“There should be at least one room, or some corner, where no one will find you and disturb you. You should be able to untether yourself from the world and set yourself free, losing all the fine strings and strands of tension that bind you, by sight, by sound, by thought, to the presence of other men.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)
Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky, who achieved fame as a spiritual writer. His books were written in such a way, that many Catholic Christians could understand and strive for a deeper spiritual life. To help one’s spiritual life along, Merton, along with spiritual writers before and after him, saw the need for some solitude. Merton had his own hermitage, for many of us; it may be a room with a closed door or a secluded spot in a backyard. We may find seclusion in a park, or even in a public library. It may be found in a church, or on a beach. It is just important to find a place where one can be still, both in body and mind. In that stillness, one becomes open to the Presence of God.
Of course, this is easier said, than done! When I try to sit quietly in a room, by myself, the more I try to quiet my mind, the more the monkey inside my head comes out to play. Some Zen meditation practitioners speak of the monkey mind, which skitters from one thought to another. One remedy is the practice of centering prayer, focusing on a one word mantra, like “Father,” or “Jesus”; repeating the word slowly, slowing your breath; when a thought pops up, acknowledge it, and let it go. Another remedy is the Jesus Prayer; slowly repeating the prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us!” Finally, there is reading Sacred Scripture, slowly, prayerfully, until a word or phrase suddenly strikes you, you begin to repeat the word or phrase over and over, reflecting on the word or phrase means for you.
The ultimate goal is to be still in mind and soul, to be open so that God can come in and touch us. The experience can be intense, it can be mild; but each of us is called to be open to an encounter with our loving God.
One thought on “A Place of Solitude”
Thank you. Yes indeed I 100% relate to what you have written here. More and more I have come to realise that as this world sinks into more and more (deception) connection with the Divine is vital. Not the prayers that (bounce off the ceiling or seem to but the absolute certainty of Divine Connection). My quiet place has a view through the trees. I find if I focus on the space between the trees – the patch of sky – I simply ask in faith that I might (ie connect, plug in). Truly my awareness of Him has sharpened. It’s almost as the dark is more visible in the natural the Light of Christ is beginning to shine more clearly in the supernatural and prayer, relationship, connection is His desire. I value your blogs and your wisdom. Always appreciation.
(A collection of some of my morning devotions published by Upper Room has just been published last week. ‘Our God Lives! It contains a sharing about my cousin . She lived the final years of her life in a Catholic Nursing Facility. Her example as a 90+ was truly inspirational. ‘Just leave me with the Lord for one hour’ she told them. Each day 1 hour. She simply sat. The room was filled with peace and her face was a delight to behold. ‘It’s all about the SPIRIT’ she told the all. ‘Thank God for Pentecost. Christ’s Spirit lives in me and all else simply fades away as we connect.’