The Art of Solitude

The Art of Solitude

Upcoming / ongoing:

Class series: The Four Unconditional Qualities of the Heart: Opening the Door to Love. Dates: Monday evenings, 6 – 7:30 p.m., March 4, 11, 18, 25. Location: The Sol Center, Tucson, AZ. You are welcome to attend any one class or all eight in the series. $30/session, Sol Center member discount is applicable. (MORE INFO)

Dear Friends,

The Art of Solitude

Solitude can be viewed as a state of wonder, contemplation or reflection, imagination, inspiration and care.

Solitude in the Buddhist tradition is a practice and a way of life.

People can experience solitude in various ways, ranging from  loneliness and alienation to what we call rapture.

Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself with wonderful and sufficient company.

There are many different forms it can take from the quiet and calm of meditation to the mood evoked by an artist’s temperament when concentrating, to the absorption and fascination of one’s mind state when being out in nature, to the emotions of ecstasy, to sensual involvement while listening to music.

The state can be experienced as very internal as if one were safe and silent within a cave, a prayerful holy place as a small chapel, a zendo, a temple, or seated before a private altar. This may bring up feelings of the great mystery, where we may be alone and undisturbed.

Solitude is a way of being that can be cultivated like an art form with dedication and focus. This cultivation can bring us to a state of   feeling serene and tranquil that fosters a way to engage effectively and creatively with our world.

Being in solitude is like a love affair. Sometimes you like it; sometimes you don’t like it at all. The echo of aloneness is always there. You have no opportunity, none whatsoever, to indulge in anything.  There are no candy stores or movie theaters. You are just being by yourself, just simply being you.

The difference between solitude as rejuvenation and solitude as suffering is the quality of self-reflection that one can generate while in it, and the ability to come back to social groups when one wants to.

When preconditions are met, solitude can be restorative. For anyone, who meditates 15 minutes a day and takes monthly solo camping trips, it is at least as essential as exercise or healthy eating. Possibly it is necessary for a truly healthy mind. It really lifts you out of problems. It really, really has a powerful function for making you understand your predicament in this universe.

In the 1980s, the Italian journalist and author, Tiziano Terzani, after many years of reporting across Asia, holed himself up in a cabin in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. “For a month I had no one to talk to except my dog, Baoli,” he wrote in his travelog, A Fortune Teller Told Me. Terzani passed the time with books, observing nature, “listening to the winds in the trees, watching butterflies, enjoying silence.” For the first time in a long while he felt free from the incessant anxieties of daily life: “At last I had time to have time.”

“The only real teacher is not in a forest, or a hut or an ice cave in the Himalayas,” he once remarked. “It is within us.” One imagines him reaching this conclusion alone.

In loving friendliness,