Essay / Culture

Solitude and Silence as Spiritual Disciplines (Part II)

Two regular practices of solitude and silence:

First, you must remember that when you go into solitude and silence, your basic goal is to do nothing. Yes, nothing! You are to center yourself in quiet and rest. As you do that, you also focus on centering your affections on the Lord and His creation. This is not a time to catch up on your scheduled daily Bible reading or on anything else. In fact, if possible, the first thing you should do when engaging in solitude is to take off your watch.

Second, there are different occasions for entering solitude. Here are three suggestions—two listed in this post and one in my next post: (1) Form the habit of taking an hour on two or three nights a week, to practice. After watching the evening news or before your favorite television program comes on (it is unrealistic to start by cutting off all television or all your ordinary habits—start modestly until a habit is formed), say from 7-8 pm, go to a favorite quiet place in your house or go for a walk. Some change of location, however small, is very helpful.

(2) Practice driving in the slow lane with the radio and cell phone turned off. In all honesty, I have found that my commute to work (around thirty-five minutes one way) has been one of the most important places for my spiritual development in my weekly schedule. Practicing solitude while driving can make traffic a joy and your car a cathedral. Of special focus should be how you experience pressure from drivers who push you to go faster. Quickly, we get in touch with how close to the surface our anger is, with how easily we are manipulated by social pressure, how quickly we project our own feelings onto others.

These insights are worth the price of admission, because one of the key benefits of solitude is that when we unhook from our support systems, our defective strategies for coping with life, our negative feelings that lie just beneath the surface, manifest themselves. Then we have a chance to feel and think about them and invite Jesus to give wisdom and support in developing more healthy habits and strategies.

For my final post, I will share a final method of practicing solitude and silence: the solitude retreat.

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