“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” – Hans Margolius
It’s no secret that we are bombarded everyday with countless messages. In America alone, advertising is a $412 billion/year industry that is constantly telling us what to watch, where to go, and what to purchase. Their messages fill our televisions, radios, computers, newspapers, magazines, and morning commutes. The industry gladly spends this money because they know over time, they will shape our minds, hearts, and spending habits. Add all of the political pundits and experts filling our airwaves telling us how we should think… and it becomes increasingly clear that we are bombarded nearly every moment of our lives with messages that others want us to hear and believe.
All of these messages inevitably begin to shape our lives. Our heart and mind is indeed influenced by the messages that enter through our eyes and ears. And our life is slowly whittled away and re-formed by the loudest voices that get through (it’s no reason they are shouting so loud for our attention).
Whether you are pursuing a “less is more” lifestyle or just trying to find more health and fulfillment in your life, you will find countless benefits from embracing a discipline of solitude.
Solitude provides opportunity to rediscover our lives. By “electing to intentionally withdraw from human relationships for a period of time,” we are able to remove the shaping influence of others and recenter our hearts on our deepest values. We are able to evaluate the assumptions, claims, and messages of our culture. Often times, we realize that these shaping forces have been incorrect all along. And we have lost our lives because of them.
Consider that when we embrace solitude…
- We intentionally remove the influence of others for period of time.
- We intentionally remove the expectations of others.
- We are able to hear our own heart speak.
- We find rest and refreshment.
- We discover that others can live without us.
- We find that the world does not rest on our shoulders.
- We can adequately reflect on our past and chart our future.
- We break the cycle of busyness in our lives.
- We become better equipped to show patience with others.
- We feed our souls.
While anyone can practice solitude at any given time by just finding a quiet place to sit for an extended period of time, I have found these tips to be particularly helpful in developing a discipline of concentrated solitude:
- Give yourself enough time. If you are just starting, try 30 minutes. Typically, the first 15 minutes are filled with a busy mind still running fast. But after about 15 minutes, your mind will slow down enough to offer you deep reflection. And the longer you give it, the deeper it will go.
- Schedule time. If you are just hoping for an extra 30-45 minutes to show up in your day for solitude, it’ll never come. Time for solitude must be desired, scheduled, and created.
- Find a calm location. Your surroundings will make a big difference. Avoid “fast-paced” locations such as offices, kitchens, or any place that reminds you of work. Also keep in mind that you’ll find solitude more fulfilling if your space is uncluttered.
- Take as little as possible with you.
- Just allow your mind to wander. There are no set rules concerning what you should be thinking about. Just let your mind wander. As I mentioned, it will skip around at the very beginning. But eventually, your mind will settle in on something that your heart has been trying to tell you all along.
- Don’t quit just because you don’t like what you find. The journey into our heart is not always a pretty one. Sometimes when we start pulling back the layers of our heart and realize our deepest motivations, we don’t like what we see. This can be difficult for some and cause even more to stop altogether. But, don’t. A richer, fuller life is just around the corner.
- Don’t worry if you fall asleep. While solitude is different than napping, if you consistently find yourself falling asleep during these quiet periods, your mind may be trying to tell you something. And you should probably listen.
- Pray. If you are spiritual, certainly use this time to connect with God. If you are not spiritual, solitude just may put you more in touch with God if you are open to it. Because God often speaks with a small voice that is drowned out by the world’s noise, we can’t hear it until we intentionally listen for it.
Give solitude a chance. You’ve got nothing to lose. And your life to gain back.