Saturday, September 24, 2011

The benefits of aloneness

Not only do people need people, but we also needs periods of retreat from the maddening crowd. Some of us need aloneness more than others, but even the most extreme extrovert needs an occasional day of retreat in solitude.

There is nothing quite as restorative as a long walk in a beautiful landscape. Left alone with our thoughts, we work through things, problem solve, and reflect. Withdrawing from social discourse for a little while allows the mind to integrate experiences, memories, goals and wishes, a really important thing in terms of good mental health.

Without this kind of integration, it's impossible to gather wisdom. In fact I think (this is not scientifically documented as far as I know) that all learning takes places after the fact. You read the book, go to class, listen to the lecture, etc. But I think it's after class, on the way home perhaps or maybe later while you're making dinner or even later, in dreamtime, when the information becomes something you know. When you start a new job, the first day all you do is take in information. There's no way anyone can truly be functional on the first day. By the end of the first week, you're actually able to DO the work, or some of it, depending on the job.

Information out of context is meaningless, which is why (I think) crammed information doesn't stick. You have to take the written test to renew your driver's license. You read the book the morning before you go take the test, jam the facts into your head, take the test, pass. But can you remember, even the next day, how many feet before the intersection you're supposed to signal a turn? Hell no. In and out.

Solitude is good for far more than book learning, of course. It's good for the soul. Only during alone time can we truly become centered and peaceful. When alone, we can fit together the puzzle of other people's behaviors (sometimes), or reflect on our emotional reactions to what other folks do and say. Alone time is spacious, it allows us to contemplate human behavior, our own and others. This is such a good thing!

If you never take a walk on your own, give it a try. You will be amazed at how healing it is. Gain some wisdom, integrate the events of your life with memories, goals and wishes, then come back to your tribe, such as it is (community, family, friends) and share the fruits of your solitude, yes? I say yes.

People need people, people need solitude. We are a complicated species! Happy Saturday. Shalom.


jeanette from everton terrace said...

I always say that your posts seem to touch right on something going on in our lives.
We finally got our record player working - we had no records. I ran to the thrift store and grabbed an album - it was B.Streisand. Bill and I have had the song "people who need people" stuck in our head all week.
I have to stop thinking "that's weird" when I visit you :)

I didn't crave my alone time until about 6 years ago. Meghan has always needed it.

ellen abbott said...

actually, I think there have been studies on this. students retain knowledge better if they get a good nights sleep before a test instead of cramming all night.

Reya Mellicker said...

Yeah Jeanette, it isn't weird because you and I are related in some mysterious way. We're on a wavelength. Meghan and me, too. It's cool.

Really about the test scores? I don't doubt it. I've always wondered about people who work full time but also go to school. Sometimes that's the only financial option, but do they ever learn anything? I wonder.

Kerry said...

Solitude is so restorative, at least for me. Everything you say here rings true. It's really fatiguing to have your time filled with noise, commotion, people, tasks; I don't know how some people manage this. How does the president do it? Every minute of his day is filled, and there are always people around, many of them hostile. Who would want that job?

Jo said...

I'm so glad I read these last two posts together as I re-enter the blogosphere after a couple of weeks gone missing!

The first thing I craved after my blessed reunion with my girlfriends and coming back to my busy family? A long walk alone in the woods, of course.

You are so very right about our unique needs as a species.

Reya Mellicker said...

Kerry, the president is an extrovert.

Jo, yes!! <3

Reya Mellicker said...

Kerry: people who go into politics LOVE conflict, like chess players or those who get into Debate Club.

Incomprehensible to the likes of you and I.