More than 10 years ago, I spent one month in a Buddhist meditation center in the mountains of Colorado, an amazing experience. In order to get to the temple from our living camps, there was a wooded path filled with the most beautiful birch trees I had ever seen in my life. I would always walk alone on this path. One day, the wind was blowing with passion, making the birch trees sway in unison, side to side, mimicking a graceful ballet dance and creating a cacophony of beautiful music. I found a sliced tree trunk which acted as a makeshift chair so I sat down. I was so engulfed in the moment: the music rang in my ears, the wind hit my face, and my heart filled with such an undeniable spiritual force — a knowing that my life would be OK. It was one of the most spiritually profound moments I had ever experienced, and a defining moment which convinced me that there is a much higher and greater force than myself: God.
As the Dalai Lama says, it is important to spend time alone every day. Like eating, sleeping or breathing, I believe that spending time alone is a prerequisite for healthy and happy living. When we’re busy, we tend to push time for ourselves aside as our last priority, but over time, by not spending time alone, we wear down our mind, body and souls, causing stress and disease. Even with our hectic lives, we can all make an effort to spend time alone each day — even for just 15 or 20 minutes.
By spending time alone, the first and immediate benefit we feel is less stress. No matter how happy or unhappy each of us are, none of us are immune to stress, which is a common denominator for being human and just living. Spending time alone is a simple, quick yet highly effective way to calm your mind and soul, which is when we start to de-stress and find peace. It allows us to look inward and reflect on the issues in our lives with a third party objective view, properly evaluating and finding the right solutions. Without alone time, our perspective becomes clouded, which causes more confusion and chaos. Alone time provides the clarity and answers.
We are all constantly bombarded by the white noise chatter from family, friends and society about how we should be living, which is all filtered through their own prism lens. When all this white noise blocks our internal radio from receiving transmissions, alone time helps to clear it up. As each of us has a singular journey in this life, we must make decisions based on our internal compass, so through time alone, we can sieve through all the white noise leaving the truthful message. Through alone time and reflection, the fog starts to lift, making our life path clear.
What is wonderful about alone time for me is that it gives me the quiet space to pray and meditate to my sister Sun, my spiritual guardian. When I feel confused, lost and need clarity in my life, I retreat to being alone, so I can pray to her. While group prayer and meditation are wonderful, I find alone prayer and meditation to be most effective because I feel less distracted. The answers may not come right away, but over time, with quiet prayer and meditation the answers become clearer and clearer.
Alone time also heightens your awareness of the present moment, which is when you feel the most alive. When a race car driver speeds 200 miles per hour or a sky diver falls from the skies, they feel so alive because their awareness is fully heightened by focusing on the present moment, which is the essence of meditation. By being alone, we can meditate without distraction so we’re training our minds to be in the present moment. When we train those mind muscles, we can be in the present moment in any situation (not only in silence), whether we’re in a traffic jam or in a war zone, the ultimate test of our zen state. So alone time is training our minds to turn any chaotic situation into a peaceful state.
Needless to say, we all need to renew ourselves. Alone time also rejuvenates our mind, body and soul because it provides us with a pause button to rest. While sleep is a wonderful way to renew ourselves, we still need to give our minds a break during our awake moments. Working our minds straight for 16-18 hours a day straight when we’re awake places too much stress in our minds, which then affects our bodies, creating diseases like cancer, heart attacks, etc. In order to sustain a healthy life, we must be able to renew our minds, bodies and souls with alone time.
You can make alone time any activity that puts you in a state of calm and peace, which does not necessarily mean meditation or prayer in silence. It can be walking, hiking, canoeing, reading a book, whatever works for you. My husband finds his alone time and peace when he flies in the desert or when he’s in his “man cave,” the garage. When we argue, my husband always retreats to his garage, where he finds a peaceful refuge and solace.
The most important benefit I receive from spending time alone is tapping into my spirituality. I feel spiritually connected not only through prayer and meditation but also through walks, reading, and other activities I do alone. Like in the birch tree woods, sometimes I find the most spirituality in the presence of Mother Nature because I can see and feel the perfection of what God has created for us. Being with nature, I can nurture and embrace my spirituality at the highest level. I not only feel centered and grounded but uplifted and comforted that my life will always be OK. In my alone times, my trust in the higher power grows stronger and deeper, so I am not living in fear but rather in love, which is when I feel that all things in my life are possible, so, for me, alone time is very practical tool for living my best life.
In our alone time, we can really look deep and find ourselves, which is when we feel more connected with our family, friends and loved ones and, ultimately, to the world and Universe we live in. So by being alone, you are not really alone because you are basked in love — a feeling we would all like to embrace every moment of our lives!
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living