The Subtle Art of Being Alone With Your Thoughts

I think back over the past decade and can’t help but think about how much time was spent on my phone. It’s astonishing if I think about it. Communication and distractions on phones take up a large chunk of our lives and have fundamentally changed the routine of our days and our interactions with our environment and other people. It is an addiction in a way, and we all share varying stages of it with the overwhelming tide of technology. It’s very simple: life is hard, distractions help ease the hardships, and distractions have never been more accessible. One of my goals for this new year is to limit the time I spend on social media and mindless distractions on my phone. I knew that I was using my phone to numb my own pain and I wanted to get better at being in the moment, seeing my pain through, and being more honest and authentic with myself. Plus, maybe I could work on my other goals with the new time I would have.

            So far, it feels like going through some sort of mental withdrawal. My willpower is a finite resource so when it comes to stopping or limiting habits abruptly, I tend to go back to my old routine fairly soon after. I am really good at making excuses and negotiating with myself back to the point of origin and familiarity. It’s hard to use willpower alone to facilitate change. That’s why I have deleted my most used apps outright. I knew I needed to cut it off at the source and to make it easier on myself by simply not having distractions easily accessible on my phone.

            Now it’s still hard and I am still finding ways to get around it. It’s a lot of trial and error, but already there have been moments where I have no choice but to just put my phone down, observe my environment, talk to people, or just sit with my thoughts. And let me tell you, being alone with my thoughts is not particularly comfortable and in fact quite miserable sometimes. Sometimes it’s not bad and I actually enjoy the quiet reflections and thoughts I come up with but other times, not so much. Like if I am having a particular gloomy day where a black cloud seems to be looming over my head, it’s not much fun being in my own head. I think that’s when I use my phone the most. I am sure there is a heavy correlation between my mood and my phone usage. That would be an interesting study.

            I will say, though, that sitting alone with no distractions has made me much more aware of myself. I find that I am paying more attention to my thought patterns, moods, behaviors, and attitudes. I can see the day in and day out fluctuations of my mental and emotional flow and its both intriguing and startling. Growth in any direction is not always fun. Growth much of the time means pain, frustration, boredom, annoyance, and discouragement. When the pain bubbles up in my mind during those quiet moments, I know that that is growth. The pronouncement of my pain is a reflection that I am sitting with it, that I am not numbing it with distraction. The pain is more piercing but it is also more real. It’s a part of my reality that I have kept in the shadows for way too long.

            It can be so discouraging because the pain of loss, of feeling not good enough, of feeling lonely weighs heavy on my heart and seems to anchor my soul to the dirt. I must remember though that this is a byproduct of discarding the band-aids I have been using for years. I am allowing myself to bleed. I am allowing this loathsome river to wash over me and hopefully make me whole again. I must remember that when I was hiding the pain, I was hiding a part of me.

This dismal tide of pain and heartache comes flooding back, but in the chaos and swirl of it all, I know that it is something real, authentic, and whole. It is my past, my failures, my loss, my self-loathing, and my loneliness. These are the shadows of myself I have long neglected. I am a whirlwind of motivation, optimism, growth, creativity, and hope, but I am also these dark things too. And only by bringing these dark edges into the family of my heart and my fire will I be whole again.

            And so, I sit with the pain and let it swallow me whole. I will make this a priority every day going forward. It’s not easy, but it’s simple and real. I must fight to keep this practice going and I will likely relapse, but I will keep pushing. I will feel every sting, bite, jab, and punch. I will feel it in every cell of my body. I will let it flow through me, learn from its cold touch, and make peace with it and myself. I want to step into this new future intact and whole. I no longer want to be afraid of all the realms of my mind. I will embrace them all and know that while the pain may not be desirable, it is a sign of my growth and my strength. And this will give me hope through the struggle.  

One thought on “The Subtle Art of Being Alone With Your Thoughts

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  1. Wow!! I absolutely love this post! It speaks directly to me and mirrors almost all of my feelings and moods. Thank you for verbalizing what, even while I’m doing it, feels scary to me. Thank you for letting me know I”m not alone with my thoughts and fears.

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