Practical Advice on Solitude
— from Dallas Willard:
Every person should have regular periods in life when he or she has nothing to do. Periods of solitude and silence are excellent practices for helping us learn how to do that. The law that God has given for our benefit tells us that one-seventh of our time should be devoted to doing nothing—no work, not by ourselves or any of our family, employees, or animals. That includes, of course, religious work. This is Sabbath.
What do you do in solitude or silence? Well, so far as things to "get done," nothing at all. As long as you are doing "things to get done," you have not broken human contact. So don't go into solitude and silence with a list. Can we enjoy things in solitude and silence? Yes, but don’t try to. Just be there. Don’t try to get God to do anything. Just be there. He will find you.
Even lay aside your ideas as to what solitude and silence are supposed to accomplish in your spiritual growth. You will discover incredibly good things. One is that we have a soul. Another, that God is near and the universe is brimming with goodness. Another, that others aren’t as bad as we often think. But don’t try to discover these, or you won’t. You’ll just be busy and find more of your own doings.
The cure for too-much-to-do is solitude and silence, for there we find that we are safely more than what we do. Thus, the cure of loneliness is solitude and silence, for there we also discover in how many ways we are never alone. When we go into solitude and silence, we need to be relatively comfortable. Don’t be a hero in this or in any spiritual discipline. You will need rest. Sleep until you wake up truly refreshed. And you will need to stay there long enough for the inner being to become different. Muddy water becomes clear only if we let it be still for a while.
You will know that this finding of soul and God is happening by an increased sense of who you are and a lessening of the feeling that you have to do this, that, and the other thing that befalls your lot in life. That harassing, hovering feeling of "have to" largely comes from the vacuum in our soul, where we ought to be at home with our Father in his kingdom. As the vacuum is rightly filled, we will increasingly know that we do not have to do many of those things—not even those we might want to do.
Excerpted from Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks by Dallas Willard.
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Pastor Mark loves his wife and grown children, the Word of God, and words. And coffee, chocolate chip cookies, Apple products, small video projects, and the New England Patriots.