleep, after all it is rest for the waking mind – time for us to clear our heads, “reboot” our brains and unwind. It turns out, according to an article in Psychology Today, “Six Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone,” there are distinct benefits to seeking solitude.
Besides giving us a chance to refresh our thoughts, time in solitude can help improve concentration and increase our productivity. It gives us a chance to discover who we are away from the crowd where our thoughts can be our own. Solitude can also give us time to think more deeply and more creatively far from the distractions of the day. It can enhance the quality of our relationships with others by helping us have a better understanding of who we are. And, having time alone can also help us better appreciate our time with loved ones.
Of course finding the time to spend alone in silence is the challenge. In our busy, hyper-connected world it can be tough to find a quiet few minutes just for ourselves… alone. We can start by unplugging – shutting off the smart phone, the tablet, the laptop, the TV, and any other controllable distractions. We can close the door to our office or go to the park and find a quiet bench where we can eat lunch in peace. We may have to schedule the time for solitude and silence. If we can find time to schedule everything else, we can make time for a little peace and quiet.
We wouldn’t and couldn’t go days, weeks and months without sleep, let’s give our conscious minds the same break and find time for solitude. Those of us who are New Year’s resolution makers, let’s put it at the top of our lists. Silence…solitude…even the words help me relax. I think I’ll take a moment right now before ten more emails come in…shhhhhhhhhh.