Have you connected with yourself lately?

Today it is all about sharing, connecting and staying connected. We can’t wait to share on various social media our joys and sorrows and pictures and more, not just our own, but those of others via the articles we have read, videos we have seen and opinions we have echoed. We can’t seem to stay away from the mesmerizing light of our smartphones and the pings that constantly call for our attention. We don’t want to miss any update, and want to stay connected — with everyone else — except ourselves.

How many of us can honestly say that we are in touch with ourselves? How many of us constantly need the company of others – real or virtual in our lives to make us feel good? Can we be comfortable with ourselves, in our own company?

Recently we visited our niece who has two kids. The younger one, a cute boy of three is a constant ‘talker’. He wants to play the moment he is out of bed and calls one of us to give him company. He is happy if you play with him but equally happy if we are not able to and he has to play by himself. Only, he chatters to himself while he plays! My niece recounted how it was very different with the elder one, who hated to be left alone, when she has used the same kind of upbringing for both of them.

So does it mean that the capacity to be comfortable in one’s own company is all in individual genes? Or can it be consciously cultivated? Perhaps it is a bit of both?

I remember my mother advising us not to continuously lift or play with infants and babies in the family lest they start demanding constant attention as they grow. While it is not safe to leave babies and small children out of sight for any length of time, one can still keep an eye on them being in the same room, talking to them and letting them see one around. That effectively prevents them from getting scared or doing something dangerous when left unsupervised. I am sure she must have followed this rule while we were growing up because all of us siblings are happy being by ourselves if need be even in our elder years.

By contrast when the older one was a child, I would have to assure my MIL that he was fine and that she should leave him to play by himself for a while. She of course was never convinced! Today I am glad that both the boys enjoy their own company as much as they do that of their dear ones and friends. Perhaps their solitude genes are dominant despite their grandmother creating a protective environment?

I feel that when children grow up being left by themselves for brief periods of time, they are more equipped to handle it when they have to be alone due to circumstances. I have seen people getting restless when they are alone – not due to any insecurity or fear of being alone, but because they cannot function when they are not surrounded by others. And when such people are forced to be alone, they can go to pieces or into depression. This includes the old and the young and even the very young. But when someone wants company 24×7, it sort of gets a little claustrophobic for those around.

Some people actually prefer being alone to being in the company of others but it could be because they don’t like being around people. This post is not about such people.

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. We can be lonely in the company of others, in a group or even in a crowd, but we need not necessarily be lonely when we are alone. It is how we relate to ourselves that makes us either lonely or otherwise. Where is the question of being lonely when one has one’s own company?

Solitude can be a very educative state. I recently discovered meditation and find that is able to calm me at least for a while before all the thoughts come clamouring in. I hope to refine my practice to make it last for the entire day some day soon! While meditation and introspection at home or in special retreats are ways to connect with one’s inner self,  it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. For them one of the following ways can work.

One of the best activities that can encourage being alone is reading but reading does not provide for that connect with oneself, just affords the reader some time alone to pursue one’s interests. Yes, sometimes it makes people think, reflect and introspect, but that depends upon the kind of book one reads and is not always the case. By and large, reading or listening to music are passive pastimes/hobbies.

There are other hobbies that can help foster the love of one’s own company in a positive way. And these necessarily involve doing something actively, something that can be done mechanically with just a tiny portion of the consciousness clued in to the activity. Often one is worrying, fretting or being mad or sad which is not good because when one is is in such a frame of mind, it is not possible to connect to oneself in a positive way. Of course, sometimes the activities themselves help calm the nerves. I can cite the example of cooking to illustrate the point. It is a perfect activity that can afford solitude and ‘me time’. But one should never cook when one is upset or angry, as it is fraught with negativity and it would be harmful to those who consume the food.

The solo rides that the younger one goes off on from time to time or the long bicycle rides the older one took when he was a teen — just riding — are activities that induce introspection, encourages working on problems and in general being in one’s own company. I remember them both coming back charged up after such rides, one on a machine and another on a mechanical mode. I take long solo walks to the same effect. Exercise bhi, solitude bhi!

This inner connection is something very personal that can touch one deeply and leave a wonderful and lasting impression. Small snatches of solitude are just as fine, but when one can afford to take it, a longer sabbatical from everyday life can infuse fresh energy into oneself. Like the time I spent in Rishikesh some years ago – alone but in a crowd. I talked to the pilgrims and tourists, the shopkeepers and all the others with whom I interacted through the day. But I was alone with myself. I didn’t try to form friendships, for I didn’t feel the need and I never for a moment felt lonely. It was a complete disconnect from my normal world. At the end of it, I had become calmer, someone who could see things in a different perspective, more tolerant and generally able to deal with things more effectively. I felt in control of my life.  If a few weeks of being in one’s own company could do it, I feel it is a wonderful thing, worth being pursued by everyone periodically.

This is not to say that I don’t enjoy having people around me. In fact, because I am comfortable in my own company, I enjoy the company of others – a lot! Also, if you want others to enjoy being with you, you should know how to enjoy being with yourself. Look at it this way: If I can’t stand myself, how can I expect others to bear my company? In effect, it also teaches me to be pleasant around people, because no one would want a grumpy companion, would they?

So are you up for some creative solitude to connect with yourself?

Image courtesy: Swati Maheshwari

47 comments

  1. I could not do without alone time! I must say that I never thought of cooking as me-time, but it probably works best! No one really disturbs me while I’m cooking and I do have random thoughts and conversations with myself while I stir the pot!!

    Like

    1. I have always thought of cooking as the best way to be by oneself. Just yesterday I read somewhere that cooking is the best form of meditation! I guess that is why I find it so relaxing and satisfying. And as for those random conversations, they are the best way to connect with oneself 🙂

      Like

  2. Lovely post Zephyr ! I have always loved my solitude and as for company, have liked company of people whose wavelength matched. But can never give up on solitude. When my husband and son went for a trip to their home town once, I cant tell you how happy I felt. Suddenly I had all the time on my hands and the freedom to do what I wished.
    I started following mindfulness and meditation recently and I find myself benefiting already. The art of doing nothing, yet so much. Suddenly when you try to tame the monkey mind, you find there’s a crowd in there and out goes your solitude 🙂

    Like

    1. Ha ha. Loved the part about taming the mind which is so crowded! Meditation sure helps, but I find other means of finding inner calm too. Sometimes just being a crowd helps, though it sounds so contradictory. As for needing to be alone, we all do at one time or the other, but to practise it on a regular basis is what gives us the inner connect with ourselves. Being alone and free to do what we want and being able to connect – if we could marry the two, how wonderful it would be!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love my solitude, because I have so many hobbies that I am rarely lonely:)..infact some of my house guests want 24 hr company, and it becomes so tiring for me.

    Like

    1. I understand about enterainging someone 24×7. It gets claustrophobic, doesn’t it? Wonder why someone should want company all the time, isn’t it?

      Like

  4. Very well said. I had infact written a post on similar lines a few weeks back. At times I like others’ company and at times I prefer being left alone because as much as I Like to socialize I prefer to spend time with myself too. And no, that does not necessarily mean I’m lonely. I always wonder how others can enjoy our company if we ourselves cant.

    Like

    1. Loved your post. Oh, this is a favourite topic for me and I had even done a ‘treatise’ on it a couple of years ago, with the focus being on the difference between being alone and lonely 🙂 The only thing about being alone is to keep channeling the mind on to constructive and positive thoughts, else they go haywire. I would say being alone helps me also connect with God because prayer is the best thing to do then.

      Like

  5. As usual, very nicely written, Zephyr… and thought provoking too… i never thought of this while samhith was growing up. he has grown up surrounded by people.. thanks to living in a small house with grandparents, aunt, and a constantly visiting group of friends and relatives. and yes, he does hate to be left alone.. except the times when he wants to watch tv or play games on the tab in peace, of course!!!! these days, i am trying to correct the situation by leaving him alone during the day… and he is getting used to it slowly.
    as for me, i enjoy my solitude, though i enjoy huge gatherings too.. as you say, its in solitude that i can truly connect with myself…. and for me, its reading which truly helps.

    Like

    1. Oh I am so happy you have taken the initiative to let him learn to be alone. Children sometimes don’t know it is enjoyable to be alone and so demand company all the time and when it is easily available, they get used to it. I am sure Samhith will begin finding things to do by himself, leaving you your time for yourself. I can understand your loving it! Sometimes adults feel guitly for doing things without their children or doing things for themselves. I think it is wrong, because each one of us is an individual and needs to have some time for ourselves. I remember teaching my children that there were things I would do only with them, and things that I would do alone because they were not meant for them. This sometimes included even going out on my own. Fortunately for me, they understood the difference and weren’t resentful when I did because they didn’t feel left out. I had also emphasised the point by letting them do age-appropriate things by themselves or with their friends without me breathing down their nexks and this made it easier for all.

      Like

  6. From what you know of me, what do you think? I know this doesn’t count for a comment 😀

    Like

    1. Oh, this is not about anyone’s opinion, even mind, Lata 🙂 On another note, would you really like me to tell you here?? 😛

      Like

      1. Found In Folsom · · Reply

        Chalo then, let’s reserve it for tomorrow’s discussion. No car pool tomorrow 🙂

        Like

  7. ,’Being alone is not the same as being lonely.’ I not only love the sentence but truly believe in it. It’s important to be with the self for inner joy and introspection. An absolutely reflective and deep post:)

    Like

    1. I am glad you found it a good read Vishal. But the thing is, we would be with ourselves only if we enjoyed our own company and feel comfortable being with ourselves. I am sure you find the inner joy that it entails 🙂

      Like

  8. G.N. Balakrishnan · · Reply

    “IF I CAN”T STAND MYSELF, HOW CAN I EXPECT OTHERS TO BEAR MY COMPANY”. So axiomatic and true to the present state of individuals, losing themselves in the world of gadjetry , and are scared to face themselves even for a couple of minutes. Introspection and contemplation in solitude is a rare commodity, the modern youth can ill afford, in the present vitiating atmosphere, leaving no scope for BEING YOURSELF, EVEN FOR A MINUTE , though one is all alone and left to fend for themselves. This disease has become viral with the spread of technology, which is being abused by way of entertainment, time pass or keeping company.

    Like

    1. That is the flip side of technology, GNB. We get so immersed in its wizardry that we forget where we are, leave alone finding out who we are! Sometimes it is scary to see the 24×7 connectivity, which makes people suddenly become incommunicado, as if it is hard for them to pick and choose and thereby remain sane. Alas, there are too many ways to pass the time today which precludes time alone with oneself, to look inwards. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your valuable insights.

      Like

  9. I had read somewhere, “Ofcourse I speak with myself, sometimes I need expert advice.”. I think it goes perfectly with your post, Aunty.
    I think today’s generation needs to understand the importance of introspection and spending time with yourself more than ever. I remember spending time alone at nights in my room, writing or listening to music or just sitting idle looking at the ceiling. I loved that me time. Internet addiction probably won’t let people waste their time as such now I guess.
    Both my kids thankfully liked being left to themselves as long as they could see me and felt reassured. Hope it stays that way.

    Like

    1. How true that quote sounds! We can find the best solutions and advice from our inner selves, if only we would listen to it in silence. For our clamorous thoughts drown out the silence of the inner voice, which speaks volumes without a word. Looking at the ceiling silently sounds like the best form of meditation there is, Varsha. Hope you still find time to do it, with two kids 🙂 As for the kids enjoying being left alone while being in eyesight and earshot is the best way to let them be alone. They need the security of being with someone, even while knowing that they have to keep themselves amused. If they have inherited your genes, they will continue enjoying their own company but even otherwise, will grow up into adults who will never become depressed or lonely when alone!

      Like

      1. You will laugh Aunty, but I felt a bit sad that we didn’t have wooden beams on our ceiling so I could count them over and over again. 😀
        I try to get me time now too, but as said, with two kids it is a bit tough. I go on long rides or walks on my own sometimes. I’m not a boring person, so my inner self tells me. Haha. 🙂

        Like

        1. I am sure you are not a boring person, Varsha 🙂 And no, I am not laughing at your missing having wooden beams to count, but I sure am intrigued. Why beams? Why not something else? 🙂

          Like

          1. Why wooden beams, I don’t know Aunty. Just the first thing that came to mind, and it stuck. I guess it might have something to do with the arrangement and technique. Impressive.

            Like

          2. Good observation. When alone, we do need a structure to things, even our thoughts. Perhaps that is why you like them 🙂

            Like

  10. A lot of thought has gone into this post.Both are important for me-solitude as well as spending time with those i like.I think today’s 24/7 connectivity will make people realize the value of solitude sooner or later.

    Like

    1. Amen to your thought that the constant connectivity will make people value solitude – better sooner than later, don’t you agree? As it is, a lot of precious time is being wasted without the inner connect that is so important for self and spiritual development.

      Like

      1. Very well said Zephyr today it is internet in place of inter connect.

        Like

  11. In my opinion, if you do not spend time with yourself, you will never introspect and become better. I was wondering if it has to do with personality types too. Typically,introverts shun large groups, and even when they go for gatherings, they need time with themselves to recharge and feel normal. I think what we do on social media is hardly form connections. Connections can only be formed when we know people away from public eye, one on one. Social media only give your acquaintances that you enjoy exchanging views with. I enjoy cooking, driving, brisk walking, even reading when I am alone. Even sitting in the balcony watching the rain with Coco by my side is blissful. Oh yes, parlor time too. That is pretty nice as well. The only thing I tell the ladies in the parlor is to not talk.

    Like

    1. You are so right about missing out on introspection and improving oneself when one doesn’t seek solitude. Though we all know that social media connections are not the real connections, they are fast replacing real time connections and in addition, robbing people of the precious time they can spend in knowing themselves better. Sitting in the balcony watching the rain is soothing enough, but with someone like Coco for company, it is perfect bliss and perfect solitude 🙂 Just curious: Can you really get some quiet in the parlour, given that it is the perfect gossip spot? 😛

      Like

      1. Oh yes, anything done with Coco by my side really lifts my spirits. About your question, I don’t know why but I have never gossiped in the parlor. I actually hate it when the ladies indulge in small talk. Main aur meri tanhayee is what I prefer and they know me since so many years now that they keep quiet. Of course. sometimes there are other ladies who keep yapping which annoys me but then I try to visit on days when there is less crowd. 🙂

        Like

  12. You say it so well. Deep down we all crave for that connection with ourselves, knowingly or unknowingly. But we keep covering up this need by distracting our minds with many outer things, including attempts to make temporary connections – in real or virtual world. Your post reminded me of some beautiful lines from Amrita Pritam where she says that only that person is deserving of your company in whose presence your inner solitude isn’t broken, who doesn’t impose on your solitude and leaves you alone with yourself the moment he/she realises that is what you seek. In a way, recalling her words and now reading your post re-emphasize for me the significance of this self-connection (which is not the same as superficial idea of “me-me-me-time” that we often hear about in the modern self-help literature) in developing a greater capability for making real and meaningful connection with others. Thanks for this lovely post, Zephyr.

    Like

    1. Those are indeed lovely words from Amrita Pritam. This perhaps is what ‘companionable silence’ means, when two people are doing different things or are simply together without interacting in any way. I also loved your differentiating between self-connection from me-me-time. I think the difference lies in that while the former is a spiritual state, the latter is more prone towards the pursuit of activities that afford temporal pleasures. Or am I too wrong in presuming this?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that’s what I meant also, but you say it so well. The me-me-me thing comes from a more egoistic need but the other self-connection seems to help in transcending a bit of that egoism that the whole world should revolve around me and my needs.

        Like

        1. Good to know we share the same thoughts, Beloo 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s funny how you mention children playing with themselves. When I was young, I liked playing with my friends, cousins, or neighbors’ children; but I never had a problem playing alone. Dolls, sandboxes, swingsets, coloring, writing my first stories – altogether, it was probably the first sign that I was an introvert. Even now I don’t have a problem with being alone. I enjoy spending time with other people, too, but I never run out of things to do when I’m by myself.

    In terms of connecting with myself, I try to spend a few minutes meditating at night. It can be writing in a journal, reflecting on something I’m thankful for, listening to a guided meditation… I also discovered adult coloring books recently. The one I’m using is full of mandalas, and it’s both calming and creatively stimulating to color each one. 🙂

    Lovely post, Zephyr. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

    1. Glad you liked the post, Sara. You seem to have been like my boys who were comfortable with both being with others and by themselves. The younger one was a little introverted of the two. It is imperative to learn enjoying solitude for our own spiritual growth, don’t you think? I love your ways of meditating, especially the journal writing. Talking of adult colouring books. I need to get my hands on one of those. I am sure it is very calming, as even children’s colouring books can be. Thanks for reminding me.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This post really speaks ot me. I need my solitude and cant survive without it. It is so important to connect to ourselves first before connecting with others.

    Like

    1. I am sure it spoke to you and brought you here 🙂 We need to be alone to understand life. We can’t do it when surrounded by others and their thoughts. It is too distracting isn’t it? It is as if the noise outside doesn’t let us listen to the silence inside.

      Like

  15. Hmmmm….When my husband was working, he used to go on tours. After sons also left for higher studies, it was just me and my husband for a couple of years. Then his tour days were my solitude days and I liked them! I keep singing into myself…humming most of the time or the radio is on. I never get bored of music. The house was big (the old one) and my relatives were worried about my being alone but I never got scared or worried. I used to read also. Otherwise one of my nieces used to come home to ‘sleep’ with me…it was chatting time then. So, I was happy when I was alone or when others are around!

    I am not a meditating person. But go to yoga class and feel happy there doing meditation for few minutes. I don’t know to go into meditation otherwise. I envy you in that matter.

    I live in a complex now and got few friends in the yoga class and roof top garden group. But we don’t barge into anybody’s house. Happy to chat once in a while. I think I am happy with my own company, right?!!!

    Like

    1. Like you, I am also not a meditating person. Somehow, I have never been able to do it. The closest thing for me to meditation is to sit and pray with full concentration on the mantras I am chanting, trying to find the meaning and concentrating on them, talking to the deity I am praying to. I love the Zen way for this reason. Being in the moment, in the thing you are doing without letting the mind wander. And the best time I connect to myself is during my walks. It helps me find my inner self which then clarifies a lot of things because it is just me and my mind. And oh yes, you are happy in your own company, which is why you make such a great company 🙂

      Like

      1. I seem to be posting comment with one click here now! It was tough earlier. My mail…I think I was thinking of copy pasting and then forgot. I couldn’t find it! Since I tend to comment with many sentences, it is difficult to write again…the thought process will not be the same! But I love to read and comment here step by step!

        Like

        1. I am so glad you are able to post easily now. I didn’t know it had been hard. I am so sorry and thanks for still commenting with your free flowing thoughts and insights. Never mind about the mail. We talked after that, so it is fine 🙂

          Like

  16. sumanmaheshwari1105@gmail.com · · Reply

    very nice post.
    All the time we don’t enjoy being ourselves,we all love to spend time with family and friends.
    But everyday there are many small movements which I enjoy,I read articles on net and if I find something very interesting I share with my friends.
    Kabhi kabhi I enjoy doing craft.
    Cooking and music are like my dil ki dhadkan.l love cooking and listening music.In the evening i enjoy going for walk with my friends.

    Like

    1. The two dil ki dhadkans of yours are most conducive to be with yourself and do a lot of self-connecting. For me cooking is like a prayer and I put my heart and soul into it, even if it is just a rasam I am making. I don’t cook if I am not in a good mood either. But your craft is the best source of introspection, relaxation and meditation. And as long as you are happy to be by yourself and don’t feel depressed or bored because you don’t have people around you, you are well connected to yourself. Cheers!

      Like

  17. Ah! One of the lines in my author intro is “alone, but never lonely’ 🙂 I could not have stayed a bachelor – and not in a joint family – if I had not liked my solitude. But, yes, I also love company, else I could hardly be going on treks with groups, where most people are strangers to me before the trek.

    But this inter-connected world is really connected? I hardly think so. I feel that people connect to each other over the Internet much like people connect to the characters in a mega-serial 🙂 The ‘I like the gossip of your life’ and ‘You are a good person till enough people on twitter say you are not’ sort of connection, to me, hardly counts as being connected. 🙂

    Like

    1. Ha ha, Suresh! Trust you to put it all in perfect perspective. Love the analogy of connecting to characters in a mega serial. And yes, sometimes I feel social media is rather voyeuristic and yes, we are influenced by majority view, not so much because we agree with it, but to be seen on the right side of public opinion. But unfortunately it is considered as the desirable connection. I feel you are one of those people who can find themselves even in company, even as you interact, if the desire to be so seizes you. Am I right?

      Like

    2. You are, Zephyr! I can feel alone and connected only to myself, if the mood seizes me, even when I am in company and interacting. 🙂

      Like

Enter the discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: