I’ve been thinking about solitude.
To me it means the antithesis of isolation. Isolation is the sequestering of the self, hiding and disconnecting from the world, even yourself. Solitude is for me a practice of setting yourself apart from distractions for a time in order to connect more deeply and truly.
My dad has always encouraged my sisters and I in the practice of stillness. In being still and removing the media and noise, the mental clutter, I get to encounter my own thoughts, God’s thoughts, and purge the white noise in my mind. Then I emerge, reconnect with the earth, and see again for the first time. Listen with my spirit, my eyes and my ears. And then the seeing and hearing can engage my soul in the joy of connection, discovery, wholeness.
I was recently reading a book called The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau. He emphasizes the importance of preparing for your journey, not only with plans and packs, but by taking the time to slow down while surrounded by your every day life. He says that if you cannot slow down before you leave, where your normal is, you will not slow down on your journey. It is the art of seeing that differentiates physical traveling from true traveling. The ability to see, to experience and appreciate.
For me, practicing stillness (or solitude) looks like prayer days, going somewhere peaceful whether it’s a monastery or a park or a prayer house to soak in His Presence under a blanket of bliss, like turning off the tv/cell/ipod/laptop/whatever, like journaling or reading something inspiring, and doing these things consistently until it clicks. Until I feel the peace of quiet in my mind, and sitting still for 5 minutes no longer makes me fidget and I can stop making lists in my head :).
I think someone has called it the “inward gaze of the soul”, to be in touch with the state of your mind and spirit and with God’s love and peace. Then move about your day in wonder at the way the earth is formed, and feel in yourself the joyful knowledge of being fully loved.