Solitude and silence can be gratifying things if you learn how to use them. Those practising meditation know how hard it is to stop the constant chatter of the mind. There is nothing wrong with having thoughts, but having too many ideas can be exhausting and contaminating for vision. Bombarded with dozens of images within just a minute, you seem to have no privilege to stop the flow of appearance and rethink your attitude to it, but to live on your terms is to be able to re-direct that flow. Your picture has to be more explicit. The ideal state, however, should be conceptual thought instead of merely organised representation (picture-thinking).
The closest goal of meditation is to dismiss any particular picture-thought and to regard it from aside (not to be lead by an emotion resulting from a picture). The task of solitude and silence is in going over all images, which your memory delivers every single moment, devouring them, and finally, ridding of them for good. The process consists of not letting to enter new information into your mind and silencing whatever unnecessary you already have. The more time you spend alone, the more you develop minimal reflection helping to get a clearer picture of who you are and your state of affairs.
As for the obstacles, it is the want of habit of being alone, which is responsible for the creation of such emotional conditions as the fear of loneliness, agitation, boredom, disdain for “non-doing,” and so on. You tend to avoid solitude and silence and find every excuse to get busy with chores, chatter, and entertainment. The worst attitude towards the practice is despising it. It comes from the commonsensical point of view for which the fitting activity is physical, which consists of hectic movement through spacetime. Pondering, on the other hand, is regarded as laziness and useless pastime, and rightly so if thinking is understood only as recollection (of past events) and expectation (of future events). For if someone recalls, then he should share the past with others; if one plans, then a plan should be carried out (from the in-mind into the outer). However, sitting and daydreaming will get one nowhere. Such is the position of common-sense, and, sadly for it, it is mistaken because it does not perceive beyond appearance and sees no use in structuring thoughts to improve acts. It knows no logic, or if it seems to know, then it does not apply it, that is, it has not mastered it properly yet. Not going so far as to pass over the reality of common-sense, let’s stay within its borders (for partially we are all commonsensical creatures) and look for benefits of solitude in it. Perspective means a lot for common-sense; it helps to grasp better resources to succeed in many common areas of life as the career, relationships, and so on. Calmness alleviates stress and anxiety, and one feels happier. Proper solitude, without distractions, can help to stop clinging to the past and feel better about it, get calmer, and live the life, that is, to have better planning of the future. Is it not all we want – to move through the continuum less hectically, without stress (punch from the world)? Necessarily, we should go beyond commonsensical pettiness to broaden horizons, so to say. In a nutshell, common-sense is just an average view resulting from all that humanity has achieved till whatever moment counted as the present; it thinks and abides ever behind the progress. To develop is to move away from the appeal to common sense, which is, in any case, a logical fallacy.
Let’s regard how to practice solitude and silence. It has two steps. The first one is getting used to solitude, and then using it to your advantage in some purposeful activity. It is concerned with better vision. The second one is adding to solitude silence as well (“the best music” as the saying goes), and making both elements into a single practice; this one is very close to mindfulness and concerned with intellectual evolution. There is no distinct border between these two steps as it were, and we are outlining them for clarity. You can regard the written below as a recommendation that you can adapt to your needs and lifestyle.
1. Once you carved out some quiet time, do not succumb to your emotions, those fantasies which compose your underlying mood and attitude for a short period. Disregard agitation, boredom, and fear. Do not go for the first thing you would commonly do – calling a friend, turning on the TV, listening to music (although, attentive listening to challenging and unknown music can be employed later as an object of concentration), etc. Just stay for a while in silence and get used to a new feeling. Start an inner dialogue with yourself to question your state, your knowledge, and your notion of the world (if there is such notion at all).
2. Disconnect from the past, appreciate what happened there and, at the same time, do not dwell on it trying to repeat it. Some history is good, some bad, and some neutral. If you live by a bad experience, then you may darken the present, if in the opposite, hold to a good experience, you may judge the present too harshly. A neutral one we usually forget because of its mediocrity, but if you remember it and bring it back, then you may detain your growth. Sometimes you will find yourself absorbed in the past or the future, neglecting the reflective state. Try gently to dive out of the absorption so that you can gain a new stance towards your common ways.
The following applies to all stages. You can go to a quiet place outside to make solitude more meaningful. Interaction with nature is the best way, but if you have no such privilege, a public park is good too as long as you can perceive every sound around you as pleasant noise. In short, go to a place where you will feel relaxed and fall into the peaceful harmony between the imagination and the understanding.
If the usual excuse pops into your mind – “I have no time and place to be alone,” try to dismiss it as a deception put forward by your mind to protect useless habits (liking of visual distractions, meaningless talk, and so on). Those detrimental patterns waste your time. If you do need spare time, you will find a way to gain it.
To conclude. With the practice of solitude and silence, you can obtain independence from a random you. Also, you can win some time that can be spent later concentrating on a purposeful enterprise. You can gain means to a constant intellectual development, which is usually inhibited by the ongoing process of acquiring impressions and information. Less meaningless information, which you cannot act upon, and less intense emotions for the sake of them, that is, fewer pictures that consume the energy of memory, will lead you to better introspection and concentration.