This week we spent time talking about Silence and Solitude as key elements of most contemplative practice, and why these are such powerful words and realities, often holding a deep invitation and resonance for us, even while they can also scare or repel us. As a group, we shared thoughts about this ambivalence, and about why we would bother pushing through any resistance we have to spending time alone and in quiet, concluding that the reason we often resist Silence and Solitude is the very reason we need them. Rachael brought the following poems, passages and quotes from through the ages to help shed some light on the difference between loneliness/isolation and solitude, and how one can be a gateway to the other; and on the deeper realities of self and God that can be found when we intentionally let go of our busyness and noise, and set aside all the words, thoughts and feelings we get attached to about our selves and God.
We ended our time by practicing doing just that with some silent Centering Prayer and then with the Blessing of Solitude by John O’Donohue.
Some readings from today:
“…The first step in spending time alone is to admit how afraid of it we are.
Being alone is a difficult discipline: a beautiful and difficult sense of being solitary is always the ground from which we step into a contemplative intimacy with the unknown, but the first portal of aloneness is often experienced as a gateway to alienation, grief and abandonment. To find our selves alone or to be left alone is an ever present, fearful and abiding human potentiality of which we are often unconsciously, and deeply afraid.
To be alone for any length of time is to shed an outer skin.”
- from David Whyte’s, Alone
May you recognize in your life the presence, power and light of your soul.
May you realise that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realise that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here,
that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.
- A Blessing of Solitude, by John O’Donohue
“Silence is God’s first language.” St. John of the Cross, 16th C
“Silence is the language of God, everything else is a poor translation.” Rumi, 13th C
“God [is] hidden within me. I find Him by hiding in the silence in which He is concealed.” Thomas Merton, 1948
“Silence is the gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to God.” (Fr. Christopher Jamieson, Abbot of Worth Abbey, UK, in The Big Silence, 2010)