Nov 13, 2020
You wake up to a buzzing sound a few inches from your ear that alerts you to start the day. Leaning across your bed, you reach for the small, white screen that is making the sound. After resisting the urge to not hit snooze, you raise your body up and continue searching through the notifications that have shown up on your phone while you were asleep. You answer text messages, check social media, or read the news. From there, you take your phone to the next step of your day, maybe completing a meditation on your app, playing music while you stand in the shower, or putting on a podcast while you go to the gym. After your morning routine, you go on to work, with your phone sitting in your pocket on vibrate in case someone reaches out to you in an emergency. Several times each hour you check your phone to see the time or answer messages. You leave work, plugging your device into the aux cord and listening to something to fill the silence on the drive home. You make dinner or eat with your family, but as you try to hold a conversation you occasionally stop to check your phone and avoid the presence of the people who you are right in front of you. Then, you watch a movie and when you are tired enough for bed, you grab your phone to set your alarm and do it all over again.
Now, you may be thinking that this is an over-exaggeration, or even that it does not to relate to what you are currently going through. You may be right. But I think this routine style of life reflects an important value of how we have transferred our focus from people to technology in our society today. Many of us are constantly connecting, but instead of focusing on people in front of us the emphasis has been placed on connecting to the screens that never leave our side. Of course, the last thing I would ever say is that phones are bad, or be so extreme to suggest that we not have them at all. Rather, I want to highlight a critical need in each of us: the necessity of solitude.
Solitude is a beautiful, momentous occasion that is not only helpful, but essential. Unfortunately, many of us think of solitude as an old man that spends hours alone each morning before dawn, writing a book on a scroll and reading the news before his wife wakes up at a normal time. While there is benefit to such a life, it is certainly not for everyone. Solitude is the act of removing yourself from external influence, to look inside yourself and craft your own identity. It does not have to be quiet, and you do not even need to be alone. You can find yourself in moments of solitude in a crowd of people if you let your mind go to a place of sincere introspection. It is a special discipline, and when done often, helps maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves.
The problem is not that we do not spend enough time alone, but that we do not spend enough time unconnected. We do not practice the art of becoming comfortable with ourselves, because we are so busy finding other noise to fill the void. In our efforts to align with our identity, we look to others for the answer instead of looking inside first. But the beautiful aspect of finding fulfillment is not realizing someone else’s hopes and dreams, it is living out your own. While there is value in the input of others, it is just as valuable to decide what is best for you, to look inside and find yourself.
Creating a connection with ourselves is an arduous process, not because we are too complex but because there are so many barriers in our world. Everything is constantly moving, and we must shift our mindset inward to experience ourselves. And while technology offers wondrous capabilities, we often do not give enough space away from it. People are regularly attached to their phones, and they do not set aside the needed time to contemplate their own identity. There is so much our mind can see when we free our lives from the influences around us. Whether you realize it or not, your mind is full of unique and wonderful opportunities, and with more moments of connection, you can experience them firsthand. You are human, and that itself is an incredible reality. So look inside yourself and see what you find. Find time to consider your own thoughts, and seriously ask yourself…Where does your mind go when it is free?