Being alone with ourselves.

“Settle down in your room at a moment when you have nothing else to do. Say ‘I am now with myself,’ and just sit with yourself. After an amazingly short time you will most likely feel bored. This teaches us one very useful thing. It gives us insight into the fact that if after ten minutes of being alone with ourselves we feel like that, it is no wonder that others should feel equally bored! Why is this so? It is so because we have so little to offer to our own selves as food for thought, for emotion and for life.

“If you watch your life carefully you will discover quite soon that we hardly ever live from within outwards; instead we respond to incitement, to excitement. In other words, we live by reflection, by reaction… We are completely empty, we do not act from within ourselves but accept as our life a life which is actually fed from the outside; we are used to things happening which compel us to do other things. How seldom can we live simply by means of the depth and the richness we assume that there is within ourselves.”

~ Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
from Beginning to Pray

[Update: The day after this I tried to make amends for this post that was not really worthy of the subject, with a second attempt including more paragraphs from Metropolitan Anthony and a video of him lecturing on prayer: Find the Door of Your Heart.]

14 thoughts on “Being alone with ourselves.

  1. What a poignant illustration you have chosen to accompany this insightful piece. I actually enjoy spending time on my own – probably ‘conditioning’ since early childhood as we lived far away from much in the way of outside entertainment and had to become self-reliant.


    1. I think my childhood was good that way, too. But then I think that before mobile phones childhood was better for everyone. Now it takes a lot of intentionality on the part of “mean parents” to secure alone time, and it feels like deprivation to children if all of their friends are watching TV or on the computer playing games together, etc. “Back then” we all became comfortable with being on our own, though it was no guarantee we would actually make good use of the solitude.

      Thanks for your comment, which prompted me again to be thankful for my early years. Do I appreciate them because I was an introvert all along, or did that lifestyle partly build that personality?


  2. And is this why it can be so hard to settle into prayer, because of the lack of stimulation from outside our own minds? Why praying from a reading, or a journal, or some idea on which to focus helps?


  3. Hello Gretchen!
    These paragraphs are quite interesting. Was the author thinking you do nothing else, just sit alone with yourself? My first thought was that is what a person in solitary confinement must live with daily.
    (thanks for your comment…)


  4. I don’t think I can completely agree with those thought-provoking words, I enjoy being alone with myself and I can’t recall ever being bored with myself.


  5. I’m not sure how long I would want to sit in a bare room like the young person in the photo is doing as I truly love the reading spaces in different rooms of my house because of the inspiration of art and fabric and other objects around me–as well as two dachshunds in their nest by my feet and stacks of books next to me, a window nearby. But I do remember even as a young teenager realizing that alone time to think was a wonderful thing. But I guess I do mostly respond to things around me except when my eyes are closed in prayer. I never ever could get the hang of meditation though, too antsy for that.


  6. Food for thought here. Unless we live in a sensory deprived environment, there is always something to react to, and is that a bad thing? The magnificence of creation causes me to praise God. I love solitude, and can’t say that I’m bored with myself.


  7. This is a fascinating description of life, and it may well describe most people – I don’t know. But it doesn’t apply to me, I think. I love spending time with myself, and I do not ever get bored alone. And I am most content when I am directing my own activities, one after another. I’m sorry to admit that I’m most discontent when my days are directed from the outside, as he describes. I find that frustrating and wearying.


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