The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” In today’s digital age, ‘screen-time’ significantly overpowers ‘self-time’, leading to increase in stress and anxiety levels. Hence the term ‘digital toxification’ has entered our lexicon.
Spiritual texts advocate the threefold path of sravana, listening; manana, contemplation and nidhidhyasana, living by the word. This is prescribed to combat our natural craving for outward focus, attention, recognition and praise. Overcoming this craving requires dedicated vigilance to what is quiet, subtle and hidden. For this to happen, we need to divert much of our screen-time to self-time. Interestingly, researchers say that people detest spending even six to 15 minutes in a room all by themselves.
We spend hardly any time on directing our thoughts inward. Yudhishtra was posed a series of questions by a spirit – giving the right answer would save the lives of his four brothers. Among the questions posed was, “What is the fastest thing in the world?” Yudhishtra answered: “The mind.” The mind is always at work and at great speed – so we also spend a disproportionate amount of time either dwelling on the past or stressing about the future. The casualty is the present moment.
Positive management of self-time is an excellent way to address this. Evidence of improved perfection in action exists amongst professionals in competitive fields, be it in the arena of sports, business, or the creative line, such as theatre. Positive self-affirmative exercises including yoga and meditation have established the benefits accrued in terms of ability to handle stress and the daily challenges and travails of life. Slowly but surely, as we train ourselves to spend constructive time within our personal space, we find a change in our attitude and approach to life.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the existential German philosopher, said, “If you know why, you can live anyhow.” The ‘why’ sought through introspection makes us enjoy and savour every moment of our life. We would then be able to shift our stance from just seeing, hearing, judging and reacting to one of observing, listening, reflecting and responding. The more time we spend productively in quietude, the more we would be drawn to the strength of the perennial, instead of the transient. Further, quietude fosters creative thinking.
Ramana Maharshi called quietude, the state of ‘I-am’ or ‘wakeful sleep’. JJ Krishnamurti referred to it as ‘conscious awareness’. To address the challenges and turbulence of daily living, we need to channelise our outwardly focussed attention and redirect it towards ‘self-time’. Quietude can unfold answers to many of our concerns. It is no wonder that some of the most remarkable works of writers, scientists and philosophers have occurred during their moments of solitude and reflection.
In solitude, we are hardly lonely. Many a study has confirmed the detrimental effects of excessive screen-time, including loneliness and lack of self-worth. While solitude is richness of the self, loneliness is its poverty. Theologian Paul Tillich said, “Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And, it has created the word ‘solitude’, to express the glory of being alone.” Amidst the cacophony of daily living, time spent quietly adds life to our years, enriching and enlivening it.
The writer is a contributor to the Times of India. [Courtesy -ToI]