July-August 2002

SUMMER BLESSINGS, dear friends! May your vacations, family gatherings, and rereation traveling be balanced with inward diving into the depths of silence and solitude. Re-creation and renewal, peace and harmony become summer fruits of this inner-outer balance. Thus are you true to yourself.

The difference between loneliness and solitude

It was from my experience in alternating work at the Red Cross and forest service that I began to learn the difference between loneliness and solitude. I now believe that loneliness occurs when our lives are somehow missing one-half of a pair of opposites — being and doing. We can be very busy and surrounded by people yet still feel intense loneliness because our lives are dominated by "doing;" there is insufficient time for attentive solitude with our thoughts and feeling. When your life is filled with too much doing, the only cure for loneliness is a strong dose of solitude, a form of solitude that is meditative and open to your inner self.

~ from BALANCING HEAVEN AND EARTH by Robert A. Johnson

We are made for solitude

We are made for solitude. Our lives may be rich in relationships, but the human self remains a mystery of enfolded inwardness that no other person can possibly enter and know. If we fail to embrace our ultimate aloneness and seek meaning only in communion with others, we wither and die. The farther we travel toward the great mystery, the more at home we must be with our essential aloneness in order to stay healthy and whole. Our equal and opposite needs for solitude and community constitute a great paradox.

~ from THE COURAGE TO TEACH by Parker Palmer

Solitude is an attitude

Solitude is an attitude, an attitude of gratitude. It is a state of mind, a state of heart, a whole universe unto itself.

~ from FOOD FOR SOLITIIDE by Francine Schiff

Your solitude will bear immense fruit

Your solitude will bear immense fruit in the souls of men and women you will never see on earth.

~ from THE SEVEN STORY MOUNTAIN by Thomas Merton
The Seven Storey Mountain
By Thomas Merton

A silent, invisible spiritual concourse

Our image of solitude is often negative: withdrawal, isolation, distance from others. But this misrepresents the hermitage which is like a silent, invisible spiritual concourse; a place where many can converge without sinking into a crowd, and become a community of love. Every human heart is a hermitage, if we care to enter and find ourselves there in union with all. In solitude friend, foe, and stranger are equally known in love.

~ from WEB OF SILENCE bv Laurence Freeman

Being alone

Being alone — physically alone atop a mountain — reminds me of how seldom one is alone in the sort of urbanized life we live nowadays. As I sat, there was a certain peace which I was able to capture for a moment. This physical aloneness is by no means the same as loneliness — not even close kin to it; for I was not alone. On occasions when I am able to get to a mountain top, the realization of the nature of the "mountain-top experience" returns anew.

~ from BALM IN GILEAD by Sara Lawrence Lightfoot
Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer
By Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

In prayer we assume responsibility for injustice in our self and the world

We find the world at the heart of God. The deeper our prayer is, the deeper we enter into solidarity with a suffering world. In solitude this compassionate solidarity grows. In solitude we realize that the roots of all conflict, war, injustice, cruelty, hatred, jealousy, and envy are deeply anchored in our own hearts. Nothing human is alien to us either. In prayer we assume responsibility for injustice in our self and the world.

~from SPACE FOR GOD by Don Postema

Nowhere to go, nothing to do

There is great value to be realized in periods of solitude and silence for those whose lives are in and of the world. Although I had gone into solitude for four days every year over the past twenty years, I needed a more sustained period of aloneness to recover the freshness of my spirit and to see that which was not true. "Nowhere to go, nothing to do" — these were the words that informed my days.

~ by Joan Halifax

The necessary thing

The necessary thing is great, inner solitude.
What goes on inwardly is worthy of your love.

~ by Rainer Maria Rilke

If silence and solitude were vacancy

The secret strength of things,
Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of heaven is a law, inhabits thee!
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind's imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?

~ from "Mont Blanc" by Percy B. Shelley

The point of passing time in solitude

The point of passing time in solitude is to strip yourself bare, to discover what is essential and true. When you are stripped down to this point, you see how little you amount to. But that little is what God is interested in.

~ from "The Music of Silence" by Phyllis Rose

Solitude is necessary for your emotional health

Solitude is necessary for your emotional health, whether you are living alone or with another. Solitude gives you the time and space to integrate your experience. And all growth depends on integration. Without solitude, spiritual nourishment will be lacking. If you want a single cause for the amount of distress in the world, it is the fact that people do not take time to commune with self, nature and the divine. A spiritual life — a life free of needless tension and self-created suffering — requires such communion.

~ from THE SILENCE OF THE HEART by Paul Ferrini

In solitude, the soul develops organs

Our homes will be very quiet at this time. But I have often found that the quieter my surroundings, the more vividly I sense my connection with you all. It's as if, in solitude, the soul develops organs of which we're hardly aware in everyday life.

~ from LOVE LETTERS FROM CELL 92 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer with thanks to Jane Storck
Love Letters from Cell 92
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Maria von Wedemeyer, Ruth Alice von Bismarck

Until I have been lured into the desert

Until I have been lured into the desert, until I have been brought in solitude to the very ground of my being, where I am beyond the grip of my surface self with all its plans and distractions, I am not able to hear the divine whisper. It is then I discover at the heart of things that my solitariness is transcended and that I am not alone.

~ by Douglas Steere
Together in Solitude
By Douglas Steere

Without silence there is no solitude

Without silence there is no solitude.
In solitude, you are open to loving service,
to abiding inner peace and joy.

~ Anonymous

Discover your true self

 Discover your true self in creative solitude.

~ Anonymous

Solitude is the empty space that we deliberately choose

Solitude is the empty space that we deliberately choose in order to be with the Beloved. In solitude we can savor this goodness and give ourselves space to really listen. It is when we are alone, uninterrupted, single-minded, and single-hearted, that some of the wonderful inner fruits come to the surface. If we want to learn how to grow spiritually, we will choose the discipline of solitude.

Our solitude helps us to "be" with God and gives meaning to our lives. It re-awakens us to the presence of God in every aspect of our lives.

~ from THE CUP OF OUR LIFE by Joyce Rupp