Learning to Sit Alone, in a Quiet Empty Room

Zen Habits

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‘All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.’ ~Blaise Pascal

Think about some of the problems of our daily lives, and how many of them would be eased if we could learn to sit alone, in a quiet empty room, with contentment.

All alone...

If you’re content to sit alone quietly, you don’t need to eat junk food, to shop on impulse, to buy the latest gadget, to be on social media to see what everyone else is talking about or doing, to compare yourself to others, to make more money to keep up with the Joneses, to achieve glory or power, to conquer other lands or wage war, to be rude or violent to others, to be selfish or greedy, to be constantly busy or productive.

You are content, and need nothing else. It solves a lot of problems.

Can you sit alone in an empty room? Can you enjoy the joy of quiet?

Most of us have trouble sitting alone, quietly, doing nothing. We have the need to do something, to check our inboxes and social media, to be productive. Sitting still can be difficult if you haven’t cultivated the habit.

I’ve been learning. In the morning, as my coffee is brewing, I sit. Even for a few minutes, at first, it is instructive. You learn to listen to your thoughts, to be aware of your urges to do something else, to plan and set goals. You learn to watch yourself, but to just sit still and not act on those urges. You learn to be content with stillness.

You learn to savor the quiet. It’s something most of us don’t have, quiet, and it takes some getting used to. When we’re driving our cars or out exercising or eating or working, we have music playing or we talk with people or we have the television on. Quiet can be amazing, though, because it helps us calm down, contemplate, slow down to savor the emptiness.

An empty room, too, is a luxury. I try to empty my room of clutter, so that it’s fairly bare. That leaves only me, and the room is a blank slate ready to be filled with me, my creativity, my silence. I love a spartan room.

Being alone is another pleasure we too often neglect. When we are alone, we go on the Internet or TV to see what else is going on, what others are doing or saying, instead of just being alone. This isolation is a necessary thing, that allows us to find ourselves, to learn to be content with little instead of always wanting more.

Can you practice being alone, being still, being quiet? Just a little at first, then perhaps a bit more. Listen, watch, learn about yourself. Find contentment. Need nothing more.

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  • Starlite5 says
    I like alone time, over the years I've realised it's critical for my sanity especially as the kids hit the teen years! The only problem about sitting alone is falling asleep!
  • Elisha says
    Its always a good to do that.
  • Wice says
    Surely the writer is making assumptions. Not everyone t always has music on and we all have quiet times - the "long bath" or loo sit; the solitary walk or run; the time waiting in queues, for something to cook, when driving; the time in bed before getting up in the morning or at night, going to sleep. We all daydream from time to time whether at work or watching TV. "Quiet time" is turning in on oneself, letting thoughts run free and dissipate or build. It can be relaxing if you let go of the negative or stressful if you hold on to it. Regardless, when we can do this, external noise and stimulation become insignificant and disappear.

    My Tai Chi class always starts with 'quiet standing' which can last from five minutes to an hour or more. It reminds me of the time when I was a child and sat quietly in church.

    I certainly don't think that 'quiet time' has anything much to do with eating junk food, impulse shopping or taking part in social media activities. These are quite unrelated pursuits!
  • Mellow says
    This article may be similar to 'Solitary Confinement' as in prison....
    Humans are naturally in need of social contact,.... some more than others....?
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