awakened af : how to

30 For 30/30 #9 – The Daily Practice of Spending Time in Solitude

This is the ninth post in my 30 for 30/30 series where I am publishing a new post each day for the next 30 days within a 30-minute window without much of a plan. You can read about why I’m doing this by clicking this link.

Regardless of your chosen belief system, or as in my case the complete lack of one, there are five daily practices that I recommend as a blueprint for living a happy and contented life.

It doesn’t matter whether you identify as a practicing Christian, Buddhist, Jew, or non-theist – when engaged on a daily basis, these five practices can transform your life in a very meaningful way.

I’m going to spend this and the following four 30 For 30/30 posts succinctly explaining each one. I’m evaluating whether or not these posts, when taken together, might become a new book project, so I’ll attempt to lay out clearly the what, why, and how of each daily practice in these posts.

In brief, the five daily transformative practices are:

  1. Sitting in solitude
  2. Adopting simplicity
  3. Engaging in kindness
  4. Cultivating self-expression
  5. Respecting the body

Today’s post will explain Practice #1:

Daily Practice #1 – Spending Time in Solitude

About ‘Spending Time in Solitude”

[I recently revised this practice from one of spending time in silence to spending time in solitudeAs I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s excellent book, Digital Minimalism, it has informed me more fully on the topic of solitude. After some consideration, I altered this first practice to be more inclusive than its previous version.]

A daily practice of spending time in solitude doesn’t have to mean establishing a formal meditation practice. You don’t need to buy any incense or a tiny Buddha statue or set up any kind of altar. Though completely harmless, that can be threatening to some.

I like this definition of spending time in solitude from Newport’s book:

Solitude: The practice of spending time alone with your own thoughts and free from the input from other minds

This means that during our time devoted to solitude, we are free from the input of others, such as listening to music or podcasts, dining alone while watching television, or meeting a friend for coffee while being distracted by our phones.

Rather, this daily practice involves devoting a time of day to some time alone without any distractions; a time of reflection and commitment.  Here are some forms of spending time in solitude that might work for your situation:

Why You’d Want to Engage this Practice

Spending time in daily solitude, whether it’s five minutes or five hours, is a well-documented practice throughout philosophical and religious history. Evangelicals have their quiet time, Quakers often sit together in a friend’s circle and observe their inner relationship with Deity, and Buddhists sit zazen. 

Beyond the traditions of various spiritual lineages, there are numerous mental, emotional, and physiologic benefits to a regular practice of spending time in solitude regardless of the form it takes.

These include:

How to Engage this Practice

To begin a practice of sitting in silence (as opposed to just being in solitude), first, choose a time and place that you know will be free of distraction. It could be early morning before family members arise. It might be just before work, alone in your car in a parking garage. It could also be just before bed, though my experience with after dinner or evening sitting in silence is traditionally known as sleep.  🙄 

Here are some steps for engaging this practice:

1- After you have a time and place that provides the solitude and distraction-free environment that this practice requires, focus on your posture. Adopt a posture that includes a straight back (one tip is to sit at the edge of your chair instead of against the back) with your feet flat on the floor or if sitting in meditation, your posture is stable with your knees in contact with the floor assuming you’re sitting in a lotus, half-lotus, or Burmese position.

2- Take in a few slow deep breaths to calm your mind. Focus on what it feels like to inhale and exhale. Note the quality of each inhalation and exhalation. Then allow to breath to resume its normal pattern.

3- Focus on your chosen modality.

-If you pray, then pray silently. Follow your prayer time with some journaling.

-If you are engaging in 20MA, allow your mind to generate whatever thoughts it will. Follow each until a new one pops up. Trust me, it will. Follow with some time for journaling.

-If you are engaging in zazen, adopt a comfortable posture, focus on the breath and return to the breath when a thought arises. If it helps to have a mantra, although they should be personally meaningful, try using “thank you, breath.” Follow with time for journaling.

4- Conclude with a moment of gratitude to and for your practice – acknowledge how much you appreciate your time in silence. This is like a private thank you to the self, the soul, or the higher power within for this time.

5- Take the peace you’ve experienced (with daily practice with will happen) into your day with  a sense of reverence – Even if you don’t believe in a higher power or aren’t certain what you believe, you can take benefits of your sitting in silence practice into your day and positively affect all you encounter. 

Other Ways of Spending Time in Solitude

As noted above, there are other ways to spend time in solitude that differ from a meditative or prayerful model. 

Following these simple guidelines, anyone can begin a daily and personally rewarding practice of sitting in silence and spending time in solitude.

2 responses to “30 For 30/30 #9 – The Daily Practice of Spending Time in Solitude”

  1. […] my last post, I wrote about exploring the first of five transformative daily practices, Sitting In Silence. I stated that incorporating each of these into our daily lives could transform them into a […]

  2. […] time in silence – as we discussed in the first post in this series, the practice of spending time in silence is a way to make contact with your deeper self. By doing […]

Leave me a comment and I'll respond...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.