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The Wonders of Solitude
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?This diverse group of poets, novelists, artists, theologians, explorers, and psychologists muse on solitude as a means of discovering God and self, and as inspiration for creativity and inner peace. They grapple with how to reconcile the spirit of community with the spirit of seclusion, and, ultimately, how to use the power of silence and solitude to counter the distractions of our daily lives. The Wonders of Solitude is an inspiring companion in the struggle to remove ourselves, as Salwak writes, from “our peripheral concerns, from the pressures of a madly active world, and to return to the center where life is sacred — a humble miracle and mystery.”
Published: New World Library on
ISBN: 9781608681341
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Page 1 of 1

The

WONDERS

of

SOLITUDE

The

WONDERS

of

SOLITUDE

EDITED BY DALE SALWAK

FOREWORD BY HUGH PRATHER

New World Library

14 Pamaron Way

Novato, CA 94943

© 1998 Dale Salwak

Cover and text design: Aaron Kenedi

Cover photo: © Natural Selection

All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other, without written permission from the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

The wonders of solitude / edited by Dale Salwak;

Foreword by Hugh Prather

p. cm. — (The classic wisdom collection)

1. Solitude — Quotations, maxims, etc.

I. Salwak, Dale. II. Series.

BJ1499.S6W66 1995

128’.4 — dc20                                            94-40474

                                                                          CIP

ISBN 1-57731-026-8

First printing, April 1998

Printed in Canada on acid-free paper

Distributed by Publishers Group West

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Jim and Heather Shuemaker

Contents

FOREWORD — by Hugh Prather

INTRODUCTION — by Dale Salwak

CHAPTER ONE — A Noisy World

CHAPTER TWO — Solitude as Discovery

Finding the Self

Finding God

CHAPTER THREE — Solitude as Inspiration

Inward Peace

Creativity

CHAPTER FOUR — Solitude and the Natural World

CHAPTER FIVE — Other Places of Solitude

At Home

In Houses of Worship

Among Others

Within the Human Heart

CHAPTER SIX — The Power of Silence

ABOUT THE EDITOR —

BIBLIOGRAPHIC INDEX —

Foreword

by Hugh Prather

SOLITUDE IS A PRESENCE

Oblivion is an absence of intrusive sounds, disturbing sights, and everything else. Yet oblivion is not solitude. Death, in a sense, is getting away from it all, or so we sometimes like to think. Yet death is not solitude.

Surely mere absence could not inspire a book like this. Solitude is wondrous because of what it contains, not what it lacks. Solitude is a place of stillness and joy that is found in the heart, and once found, becomes all-encompassing. It is a window from the soul that looks upon everything and sees unity. Because it resides in our heart, and not simply in circumstances, solitude need never be delayed until a more convenient time. We can, and probably should, schedule moments in which to practice solitude. But our lives inevitably conspire against us. Eventually, we learn to quickly find that place of quietness within us, regardless of the events swirling around us.

It is possible to live in a cave and never know solitude. Throughout each day we experience many isolated moments free of pressing demands — standing in line, waiting for a light to change, riding an elevator. But our minds do not automatically become calm during these moments. In fact, we may become more agitated on these occasions than during moments when great demands are made on us — for example, when skiing a difficult slope or running a marathon, when dashing to grab a child or pet from the street or regaining control of a skidding car. Looking back on these moments, we may recall that we felt the place of solitude within us quite strongly.

Because solitude is a presence, not an absence, it is already here, already a potential. To find it, we must merely give it our full attention. We must watch where we place our interest and attention, not where we place our bodies. In order to know solitude, we do not first have to arrange our lives differently, control our emotions, or learn new techniques of thought control. Having said that, however, it should be obvious that some circumstances are more distracting than others. Surely all of us can make better choices about where we go and what we do, choices that lead us toward either greater chaos or greater simplicity.

But even here, what is conducive to concentration for one person is not for another. Solitude is often associated with the act of getting away from people, and into nature, but my wife Gayle, for example, is more at rest in a large city than in the wilderness. Nature makes you itch, she says. She’s convinced that camping out invites angry bears and ax murderers. And certainly it makes no sense to say that in order to feel what connects us all, we must always get away from each other.

For my own part, I often feel solitude and peace while watching Gayle play loud, silly games with our kids, which she loves to do. These times are not only noisy; things are often knocked over and sometimes even a profanity or two can be heard. Yet I often sense a palpable quietness and gentleness at the center of the din.

Perhaps most moms and dads can remember changing the diaper of their crying infant and suddently feeling a great stillness, as their love for their child enveloped them— even though the task before them was cleaning up poop. The stillness did not stop the baby’s crying. Nor did the baby’s crying prevent the stillness.

As I read through this little book of thoughts, poems, and small essays, I am struck by the universality of solitude. We may each hold different beliefs about the nature of reality, but our experience of this bedrock truth is the same. I often use this fact as my way of forgiving. I simply remind myself that within every person lies a place of quietness and peace exactly like mine. In fact, they are the same place. Perhaps cultivating an awareness of the stillness we all share reveals the basic nature of solitude better than anything else: Our small, unconnected thoughts are very busy, but when we are still, we know love.

— HUGH PRATHER

Tucson, Arizona

Author of Notes to Myself

and Spiritual Notes to Myself

Introduction

by Dale Salwak

At one time or another all of us, I believe, hear the call to solitude. It can come upon us at any moment, under any circumstances — during times of good