The Solitude Project

The Ecology of Solitude

Ecology is all about the interrelatedness of human and natural communities. You experience solitude within your own ecology of communities, from nearby to planetary, from family to global.

No one except you can directly explore your solitude. You are the one who will work out the details of finding the right balance between your inner nature and your outer concerns. This is important “hands-on” work. Please consider whether this is the right time or place for you to do this exploring.

● Mapping Your Solitude

Here you will discover for yourself the types of solitude you experience and how you balance solitude with community – the ecology of your solitude.

● Saving the Solitude

These are opportunities to help save the quiet natural surroundings that promote solitude.


How Solitude Contributes to Society

Many people find that, in a state of solitude, they are able to contribute to society in ways they could not do otherwise. Hopefully this website is an example of a contribution to the greater community.

Solitude, at its best, is not oriented toward escaping the world. Deliberately choosing to disengage from ordinary social interactions, however, can allow for a different kind of participation in the community.

Certain “solitary professions” require the conditions and attentiveness possible in a state of solitude.

The solitude state of awareness provides some people with a heightened ability to:  

     ●  enter a certain kind of attentiveness that is difficult to achieve when distracted by the presence of other people,

     ●  use certain tools and practices,

     ●  pass through “a door that opens within”, permitting deep introspection,

     ●  develop a fresh look that offers a perspective on many aspects of the world.  

 
 
 
Drawn from the extensive research of John D. Barbour, 2004

Mapping Your Solitude

(PDF to download or print Solitude Mapping)

The following steps will sharpen your awareness about
● the types of solitude you experience
● how you balance solitude and human community

 Step 1: Types of Solitude 

Directions: Please circle the types of solitude you experience: 

1. Solitude as Anonymity – Because you are alone, you may act in whatever ways you feel like at the moment, without concern for social niceties or what others might     think.

 2. Solitude as Creativity – Being alone stimulates novel ideas or innovative ways of   expressing yourself, whether actually in art, poetry or intellectual pursuits, or whimsically in daydreaming with a purpose.

 3. Solitude as Diversion – You fill the time alone by watching television, reading a book, surfing the internet, or engaging in other distracting activities.

 4. Solitude as Inner Peace – While alone, you feel calm and relaxed free from the pressures of everyday life.

 5. Solitude as Intimacy – Although alone, you feel especially close to someone you care about (for example, an absent friend or lover, or perhaps a deceased relative  such as a beloved grandparent); the absence of the person only strengthens your feeling of closeness.

 6Solitude as Loneliness – You feel self-conscious, anxious or depressed, you long for   interpersonal contact.

7. Solitude as Problem Solving – Aloneness provides the opportunity to think about  specific problems or decisions you are facing and you attempt to come to some resolution.

8. Solitude as Self Discovery – By focusing attention on yourself, you gain insight into   your fundamental values and goals and you come to realize your unique strengths and weaknesses.

9. Solitude as Spirituality – While alone, you have a mystic–like experience, for example, a sense of transcending everyday concerns, of being a part of something grander than yourself:  Such experiences are sometimes interpreted within a religious context (e.g. as being close to God) but they also can be entirely secular (e.g. as being in harmony with a social or natural order).

Adapted from Long, et. al (Univ. of Mass.) PSPB, Vol. 29 No. 5, May 2003 578-583.

● Please write the type(s) of solitude you feel most drawn to, the one you would most like to experience:

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 2:

Your Patterns of Choice

A. At this time in my life I would prefer to have:

 a. more solitude.

 b. more involvement with others.

 c. other: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

B. I seem to keep about the right balance of time between solitude and being with others:

 a. most of the time

 b. rarely

 c. other: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

C. Needing to choose between solitude and being with others leaves me feeling frustrated.

 a. often

 b. not often

 c. other: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

D. I feel upset when I need to choose between solitude and being with others.

 a. usually

 b. not usually

 c. other: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

E.  My everyday choices between solitude and being with others are influenced by feelings of shame or guilt.

 a. often

 b. not often

 c. other: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

F. My everyday choices between solitude and being with others are influenced by feelings of social pressures and expectations.

 a. usually

 b. not usually

 c. other: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

● After considering these questions, you may decide to work on re-balancing solitude and community.

Step 3: Balancing Solitude and Community (Conclusions)

1. What type(s) of solitude, listed in Step 1, would you go to some effort to experience?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2. In what places, situations or conditions are you likely to find solitude?

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. If you would like to find a better balance between solitude and community:

A. What are some resources (internal and external) that you have for doing this

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________                _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

B. What obstacles (internal and external)  make it difficult to do this?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4. What would you need to do, on an everyday and long term basis, to create more solitude, or a better balance into your life?

(Remember that re-balancing requires working things out with those around you, as kindly as possible. Others are affected when you shift your balance between solitude and community.)

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5. What is your next step?

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Robert Smith, Ph. D., Aug.,2011, robertcharlessmithphd@gmail.com

Saving the Solitude

BELOW ARE OPPORTUNITIES to join with activists who are helping to bring public attention to the danger of losing the quiet natural surroundings that promote solitude. Care for the Earth is a central aspect of most ethical and religious traditions. Many people experience solitude in nature.

The Solitude of Wilderness

Wilderness, of course, is a special part of the ecology of solitude which is rapidly disappearing from our planetary eco-system.

● The U. S. National Wilderness Act of 1964 mandated the preservation of opportunities for solitude. Here is information about efforts in the Grand Canyon.

● Here is information about the Red Desert Project in Wyoming:

Nearby Places of Solitude

When did you last take a solitary walk in your natural surroundings and hear only bird sounds and the wind, free of human and mechanical noises and lights? Can you see the stars on a clear night without the artificial haze of lights?

It is not a far stretch to consider these intrusions as environmental pollutants like dirty water and air. They clutter and diminish our appreciation of nature and disrupt our sense of inter-relatedness with the natural world. Artificial light and noise affect the health and well-being of humans and animals.

You can “think globally, and act locally” by supporting nearby places of solitude. Solitude and natural wildlife can often be found in nearby places – our neighborhoods, “Green Acres”, open spaces, rivers, seacoasts, ponds, and even in our own homes, backyards and balconies. Small pockets of quiet and nature can often be found in congested areas and be the focus on creative works such as this article written about a nearby creek.

● In parks around the US, such as the Golden Gate Area mentioned in this link, efforts are made to keep parks natural and free from pollution.

● Park planners now consider how to provide solitude when they design neighborhood parks. Become a volunteer to help support and care for neighborhood garden spots.

● Here is an article about Flagstaff, Arizona becoming the nation’s first Dark-Sky City by adapting lights to make the night sky visible.

[Please contact us at robertcharlessmithphd@gmail.com about additional efforts to save natural solitude]

The Solitude Project

An Experiment in the Ecology of Solitude.  The introduction to the project.

A Quest for Solitude

Section 2:  Visit a fellow traveler on this quest.

Continuing the Quest

Section 3: Go here for a number of ways to explore solitude in particular religious, ethical or cultural traditions…..