I am a big believer in alone time. It gives one space to reflect and allows getting to know oneself better. But recently I’ve had the (mis)fortune to experience something else; it was quite vexing, but because of my Stoic philosophical leanings and general strength of will I managed to make something of it. This is the story of a Saturday.
The weekend just started. I got out of bed around 9 o’clock as I went to sleep late; I was working on a mathematical idea I had. (You wouldn’t believe how exhausting it is to be in hyperfocus – look it up – for hours on end in a single day. I did manage to get something at least a little satisfactory and learned a lot on the journey though, so it was worth it). I lay in bed for a while longer, thinking whether I should go for a run. A day like any other. Father asked me if I wanted to go to the store with him so I turned down the urge to run for another day. It was cold outside anyway.
After coming home and having lunch, Father left for a while, leaving me and the dog. I watched a show of a mentalist, one Derren Brown. Always leaves me speechless; the effect one can have on another person if one just knows at least a tiny bit about how we work on a psychological level! (I love how he has to keep telling everyone he has no powers and it’s just skill while doing medium tricks). Makes me think about how much we still have to learn and how much of what we discard as nonsense today will be our everyday of tomorrow.
The show ends. I’m sitting on the sofa. I go to the toilet. I squat there for a while (as the position is more natural and efficient for “voyaging to the spice islands to drop off a package” – if you want an article on digestive and pooping theory, hit me up. It’s a subject much too neglected in today’s society) and think of nothing.
I chat with my frousin (friend/cousin) for a while. Suddenly a feeling enwraps me. A feeling of need of connection; an utmost visceral sensation of inexplicable origin and purpose – a loneliness of the kind I’ve not felt even after a breakup or breakdown of some aspect of my life. Might be my gut bacteria acting up. In any case it left me quite paralysed – something I’ve not had happen, well, ever. More and more, thoughts of everything started coming up, in a screaming-like manner. I suddenly had a fit and described my desk situation. Multiple screens with Internet chatting clients piled on, a bookstand with “The Psychobiotic Revolution” open. Textbooks on neurology, art, philosophy, a few literary works. Erasers, pencils, a water bottle. Notebooks full of math from the day before.
What I’m really describing is the feeling of pure emptiness, void, whatever you want to call it. I’m guessing most people have the experience every once in a while, so nothing too out of the ordinary. Still makes one quite shook. But unlike the experiences I’ve had in the past, this time I used the teachings of stoicism I’ve been reading up on (which happen to correspond with what I’ve been raised up on so this reading is more like rediscovering and formalising) to quite successfully deal with the problem. Looking at my bodily sensations as just those, realising it is out of me that the feelings of emptiness come, really for no good reason, and that the things that seemed to be the biggest truths (I was starting to have doubts whether I am worthy of other people’s – and my own – attention and the like) were really major hyperbole. Thus, taking a few deep breaths, I returned to the present moment.
This mindfulness, simple focusing on what’s going on instead of letting yourself get carried away has allowed me to overcome what appears to have been an acute strike of something pent up. Not only that, employing it in bigger and bigger extents I have practically banished worry and stress out of my life (though your mileage may vary here; especially if you haven’t been practically raised to have a sort of indifference to external events) even more than I have before.
I would advise anyone to pick up some sort of mindfulness, whether that be a zazen meditation for hours a day, taking a few seconds in your day and being aware of the sensations around you, or simply scheduling screen-free time if you lean towards being “connected” 24/7. The benefits to the brain and psyche are many and it allows us to take a break from the all-too-external life of today. It is good to retreat into oneself; being able to be alone is what allows one to overcome loneliness.