Spiritual Disciplines—On Silence and Solitude | Luke 5:16

“A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else.”   Richard Rohr

Visualize the sounds of your daily journey in the world around. Consider its dialogue—puttering sounds of vehicles mirroring the bustling chatter of people as you walk in a crowd. The laughter and joyful news you share when exchanging words with a loved one, to a sweeping wind sifting through a forest of trees.

We live in a dialogue—one between humanity, and the world around us. A conversation that began long before us, and will continue long after our last breath. A dialogue surely of cosmic proportions and depth.

In our increasingly interconnected world, we may find, however, that our ears have difficulty listening to this cosmic conversation. We must learn how to listen well.

The journey of being human is not easy. Often, we are solely attuned to the loudest noises, the most stimulating moments, and the daily, hurried sprint of life. We miss out on the beautiful gift of silence and solitude.

Jesus himself was attuned to this gift.

The Bible describes that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16). He frequently carried himself to this place of isolation (Matthew 14,:13, John 6:15, Mark 1:35) as a rhythm of life.

We have much to learn from practicing this discipline and how it might contribute to a flourishing human life. At first glance, we might find the gift of silence inefficient, lacking substance, or even doubtfully impactful. In looking at the story of Jesus, however, we see that it’s in the rhythmic journey of silence and solitude, that we learn how to listen.

We learn how to hear the depths of creation around us.
We learn to find understanding and awareness within.
We learn to hear the unheard voices of our world.
We learn the quieted voice of our own soul.

We begin to hear the cosmic dialogue we live in, and live fully into our place within it.

Lee Ufan, in his painting series Dialogue, discusses the artist's relationship between breath, brushstroke, and silence. Though deceivingly simple-looking, each of Ufan’s brushstrokes are said to coincide with a slow and meditative breath he takes. This stoic, creative practice results in paintings that simultaneously bring intense silence and bustling energy.

This phenomenon is similar to our silence and solitude practice. Though physically we are silent and still, we must also realize that in this stillness we are coming into dialogue with God’s cosmic energy all around us. This is a divine privilege.

Consider trying this rhythm:

I. Decide and dedicate beforehand how much time you will spend in silence. Even ten minutes can be very challenging for those accustomed to a hectic pace of life.
II. Disconnect from all your devices, and be with your body and mind. Consider your body—settle into a comfortable and aware position. Consider your mind—release the ongoing thoughts and to-do list of your day.
III. Try a simple prayer or phrase that expresses your openness and desire for God to meet you in your silence. Gently return to it as you feel your mind wander into a busy train of thought.
IV. As you conclude, refrain from judgment of your time. Merely practicing and being is enough.

Words: Tyler Zak
Paintings: Lee Ufan

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