Saturday, December 22, 2007

The importance of solitude for community

Years ago, a good friend commented to me that "our children live in a very noisy world." He was speaking of the life environment of inner city families and children.

Of course, he was correct.

Here is a paradox we would do well not to ignore: communities of health and strength are built and maintained by individuals who understand the importance of the "inner life." The ability to go inward, to find times for quiet reflection, to pray and to meditate--this is essential to the growth of authentic, life-sustaining groups.

Community development depends on the "soul-development" of each member of the community.

I read Heron Dance as a tool for journeying inward. The latest on-line edition contains the water color I've posted here, along with these words:

Writing at its best must come from deep within, for often that is where truth and originality lie; none comes entirely from the upper tenth of gray matter. It is when one reaches down into the dark realms of the past that great ideas surge forth.
—Sigurd F. Olson from Reflections From The North Country

When we follow the symbolic discipline of moving into the well of our Self, we find that we develop an increased capacity of inward perception. This capacity seems to be inherent in human beings and is a natural mode of awareness. Since it is inward, however, it tends to be little used in cultural situations where the individual’s attention is constantly being pressured by the outer environment. When, on the other hand, we establish an atmosphere that makes is possible for the attention to be turned inward in a quiet way, this capacity shows itself to be very actively and strongly present in persons who would have thought they did not possess it at all.
—Ira Progoff, from At a Journal Workshop

1 comment:

Karen Shafer said...


This is one of your most important posts! I've had the Ira Progoff book for a very long time and love it.

I have three grandchildren, three, five and five. My daughters are very good at allowing them lots of unstructured play time to hunt bugs and snakes, etc., but I'm quite worried when I hear how very scheduled many of their young friends are. I hear fine young mothers say they 'have to get them in soccer' -- at age three or four! -- 'so they can compete later!' This is very sad!

As you know, Montessori education at its best is superb at honoring the inner child. I hope, as the education establishment copies the work materials and teaching style of Montessori that help children achieve their best academically, it also copies the tremendous respect for protecting the innocence and sacredness of the child's inner development that is the hallmark of true Montessori education. It is based on the observation of who the child really is, not who our adult agenda wants him to be.

For myself, I find I can't cope without a good deal more time reflection than our culture seems set up for. Sometimes I feel out of step, but I have to honor this in myself nonetheless. Other cultures view reflective practices quite differently!