Cover image for The art of solitude ; a meditation on being alone with others in the world
Title:
The art of solitude ; a meditation on being alone with others in the world
ISBN:
9780300250930
Physical Description:
xvi, 181 pages ; 21 cm
Summary:
In a time of social distancing and isolation, a meditation on the beauty of solitude from renowned Buddhist writer Stephen Batchelor   When world renowned Buddhist writer Stephen Batchelor turned sixty, he took a sabbatical from his teaching and turned his attention to solitude, a practice integral to the meditative traditions he has long studied and taught. He aimed to venture more deeply into solitude, discovering its full extent and depth.   This beautiful literary collage documents his multifaceted explorations. Spending time in remote places, appreciating and making art, practicing meditation and participating in retreats, drinking peyote and ayahuasca, and training himself to keep an open, questioning mind have all contributed to Batchelor's ability to be simultaneously alone and at ease. Mixed in with his personal narrative are inspiring stories from solitude's devoted practitioners, from the Buddha to Montaigne, and from Vermeer to Agnes Martin.   In a hyperconnected world that is at the same time plagued by social isolation, this book shows how to enjoy the inescapable solitude that is at the heart of human life.
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Summary

"Elegant and formally ingenious."--Geoff Wisner, Wall Street Journal

In a time of social distancing and isolation, a meditation on the beauty of solitude from renowned Buddhist writer Stephen Batchelor

When world renowned Buddhist writer Stephen Batchelor turned sixty, he took a sabbatical from his teaching and turned his attention to solitude, a practice integral to the meditative traditions he has long studied and taught. He aimed to venture more deeply into solitude, discovering its full extent and depth.

This beautiful literary collage documents his multifaceted explorations. Spending time in remote places, appreciating and making art, practicing meditation and participating in retreats, drinking peyote and ayahuasca, and training himself to keep an open, questioning mind have all contributed to Batchelor's ability to be simultaneously alone and at ease. Mixed in with his personal narrative are inspiring stories from solitude's devoted practitioners, from the Buddha to Montaigne, from Vermeer to Agnes Martin.

In a hyperconnected world that is at the same time plagued by social isolation, this book shows how to enjoy the inescapable solitude that is at the heart of human life.


Author Notes

A former Buddhist monk, Stephen Batchelor has written several books attempting to make Buddhist accessible and understandable to the Western reader. These books include The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhist and Western Culture, and Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 1

Kirkus Review

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude."As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory." Readers of Batchelor's previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modesmemoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instructionthe author doesn't argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it's easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal's claim that "all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. "Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it," he writes. "When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul." Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.