+ "You do not need to do anything; you do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You do not even need to listen; just wait. You do not even need to wait; just become still, quiet and solitary and the world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet." -- Franz Kafka
+ Solitude does not mean withdrawal from community. Instead, solitude is the practice which makes community thrive. We are not robots thoughtlessly doing what society demands. We are spiritual beings charged with transforming society into the most holy, glorious, fantastic realm of abundance, joy, wisdom, beauty, love, truth, peace, justice and freedom. Getting awayfrom the demands of society allows one to figure out how to participate in the very just and life-giving demands of God. Society can be very demanding. Get away from all those demands from time to time and discover your true self. Get connected to God intimately. Solitude miraculously opens the door to heaven. WOW!
+ NEW December 18, 2014: Early in 2013, I wrote the following chapter on the practice of Solitude as part of a book on all twelve spiritual practices and all 9 heavenly attributes. I sense that some of the writing is sent by the heavenly council which is a mysterious presence in my life. I believe the heavenly council is available to all of us. I have found a way to listen. The council often likes to say with one voice, "I AM." Maybe you can discern when this voice is speaking as opposed to my voice or other voices. I invite you to participate in this conversation with God, with heavenly beings, with human beings and other creatures too. Please join in. Add your own thoughts. Ask questions. Ponder. Contemplate. Seek truth. Here we go:
+ Sooner or later the desire to be holy, to be whole, to be heavenly, becomes your goal. You want to be transformed into your highest ideal. You have been healed enough to know you want it all, all of what heaven offers: Abundance, Joy, Wisdom, Beauty, Love, Truth, Peace, Justice, Freedom.
Youíve got to put your mind, heart, body and soul into it. And you need a new body, a heavenly body.
The regular practice of stillness gives birth to this new body. It actually isnít new at all. It is ancient but you forgot you had it! Once you begin to remember how wonderful, how fantastic, this body is, you want it. You become devoted to it. It is the new you, the real you, the wonderful you, the fantastic you.
The essential practice of solitude brings this heavenly body to life. You are awakened as stillness and silence and their associated benefits bring you to a blissful state of awareness in solitude. Most of us avoid this blissful state of awareness because it is the unknown, the unfamiliar. We fear this state of awareness because we are attached to all kinds of earthly pleasures which promise satisfaction. But sooner or later we realize that the promises are false. We realize we need to move on to a different and greater reality where satisfaction is guaranteed. The essential practice of solitude offers this satisfaction, this bliss, because your connection to heaven is deep within yourself.
In this state reached through endless stillness practice, you can hear God speak to you. Itís not a voice you can ordinarily hear. Find time and space for this, this bliss. You will be blessed in so many ways as you practice, practice, practice stillness, silence, solitude.
Here in solitude you feel more connected to everything. This includes those closest to you and those far away, even beyond Planet Earth. You are paradoxically in community like never before. And you take the gifts of solitude with you wherever you go, with whoever you meet. This is amazing. Donít resist it. Enjoy. Be glad all over.
Actually you are always in solitude but you donít know it. Everything you feel, think, say, do comes from deep within you. All of your relations with others are completely under the control of your solitude which never quits and is constantly changing.
Getting to know yourself in solitude is an essential practice and can often be very hard work. We avoid it like the plague. But avoiding it leads to all kinds of woes.
It does get hard here because we have to face ourselves as we really are and we begin to see the difference, the gap, between our Real Self and our false self. We have put a lot of time and energy into that false self, far too much. We need to begin to make solitude work for us rather than against us. Remember, it is always controlling us so becoming aware of its presence and power is essential. There is no way around this practice. Our holiness, our heavenliness, depend on our mastering the practice of solitude.
Enjoy being alone. You always are alone in a real sense. So enjoy it. Immerse yourself in the joy of solitude. Sooner or later, the bliss will come. This bliss is worth the struggle. Itís not worldly bliss if there is such a thing and I know there isnít. The ego, the false self, simply cannot experience bliss. Bliss is only for the faithful who strive to ďbe in the world but not of it.Ē
We are striving to be holy and the only way to become holy is to be devoted to it. Solitude is challenging so devotion becomes necessary.
RESOURCES FOR THIS IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
Spirituality & Practice offers a book review of Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton.
Spirituality & Practice offers a book review of The Wonders of Solitude edited by Dale Salwak.
Spirituality & Practice offers a book review of Learning to Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom, Vol. 6, 1966-1967 by Thomas Merton (edited by Christine M. Bochen). Here's an excerpt: "Love and solitude are the one ground of true maturity and freedom. Solitude that is just solitude and nothing else (i.e. excludes everything else but solitude) is worthless. True solitude embraces everything, for it is the fullness of love that rejects nothing and no one, is open to All in All."
"The life of peace begins anew each morning. We take a breath, awaken, and receive the gift of life, the gift of the present moment. The great spiritual traditions urge us to take time each day to center ourselves in the spirit of peace. If we dare enter the solitude of peace, we will rediscover who we are, each one of us a beloved, precious child of the God of peace." -- John Dear
Metanoia offers "Contemplative Spiritual Formation: Going Deeper" by Gerald May. Excerpt: "Solitude is another kind of freedom ó freedom from the host of habitual restraints and compulsions of social interaction. Times of solitude, however brief, allow a certain freedom from concerns about how others see us, freedom to be more fully who we are with God alone. In times of solitude, our prayer can be more openly authentic: peaceful and silent or raging and screaming, sad and plaintive or dancing and exuberant ó whatever is really honest and natural at the time. Like silence, solitude allows us to perceive more clearly and respond more fully, to be ourselves as we are with God as God is." | Read the article
An important book on this important practice is Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen.
Hermitary offers "Solitude in Sufi Tradition."
Excerpt 1: "The use of solitude as discipline and means may have channeled deep individual and cultural expressions into daily life. Sufism as mysticism was devotional in a way paralleling Hindu Bhakti, but strictly regulated by Muslim and Quranic tradition. Yet who can doubt that the magnificent poetry of Sufi tradition so rich in mystical symbolism, sensual imagery, and Dionysian expression, was not itself a devotional expression that elevated Sufi practice as praise and extroversion, contrasted to the introversion of Western and Far Eastern solitude and silence."
Excerpt 2: "Solitude in the crowd becomes the face of the self going about daily life. Constant consciousness of God in every circumstance preserves a disengagement from the world without disrupting the functions of society, which in turn are supposed to be based on Islamic ethics. The Quran identifies those who successfully practice 'solitude in the crowd' as those 'whom neither business nor profit distracts from the recollection of God' (24:37). Attributed to the Prophet Muhammad is a saying of himself (and as a model to others) that he has 'two sides: one faces my Creator and one faces creation.'"
Ignation Spirituality: Set The World Ablaze is a blog offered by John Predmore, S.J. On April 14, he offered "Spirituality: Silence and Solitude." Here it is:
Silence and solitude are the marks of spiritual maturity. They lead to peace and bliss. The spiritual life is an inner life and cannot be attained on the outside. The spiritual life is its own reward and seeks nothing beyond itself. Once we achieve inner peace and conscious contact, we want to overflow. This is the mark of truth and love to move toward goodness and transcendence.
The ancient philosophers called goodness, truth, beauty and love the transcendental properties of Being.
"The best and sweetest flowers in paradise, God gives to his people when they are on their knees in the closet. ó Prayer, if not the very gate of heaven, is the key to let us into its holiness and joys." -- Thomas Brooks (found at http://www.quotationpark.com/topics/devotion.html)
Hermitary offers recommendations from Evagrius Ponticus on this practice. Warning: If you take these recommendations seriously, you will have to change your life a lot if you are anything like me or most of us very privileged netizens.
The Orthodox Church of America
offers "On Silence and Stillness" by the Very Rev. John Breck and "Witnesses to Silence and Stillness" by the Very Rev.
John Breck and
"The Gift of Silence" by the Very Rev. John Breck and "On Silence and Solitude" by the Very Rev. John Breck.
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