The Art of Solitude
I’ve written a couple of times recently about the book Gift from the Sea because I think that it is full of lots of wisdom that we can still apply to our lives today. Yesterday, I was reading the third chapter titled “Moon Shell,” and with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s focus on centering and balance, I thought about the Art of Solitude.
Now, you may be wondering why I (and Lindbergh) called it an Art, but hopefully what follows will suffice to explain that thought process. But before we get to that, let’s backup and look at solitude through the lens that Lindbergh would have seen solitude.
1950 vs. 2017
At the time that Gift from the Sea was originally published, Lindbergh saw the world as constantly demanding of the time and attention of women of the “Modern Era.” I would be interested to see how she might have reacted to the world in which we now live. Between keeping up with the Kardashians and keeping up with the Joneses, how could it even be possible to disconnect? When you think about it in terms of missing out on the latest social media update or the newest episode of your favorite TV show, how can we possibly take time away in our ever connected world?
In the 1950’s, being pulled in multiple directions meant that you were over committed socially. Now, we are over committed socially, over committed at work, over committed at church. We are Tweeting and Posting at all hours. Responding to messages and comments while doing five other things. I’m a single adult, so I know my schedule is not nearly as packed as some of my friends who have spouses and kids to wrangle, and yet we are constantly striving to add more to our days. More ways to gain efficiencies.
Some of you who are the over achievers that always have fifteen things on your to-do list won’t see the value in this right away, but hear me out. I think there needs to be a shift in our culture to allow for and even encourage idle time. I’m not talking about time spent sitting on our thumbs bored out of our collective gourds. I am, however, talking about leisure time that can be devoted to the activities that work to recharge our collective batteries.
In this, Lindbergh got it right, and I see it as a direct extension of the Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Although we may not call it by the same name, practicing solitude and reflection are exactly the tasks that should be accomplished during a Sabbath.
I’d like to share a few quotes on this from the book that are really what spurned me to think on solitude as much as I have:
Page 36: it is a difficult lesson to learn today – to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.
- This is the hard part in our modern world, and I have a very hard time with it two. making the deliberate choice to disconnect from people and to have some time alone is hard enough. Making the choice to also leave music and TV and social media behind and just be alone with one’s thoughts is even harder, but a very real necessity because otherwise how will we know ourselves?
Page 38: when one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others
- Lindbergh points out that without times of being alone for reflection, we can’t truly know who we are. Without knowing who we are, it becomes nearly impossible to minister into the lives of those around us. If we expected our pastors and teachers to deliver effective lessons with very little time in reflection and prayer, then we would receive only the bare minimum result when it came time for them to preach or teach. It is only when we are still and focused that we can begin to hear from God.
Page 44: these are among the most important times in one’s life – when one is alone. Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray.
- Solitude is essential for reaching your full potential as well. When we are constantly surrounded by the noise of life, it becomes increasingly difficult if not impossible entirely for your inward creativity to find an outlet. If, however, you put safeguards in place in your own life to guard time for solitude, rest, relaxation, and creative expression, then you will find, not only that you are an immensely creative individual, but also that your ability to be creative will grow. It is in growing this side of your life that you are refilled to be able to give more to the daily demands of life.
Page 47: (at Church) here, finally and more deeply, woman was whole, not split into a thousand functions. She was able to give herself completely in that hour in worship, in prayer, in communion, and be completely accepted. And in that giving and acceptance she was renewed; the springs were refilled.
- If you’re not someone who finds creative expression through the standard artistic outlets, never fear. Instead, I point you to Christ and worship. In authentic worship, you can also be filled. Because of how quickly our reserves for service are depleted though, I urge you to not just wait for Sunday morning to be found in worship. Instead, I encourage you to use your IDLE TIME in meditating on God’s words and praying for his voice to speak to ou through them.
Page 48: how can a single weekly hour of church, helpful as it may be, counteract the many daily hours of distraction that surround it?
- I will urge you though to not rely on the words of the Pastor on Sunday to build you up, but rather to find and identify your IDLE TIME and to utilize it to serve the Kingdom.
So how does one practice the art of solitude in the world in which we live? I know that not all of these ideas are ones that everyone could accomplish based on their personal journey, but I’m hopeful that if you have a method for practicing solitude that works that you’ll be willing to share it.
- Disconnect – To truly get to a place of solitude, it will take distancing yourself from the pull of daily life. Turn off the cell phone and laptop. Turn off the TV and tablet. Remove the temptation to check your social media feed and enjoy the moment you are living in.
- Distance – Sometimes, solitude will require a physical distance. For me, the time of solitude that I enjoy most each week is not devoid of human interaction, but it doesn’t particularly pull them in for interraction either. Instead, a time frame must be set to physically remove yourself from the temptation to engage with the world around you.
- Discipline – This is the part that I think will honestly be most difficult for anyone wanting to practice the art of solitude. Having the attitude to move forward one step at a time is the epitome of courage and discipline. It takes discipline to not rush ahead of God’s plan,
So that’s my challenge to you….examine your days and weeks and carve out some time from your regular schedule to practice solitude. To practice introspection. To spend time with God. Although he does speak to people through corporate worship, I also believe that the best way to grow as a true follower of Christ is to spend individual time in worship and prayer and studying the word.
In what ways do you practice solitude, and how does it replenish your day?
Soli Deo Gloria