Silence and Solitude


silence and solitude


Our fast-paced lives are filled with distractions, frequently leaving us disillusioned and dissatisfied -with ourselves, with others, and even with God. Spiritual practices that used to sustain us fall short when life circumstances bring us to the limits of our self. - Phileena Heuertz - Mindful Silence

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fed up with the constant input of daily life. From advertising, social media, the general noise of life—sirens, loud trucks, the train, I am surrounded by constant noise.

Have you ever felt dissatisfied, ever felt the longing of your soul, that subtle yet strong pull for something else?

Since I started working at Fuller and commuting on the Metro Gold Line, I’ve been able to listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts. While I’ve encountered some good reads (and some not as good ones), I sometimes feel the need to just sit on the train, headphones in, but not have anything on, I just sit there and simply listen to silence.

Silence is not the absence of sound, Silence is the absence of noise.

Silence is the removal of stimulation (visual and audio), the putting away of smartphones, the closing of our laptops, turning off our music and podcasts, and other-things-that-make-us-look-important and just sit and be still. Do you know what your breath sounds like? Do you know the sound of your heart’s prayer? Can you hear your own thoughts?

When I think about solitude, I immediately think of Jesus in the desert for 40 days and the ancient desert fathers, the cave-dwelling hermits of old. While I do believe there is immense value in personal and corporate retreat, I don’t think solitude equates with isolation.

In his book, Life Together, Bonhoeffer shares that we should use caution with the person who cannot be in community, but to the same degree, we should be aware of the person who cannot enter solitude. Solitude teaches us how to be in community, just as community teaches us to be in solitude. We must have both.

Solitude, for me, is a practice that goes along with silence. It is the removal of stimulation, of noise, and retreating into the presence of God. If we desire to know God, know others, and know ourself better, let us practice solitude and silence.

Step away to be with your thoughts without distraction, and learn to listen again to the deep yet subtle movement of God’s Spirit.

The Practice of Solitude and Silence

Getting started is always the hardest. Start with 30 minutes of distraction-free time with God. Set a timer and shut all the technology off. No music, no noise, just the sound of your soul reaching out to God.

If you are used to daily opportunities for silence, try spending 4-6 hours. Go for a walk, bring a snack, and enjoy being in the sound of nature.

Sometimes our living environments aren’t conducive to solitude and silence. See if you can find a place nearby where you know you will not be interrupted by others and allow yourself to sit with God.

Use this time to pray and listen. Try to listen more than you pray, but talk with God about the areas you are disillusioned and dissatisfied in life. What sorts of things frustrate you? What brings you joy? What is the state of your soul?

Enjoy the process. Seeking noiseless, distraction-free spaces can be challenging. Call a local church (Catholic churches can often be best for this) and see if their sanctuary or prayer chapel is open for prayer during the day.

There is a new movement taking place, a movement toward simplicity and silence and solitude that produces the deepening of our spirit’s capacity for formation.

There is a new book that is about to launch. My pre-order copy came in this week and I can’t recommend this resource enough! If you are ready to encounter Solitude and Silence in a new way, check out Phileena’s new book!