Could learning to be alone with our thoughts have a direct impact on overall happiness and societal issues?
My inspiration for writing this article emanates from a Mike Posner interview I recently stumbled upon while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. I will link the video here:
Mike Posner recently sat down to interview with ‘Impact Theory’ host Tom Bilyeau to discuss his recent stay in solitude at the Tara Mandala Buddhist Monastery in the mountains of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Here he reflects on, and shares his lessons learned from a week-long stay in utter, complete solitude. He describes moments of despair, boredom, and most of all enlightenment.
Hopefully by now you have watched the video for yourself to understand the scope of this article. I do not intend to go into too much depth about the video specifically; but, more-so intend to discuss my own personal opinions based on the lessons learned.
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” - Blaise Pascal, French Philosopher
Posner shares this quote during the interview and this quote in particular, really stuck with me. (Remember that “inspiration” I spoke of earlier — this was it.) Think about that quote for a short time.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
I believe it holds an incredible truth about our society.
Thinking objectively — how many of our personal and societal issues could be better resolved, simply by being able to sit alone with our thoughts during times of stress?
Consider our relationships and how we as people tend to handle most of our relationship traumas. It is human nature to want to run away from our thoughts and/or keep our minds pre-occupied on other things when we find ourselves in tough situations, or times of stress and dismay. Maybe it’s a bad breakup, divorce, or even family issues that we’re trying to keep our minds off. Stress, if not addressed the right way, does not go away.
This buildup of stress manifests itself in the form of depression, anxiety, anger, and despair. All of which, are emotions that negatively affect our personal lives, as well as the lives of those around us. These are all emotions that, if sitting alone in a quiet room, would consume our entire being and drive anybody to the verge of insanity. Depending on a person’s mental state and how well they manage stress build-up, pure solidarity can trigger either enlightenment, or despair.
Recording Artist Mike Posner discussing lessons he learned while in complete solitude
Which brings us back to the main question provoked by Posner’s interview. Could learning to be alone with our thoughts be the answer to many of our individual problems, as well as problems in our society as a whole? If more people were able to mindfully meditate, alone in solitude (or even as a group), would we live in a safer, more conscientious society? A society of significantly less impulsive-driven crime even?
Some would seem to think so.
A study issued in 2006 by Maharishi University Management sought out to find if there is a direct correlation between mass meditation and crime rates. The study sampled 206 urban districts around the United States, each hosting a population of at least 100,000 people. The study was conducted over a 3 year span from 2007-2010, where it reported significant drops in homicide, and violent crime rates.
Homicide rates dropped 21.2% from 2007-2010 in the sampled areas, while all other violent crime rates dropped 18.5% overall. Compared to the baseline U.S. crime rates for this same time period, the positive correlation between group meditation and crime rates is evident. These findings clearly show a ripple effect between the two variables.
Now, to be fair, meditation is not as easy as it sounds. It takes a special discipline. — (Don’t believe me? Try sitting alone in a perfectly, quiet room. No white noise, no cell phones/televisions to distract you, just your thoughts, and see how long the comfort lasts). —
As a society, our minds are programmed to run 100 miles-per-hour at all times. Our minds are constantly exposed to hundreds of distractions every second. For this reason, we are rarely meta-cognizant of our own thoughts and thought-processes. Posner speaks to this during his interview on Impact Theory.
He discusses the initial hardships he faced when his mind finally realized what was going on and that he was alone in a cabin with nothing but his own thoughts. He recalls his mind scanning the room, racing to create tasks for him to accomplish in order to be productive. Tasks so simple and irrelevant in that moment, that it is clear that it is the natural programming of his own mind, trying to avoid the silent, hollowness of the room.
Another thought-provoking question he offers; “How many of our so-called goals, are just there because you’re afraid to be alone in a room?” What tasks actually matter and don’t matter in the grand scheme of our lives? Filtering through these and allowing ourselves time to make peace with our own thoughts and release some of the stress build-up of our busy lives, may very well be the key to opening up a world of enlightenment and mental prosperity.
Just some things to think about, the next time you’re sitting alone in that room.
[If you found this article entertaining and/or helpful; please follow my personal blog on Medium.com for more content! Thanks for reading!