Hopefully you’ve already digested the 4 posts that precede this… If not I’d encourage you to dig into those first then return… Start here.
So let’s dig into the spiritual discipline of solitude.
As I write this I’m home alone on a holiday, in which I am off work, but my wife is not. The rain is creating a mesmerizing melody outside my study where I often write.
So it seemed to me in the stillness of my day, with the rain coming down, while I’m home alone, that I should begin with Solitude.
In these times finding solitude can be quite challenging. Just finding a space where there are no people can be a challenge and when we do… cell phones, Email, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest… You get it – right?
So solitude must be intentional.
Years ago I used to lead spiritual retreats in Gatlinburg, Tn. As part of the retreat I would ask the participants to follow me on a short hike up Rainbow Falls trail. Once we hiked a few minutes I’d ask that everyone to put away their phones and watches. We were about to practice solitude. I would then ask them to continue up the trial and each peel off wherever they’d like, and practice solitude and silence while never looking at their watches or phones. I would never tell them how long they’d be sitting in the forest alone.
I would usually go 45 minutes to 1 hour. This is somewhat extreme if you’ve never done it. At the end of our time we would come back together and discuss everyone’s experiences. Of course they varied…. Some thought it was never going to end while others thought the time had been much shorter. But all agreed that they benefited from the practice.
But we all know the odds of anyone practicing it once they returned home was slim. That’s the frustration with the disciplines. Life happens. That’s why we must practice them just as one would learning how to play the piano or guitar. The disciplines require training as one would to run a 5k or play any sport. It must be intentional! You must work at them.
Then there is the personality factor. Introvert or extrovert. Oddly enough I think both struggle with silence and solitude but in different ways. It’s hard….
So, let’s dig into the actual practice.
At its most hard core level I think it’s being alone in silence thinking about God and perhaps other spiritual things. It’s also about listening. So you’ll want a balance. When we remove many external factors that compete for our time we’ll be surprised how it stills our being and our heart.
At another level, solitude could take on many forms and accomplish the above… Being at home alone. Hiking on a trail. And for the really hard core you can try a silent retreat by yourself at a national park for a day or more.
At a lesser level of solitude you could combine it with just a day alone at your home with your normal cleaning activities, minus Youtube, the computer, your phone,etc…
Remember it’s about solitude and silence.
It’s not a one size fits all. What works for one person may not work for you. I’d suggest you start slowly – remember it requires discipline, training and practice with all of the spiritual disciplines. Maybe try practicing this discipline for 15 minutes a few times a week. See how it goes. See if you don’t feel spiritually refreshed. Mess around with times and locations. Just see if it works for you.
When all is said and done, we need to remember why we call these disciplines. They aren’t always easy. Also remember that this one may not be your cup of tea for your spiritual formation. But be sure you give it its due before abandoning it, as I have found this to be one of my favorites – and I’m an extrovert.
Ultimately you must be intentional if you want to grow spiritually. It doesn’t happen on its own and no one can do it for you.
If you’d like to know 8 benefits to solitude and silence click here.
Now go out and be alone, and be silent while you’re at it! You never know what God may do while you’re there!