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Collective Solitude

Collective Solitude

(p.45) 3 Collective Solitude
Michal Pagis
University of Chicago Press

This chapter illustrates that diverting attention inward to the inner lining of experience is hardly an individualistic or asocial process. The private and personal experiences of meditation practitioners are produced through sharing an intersubjective space where self-other relations influence and enable the cultivation of self-to-self relations. This community, shaped by the conditions of the silent meditation center, enables participants to entrust their interactive urge to still and silent others, to pause from direct and acknowledged social engagement. The chapter tracks a shift from interactions that require thinking about others and their reactions, such as performing a still body or feeling guilt about interfering with others, to interactions based on emotional and rhythmic coordination and mutual attunement. This silent community of collective solitude is an important foundation for the later solitary practice which takes place at home, in which meditators utilize sensory cues associated with group meditation to reconstruct a meditative environment. Paradoxically, meditation participants need others in order to forget about others. They utilize the group to put aside their social concerns and enter the meditative state.

Keywords:   solitude, silence, community, private, intersubjective, social engagement, rhythmic coordination, attunement, meditation, interaction

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