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Review – Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes July 25, 2012

Posted by Living Abundance in review.

I recently picked up the book Solitude: Seeking Wisdom In Extremes by Robert Kull. I had only heard of the book for the first time a week ago and suddenly I saw it in a bookstore and the library. I should thank my dharma buddy Paulette for recommending the book during sangha.

The book is a firsthand account of one man’s year-long experiment to see the biological, psychological and spiritual effects of solitude.  The author set out to live for an entire year off the coast of Chile for an entire year in complete solitude, where he had no direct human contact.

The book is one part wilderness survival and one part psychospiritual development. The author actually was an experienced Buddhist meditation practitioner, and used meditation techniques daily as a way to develop a clear mind and control the psychological effects of having to survive alone in the wilderness. Another aspect of the author’s spirituality was a deep connection to wilderness and nature, including the elements (wind, rain, ocean, clouds, etc.) as well as the plants and animals he relied on for survival. A large part of the author’s time on the island was spent reading many books including meditation and Buddhism books.

The book was quite satisfying and very fascinating to see how the content changes over the course of the year. The entries are chronological, and the author made a journal entry every day.

I quite enjoyed the spiritual themes and questions that the author struggled with in his account. The questions were ones that I have sought answers myself, so I enjoyed reading another person’s explorations. Some of the themes included: aloneness/solitude versus social interaction, Big Mind versus little mind, activity as distraction versus inactivity and stillness, mystical experiences in the wilderness,

depression, anxiety, and dealing with physical pain. You might be as surprised as I was about the answers or resolutions that the author finds to some of these questions.

It was also great to hear another person put great emphasis on spirituality as an important aspect of human life.

Some great quotes from the book (there were many other great indirect quotes throughout the book from other authors and Buddhist teachers that I didn’t include here):

We have seriously confounded luxury with necessity in our culture, and can no longer differentiate between what we want in order to maintain a particular lifestyle (with its social relationships and sensual pleasures) and what we actually need for physical survival. We have confounded social identity with biological and spiritual being to the point of believing we will die if we lose our social standing, which is often based on the material wealth we have accumulated. This accelerating spiral of desires becoming necessities is driving our suicidal rush to destroy the Earth we depend on for our actual physical survival.

Are you remembering to remember and notice Life living in you?

A few comments to make about what I didn’t enjoy in the book were the long, often tedious accounts of wildlife and the weather, in part due to the author’s training in biology. Because each entry in the book is a daily journal entry, some of the descriptions became quite repetitive.

In all, I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in nature and wilderness survival and/or meditation and spirituality.



1. Quote: Life as Mystery | Living Abundance - March 8, 2013

[…] from the book Solitude by Robert […]

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