And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place
and rest a while.” Mark 6:31a (ESV)
In last week’s post, Spiritual Practices for Soul-Unhurry, we looked briefly at six practices for weaving in times of quiet and rest into our rhythm of life for the health of our soul.
Among the practices listed in that post (solitude, silence, prayer, practicing God’s presence, slowing down, and journaling), SOLITUDE is perhaps one of the – if not the – most difficult for us to implement. And for so many reasons: no time, too busy, can’t be still that long, the quiet is maddening, don’t know how.
This week, let’s consider some tips for observing a time of SOLITUDE so that we can begin to weave it into our life rhythm.
TIPS FOR OBSERVING A TIME OF SOLITUDE
• Plan it. Put your time of solitude on your calendar. Rearrange schedules of necessary.
• Choose a place. Base your selection on the amount of time available to you. If you only have a few hours, prepare a spot in your home or head out to a nearby park or local coffee shop. You might even choose to observe the time in your church sanctuary if it is available. (If you have small children, arrange for a babysitting or call Grandma!) For those times when you have a couple of days or so to devote to your time of solitude, consider scheduling a visit to a retreat center, hotel, cabin in the woods, or your favorite beach.
• Pack a bag. Think ahead about what you need to take along and make sure you have it with you. (Again, this will depend upon the amount of time you have for this experience.) Items to consider: Your Bible, an alternate translation (for hearing the words from a fresh perspective), a journal, something to write with, water, snacks, additional clothing and toiletries for over-nights. **These items are important. You don’t want your time interrupted because you have to go get something. However, take care not to place too much emphasis on the “things.” This time away is all about spending uninterrupted time with God.
Begin your time with no agenda. That’s a hard one for many of us, myself included. If it’s hard for you, then acknowledge it. Begin by giving your agenda to God. Agenda or not, surrender this time of solitude to Him.
3. SIT IN SILENCE
Take the first twenty or thirty minutes to do nothing except listen. (Of course, this time frame can be adjusted based on the total amount of time you have allotted to your particular solitude experience.) During this time simply be quiet. Don’t speak. I know, this one is difficult. We want to talk. Our default is to talk. But fight through it. Be quiet. Simply sit in the stillness. Or be quiet as you take a lingering stroll. Be a listener, not a speaker.
4. GIVE THANKS
Gratitude is evidence of unhurry. A hurried life often fails to see. It fails to pause. As a result, the giving of thanks is seldom offered. Time is required for one to notice and acknowledge.
Become as quiet on the outside as you are able. Linger with your Heavenly Father. We are doers. We want to make the most of our time and are, therefore, so often tempted to be DOING good things (and as many as possible, at that). This time of solitude is a time to be alone and quiet in His welcoming presence. Choose to simply be. Be present. Be attentive. He is enjoying your presence. Enjoy His.
6. SOLA SCRIPTURA
The Bible is God’s very word. Remember: during times of solitude we want to resist “doing.” However, reading God’s Word is a wonderful way to sit with Him and enjoy His presence.
7. GET A HANDLE ON DISTRACTIONS
When distractions come – and they WILL come – choose to let them pass on by. If that strategy doesn’t work for you, try keeping a pad of paper and pen nearby so that you can jot them down as they come to mind and then move on. Another option is to make the choice to include your distractions in your time with the Lord: give thanks to Him for them, make a request concerning them, or commit them to His care.
8. BRING CLOSURE
Just as you made intentional preparation for this time of solitude, be sure to be intentional in bringing it to a close: reflect, give thanks, journal, pray… Create your own “closing tradition.”
Weave these times of solitude into your life rhythm as often as you need (as often as it takes for your soul to receive nourishment and to be healthy). Your schedule may allow weekly observations or it may require monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly observances. Rhythm and variation may even be found in your SOLITUDE schedule as you choose to schedule monthly two-hour times of solitude with a once or twice a year two-day observance.