‘Ah, solitude! That’s so sweet, isn’t it?’, whispered the priest as he passed by in the kitchen of the retreat centre. I had snuck in the back door to collect a few items from the fridge to take back to the Hermitage. He knew what I was doing. He knew that I wasn’t at the retreat centre with the group but was on my own in a cabin about a fifteen-minute walk across the farm fields that surrounded the centre. He knew I was not just in silence, but in solitude. And yes, I agree with him, it was and is sweet to me.
For almost thirty years I’ve taken time regularly in solitude. Four years ago, it was clear to me that two practices that feed my spirit are regular, significant times in both nature and solitude. I now live nestled on a mountainside and feel well fed by nature. I still seek solitude.
Solitude isn’t just being alone. It’s not living alone nor is it spending time in my cabin where I read, write, meditate and hangout. The Spiritual Practice of Solitude is like peeling an onion….or like undressing. When I enter solitude, I’m intentionally leaving aside things that comfort, entertain, teach, or distract me. Seems simple, but it’s not.
In solitude, I don’t talk to anyone. I don’t even want to be with people. Even the priest whispering to me as he passed, was speaking into my solitude. Each person carries an energy field so to be with someone is to open myself, not only to their words if we speak, but to their energy flow. When I enter solitude, I really desire to not encounter anyone else, not to experience their energy, or their words.
Books have energy and words too. I’m careful what books I bring into solitude and often have found I don’t even look at them. Once I settle, I become much more selective about what I will read. Sacred texts are often where I settle. Sometimes some spiritual books have been helpful, but I let the Spirit I encounter within solitude guide me.
Phone is turned off. Netflix – gone! Food becomes simple. Exercise is usually apart of my routine – walking, swimming, chipping golf balls have all been practices for me over the years. Some simple art often comes with me.
Once I enter solitude the layers start to peel away. It takes awhile for the voices to disappear. Sometimes I feel like a whole crowd of people have joined me on retreat. Eventually they leave and I’m on my own. Sometimes the inner whispers have pulled me into despair. I have had many hours of struggle as I sought my way through them. I have known many moments of unbridled sweetness too. Being with both the fears and the sweetness has strengthened my spirit. I’m more in touch with my core being, sometimes called our True Self, that child of God place, deep within. I arrive at a deeper vulnerability, nakedness. I am who I AM. The Living God is alive for me.
Today I’m beginning a week of solitude. If you think of me, pray for me. I’m not sure if I’ll post a blog next week. Sometimes I write on retreat, sometimes I don’t. If you’re interested, posted in Mystic in Motion in 2017 are reflections from my prolonged time on sabbath leave when I spent three separate weeks in solitude.
What are the spiritual practices that nourish your spirit?
What is it like for you to enter solitude?
See you again, sometime when I re-appear, ready to speak again.
Love and prayers
Mystic in Motion
Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire
Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)
Companion on The Rivendell Way
Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living