Are you going crazy with the holidays around the corner? Too much to do and not enough time? December is a busy month and with the year’s end looming, it feels like an appropriate time to carve out some solitude.
As I was looking up the definition of solitude, I came across the word “solicitude” which means: anxious care, carefulness, anxiety, eager uneasiness of mind lest some desired thing may not be obtained or some apprehended evil may happen–The American Heritage Dictionary. I’m afraid this is the state too many of us are living in regularly.
In contrast, is the word solitude, which the Collins dictionary defines as: the state of being alone, especially when this is peaceful and pleasant. Solitude is certainly the preferred state. Who doesn’t like peace and pleasantness over anxiety?
But how is quietness or solitude strength, as proclaimed by Isaiah in the Bible? Haven’t we been told repeatedly that the squeaky wheel gets the grease? Make noise! Be noticed!
Do, do, do……….don’t let up or someone else will get ahead of you. The ping-ding of our computers and phones reminds us the world of technology is constantly vying for our attention. The responsibilities of our daily lives surround and overwhelm us. Busyness is worn as a badge of honor.
“The Lord said to St. Teresa one day, ‘I would speak to many souls, but the world makes so much noise in their ears that they cannot hear My voice. Oh, if only they would stand a little apart from the world!’ ”
We can let Jesus be our example. Such greatness and strength was born in a stable in the stillness and dark of night…..quietly, softly, barely noticed, except by three wise men and some nearby animals.
He appeared helpless and weak as a babe in his mother’s arms but yet He was ever so strong as the Savior of the world, Almighty and powerful…..come to change our hearts and save us.
For God to put Himself in this lowly state, He must have been trying to tell us something. Things are not always as they initially appear.
So we draw our strength from God and the stillness helps us know Him and hear His voice.
The saints knew a state of quietness and solitude is needed to refuel ourselves, just as a car needs gas. A car also needs someone to steer. Quiet time helps us see more clearly out of the windshield of our lives so we can steer ourselves in a better direction. Stepping away from the world in quietness strengthens us for the journey ahead.
Solitude can open us up to new thoughts and ideas and helps remove the clutter in our lives. We may see things we wouldn’t have otherwise, or come up with the solution to our problems after some quiet reflection.
When we are frenzied, we can’t always think straight or make the best decisions. We need to try to come from an inmost place of solitude.
We always get to know someone better when we spend time alone with them. God is no exception.
When you are sick, the doctor often prescribes rest to promote healing…..so too with stillness. It lets us find the ultimate Healer who heals not only our body but our souls.
So what are some ways we can find solitude in our lives?
8 WAYS TO ENCOURAGE SOLITUDE
Meditate or pray.
Use repetitive prayer such as the Rosary which many Catholics find meditative and soothing. I also find it gives me something to focus on, which helps quiet my mind.
Try repetitive music like Taize or Gregorian Chant. Churches of various denominations sometimes offer Taize prayer. Being one of my favorite ways to invoke solitude, I have personally experienced Taize prayer at Episcopalian, Lutheran and Catholic churches. The music can also be found on Youtube and elsewhere to use at home.
Read the Bible or an inspirational book. Or practice lectio divina (divine reading) which is repeated reading of a Bible verse and letting it speak to you. More information can be found here.
Take a walk in nature.
Journaling is a great way to collect your thoughts or pour out your frustrations. It is also a great way to view your progress (or lack of it!) over the years.
If you are near a Catholic church with Adoration, that is the ultimate place of silence before God. There is no other choice but to be silent in the church before the very presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as seen in the monstrance. (It can also be a good time to journal when thoughts come to you.) Here is a very beautiful video about what happens in adoration produced by Fr. Mike Schmitz of Ascension Presents.
If you have kids, get away into another room by yourself for a while. Bathrooms are great for this! You could soak in the tub if you have someone to watch the kids. Learning to find stillness amidst all the madness is probably a good idea at this stage of life.
And don’t forget, even Jesus took time to get away from the crowds to pray and be quiet. Matt. 14:23; Luke 5:15-16
If you can’t find time to practice solitude daily, and most of us probably can’t, at least try to practice solitude as often as you are able or feel the need. It will help you refuel and gather strength to carry on.
So what best refuels you? Hopefully we can all find some much needed solitude not only during the holidays but in all the seasons of life. May we continually try to focus on Christ and draw our strength from Him as He refreshes our soul.
He will keep those in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on Him
“My soul, wait in stillness, only for God—from Him comes my salvation.”
Ps. 62:2 (TLV-Tree of Life Version)
In preparing our hearts for celebrating the birth of our Savior, it is difficult to obtain peace in the midst of worldly Christmas preparations like shopping, meal prep, relatives and adult children descending upon us….perhaps pets and grandchildren as well. These can be happy times, but also stressful and certainly not the picture that comes to mind when we think of “stillness”.
Often, when I have experienced stillness, it has come as a welcome surprise in the least likely places. Once, believe it or not, a sense of stillness came over me in the midst of IKEA (a gigantic, bustling four-story home emporium). Maybe it was necessary for survival in that place (!) but I still recall the time I was sitting in a snack area with my four young children and it was extremely crowded and noisy. It seemed like over-consumption and greed was everywhere. I started thinking about how the quietness of God was in stark contrast to the frenzy I was experiencing at that moment. It was then that I started to feel God’s presence and a deep sense of stillness in the midst of the madness. No one around me could see the stillness I had found in my soul, but oddly enough, it was there.
Other times I’ve experienced a profound sense of stillness in more expected places, for instance after a heavy, night-time snowfall. The snow covers the earth like a thick white blanket, absorbing the sounds of the world, and it feels so cozy and still, compared to a typical night. I just love the “sound” of it!
Another time, I was in Yellowstone National Park and our group decided to hike to the top of Mt. Washburn for the sunrise, starting out in the dark of night. This was way out of my comfort zone but once we got past the timber line, there were no cars roaring in the distance, no birds chirping or any of the myriad of daily sounds we have grown accustomed to. There was complete and utter silence hanging heavy in the air. I will never forget this ultimate experience of stillness and have never experienced anything quite like it since.
Stillness, however, isn’t necessarily complete silence. The goal is to find it in the midst of the madness of daily life. It is a state of being. It comes from deep within us, from the very core of our being. We must wear stillness like a favorite sweater or pair of snuggly pj’s. We must know it, befriend it, and embrace it, so that we can call upon it like a dear and familiar friend. It is a place of peace, rest, and tranquility no matter what is going on around us. And in the stillness, we will find God.
So as we prepare for Christmas, let us try to wait in stillness. Waiting not only to celebrate the birth of our Savior, but for whatever may be birthed within us from this sacred stillness in our soul.