Solitude: the state or situation of being alone. How does our culture view this concept? I have been studying about the history of monasteries and monks, reading about the Rule of St. Benedict and the different types of monasteries. All of these in some way faced solitude. Each monk, although in community, must live in some type of solitude at many times. These monks and religious sisters chose to leave behind the comfortable life within community to be a part of a different type of community. The move came with a requirement to face solitude.
Within solitude one eventually becomes devoid of all distractions. One must face self, for good and bad, vices, and virtues. One must empty one’s self completely. Without self-emptying, there can be no authentic room for God, and selfless love.
Our culture teaches the value of individualism, standing for self (even if it means stepping on others). It is about what “I” can do, receive, accomplish, and accumulate. It is not about others. Success is about how far “I” can get. Yet, the “I” doesn’t know who “I” even is. There has been little to no time to develop as a person when the distractions of life do not allow for self-discovery and the goal of self-emptying is not even on the radar.
So how can we bring solitude to our lives? Silent retreats, silent prayer, meditation, a new mindset on the importance of understanding our purpose, beyond making money. This is not a simple solution; meditation classes can teach the discipline so one can begin the journey. It takes time, patience, experience, and guidance to handle it. I have a friend who attends a one-week silent retreat each year. She says it takes one day of sleeping and two days of decompression just to get past the distractions to start the reflective time and solitude. As a people, we should value and take that time. If we could take the solitude, face self, empty selfish ways, and embrace selfless love, our world would change for the better.
How do you feel about solitude? Do you avoid it at all costs? Could you try it a little at a time? In the stillness of solitude one can experience the presence of God. Isn’t that worth trying for?
Copyright 2017 Lori Hadorn-Disselkamp