The Fierce Beauty Of Solitude

with Robert Kull Ph.D.

The Question

“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone” wrote Paul Tillich.

For millennia, great writers and thinkers have extolled the benefits of solitude, for reflection, inner peace and even to bring us closer to each other.

Yet we have a crisis of loneliness amongst the young. How can we make sense of the beauty of solitude and the tyranny of loneliness?

If you’re interested in the beauty of being alone, this episode is for you.

Our Guest

bob kull

Robert Kull Ph.D.

Teacher, Author and Wilderness Expert

In 2001 Robert traveled to a remote uninhabited island on the rainy, wind-swept coast of southern Chile, more than one hundred miles from the nearest person. There he built a shelter and lived alone for a year to explore the physical, emotional and spiritual effects of deep wilderness solitude.

Initiated as a research trip for his Ph.D., the experience, recounted through his book Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes, reflects on the rollercoaster of emotional states that he went through.

Truth. Is. Beautiful.

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The Talk

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “in solitude we discover each other in a way which physical presences makes difficult, if not impossible. There we recognise a bond that does not depend on words. There we grow closer to each other because there we can encounter the source of our unity.”

Yet with the most recent social research suggesting that more and more people are suffering from loneliness and that loneliness itself is worse for your physical and mental health than even alcohol and lack of sleep, there are some interesting questions that arise about the ontological nature of these two states, how they arise and how we can be with both of them.

To explore this I spoke with Robert Kull Ph.D., who in 2001 traveled to a remote uninhabited island on the rainy, wind-swept coast of southern Chile, more than one hundred miles from the nearest person. There he built a shelter and lived alone for a year to explore the physical, emotional and spiritual effects of deep wilderness solitude.

Initiated as a research trip for his Ph.D., the experience, recounted through his book Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes, reflects on the rollercoaster of emotional states that he went through.

From extreme alienation from others to complete unity with nature, unadulterated anger and fear to serene peace and contentedness. Without distraction, Robert faced not only a deep survival challenge in the wilderness and against the elements but a much more significant internal journey through his own ideas of self and the nature of reality.

What came out of it was a beautiful meditation on how we are all ultimately looking to find connection to ourselves and the world around us, the art is in learning to love everything that this requires us to love.

What’s Your Feeling?

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The Questions

  • How do you reflect and characterise the difference between loneliness and solitude?
  • How did being in the wilderness help you reflect on the impermanence of things, in particular emotional states?
  • How does solitude cultivate a greater ability to sit with your feelings?
  • How did you find not being with people in terms of losing your sense of personality?
  • How did your perceptual perspective of nature change over the year?
  • Has being in solitude brought you closer to others?
  • Did you find the shadow aspect of your personality coming up?
  • Did you want to get a specific experience your of the trip and if so was this a hindrance?
  • Looking back now what are the moments that have stuck with you and continue to do so to this day?

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