How do you keep yourself company?
“One of the great challenges of life is to learn to be alone peaceably, at home in oneself.”
This was from meditation teacher Stephen Batchelor’s OnBeing podcast. I listened to it as I returned from a four day solo trip. (Darn, I thought, it would have helped feelings of isolation had I listened to it earlier… c’est la vie.)
Still, the podcast helped me return with less drama, and some things to learn.
My main struggle was not at night, it’s during the day. I’m pretty proficient at keeping myself company when sleep is not so close: My aim is to rest, so I’m usually able to take anxiety from the center stage. Yay!
And…I’m not as accomplished at this during the day.
To start, my brain and body can go on anxiety theme park rides. I soothe myself with screen stuff, and then I beat myself up about wasting time better used to work or enjoy precious winter sunlight. Which only makes me more anxious.
When that abates and I start working, I also judge what I’m doing as if it will go on my permanent record in high school. My long list of “overdue assignments” can take precedent over anything I’ve accomplished.
Keeping myself company changed my perspective.
This podcast helped me find other ways to manage my daily anxiety. When I considered being a better companion to myself, my whole sense of being changed.
Did I want to keep hanging around with my internal class bully? Not really.
Was it okay to soothe myself, even with spider solitaire or other “time wasters”? Yeah.
Could I stop overanalyzing to pick the perfect Spotify song and choose whatever provided good companionship in the moment? Emmy Lou and Etta James make me happy, even if they’re old school.
Practice being in your own good company
Just like you practice tools to lead to deep rest at night, it takes practice to become, as the overused statement goes, your own best friend.
Meditation is a great way for “finding ease in aloneness,” says meditation teacher Stephen Batchelor. Sometimes that’s easier said than done when you’ve got ants in your pants and self judgments up the wazoo.
When you find yourself stuck in the infinite anxiety loop, it helps to bring in the companionship of kindness. Kindness when you’re breathing, kindness when you’re thinking, kindness when you lose focus, kindness when you remember.
It might help to think of kindness as an aerosol spray can that you can use to soften and hold yourself. Even if you’re in distress, you don’t have to add another level of self-judgement. Kindness is a good companion.
At night, you’ll rest more easily when you use kindness to hold both sleep frustration and yourself.
Listen, if you had to sleep on a cold hard mountainside, being angry at the rocks wouldn’t make them softer. True, kindness doesn’t make them softer, either—but it makes you softer. So you’re more fluid, and stuck energy can release, making it easier to rest.
Relaxing trips can bring you more self connection, but you don’t have to wait until you go on vacation to find and ease into who you are.
You’re great company!