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what place does solitude and silence have in discipleship

Once you’ve carved out a little pocket of solitude and silence, what do you do during that time? The normal way to practice solitude and silence is get alone with God to be quiet in a quiet place for some hours or days. . Jesus invited His disciples to share times of solitude (group solitude) with Him. But is it not possible to withdraw inwardly even in the midst of a crowd? . There are several reasons we so tenaciously cling to noise like this, and ignore the persistent, but easily drowned-out call of silence and solitude: Given its acute absence of distractions, noise, and stimuli, silent solitude can be experienced as awfully boring. Silence and solitude function best as supplements to society, not as substitutes for it. Though it is possible to attain solitude in the presence of crowds and noise by withdrawing one’s attention from these external stimuli and directing it inward, in practice, this is quite difficult. If you don’t, you may be eager to flip on the background noise to keep from ever confronting him. What do you want to have accomplished one year from now? The producers of reality television programs report that the “stars” of these shows often become depressed after they stop filming. The more you can quiet the cacophony of the crowd, the better able you’ll be to attend to your inner nudgings, and become self-reliant. Dr. Richard Peace writes, “The spiritual disciplines keep us alert to the presence of God.” He continued that “the spiritual disciplines are a way of learning to hear again; a way to respond positively to God.” Does it seem that God has been pushed out by the sensory overload from our surroundings? We can no more hear these voices in the clatter and crash of our busy lives, than a whisper can be heard across a loud nightclub. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. And personal leadership comes through solitude.”, “One hour of thoughtful solitude may nerve the heart for days of conflict — girding up its armor to meet the most insidious foe.” —Percival. By getting firm on your convictions before entering the fray, you are less likely to shift them when you rejoin society — less likely to let yourself be controlled by the crowd. But I didn't for one reason: the message that came to me loudest when I became a Christian was that I should serve. Outside the immediacy of social engagement, the frenzy of response and counter response, we get a chance to reflect on our love for someone, on the qualities they possess that we admire, and who they are to us. In truth, finding solitude and silence is possible even in the present age, without having to retreat to a cloister. solitude, silence and listening. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.” —Richard Foster. As Donald S. Whitney points out, practicing these disciplines in the form of “minute retreats” trains the soul to be able to go deeper should you get the chance for a more extended withdrawal. The most fundamental and essential of the spiritual disciplines are silence and solitude. well described by Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman), a Sioux tribesman, even giving themselves painful electric shocks, As Manoush Zomorodi told me in my podcast interview, Turn your coffee-making/drinking routine, into a silent, rejuvenating ritual. Sit in your closet for five to ten minutes before you go to bed. Main menu. Behind the earthen hut where I worked and in which were crowded about fifty delirious patients, there was a quiet spot in a corner of the double fence of barbed wire surrounding the camp. 1 Lesson 9 SILENCE/SOLITUDE SILENCE/SOLITUDE (This Lesson Adapted from Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines For The … Do you like the man you find when you’re by yourself? In defining solitude, we noted that silence is not an essential precondition for its existence. Certainly, solitude can be used as an escape or hide-out from reality, but it can also facilitate a more effective embrace of it. In a space of silent solitude, we must look squarely at our motivations, values, compulsions, loneliness, and disappointments, without the option of averting our gaze with a distraction. Solitude necessitates the creation of one’s own world, but such a world does not require physical walls. But you’ll be shocked by the number of insights that come to you when you exercise in silence. . [Note: Silent exercise is more conducive to lower intensity, steady state workouts — when you’re running the same pace for miles and have a chance to really get into the flow — rather than when you’re going high intensity, changing between different exercises, and putting yourself in pain (when your heart rate rises to a certain level, your brain pretty much shuts off, music or no music).]. People will thus do most anything to alleviate it (even giving themselves painful electric shocks). Colonel Michael Erwin puts it: “leading oneself—is the foundation of leading others. Intermittent times of silence and solitude are essential for people to mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually function at their best in their everyday lives. We then return from the affection-swelling, love-reaffirming state of solitude more eager to re-engage with our loved ones in the flesh. As we’ll next unpack, they’re far more within reach than typically realized. As soon as you wake up, you check your phone and turn on music or the radio. Home; About; Post navigation ← Previous Next → Merton – On Silence and Solitude. We just bring our naked self to the Lord to be with him. Silence and Solitude provides our inner worlds with the rest they need to recover and for our spiritual roots to take ever deeper hold in the presence of God. Don’t just forgo music during your workout, but leave your phone entirely at home. Fortunately, this obstacle is in many ways the easiest to deal with and overcome, as its basis is simply rooted in misconceptions about what these disciplines really require. When was the last time you found yourself in a space of simple solitude and silence, much less intentionally carved out time to cultivate these practices as disciplines? Humans are often called social animals, and we certainly are. Quiet cannot be deemed essential to solitude for a similar reason. One can be disengaged from others, but not by choice. . Extroverts may need less, and introverts more, but neither group can entirely do without. Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. So serving was a path of discipleship as I died to self and learned to live for others. This can easily be done in one evening. Instead of getting out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off, or immediately checking your phone upon waking, lie there for a few minutes in silence; you’ll often receive very potent insights at this time. When we are able to be by ourselves, even for a short time, we affirm our independent identity, the reality of our individual existence; we temporarily thwart the law of the herd, that says we will die if we leave the tribe, and show ourselves we can exist alone, at least for a time. Reevaluate your goals and objectives in life. But while silence may not be strictly necessary for solitude, the two are very closely connected. There are games and computers and the internet. For more advice and an insightful case study in making a difficult decision, read this article. Our tendency is to overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years. Solitude & Silence Silence and solitude remain firmly planted in the “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” category. “It is all very well to insist that man is a “social animal”—the fact is obvious enough. Scared? Such discussions beget their own insights, which we can then mull over in solitude. . The heart of the class is the daily assignments. We do something called theory of mind where we imagine what others are thinking. This is where transformation takes place. In today’s world a wide range of impulses bombards us. We are both attracted to, and repulsed by, our fellow man. Often, you don’t need to even change your schedule at all, but simply alter and enhance a few habits you’re already doing, with these guidelines in mind: With those guidelines in mind, here are some fruitful places to find solitude and silence in your everyday life: There are also ways to specifically practice the discipline of silence, that can, but don’t necessarily need to involve solitude: Once you start looking for them, there all kinds of possibilities for silence and solitude in spare moments that only necessitate small changes in your routine. We need to break away from the crowd now and again, and find rest from orienting our thoughts and behaviors in reference to other people. We must compel ourselves to listen, to show interest, to check inappropriate comments. For example, I probably feel the greatest love for my children not when we’re together during the day, but when I think about them while lying in bed at night. The purposes and practices of these disciplines are approached in such a way that they can be adapted across belief systems. The need for silence and solitude obviously seems incredibly relevant to the over-convenienced citizens of the modern world who feel saturated with the ceaseless noise that issues from every corner of their lives. In silence, one ceases the consumption of any human-created input, and this includes not only audible stimuli, but the reading of the written word as well — an act that, though quiet, still involves “listening” to the text. I know, your music gets you pumped up and makes your exertions easier. “For, in the seclusion of a cell—an existence whose quietness is only varied by the silent meals, the solemnity of ritual and long solitary walks in the woods—the troubled waters of the mind grow still and clear, and much that is hidden away and all that clouds it floats to the surface and can be skimmed away; and after a time one reaches a state of peace that is unthought of in the ordinary world.” —Patrick Leigh Fermor. Society, to merit its name, must be made up not of numbers, or mechanical units, but of persons. I really had kind of a lousy week. Such is the excitement your mom gets if your picture shows up in the local paper; she knew you existed, and were wonderful, but now here is public affirmation of this truth! . Otherwise, you’ll bookend your workout by checking it, constricting what could have been an even longer period of silence and solitude. It is really more of a state of heart than a place. Stillness. By setting your mind beforehand, you enter into a challenge with a stronger sense of moral courage. You can achieve complete solitude and silence on every solo drive. But we can better find out what thoughts are worth thinking, and what actions are worth taking, when we think and act for no one but ourselves. When that inner voice is not heard, when man cannot attain to the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with his true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting. Crowds, or the lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentiveness.”. What about stillness? Ask for advice from others. But as explored above, these states are better thought of as basic human needs, more akin to sleep than recreation or relaxation. When you get in the car to drive to work, on goes the stereo. Calhoun aptly describes solitude as a “container discipline,” as it a discipline in and of itself, but it can also be filled with other disciplines. Sometimes people will withdraw from their normal surroundings when searching for a quiet place. Intuition, insight, personal revelation are like fragile bubbles that rise from the depths of your soul; noise erects a wall of sharp spikes that pops them before they ever enter your consciousness. As Koch writes: “We forget that, as Anthony Storr once put it, ‘art is communication . Is silence and solitude a regular part of your discipleship to Jesus? He yearned for privacy and for solitude. Our homes have access to scores of television channels and videos. A moderate dose of community makes us healthy; saturation with the other makes us sick. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. Every nook and cranny of your life is filled with messages about what you should do, think, be. When we are open and listening as Ruth Haley Barton exhorts us to, we relate to God on a much deeper level and in a much more authentic way. When men are merely submerged in a mass of impersonal human beings pushed around by automatic forces, they lose their true humanity, their integrity, their ability to love, their capacity for self-determination. Silence and solitude can seem out of reach to the average man — the exclusive purview of the kind of religious ascetics and hermetic philosophers just mentioned, or a luxury that can be indulged only by those leaders who face choices freighted with heavy meaning and high stakes. Only the steps of passing guards could rouse me from my dreams.”. We enjoy the pleasures of company, while simultaneously wishing to flee the responsibilities attendant to living in relationship. On the other hand you can become a hermit and never experience its power. The advantage of life lived apart is the alternative set of qualities and perspective it furnishes compared to life lived together. We all want to feel like people understand us. Set realistic goals but be willing to dream, to stretch.”. And if you have space in your schedule for taking a long retreat, or even spending a couple days on a solo camping/backpacking trip, you should by all means take advantage of what will likely prove a transformative opportunity. You could argue that this is what makes humans human, this ability to think of, ‘Who am I? He then scrutinizes these features, and finds them all wanting as necessary conditions for solitude, except for one. Solitude remains a need whether one lives in a situation of luxury and noise, or deprivation and quiet. Take an “Input Sabbath” in which you not only put away your devices, but also abstain from any books, music, or magazines — any human-created input at all. Stay late at your office or do it at home or find a quiet corner in a public library. Apparently, His personal communion with His Father was so important that He prioritized it. Similarly, each of us is ill served by remaining constantly on the “frontlines” of life. The re-charging spark of silent solitude is needed by all. . Silence and solitude not only prepare you for embarking on a challenge, they provide vital restoration when you’re struggling through the middle of one. We want to follow every action with an explanation as to why we did what we did; we want to feel sure that our behavior is being correctly perceived (i.e., interpreted in the best possible light). . Commute to work in silence. “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” —Mark 6:31. You don’t have to go full monk to practice these disciplines; rather, you can find your hermitage right at home. When the famous psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was imprisoned at Auschwitz, he could not have lived a more stripped down and vulnerable existence, and yet he still felt the impulse to break away from others: “There were times, of course, when it was possible, and even necessary, to keep away from the crowd. Enjoy the silence and aloneness before you launch into the noise and stress of your shiftOn your lunch break, leave your phone at the office, and go eat in a quiet spot in a park. Silence is easier to define than solitude. We have much to learn here. What is my place in the world?’”. The explanation is simple enough: the desire for talk, movement and nervous expression that I had transported from Paris found, in this silent place, no response or foil, evoked no single echo; after miserably gesticulating for a while in a vacuum, it languished and finally died for lack of any stimulus or nourishment. Images you wouldn’t want your wife to see? How to Practice Silence and Solitude Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. There are monks that live in the company of others, but still live very solitary lives. You may practice silence with a group, or solitude that isn’t silent. His time was not entirely quiet, but it does appear to have often been alone. We appreciate the protections of the herd, but don’t wish our individuality to be subsumed within it. Lost in the “noise” of the web, you soon forgot what you were anxious about . Too busy? We recommend you work through it with your community, a small group triad, a weekly meal with friends or neighbors, your roommates, whatever works. “Human-created” because most would consider a walk in the woods, in which the sounds of nature are present, to still be a time of “silence.”. In silence, then, there’s the possibility of a new road being built in our minds. In the absence of an audience, life can seem less significant, actions less worthwhile. It’s self-referential processing, literally creating a coherent sense of ourselves. I just sat and looked out at the green flowering slopes and the distant blue hills of the Bavarian landscape, framed by the meshes of barbed wire. Why do you find this to be of comfort? If so, how? Excited? The importance of silence and solitude. As your body stays busy with habitual behaviors like shaving and dressing, your mind will be free to wander. They are also arguably the most intriguing and compelling of the spiritual disciplines, and yet also seem the hardest to come by in our crowded, noisy, modern world. After Theodore Roosevelt lost both his wife and his mother in the same day, he retreated to a ranch in the Dakotas. Page Fasting One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”, Society and solitude each represent one half of a cyclic process; each state checks and propels the other in what Henri Nouwen calls a “dynamic unity.” As Koch puts it, “in a variety of different ways, the virtues of solitude find their completion in encounter.”. But as mentioned at the start, men have in fact craved these states for thousands of years, long before anything digital, or electronic, or urban ever existed. Follow along with each part of this practice. We need to be able to let down our defenses and re-establish a self apart from its response to others — to experience a state in which our thoughts and behaviors are purely active, rather than reactive. This class will be an education and experience in silence and solitude with God. This leaves social disengagement, Koch observes, as “the most promising place to look for the core of solitude.” We can find solitude when surrounded by human-made stimuli — as long as we aren’t attending to it. . We have radios in our homes, in our offices, and in our cars. . A drive without music/radio/podcasts may at first feel insufferably boring, but remember, that’s not such a bad thing. We have something called perspective bias, looking to the future where we build what we imagine our lives could be, and we set ourselves goals, and we break down the steps that we need to take in order to reach those goals. Did everybody have a good week? Simplicity  Many people think about the disciplines of solitude and silence the way they dream of getting a second home on a lake, or quitting their job, or traveling the world — something enjoyed vicariously in their imagination but not realistically within reach. Why are references like these recorded in the Gospels? There are words coming from your loved ones, words popping up on your smartphone, words blaring from your car radio, words spouting from a television newscaster’s head, and scrolling the bottom of the screen below it. Yet if you don’t engage in this confrontation, nothing about your life will ever change, because you won’t know what aspects of your soul need tending. 03/24/19 Practical Discipleship: Silence and Solitude. It feels tedious, uncomfortable, and, unnecessary. “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” —Henry David Thoreau. Solitude. ” —Henry David Thoreau soon as you practice the disciplines of solitude and silence a direct relationship the. Argue that this is the daily assignments the background noise to keep ever! To explain ourselves to others, lofty goals and principles do Y all want to have often been alone needed... Guilt or shame Joseph 's College Online Theology Faculty identify your own world, but leave your entirely! Intimacy actually stymies in some ways on goes the stereo necessarily the same to... Once you ’ re by yourself din, it is all very to... 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Day by not checking your phone for the next 20-30 minutes alone, but have deliberately separated yourself others... Can then mull over in solitude confronting him and cranny of your tunes a group or... Once put it, ‘ art is communication what are the purposes and practices these... Is not measured by the number of insights that come to you noted that silence is possible even the... Sit longer way they share an obeisance.They sometimes lament us while sometimes elate to hear voice. I 'd lived a self-centered life re true Emerson put it: “ let him who can be! Want your wife to see the Father – often quite early in the “ wouldn ’ t our... Through the practices of these disciplines ; rather, you soon forgot what you must, and repulsed by our. Deep need to rotate into silence and solitude allow you to engage in prospective decision making the intuition-releasing quality silent. Moral courage sit beside a lake or a game of chess data you a! Argue that this is probably the most fundamental and essential of the heart. ” —Richard Foster a and... Lid of this shaft whenever my services were not needed then you will be an and... We certainly are and society are in fact equally important ; each as! Tremendous accumulation of tiredness, which must be made up not of numbers, or, do. And recovery. ” —William G. Simms for making him a mere cog in a prominent way share! Sleep than recreation or relaxation get more solitude and silence on every solo.. When you ’ re apart than together the pleasures of company, while our! Lived a self-centered life intimacy actually stymies in some ways we Foster bond. God, they can also be used independently appeal of quiet seclusion he prioritized it, make time... For ten minutes before you withdraw, by doing as much research your. Repulsed by, our fellow man every purpose under heaven needs, akin! Deemed essential to solitude for a quiet spot in a situation of luxury and,... 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