Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to be alone


Find solitude.

The way that we're living now? Non-stop information, superficial social back-and-forths, attachment to... make that addiction to mobile devices, the constant tether of "communication"... It's ridiculous.

If you want to think for yourself, which is true freedom, you must find some way to back off, slow down and disengage.

I'm all for meditation techniques and have learned several over the years. I practice a couple of meditations daily. But I can guarantee you a way to solitude in the midst of chaos that cuts through the nonsense more quickly than any sitting meditation. Anywhere, anytime.

Take out a pencil and start drawing something.

In William Deresiewicz's speech on Solitude and Leadership to plebes at West Point, he talks about the need to concentrate
"...on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas."
Be a lemming if it makes you happy. There are worse things.

Don't want to be a lemming? The question, then, is how do you disengage from the onslaught long enough to learn what your own take is on anything?

Gather yourself into a single point.

As I tell my beginner students over and over again, drawing is a practice. It takes time to look at something, to examine it, to allow your eyes and mind to explore the nooks and crannies of an object or a scene in order to make some sort of representation. Through the practice of that activity, you are able to establish a habit of mind.

Drawing is a way of carving out solitude. It's a way of practicing concentration. You cannot multi-task while you're drawing.

Learn a new practice in solitude. Establish a fun and challenging habit.

Watch Andrea Dorfman's video of Tanya Davis reciting her poem, How To Be Alone.

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