Last week I mentioned Thoreau’s three chairs. Over the next few newsletters, let’s explore them more closely. The first chair is solitude.
I remember the first time I went on a silent retreat. The first 3 days didn’t feel like a silent retreat because there was so much chatter in my mind. The conversation never stopped. This is the reality of our lives. There is an unending dialogue happening every minute in our heads. Like most consistent chatter there is the gift of tuning it out. Yet the chatter is there influencing our sense of self and the world.
When the idea of silence is mentioned for some it is a welcomed with a sigh of a longing. For others, it is a look of panic. “I could never be quiet for any length of time.” The thought of being left to ourselves is frightening. When our inner life is ignored, then what are we bring to the world, to our connection with God? Where is the depth of understanding? Who is truly dictating our days?
It is in taking the time to still ourselves and become aware of all the conversations that are flowing in our minds and hearts that we begin to really understand our walk in this world.
“Look not outward but within. Self-knowledge is at the root of all real religious knowledge. And this is why the beginning of true religion cannot lie in a book, or in science, or in arguing or in listening to sermons. To look into the soul is to begin to find God. However able the sermon, however sacred the book, it will teach nothing to the person who has not started to look inward.” Owen Chadwick, Newman: A Short Introduction.
No matter what is found as one sits in solitude, they are welcomed by the Divine with open arms. Whether one feels totally at peace and in the flow of grace, or sees themselves as a total failure with no hope, or somewhere in between, they are welcomed into Love’s embrace. That is the gift of solitude. To realize that Love into one’s bones and then to move out into the world around them.
Try it this week. Spend some time in solitude. What do you notice as you pull up this first chair? After you time in solitude, write a love letter to yourself from God.