Don't forget Solitude
We are, by nature I believe, social creatures. Quite frankly, most of us enjoy being seen. The popularity of coffee shops, for example, is that one can "be alone with other people". Social and visible.
In our (American) day-to-day lives, we are constantly on the go and surrounded by -- or interacting with -- scores of people. While this may help us develop and refine our social skills, it can also serve to dial up the stress levels to an unhealthy level.
To counteract this, we resort to such things as MP3 players and ear buds. However, one oft-overlooked solution to "Social Overload" is Solitude.
Solitude is temporary withdrawal. Isolation. A "coming apart" from the crowd to set oneself alone, with no distractions, no responsibilities and -- ideally -- minimal noise.
Solitude doesn't not necessarily mean sitting alone in a cabin in the woods and contemplating The Meaning Of Life. At the same time, simply sitting in a coffee shop with ear buds in, listening to Vangelis while writing blog entries is not solitude. I believe there's the necessity of physical separation involved in true solitude. What you choose to do during that time, I believe, is not nearly as important as the physical isolation.
Recently, for example, I enjoyed a day of solitude while working on a software project. I sat alone in an apartment in New York City, listening to enjoyable music (Gotan Project -- great stuff!) and sipping rum while working. Not only was I able to work at twice my normal pace, but the solitude enabled me to relax while still working. This helped me get into "Flow", yet stay connected with my realization that I was enjoying what I was doing but could quit at any time. At no time did I need to concern myself with the thoughts or actions of others. It was spiritual.
Solitude may be for only a few hours; It need not be a weekend (that would be terrific, and keeping in line with a new tradition I am starting for myself, that of a regular "retreat" to Solitude). Solitude need not be in a monastic setting; My own was in Alphabet City, sirens and music included.
Solitude must -- as obvious as it may sound -- involve only self. While that may seem selfish to some, let me remind you that you cannot pour a cool drink from an empty vessel.
All The Best,