You may be thinking that the two words ‘together’ and ‘alone’ are an odd two words to put together. I’ve put them together for this post to emphasise the need to know ourselves and be comfortable in our own company. In today’s contemporary world we have little time to listen to our own voices. I shall use prose and poetry I have come across in my research to explain the value in taking time to connect to YOU.


Contemporary Culture

When I read this excerpt of a book by Thich Nhat Hanh I thought it told the story of society very well.

Many of us are afraid of going home to ourselves because we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us. That’s why we’re always reaching for more and more sense impressions to consume.

– Thich Nhat Hanh, (2015) Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

We live in a world that is constantly talking to us, requesting our attention and our minds. Research data indicates that more and more people are self-reporting that they are depressed, anxious, or lonely. How can we be lonely when we are more connected than ever, living and existing in close proximity to everyone else?


Being By Yourself

We can all be by ourselves to a point. We can physically take ourselves off somewhere and be alone, or we can be absorbed in what we are doing, whether amongst people we know or strangers. For some this is easy enough, their lives allow for some time alone, or their work enables them to be focused for hours at a time. In the evening you might be in front of the TV, absorbed in the programmes, or sorting the family mealtimes out. You might soak in the bath or stand in the shower for a while, releasing the day’s stresses.

Yet are you really aware and present? We can easily look back at the last year and wonder where the time went, not really recall what we have done. Thomas Hardy wrote a poem called ‘The Self Unseeing’ where he lamented on his youth and wished he’d been present more often.

Here is the ancient floor,
Footworn and hollowed and thin,
Here was the former door
Where the dead feet walked in.

She sat here in her chair,
Smiling into the fire;
He who played stood there,
Bowing it higher and higher.

Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!

Being With Yourself

Being WITH you is a whole different matter to being BY yourself! Being by yourself but not being aware of yourself, not really paying attention to where you are, how you feel, is a common way of living. Being with yourself is to notice yourself: to be comfortable in the discomfort of every part of you, from your thoughts to your feelings and aches and pains. Taking the time to connect with you. Recent research has found that loneliness can be alleviated by spending MORE time alone, which enables you to reconnect with yourself.

It isn’t just in today’s society though. We have been gaining momentum in our lives for the last hundred or more years, as we have become more technically focused and innovative. Virginia Woolf too lamented on time to be by herself.

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself. –Virginia Woolf, The Waves

The simplicity of doing nothing much is powerful in Woolf’s poem about simply sitting. How often does anyone just sit without thinking “I must go and do that, I can’t sit here all day, things to do”? Woolf needed the time to be with herself without having to do anything else.


Learning to Be With Yourself

There is often fear of paying attention to yourself. But I would argue that it is misguided fear. Learning how to connect with yourself will strengthen your ability to feel and think about things, whether good or bad. It gives you the strength to understand your own sensory data and care for yourself. The only way our brains can learn and develop is to be aware and make adjustments to its predictions. If you are never aware you are never going to adjust what you do.

I’m going to end with a poem from Edgar Alan Guest called ‘Myself’ and let him convince you to get to know yourself better!

I have to live with myself and so
I want to be fit for myself to know.
I want to be able as days go by,
always to look myself straight in the eye;
I don’t want to stand with the setting sun
and hate myself for the things I have done.
I don’t want to keep on a closet shelf
a lot of secrets about myself
and fool myself as I come and go
into thinking no one else will ever know
the kind of person I really am,
I don’t want to dress up myself in sham.
I want to go out with my head erect
I want to deserve all men’s respect;
but here in the struggle for fame and wealth
I want to be able to like myself.
I don’t want to look at myself and know that
I am bluster and bluff and empty show.
I never can hide myself from me;
I see what others may never see;
I know what others may never know,
I never can fool myself and so,
whatever happens I want to be
self respecting and conscience free.

Read more about Lisa Jones and her other articles HERE


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