Spiritual Formation Part Five – Solitude?

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!

1 comment

    • Scott Owen on November 12, 2018 at 9:13 pm
    • Reply

    Solitude: a vanishing treasure in our world today. As you said, cell phones, smart watches, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, even GPS where Mr Google knows ‘exactly where you are’ all the time! There’s so much noise in our World today that it is hard to listen. One must find that quiet place; you mention hiking, a beautiful time indeed. The two best moments of solitude I’ve had: In the silent absolute darkness of a cave in Virginia where without light, you could not see your hand in front of your face. The other, and perhaps my favorite for ‘wondering’, is laying on my back under the clear starlit summer skies beyond the midnight hour, where only the light of the stars and an occasional passing satellite or plane can interrupt contemplation of the size of the universe, the length of the sky, and what lies beyond the limits of the beyond. Certainly enough to make me feel at once both small, and yet somehow a wonderful part of an unimaginable Universe made by the hand of God in a way that is simply too much for our feeble minds to process. Yes, in those quiet moments, away from the clutter of life, can we immerse ourselves in something far larger than the things life throws at us. Far beyond the shortsighted irritants of politics, fake news, and robo calls, where things deep and eternal, and well beyond our understanding, as today we ‘see though a glass darkly’ but they will one day be revealed. Until then, we have solitude.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.