Thursday, April 05, 2007

Come Apart Before You Come Apart

Silence and solitude are important spiritual disciplines that we must all cultivate. Henri Nouwen observes that many of our ministries follow a certain pattern. We start by starting a ministry which usually leads to frustration. Then we ask certain people whom we think can help us but in the process create certain problems. Then we pray to God to help us solve these problems. Much of our lives are a vicious cycle of hustle and bustle.

Jesus, during his early ministry takes time out for some time of silence and solitude. We too need time out for silence and solitude because our bodies are not built for constant stress.

What are some of the benefits of a time of silence and solitude? First, we will develop a discerning spirit. We get to know the Holy Spirit better when we are silent and when we are alone. Then there is no distraction. There is time to think and reflect. This will sharpen our skills of spiritual discernment.

Second, our prayers will become more natural, not hurried and more meaningful. Our prayers become a conversation rather than shopping lists. Our prayers become the second word. The first word is when God speaks to us. The second word is when we speak to God.

Third, silence and solitude makes us more sensitive to people. After a time alone, we drop our social armours, masks and walls. We discover that constant interactions with people can make us callous and insensitive. A time of silence and solitude can help us to become more sensitive to people again.

Finally, silence and solitude helps us to face our death. This may some strange but we all die alone. Silence and solitude helps us to come to terms with ourselves and makes us more aware of our own mortality.

We can practice silence and solitude without going on a retreat. Most of us associate silence and solitude with a retreat. Yes, a retreat will be an idea place for prolonged silence and solitude and all of us should aim to spend some time every year in a spiritual retreat. However we can also have silence and solitude in our everyday life. Take a long and solitary walk everyday or as often as you can. Take a walk with a friend and agree not to say anything. You can also decide to spend a day of silence in your home or check yourself into a hotel. There are many other ways to find silence and solitude. It is a matter of whether we want to do it or not.

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