‘All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.’ ~Blaise Pascal.
Think about some of the problems of our daily lives, and how many of them would be eased if we could learn to sit alone, in a quiet empty room, with contentment.
If you’re content to sit alone quietly, you don’t need to eat junk food, to shop on impulse, to buy the latest gadget, to be on social media to see what everyone else is talking about or doing, to compare yourself to others, to make more money to keep up with the Joneses, to achieve glory or power, to conquer other lands or wage war, to be rude or violent to others, to be selfish or greedy, to be constantly busy or productive.
You are content, and need nothing else. It solves a lot of problems.
Can you sit alone in an empty room? Can you enjoy the joy of quiet?
Most of us have trouble sitting alone, quietly, doing nothing. We have the need to do something, to check our inboxes and social media, to be productive. Sitting still can be difficult if you haven’t cultivated the habit.
I’ve been learning. In the morning, as my coffee is brewing, I sit. Even for a few minutes, at first, it is instructive. You learn to listen to your thoughts, to be aware of your urges to do something else, to plan and set goals. You learn to watch yourself, but to just sit still and not act on those urges. You learn to be content with stillness.
You learn to savor the quiet. It’s something most of us don’t have, quiet, and it takes some getting used to. When we’re driving our cars or out exercising or eating or working, we have music playing or we talk with people or we have the television on. Quiet can be amazing, though, because it helps us calm down, contemplate, slow down to savor the emptiness.
An empty room, too, is a luxury. I try to empty my room of clutter, so that it’s fairly bare. That leaves only me, and the room is a blank slate ready to be filled with me, my creativity, my silence. I love a spartan room.
Being alone is another pleasure we too often neglect. When we are alone, we go on the Internet or TV to see what else is going on, what others are doing or saying, instead of just being alone. This isolation is a necessary thing, that allows us to find ourselves, to learn to be content with little instead of always wanting more.
Can you practice being alone, being still, being quiet? Just a little at first, then perhaps a bit more. Listen, watch, learn about yourself. Find contentment. Need nothing more.
Leo Babauta writes at Zen Habits.