How to Be Alone | Sara Maitland

Summary of: How to Be Alone
By: Sara Maitland


In an age where socializing and constant connectivity dominate our lives, ‘How to Be Alone’ by Sara Maitland breaks away from the norm to explain the importance of spending quality time in solitude. The summary delves deep into the benefits of establishing a connection with one’s true self and how it can improve personal well-being and creativity. Examples from the lives of famous personalities like Henry David Thoreau and Virginia Woolf demonstrate the power of solitude in sparking groundbreaking thoughts. The summary also touches upon the spiritual and transcendent experiences that complete seclusion can offer by connecting us to nature and our inner selves.

The Power of Solitude

In a society that emphasizes the importance of social interaction and work, finding time for oneself can be difficult. However, according to the author, spending time alone is crucial for personal well-being and creativity. When alone, one can discover their true self and values, without the influence of others. Creative individuals, such as Henry David Thoreau and Virginia Woolf, recognized the value of solitude in their work. Greta Garbo also found solace in a simple, solitary life after her successful acting career. Therefore, it is important for everyone to dedicate time alone to reap the benefits of personal growth and creative output.

Finding Solitude in Nature

Immersing oneself in nature can lead to a transcendent experience that requires complete solitude.

Escaping the city and immersing oneself in nature is one of the best ways to find solitude. By completely disconnecting from distractions and focusing solely on the natural environment, one can experience a sense of connectedness to the world around them. This connection, often described as transcendent, goes beyond the conscious mind and can bring about spiritual or simply joyful experiences. However, achieving this requires complete solitude, as even the presence of a pet can be a distraction.

Throughout history, many cultures have recognized the importance of spending time alone as a necessary component of transitioning into adulthood. Both monks and knights spent time alone before their initiation, and young Aborigines in Australia are sent on a walkabout for six months to prepare for adulthood. Despite these cultural practices, individuals who spend time alone are often labeled as selfish, unnatural, and dangerous.

In conclusion, immersing oneself in nature can lead to a beautiful and mystical experience, but it requires complete solitude. Despite negative social stigmas, solitude has been recognized as a necessary practice in many cultures throughout history.

The Stigma of Choosing Solitude

Choosing to live a life of solitude is often frowned upon in modern society, even though individualism is nurtured. Philip Koch, a philosophy professor, believes that our inherent reaction to solitude being unnatural is due to human evolution finding success through companionship. Psychological research has also portrayed seeking solitude as a pathological or harmful behavior. However, those who choose solitude find happiness in their own way, meaning that positive relationships aren’t necessarily necessary. Additionally, the societal viewpoint of isolation as dangerous is unfair. Ultimately, those who desire the freedom of solitude should embrace it, regardless of society’s expectations.

Embracing Solitude

Overcoming the fear of being alone is the first step towards a healthy and fulfilling solitude. Anthony the Great and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s experience prove that living in isolation can be healthy. Start giving ourselves small doses of alone time to test our comfort levels and focus on being alone even while with others.

Living a life of solitude may seem daunting to some and preferred by others. Whether it is an intentional choice or a result of circumstances, there are steps that can be taken to make it a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. However, the fear of being alone is the first obstacle to overcome. Often, the lack of solitude is due to a subconscious fear of being alone, which can also lead to a negative reaction towards those who enjoy it. To ease yourself into solitude, start with small doses of alone time to test your comfort levels. Take a bath, focus on being alone while with others in a store or riding public transportation. History shows us that solitude is healthy, as experienced by Anthony the Great and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo who lived in isolation for extended periods and remained physically and mentally fit. Once you overcome the fear of being alone, embrace solitude and find ways to enjoy it.

Finding Time for Solitude

Many people recognize the advantages of solitude but struggle to fit it into their busy schedules. The author suggests spending more time on solitary activities like walking in nature or meditative exercise, rather than passive activities like reading or watching movies that keep us from ourselves. Going on a challenging solo adventure can also lead to self-discovery and fulfillment. By expanding periods of solitude, we might experience daydreaming and its benefits.

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