Talking about this book? Be sure to tag it using #TheArtofSolitude #NetGalley
A moving and wide-ranging meditation on being alone with others in this world
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.
Stephen Batchelor is a teacher and scholar of Buddhism. He is the author of numerous works, including Buddhism Without Beliefs, Living with the Devil, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, Secular Buddhism, and After Buddhism. He lives in La Sauve, France.
“Forty years in the making, The Art of Solitude could not have come at a better time or from anyone else. Beautifully written, Batchelor’s wisdom shines through on every page, leading the reader on an engaging and illuminating journey into the very needed solitude about which he writes.”—Judson Brewer, author of The Craving Mind
"The Art of Solitude is a marvel. Carefully constructed and entirely original, it sings with a haunting melody of wistful contemplation. Reading it is a true joy.”—Mark Epstein, author of Thoughts without a Thinker
“With his long experience of Buddhism, meditation, and teaching it is hard to think of anyone better equipped to write about the art of solitude than Stephen Batchelor.”—Tim Parks
“In this exquisite contemplation on solitude that is intimate, brave, and wise, Batchelor brings us to the vast center of his life and realization.”—Roshi Joan Halifax, Abbot, Upaya Zen Center
“Batchelor's graceful writing guides us to the innermost recesses of solitude, illuminating it as a practice, way of life, and inescapable dimension of being human.”—Evan Thompson, author of Why I Am Not a Buddhist and Waking, Dreaming, Being
Why did you write a book on solitude?
Since my first book, Alone with Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism, I have been fascinated by a core paradox of being human: namely, to find oneself always utterly alone in the privacy of one’s thoughts and feelings yet at the same time inescapably together with others through one’s body, language, and social relations. As I now enter the final phase of my life, I felt called to return to this theme.
So how does The Art of Solitude differ from Alone with Others?
Here I take a far more personal, literary, and experimental approach that draws on diverse experiences that have served to illuminate and deepen my understanding of this paradox. I am no longer interested in a purely Buddhist account of solitude. Solitude has become for me a far more eclectic site of human practice, which ranges from mindfulness, philosophical inquiry, studying the essays of Montaigne, contemplating art, making collages, going on pilgrimage, to participation in shamanic ceremonies with peyote and ayahuasca.
What does the use of psychoactive substances have to do with your practice of solitude?
I have found that these substances can suspend habitual patterns of mind to allow you to see more clearly and viscerally where you stand existentially. They have helped me take stock of my life. Such altered states of consciousness are, however, meaningless unless integrated into a philosophical, contemplative, aesthetic, and ethical vision. Solitude, for me, is the site in which these various strands mysteriously coalesce to make greater sense of one’s life as a whole.
Praise for Stephen Batchelor's After Buddhism:
“In many ways, the most intellectually stimulating book on Buddhism in the past few years.”—Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
"A serious, secular reexamination of Buddhist ethics that acknowledges religiosity. . . . Highly intelligent, rigorous, and absorbing."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)