Another reason that I feel the solitude weighing on me this week is because I have neglected to nurture it lately. I recently watched The Big Silence, a BBC series about a Dominican father who asks 5 people to embrace silence in their lives and see what effect it has. One of the challenges these busy, 21st century multi-taskers have to face is 8 days of silence at a Jesuit retreat centre. After the first day there, tempers are short, complaints run high, and grumpiness abounds - reactions that show how averse we are to facing ourselves, the lack of peace we have in our circumstances, and how we view the presence of God as either boring or instrusive.
Silence is not easy. There is no entertaining music, no movies, no pubs to go to with friends, no phones, no stressful work, nothing but our thoughts...and the presence of God. Perhaps it is not surprising that all 5 of the volunteers, after a few days of silence, began to face some of their inner fears, wrestle with inner traumas, and acknowledge inner questions that they had been too busy to pay attention to before. The followers of Jesus who first fled to the mountain caves in Egypt to live in solitude (starting the monastic movement) knew the value of getting away from distractions. Too often, they mask our inner turmoil and cause us to substitute activity for real, lasting peace.
So this week, I am trying to embrace the silence more. To make space in my studying, in my rising up and going to sleep, in my relaxation, and most of all, in my thoughts, turning them more often to God. I want to recognize the places I need healing and wholeness, to face hidden fears and places of unrest, and to walk quietly with Jesus, letting him talk instead of pestering him with constant chatter and questions. It is not an easy discipline, but it is food for one's soul.
"Be still and know that I am God." - from Psalm 46:10
the photo: a lone tree in the desert near Joshua Tree National Park, California.