Why We Struggle to Make Time for Solitude

The haunting unease of uncertainty can keep us from a calm heart
By Leo Babauta, www.zenhabits.net
February 25, 2019 Updated: March 19, 2019

How often do you take time to go out for an hourlong walk? Or just sit in contemplation in nature doing nothing but enjoying the silence?

I’m sure there are a few of you who indulge in this luxury regularly, but most of us don’t make time for quiet solitude on a daily basis.

For some, it seems a luxury. The struggle of daily existence often feels too close to survival level to think about an hour in nature, especially when that nature might be a distance away.

But for many of us, the main reason is that our brain rationalizes staying busy or is addicted to distraction. We are filled with uncertainty all day long, and that drives us to try to do more in an effort to control things, or leaves us avoiding making mistakes by indulging our addiction to technology and distraction.

Uncertainty is woven into every hour of our lives. We are uncertain about what we should do, who we are, whether we’re good enough, what is going to happen, what’s going on in the world, and how to deal with the overwhelmingness of life. We don’t often acknowledge it, but we feel uncertainty constantly. Can we succeed if we pursue our heart’s desire? We don’t know, and that uncertainty can lead us to retreat to distraction or busyness.

To deal with the feeling of uncertainty that comes with the instability in our lives, we cling to comforts, distractions, and we put off the habits we want to form. And if we get a little downtime, we will pick up our phones or jump onto our favorite video site to watch something.

The idea of being in solitude and having quiet in our lives for contemplation might seem nice to many of us. But when it comes time to actually do it, we make excuses.

“I can’t because I have too much to do.”

“Just one more email.”

“Just one more video.”

And yet, this constant busyness and distraction is draining us. We are always on, always connected, always stimulated, always using energy.

What would it be like to disconnect every single day for an hour? To remove ourselves from TVs, books, devices, and just go out for a walk? To not be productive. To be connected to nature?

We could use the downtime. We could recharge and be replenished by nature. We could use the easy physical movement to burn off the excess energy that drives our chattering minds and open ourselves to the quietude that gives our brains a chance to rest with space for contemplation and nothingness.

To do this, we have to stop letting uncertainty rule our lives. It can be with us, a constant companion, and we can learn to be comfortable with it and even love it as it is. But it doesn’t have to drive us.

The way to shift this is to create the space for solitude, even just half an hour, and then make it happen. Watch your mind try to rationalize why you shouldn’t do it. Watch it squirm to stay churning and urge you to put the solitude off for just a little longer. Then don’t give in to that urge. Go to the solitude and be with your urges, your rationalizations, your stress.

See what happens when you give these things some space. They air out. They calm down. And you get nourished by the space and life around you.

Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net

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