January 2005 (Vol. XVIII, No. 1)

"Is there enough Silence for the Word to be heard?"

A blessed New Year, dear fiends! Winter is a natural season for seizing moments, if not hours or days, of solitude seasoned with silence. Here we come closer to eternal truths as we keep company with our indwelling Divine Guest. Here, we hear Love welcoming us home.

The vocation to solitude

Vocation to solitude: To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, to entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills, or sea, or desert; to sit still while the sun comes up over the land and fills its silences with light. To pray and work in the morning and to labor in meditation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars. This is a true and special vocation. There are few who an belong completely to silence, let it soak into their bones, breathe nothing but silence, feed on silence, and turn the very substance of their life into a living and vigilant silence. [Yet each of us is blessed when we offer our silence to the world as we can.]

~ from THOUGHTS IN SOLITUDE by Thomas Merton

Solitude is not necessarily physical isolation

A state of being alone, of inwardly directed consciousness, solitude is not necessarily physical isolation. In solitude, a person claims value for one's self as a free being. The value found in turning inward is the value of self-determination and responsibility. We find self-worth in solitude, in the core of our freedom. Solitude is necessary for spiritual and professional growth; solitude gives us the ability to face ourselves, others, and God.

~ S. Anna Polcino

Let nothing disturb thee

Let nothing disturb thee,
nothing affright thee;
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Patient endurance
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth,
In nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.

~ St. Teresa's Breviary

Winter solitude

Winter solitude --
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.

~ Basho

Within me an invincible summer

In the midst of winter
I discovered within me
an invincible summer.

~ Camus

The deeper one goes into spiritual solitude

If you are truly called to a solitary lifestyle, eventually celibacy must follow. Solitude invites the presence of God, a presence which so consumes the soul, there is no lover energy available for an intense human commitment to intimacy. The deeper one goes into spiritual solitude, the lighter one travels. But it is not for us to divest ourselves -- at our own willed choosing -- of the things that are necessary for life within society. It is for God to strip us, often painfully, of them at a time when God knows -- if we do not -- that we must go more lightly into this Heart of Love.

~ from SILENT DWELLERS by Barbara Erakko-Taylor

The desert is a place of solitude, silence, simplicity

In desert spirituality, the desert is considered a place of solitude, silence, simplicity, and peace; a place of blessing. It is where the focus is on God -- where we meet Goad and God meets us and disarms our hearts, a place that promises transformation and strengthening; a testing ground that requires us to make choices.

~ Janet Chisholm

Alone in silence with thousands of others

When I retreat at home, I am alone in silence. And I am also with thousands of others around the world, sitting quietly, all of us bonded together in our effort, our solitude, and our prayers. Each moment of the day, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, are sitting in strong concentration, deepening awareness not only for themselves but for everyone. We are opening our hearts, alone but all-one, joining others throughout the centuries in timeless realms. We dwell in unknown realities singing a song of the revelation of the divine.


Learning to be alone in solitude

A person must learn to be alone in solitude, to listen in one's heart to the wordless speech of the Spirit, and to discover the truth bout oneself and God. Then their word to others will be a word of power, because it is a word of silence.

~ Kallistos Ware

We become a mountainside shelter, a place for others to be in God

Prayerful awareness can lead us into solitude, which is where God calls us. It is from within this solitude we encounter the indwelling God. We could say that by fully and fearlessly embracing our solitude before God that we are enabled to become fully and fearlessly present to others. If our being in God is real, we may become as a mountainside shelter within which others may feel encouraged to continue their own dialogue with the Holy One. Thus, as we are in God, we become a place for others to be in God.

~ Max Woolaver in "Presence" (May 1996)

The independence of solitude

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but great are those who in the midst of the crowd keep with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Physical solitude does not separate us from others, but spiritual isolation

For a full day and two nights I have been alone. I lay on the beach under the stars at night alone....  Beauty of earth and sear and air meant more to me. I was in harmony it, melted into the universe, lost in it, as one is lost in a canticle of praise, swelling from an unknown crowd in a cathedral. I felt closer to humankind, too, even in my solitude. For it is not physical solitude that separate us from others, not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation.

~ from A GIFT FROM THE SEA by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sought solitude

I grew up in this forest and I knew
These giant trees when they were nothing more than
Than slender saplings swaying in the wind;
Sought solitude, delighted in the lore
Of nature, who became my teacher first;
Walked down trails where sun and shadow meet,
Through silence softly tucked about the days;
Traced the twists and turns of every creek.
Stepping lightly through the after-glow,
Amid the falling flakes of silver white,
Belonging to the moment and the mood,
Another little creature of the night,
With quickened breath, ears attuned, who stood
... Sensing God within this winter wood!

~ Grace E. Easley

Only solitude can provide the depth for universal friendship

Only solitude can provide the depth for universal friendship. Those who can be solitary have withdrawn their projections and are innately nonviolent. They have broken with the crowd, and their communities do not become rival crowds in their turn. Solitude gives us the transformational insight that all things are held together in the boundless, open community of God. To be friends with one another is only seeing what we are in God together. This insight is the criterion of all genuine holiness.

Holiness demands courage. The courage born of holiness.

~ from COMMON GROUND by Laurence Freeman