Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Solitude of the Heart

Continuing to think about “Seeking Solitude,” I just read the chapter called “The Discipline of Solitude” in Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. I really appreciate his thoughts on cultivating ,what he calls, "heart solitude":

“Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude.”

“Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds.”

“But loneliness or clatter are not our only alternatives. We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.”

Solitude is more than a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. Crowds, or the lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentivenessIn the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”

“Inward solitude has outward manifestations. There is the freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people but in order to hear the divine Whisper better. Jesus lived in inward “heart solitude.” He also frequently experienced outward solitude…the seeking out of solitary places was a regular practice for Jesus, so it should be for us.”

I also love this quote from St. John of the Cross that Brad Jersak highlights in the chapter called “The Meeting Place” in his book, Can You Hear Me?

"O thou soul, most beautiful of creatures, who so earnestly longest to know the place where thy Beloved is, that thou mayest seek him and be united to him! Thou are thyself that very tabernacle where he dwells, the secret chamber of his retreat where he is hidden. Rejoice, therefore, and exult, because all thy good and all thy hope is so near thee as to be within thee; yea, rather rejoice that thou canst not be without it, for lo, ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’”

And, recently, I’ve really enjoyed reading Henri Nouwen’s Circles of Love. I selected several of his daily readings related to this idea of the solitude of the heart:

“The discipline of solitude…is a simple, though not easy, way to free us from the slavery of our occupations and preoccupations and to begin to hear the voice that makes all things new.”

“The practice of a spiritual discipline makes us more sensitive to the small, gentle voice of God. The prophet Elijah did not encounter God in the mighty wind or in the earthquake or in the fire but in the small voice.”

“Through a spiritual discipline we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen. A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray, or to say it better, allows the Spirit of God to pray in us.”

“Those who have entered deeply into their hearts and found the intimate home where they encounter their Lord, come to the mysterious discovery that solidarity is the other side of intimacy. They come to an awareness that the intimacy of God’s house excludes no one and includes everyone. They start to see that the home they have found in their innermost being is as wide as the whole of humanity.”

“The center of my heart can become the place where God can hear the prayer for my neighbors and embrace them with his love.”

Lord, help our hearts to become this kind of home, so that you can speak both in and through us words of Truth and Grace. Help us to be listening for your “Divine Whisper” through the solitude of our hearts. 

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