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Solitude?
Old 08-17-2020, 01:29 PM   #1
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Solitude?

I have been reading Cal Newport's "Digital Minimalism" and he discusses (at length) how solitude is a very necessary thing in our lives. There are quite a few references to Henry David Thoreau and his time at Walden Pond in the book.

It has been interesting to read, especially seeing the relative high numbers of anxiety issues with the younger generation (born between 1995 and 2012'ish) that don't know life without being connected digitally almost 24/7/365.

This has made me think about my own "digital life" and how it has interfered with my solitude time. I have always been a thinker, and *before* the internet and smart phones, I would spend a good 2 hours or so a day in relative deep thought about...well, just about anything. Today, while I am not on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, I am on this and a couple of other forums for about 1-3 hours per day and I have noticed that my solitude time is now an hour or less which I don't like. While I don't plan on doing a "digital detox", I do think that a re-focus on regaining this valuable solitude time is a worthy effort.

So, what say you? How much time do you spend in solitude? Does a digital life make this difficult? What tools/experiences have you used to increase your solitude time?

Edit: Here is an interesting read about Thoreau when he left the pond and went off to write about his experience.

Quote:
On July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau decided it was time to be alone. He settled in a forest on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and built himself a tiny cabin. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” he famously wrote in Walden. This work–along with Civil Disobedience, also inspired by his time at the pond–would go on to become one of the most influential writings in American history, sparking political movements from abolitionism to environmentalism to civil rights. After two years, two months, and two days in relative solitude, Thoreau left his post.
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Old 08-17-2020, 01:39 PM   #2
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This isn't squarely on point, but I offer it because this blogger/author was -- and remains -- influential to me. Lacking Ambition

That blogger/author seemingly lived in solitude. Then, after making his last post, went "poof." He up and disappeared. It's compelling, at least for me.

I subscribe to the theory that a person is born alone, lives alone, and dies alone.
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Old 08-17-2020, 01:40 PM   #3
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Thoreau's solitude was not all that solitary.

https://www.walden.org/education/for...isconceptions/

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. . . Henry’s house at Walden Pond was not isolated in the wilderness, but less than half a mile to either the railroad or the main road into Concord. Henry walked into town regularly to visit family and friends, often joining them for dinner at their houses. He also entertained guests and conversed with passersby at his house at Walden Pond. . . .
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:03 PM   #4
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I enjoy peace, quiet, and solitude a lot, although not constantly. For example I love the fact that I don't hear anything from my neighbors, but now and then I'll listen to a song on youtube. The same is true for solitude. I like being in solitude most of the time, but I also enjoy breaks from solitude when Frank and I get together for lunch or birdwatching or chatting or whatever.

I spend almost no time on the phone or chatting online, although I do participate in message boards like this one quite a bit. Posting here and elsewhere helps me to clarify my thoughts and ideas (to myself). So in that sense it is very much like reading in solitude, for example.

I think that digital "toys" will interfere with your solitude as much as you want them to. In other words, you own the toys (such as your iPhone), they don't own you. They are just objects.

What you do with your solitude is important, IMO. I did some intensive meditation in solitude after my divorce, that helped me to recover from the emotional chaos I was experiencing; though meditation I figured out who I am, what I truly want in life, and how I could get it. That's pretty valuable information I think.

Now that I have what I want in life, I don't feel a need to meditate as much. These days I spend about 20-22 hours/day in solitude, mostly having fun and enjoying life, or sleeping.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:03 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ExFlyBoy5 View Post
So, what say you? How much time do you spend in solitude? Does a digital life make this difficult? What tools/experiences have you used to increase your solitude time?
I've always enjoyed some MDR (minimum daily requirement) of solitude, doing anything from the proverbial "navel gazing" to building model airplanes or just engaged in some mindless task like mowing the lawn and thinking of something else while doing so. The amount of time per day varies of course from day to day, but if I'm short one day I'll make it up another.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:05 PM   #6
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I have at least 2 hours a day of solitude. A couple of hours of biking or hiking is great solitude. And running. And workshop time with the tv off. And yardwork. And fishing. And kayaking.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:06 PM   #7
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If you think you need to make a change, you should. What the rest of us think isn't that important. I find I need a mix, I need some alone time, some time with just DW, but I need some socializing and group activity as well (and Covid has interfered a lot) - I couldn't stand just one or the other. As for the right mix, I take it a day at a time...
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:09 PM   #8
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Thoreau's solitude was not all that solitary.

https://www.walden.org/education/for...isconceptions/
Although true, I don't think it takes away from my point and/or questions. I would argue that you need not be in a solitary state for YEARS (or even days) at a time but *some* time is really necessary for a healthy mental state.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:12 PM   #9
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I have at least 2 hours a day of solitude. A couple of hours of biking or hiking is great solitude. And running. And workshop time with the tv off. And yardwork. And fishing. And kayaking.
The long walks is something I have seen/read as a good recommendation. Alone with your thoughts and no phones/music/etc. I love that idea and I love to walk, just not when it's 95 degrees outside with a heat index of 110!
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:15 PM   #10
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This isn't squarely on point, but I offer it because this blogger/author was -- and remains -- influential to me. Lacking Ambition

That blogger/author seemingly lived in solitude. Then, after making his last post, went "poof." He up and disappeared. It's compelling, at least for me.

I subscribe to the theory that a person is born alone, lives alone, and dies alone.
Not sure if you are interested, but here is an interview with him (conducted by blogger Mad Fientist). https://www.madfientist.com/lacking-ambition-interview/
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:16 PM   #11
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I am on my own the majority of the time, which is wonderful. I potter a lot. Things get done, very slowly, which I think is one of the objectives or at least, byproducts, of pottering.

Pottering in solitude is good. I do like a good potter.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:20 PM   #12
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I'm a huge solitude fan and have found it deeply enriching. I get up way early and walk the dogs just at dawn for 1 - 2 hours. The world is quiet and calm (generally speaking) and my mind relaxes. Invariably, I get a new idea on a problem or an art project or on a way to encourage someone.


A couple of times a month, I take the RV to a local campground by myself (DH can finally leave the TV on all day!).


I also practice 20 min of silent meditation twice a day. I try and be careful about my digital time and be intentional about what I am seeking online and monitor whether the activity adds or subtracts from my quality of life. I find, for me, only a few actually add.


Once a year, I attend a 10-day silent retreat (not for the faint of heart - you can't escape yourself...).



Silence and solitude have taught me much about myself, good and bad. Ultimately, I find myself being much more present and open when I encounter another person, seeing more clearly how they are feeling, what matters to them, and not to take anything personally. (Uh, spoiler alert - I'm not always successful in this but have made much progress).



I schedule solitude and silence on my calendar. I honestly have to say, it has been one of the most powerful tools to help me grow in loving my neighbor.


If that's all I'm left with in the end, I won the lottery.


It's not for everyone, of course, but if one has an inclination for it, making a real commitment to it is life changing and affirming.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:22 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Major Tom View Post
I am on my own the majority of the time, which is wonderful. I potter a lot. Things get done, very slowly, which I think is one of the objectives or at least, byproducts, of pottering.

Pottering in solitude is good. I do like a good potter.

Learned something new. I thought "pottering" involved wet clay and a wheel. Turns out it's what the Brits do instead of puttering.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:58 PM   #14
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Peace and quiet, yes I'll take all that I can get.
I don't recall ever thinking "boy this would be so much better with a bunch of noisy people" - OK , maybe a tug o' war.
I am fine with alone time, but don't need a lot of true solitude/isolation.
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:09 PM   #15
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Not sure if you are interested, but here is an interview with him (conducted by blogger Mad Fientist). https://www.madfientist.com/lacking-ambition-interview/
Thank you.

I was aware of that interview. I think those were his last public statements -- and again, made years ago.

There are posts on various FIRE blogs over the years about what happened to Mike. He just up and seemingly disappeared. Assuming he is still alive and well, it's terrific. He isn't playing the social media game. He isn't offering advice or criticisms on various FIRE boards. He just seemingly up and quit. Disappeared. Vanished. Went *poof."
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:47 PM   #16
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Although true, I don't think it takes away from my point and/or questions. I would argue that you need not be in a solitary state for YEARS (or even days) at a time but *some* time is really necessary for a healthy mental state.
No argument about that. I think there are variety of ways we can find or make the solitude necessary for mental peace in our lives. Ways that do not require wandering off into the woods. Here are some things I do every day.

1. I shave every morning with a straight razor. It takes a good long time and, to avoid cutting myself, I really don't think about anything else except the task at hand. I find it very relaxing mentally.

2. I work alone out in the yard or garden. Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, tilling, weeding, planting etc. are all things that don't actually take a great deal of attention, so I have time to think things through while I'm working.

3. I also find solitude in doing things that are mindless, simple and repetitive, like shining my shoes, washing the dishes or even washing my car. It is slightly different from shaving in that I don't need to pay close attention, so I often don't think about anything at all. But, if I am so inclined, it is another opportunity to mull things over in a leisurely way.

4. I do the Spelling Bee and crossword in the NYT every day. Yes, it engages my mind, but removes me from thinking about everything else going on in the world. I just concentrate on solving the puzzle. I find it relaxing.
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Old 08-17-2020, 05:32 PM   #17
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Spending days at my mancave in the middle of 14 acres of forest. Nearest neighbor a few miles away. No TV or Internet.Have a stream a dozen feet from the mancave, a spring as well.
Heading home is usually a bit of shock seeing and hearing cars, and being in traffic, yea five cars in a row is a traffic jam.
Lately have been adding to and re-wiring the off grid solar and wind power system. When done will be about 2KW on bright sunny day. Involves lots of thinking before doing anything. Can't rush these things. There are no public utilities of any sort within miles.
Plenty of downed trees for evening campfires. Know most of the wildlife's travel habits.
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Old 08-17-2020, 05:37 PM   #18
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Once a year, I attend a 10-day silent retreat (not for the faint of heart - you can't escape yourself...).

Silence and solitude have taught me much about myself, good and bad. Ultimately, I find myself being much more present and open when I encounter another person, seeing more clearly how they are feeling, what matters to them, and not to take anything personally. (Uh, spoiler alert - I'm not always successful in this but have made much progress).
+1
Clearing the mind is the best way to see things more clearly! I'm rarely more able to easily manage any situation than after a silent retreat. I can always manage situations of course, but it's so much easier and effective to do so when the mind is quiet. Even other peoples' reactions are transformed, as you may have noticed too.

Does a digital life make getting solitude more difficult?

For me, yes. It's always tempting to go for dopamine ping that comes from online interactions. When I used to smoke cigarettes, one of the best smokes of the day was that first one in the morning, enjoyed with a cup of coffee. Sitting down with the laptop and a hot cuppa gives me the same feeling. BUT, when I take more time with my meditation practice, my desire for that ping diminishes. Coming home after a retreat, I really don't care to get back online. But then, well, I gotta check email...then just one more thing...and so the cycle continues.

What tools/experiences have you used to increase your solitude time?

DH likes to do everyday things together, shopping, bike rides, walks, and such, so it's harder than I'd like to be on my own. But I usually do an hour or so of samu (working meditation) each morning, doing yardwork or other household chores with minimal or no interaction. He's respectful of my interest in seated meditation, so I can do that as well.
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Old 08-18-2020, 08:55 AM   #19
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Yes, daily solitude for us! DH spends a few hours a day in his workspace/man cave/shed and I have a few hours daily reading a great book. Also some meditation and calm music in the evening.
Our neighborhood is very quiet, so sitting our on the deck in the morning or evening is relaxing and peaceful.
We take daily walks or nice drives to have some time together for conversation away from the house and any "chores" that are always there to pull us in that direction.
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Old 08-18-2020, 09:15 AM   #20
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I would love to have a place on 100 acres+ with no other humans around. However I would also like to have internet access and have the choice to communicate with others on my schedule such as posting on here or Facebook. I don't feel the need to abandon digital life to have solitude.
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