During the month of October, the daily reflections in The Monastic Way pamphlet by Joan Chittister were on the theme of “Delicious Solitude.” I loved those reflections! Here’s a sampling.
October 1: Solitude, like black olives, is an acquired taste. But once it touches the soul it is the only place where we can come to know ourselves.
October 2: To be alone is to come to know the self for the first time.
October 7: Solitude is the place where we assess our blessings and choose the best of them to be grateful for so that when we go back into the throes of life we are more aware of life’s blessings as they go by.
October 18: Solitude and silence are those places where the creative fountains flow…
October 23: Solitude is outer separation from the frenzy of the world. Silence is inner separation from the frenzy in ourselves.
October 25: Solitude and silence heal the broken parts in us by exposing them to ourselves.
I’ve written before in this blog about how important it is to take time to be alone. Personally, I usually take a few days once or twice (or more) a year to go off by myself to our Christmas Mountain timeshare in Wisconsin Dells. The time away has always helped me reflect on life in general, or the time away has helped me think about specific issues I’m dealing with at the time. A time of solitude for me is a time to rest, to read, to play music, to talk at length with God, and invariably, to be refreshed. When I can’t get away for a few days of solitude, I treat my soul to a couple hours of playing the piano, or reading, or writing, or going for a walk.
When I was a child, I found a time of solitude by playing either the piano or the small electronic organ we had in the living room. When I came home from school, I was supposed to play every piece assigned in my piano and organ lessons ten times each. That’s not what I did. I usually played through each piece once or twice, and then I’d just play what I felt like playing – picking out a tune that was in my mind note by note, or learning some new songs in one of my mom’s gospel songbooks, or trying out all the pieces in a new music book I’d spent my allowance on (like “Greatest Hits of 1962”). I was usually alone in the house. Mom was still at work in Madison; Dad was in the barn; Danny was outside; and Nancy was away at college. I would often spend a couple hours being absorbed in the music, thinking about my feelings, talking with God. If I came home from school angry about something, I’d start by playing loud, discordant music, and gradually I’d work my way toward peaceful sounds. I loved my time of solitude. I still do.
In the introduction to October’s reflections, Chittister observed,
For the first time in history we are no longer an agricultural people who live miles away from one another. We are a people who live in a nest of noise, 24 hours a day, every day of the year…
Silence, solitude, and the contemplation of what it means to be a human being in a world of machines may be long overdue in this society. We take war for granted, crime for granted, cacophony for granted, everything for granted except the need to be alone, to think a bit about something besides the externals of life, to think about not wanting to think about anything at all…
Silence, solitude and contemplation have gifts to give all of us that no amount of frenetic activity can possibly provide. Rest, peace, insight, calm, concentration, serenity, energy and transcendence are no small bounty to garner in the midst of a world in perpetual motion.
I’m thinking about trying to schedule a Christmas Mountain retreat sometime within the next few months. I’ll bring my keyboard along, and a brand new hymnal I just bought.
But first, it’s Mim’s turn to go away for some time of solitude. She’s leaving this afternoon to go to a timeshare in Oconomowoc, between Cambridge and Milwaukee, and she’ll come home on Friday.
It’s usually hard for Mim to get away. All of us who live in our house depend on her to take care of us. I’m sure we’ll survive, but we’ll sure miss her. Mim works all the time. She really needs a few days off.
As Joan Chittister said last month, “Silence and solitude are the Sabbaths of the heart…”