To sit quietly with oneself…
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
French philosopher, Blaise Pascal
Written in 17th century France…yet somehow, it applies perfectly today.
In a world that keeps us virtually “connected” throughout our waking hours…and often during our sleeping hours as our phones track our breathing, heart rate, and depth of sleep…how can we carve out space to return to the one place that is always present – our own experience?
Psychotherapy and meditation are two ways to begin to build an ability to sit quietly in a room alone.
In psychotherapy, you are not alone, but the experience is focused on you. Two people, alone in a room, sitting together, returning to the experiences and thought processes that make up one’s life. Psychotherapists hold space…literally in their schedules, figuratively in their psyches, and symbolically in their own inner work… for patients as they work through the ways in which the world has touched them and molded them.
The experience of therapy allows for one to build the ability to sit quietly in a room alone as the therapist models this behavior, sitting with a patient when one can’t do it alone. My job, above all else, is to be with patients when they have become overwhelmed and burdened by their own experience. When they cannot sit with this alone, I create space and sit with them. All the while reminding them of their innate ability to sit with themselves when I am not present.
And so, meditation…..Meditation at it’s core is simply sitting with yourself for a set period of time. Applying curious attention and focus on what happens to the body physically and emotionally when we just stop for a moment allows us to begin to know ourselves better. We learn to anchor in the breath and be mindful of physical sensations. We begin to separate just a bit from the thought stream that is our constant life narrator and to gain insight into the tone of our emotional experience. Just starting with a few minutes creates an experience increased consciousness and awareness.
Committed attention to ourselves through the use of regular psychotherapy and a consistent meditation practice not only increases our ability to sit with ourselves, but opens space and energy to sit with others as they navigate the difficulties of life. As we grow our capacity to sit we find what it means to truly be connected … to ourselves and to those around us.