"Solitude and Community:" Session No. 6 -- readings from chapter 6, "Out Of the Cave"

Opening words:

Even if we’re drawn to the spiritual life and feel the pull of solitude, few of us these days wish to be hermits.  We want our solitude, but we also want to raise families, pursue careers, take part in the wider world, and make a difference to others....  Still, I would argue that nothing serves relationships, families, or communities better than a well-cultivated solitude.  Of course, solitude has never been fashionable. ... Once I told a woman I had just started dating that I was going to spend several days at a Benedictine monastery, living in a cave in the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi river.  By the look the woman gave me, it was clear she figured me for a lost cause, if not outright dangerous in some way she couldn’t quite define. ... Now that we’ve been married for 13 years, she has learned to tolerate my need for solitude.  As it turns out, she has the same need herself, and perhaps what she really feared then was that neither one of us would be very good at managing a household.  In fact, we’re both good at it—better, I would argue, for having practiced the arts of solitude.  Having given generously and fully to ourselves, we can give generously and fully to each another and our children and, by extension, to our communities.  

Preparation (distribute pencils and paper or note cards):

1. How many hours a week do you spend alone?

2.  When is solitude meaningful and enjoyable for you?  What makes it so?


1.  What's the difference between "meaningful solitude" and simply being alone or lonely?

2.  Do you intentionally seek solitude during your average day or week?  How?  Why?

3.  What makes solitude meaningful and enjoyable for you?

4.  In your life, how do you find the balance between being alone and being with others? How do you know when you are out of balance -- either too much alone or too much with others?

5.  When do you feel most connected to other human beings, whether family, friends, colleagues, or community members?

6.  When do you feel most connected to yourself -- your highest, truest self?

7.  Have you ever felt deeply connected to both yourself and others at the same time?  How does that feel?  When does that happen?

Closing words:

We see others as strangers only when we are estranged from ourselves.  We can fear in others only what we fear in ourselves.  And when we meet a loved one, we are meeting ourselves as the beloved.... It’s in those moments that we go out of ourselves, and simultaneously go into ourselves, into our own essential goodness.  At such moments we surrender all advantages, give up all claims to righteousness, relinquish all privileges except that of being in the presence—the sacred and unfathomable presence—of another.