Monday, January 10, 2005

Silent Solitude

Silent Solitude

Silence is not simply the absence of noise or the shutdown of communication with the outside world, but rather a process of coming to stillness. Silent solitude forges true speech. I'm not speaking of physical isolation; solitude here means being alone with the Alone, experiencing the transcendent Other and growing in awareness of one's identity as the beloved. It is impossible to know another person intimately without spending time together. Silence makes this solitude a reality. It has been said,

"Silence is solitude practiced in action."

It is much like the story of the harried executive who went to the desert father and complained about his frustration in prayer, his flawed virtue, and his failed relationships. The hermit listened closely to his visitor's rehearsal of the struggle and disappointments in trying to lead a Godly life. He then went into the dark recesses of his cave and came out with a basin and pitcher of water. "Now watch the water as I pour it into the basin," he said. The water splashed on the bottom and against the sides of the container. It was agitated and turbulent. At first the stirred up water swirled around the inside of the basin: then it gradually began to settle until finally the small fast ripples evolved into larger swells that oscillated back and forth. Eventually, the surface became so smooth that the visitor could see his face reflected in the placed water. "That is the way it is when you live constantly in the midst of others," said the hermit. "You do not see yourself as you really are because of all the confusion and disturbance, you fail to recognize the divine presence in your life and the consciousness of your belovedness slowly fades."

It takes time for the water to settle. Coming to interior stillness requires waiting, any attempt to hasten the process only stirs up the water anew.

I got this from a handout I received at a contemplative group that I go to each week since last summer. For several years I've been screaming for solitude, didn't know exactly why but realized that I needed to be alone away from the words of other people and away from the confusion and noise of everyday life. This makes so much sense to me now, I am learning to practice silent solitude and it is difficult but I can already see it will help to transform my perspectives and heal me.


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