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.
The discipline of silence was leading me not only to a keener attention to language but to an improved capacity for hearing. On silent Mondays, I began to listen differently—to myself, to others, and to the world around me. It was a listening I would call both active and without an agenda...I began to observe that when there was no expectation for me to respond, acknowledge, analyze...I listened differently. My ego relaxed... In silence I was hearing others more keenly and witnessing my own thoughts, too, and seeing how they served to separate or to connect me. I was learning not to turn away from the parts of myself that were difficult.