Learning to Be Alone

Andrew Garland Breeden

I spend a fair amount of time in the woods by myself. Whether I am sitting or walking, with or without a purpose, doesn’t much matter as long as I am alone. I go to escape Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Boy in a TreeI go to get away from the ding of incoming text messages and emails and from my obligation to respond. I need to be alone, to see quietly to my thoughts and to let them move, unsettled, uncontained, and unresolved, until my mind finds a quiet and peaceful place, a place not easy to come by these days.

Perhaps without our noticing, the world has become noisy. I am of the opinion that technology is in part, if not entirely, to blame. A persistent deluge of communications, updates, posts, and reposts bombards us. We are constantly distracted. Our minds never seem to be in the same location as our bodies, and our eyes see no farther than the screen in front of them. We seem incapable of thinking any thoughts beyond a status or a comment or a like, of having any experience without the anxiety of containing it in a box of 140 characters, more or less, and then evaluating it by the comments and likes of others. Worst of all, we are increasingly afraid of being on our own—unconnected—because we have forgotten how to be alone.

Let us learn again. Let us become reacquainted with the pleasure of an experience that no one knows about, a thought unpublicized. Let us find moments to set aside our updates in order to be by ourselves. Of course, those of us unaccustomed to our own company and untrained in listening for our mind’s voice may be intimidated by this practice of solitude. What’s more, hearing and recognizing our inner voice is only half the battle. The other half is accepting what it has to say, becoming comfortable with our own thoughts and what our thoughts say to us and about us. We are likely to hear something we do not want to hear but need to know, which is all the more reason to spend time alone, listening.

teen alone at sunset2 TSP 508374595Now, more than ever, we owe it to ourselves to spend some time alone, apart from our electronic devices. We need to let our thoughts come and go as they please and to have ideas and experiences of our own, without the need to make them public or to have them commented upon. Our minds deserve a rest from the constant pressure of commenting, liking, filtering, posting, checking in, tweeting, and retweeting. We may have forgotten how to be alone, but it’s not too late for us to learn again. And learn we must, for if we have forgotten how to be alone, the next generation may never know how to begin.



Find time in the coming week to spend a few moments alone, away from others and away from technology. While you are alone, be attentive to your thoughts and feelings. What do you hear? What do you hear that you have not heard before?

Andrew Garland Breeden is from Charlotte, Tennessee.

—from devozine (September/October 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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