The Solitude Project

An Experiment in the Ecology of Solitude

IN SOLITUDE, many people experience the most serene and deeply profound moments of their lives, often when alone.

Solitude has been a wellspring of great insights throughout human existence. Buddha under the Bodhi tree, Jesus in the wilderness, Muhammad’s yearly withdrawal to the cave at Hera – these experiences-in-the-quiet are a foundation and common ground for the world’s great spiritual traditions.

Solitude is a state of awareness most people are able to experience, if only for a few fleeting moments. As individuals, we vary greatly in our natural preferences and capacities for solitude and community.

When we try to find a balance between our inner contemplative nature and our social concerns, we encounter an ageless puzzle. Thomas Merton called it the Contemplative Dilemma. It is often felt acutely by those of us dedicated to interfaith and other community work which can span from family to global. Since nature is also part of our greater community, this balancing becomes an experiment in the ecology of solitude.

The Solitude Project is a quest to make solitude a significant part of life while maintaining a meaningful relationship to community. It is an ongoing real-life experiment, encouraged by those in our interfaith community who understand the practical significance of such work. It is a work in progress.

The Project’s objective on this website is to encourage both the exploration of solitude and the seeking of balance between our outer and inner “good work”.

● Section 1: THE ECOLOGY OF SOLITUDE

Here you can plunge right in. You can discover which kinds of solitude you experience, and how you balance solitude and community. You can join activists to save the last places of natural quietness.

● Section 2: A QUEST FOR SOLITUDE

Visit a fellow traveler on this quest.

● Section 3: CONTINUING THE QUEST

Learn how solitude contributes to community. Discover resources to fuel the next stage of your own quest. Contribute your own experiences and questions.

You are invited to enter each of the three sections in any order:

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.

A Quest for Solitude

Exploring solitude became the quest of a member of the MCWRET interfaith community whose lifetime professional career had been working with groups – academic, corporate and local – as a professor and consultant. An unexpected heart attack at fifty-three helped produce the spark that led to this quest.

The challenge of this Project is to do this exploration in a metropolitan setting rather than in isolation, in the midst of everyday suburban life rather than once a week or going on retreat or moving away.

The writings in this section provide a window into one person’s experience of exploring solitude, an example of an individual on a personal quest. An individual’s story of a quest is never just their story; it is universal.

Continuing the Quest

This section provides a number of ways to explore solitude in particular religious, ethical or cultural traditions.