The atmosphere was alert, clear, and crisp, yet quiet and pleasant. The spirit of shared collected effort across the campus gave it a sense of not solitude, not loneliness.
I went to the City of Ten Thousand Buddha in January and most of the residents were in the midst of the final week of a three-week Chan meditation retreat. I dropped by the DRBU building and only a few staff were there. The entire building and the surrounding campus were completely silent. It was a wonderfully quiet feeling. The atmosphere was alert, clear, and crisp, yet quiet and pleasant. The spirit of shared collected effort across the campus gave it a sense of not solitude, not loneliness. I was trying to reflect on why that is.
A lot of the writers on our blog have been discussing and reflecting on the idea of loneliness and solitude and the idea of camaraderie. James had, in various living situations, found himself in situations where he spends a lot of his time in solitude. Alexandra in her response states that “solitude, on the other hand, is something that we choose for ourselves, or at least accept.” In a way, a communal, silent meditation retreat is a collective choice in group solitude–everybody practicing meditation, working on being totally concentrated in their own minds, together.
James, who stays at CTTB full time, commented on the same thing. He said that it was really nice to write during the Chan Session. He had free reign of the entire DRBU building and there was a sense of liberation. It was easier to think through and put in writing a few WASC documents during this “alone time,” and it was quite wonderful.
We were thinking about what a community that valued solitude could mean, and what it might look like. I used to think of community as sharing a communal space and place for communication. I believe having those factors are very important in developing as a sense of community. However, it may also be important to think about community as a source of camaraderie. Or more specifically, the feeling that everybody is making a concentrated collected effort toward a shared goal. This kind of community can dispel a sense of loneliness. At least it was a shift in thinking on my part. What do people think?