Tuesday, February 22, 2011

on silence & solitude

I've been reading Henri Nouwen's book, "The Way of the Heart". The first section focuses on solitude and then he looks at silence. After that he talks about prayer.

I thought it strange at first - and then it hit me.

We need to be comfortable in solitude because it is in solitude that we face ourselves. No longer distracted by "doing", it becomes the place of purification and transformation; a place of great struggle and great encounter. This purifying and transforming process has as its result, great compassion. "In solitude, we realize that nothing human is alien to us, that the roots of all conflict, war, injustice, cruelty, hatred, jealousy, envy are deeply anchored in our own heart. As a result, solitude molds self-righteous people into gentle, caring forgiving persons who are so deeply convinced of their own great sinfulness and so fully aware of God's even greater mercy tat their life itself becomes ministry. In such a ministry there is hardly any difference left between doing & being."

On silence, he writes, "Silence guards the fire within; Silence teaches us to speak." It reminded me of the many times that I have "shared with others" those things that were on my mind only to come away feeling that I wasn't heard or that I lost something that was precious to me. We live in a world where we are afraid of, and uncomfortable with, silence. He suggests that "simply not speaking is a very important practice... it is a good discipline to wonder in each new situation if people wouldn't be better served by our silence than by our words".

Now that we've understood solitude and the importance of silence we turn our thoughts to prayer. Solitude is being alone with God. It is in our silence that we begin to listen to God. It is this context of solitude & silence within which prayer is practiced. More on that tomorrow. . .

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