Friday, March 22, 2013

My Dear Busy Friends, it's Time for Silence and Solitude

Our minds yearn to be busy. When we are with others, we tend to occupy ourselves watching, listening to, communicating with, and responding to those around us. This is good. In fact, it is normal – as long as we know when to withdraw. Jesus was a busy man, just read the Gospel stories and you know that He was the busiest person in the New Testament. Yet every morning “Jesus got up and went to an isolated place to pray” (Mark 1:35NLT). He practiced silent and solitude. After Richard Foster listed numbers of Bible verses where Jesus intentionally seek silent and solitude to pray and rest, he writes in his book Celebration of Discipline: “The seeking out of solitary places was a regular practice for Jesus. So it should be for us.”

One of the great blessings of silent and solitude is that they offer time for us to become who we really are – at least, this is what I get from my personal experiences. They take us away from the demands and obligations others lay on us and give us relief from the constant pull on directions by our employer(s), family members, friends, and many kinds of extra ‘baggage’ modern life has created. They allow us to get rest from the modern burden of multitasking (at this writing, I’m thinking about how restless are our young generation today). The constant need to meet the expectations of others draws us away from our true selves and deafens us “to hear the divine Whisper better”. I can assure you my friends that you can’t remember who you are when half the world is compete for your attention – for that, you need silent and solitude.

I hope you ask me “How?”, if yes, good. Here are some example you can do to practice silence and solitude.

In a noise-polluted world, it is even difficult to hear ourselves think let alone try to be still and know God. Yet it seems essential for our spiritual life to seek some silence, no matter how busy we may be. Silence is not to be shunned as empty space, but to be befriended as fertile ground for intimacy with God” (Susan Muto).

Some practice includes:
§  Setting a period of time in which you don’t speak but isolate yourself from sounds (other than perhaps the sounds of nature)
§  Driving or commuting without the radio or CD prayer turned on
§  Leaving the TV off (and your internet and phone off); spending time in silence with God alone
§  Exercising without attending to noise; listening to God
§  Having personal retreats of silence

We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Some practice includes:
§  Giving God time and space that is not in competition with social contact, noise and stimulation
§  Taking a retreat
§  Observing Sabbath refreshment by abstaining from constant interaction with others, information and activities
§  Addressing your addiction to being seen
§  Communicating with God alone while you walk or run by yourself
§  Practicing disciplines alone: study, prayer, examen, journaling and so forth

Friends, take time for silence and solitude. It refreshed your soul, reenergized your mind and refocused your attention. You will find ‘you’ and most important of all – you can hear God’s gentle whisper more clearly. It is about who are you in God and who you are in relation with others. Thomas Merton, a Christian mystic writer once observes, “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them… solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say”.

Silence and solitude are not easy to come by.
It takes time and effort to seek them out and cultivate them.
But once we find a place for them in our lives,
we immediately realize how much we’ve been missing without them.
God help and be with you.

*Quotes and practice suggested for silence and solitude above are taken from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us. Pg. 106 and 111.
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