In the 1600s, Blaise Pascal wrote: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
I think about this often. The way we are desperate to escape our own thoughts. The way we instinctively turn to distractions when faced with a moment of solitude: our phones before we fall asleep, a podcast on the commute to work, music in the shower, the TV during meals, someone else to keep us company rather than being alone at night. We are terrified of sitting quietly and noticing the thoughts our brain creates.
And this is not to say some of these external things aren’t genuinely fascinating learning experiences — I am thankful for many of the things other humans have created in this world, and I think social media is one of the most powerful tools ever made. But when our entire identity is based on the consumption of other people’s work, ideas, and opinions—when do we get to learn about ourselves? And why does the thought of learning about our own mind seem scary and uncomfortable? What do we think we’ll find in there?
I’ll tell you what you’ll find (it might sound cliché, sorry): Mental and emotional freedom. The ability to sit quietly in solitude with nothing but your thoughts is the ultimate strength because you will never be dependent on distractions, marketing techniques, or manipulative behavior. You’re good. You’re comfortable with out it. And now, in this newfound comfort, you can find your actual self. And then, you begin to come alive and create.
I urge you to practice this solitude. Set a timer for 10 minutes, turn everything off, and just be. Don’t fall asleep, don’t “try to meditate,” don’t do anything special. Just be. Look around. Notice your thoughts. See what comes up. Recognize how long its been since you’ve been in this situation. Then, start to do this for longer. Improve at it. Be someone who is comfortable with your own thoughts in every moment. Be someone who knows yourself, who comes alive, and who creates.