Wellness Coach

Silence & Solitude

Collage Image from Phillips Collection

We are all called to sit still and be with the Creating Presence.
Returning to a remote House of Prayer in Sarita, Texas, for a five-day solitude retreat several years ago, I drove the last mile after passing through the gate with all the car windows open and took deep cleansing breaths. Then, the 1920s Spanish red-roofed Casa Grande came into view. Walking slowly down the steps into the dining room, I remembered to catch the screen door with my hand to keep it from making a banging sound.

On the bulletin board, my name was on an aqua note: “Welcome back. Your room will be Hannah”. The second story sparse porch room had a twin bed, a desk with a lamp, a chair, a dresser, and a crucifix on the wall.

Then, I once again reviewed the guidebook on observing silence and solitude:

• Walk at a slow pace.
• No TV. No music. No cell phones. No makeup. No jewelry.
• Coffee and tea are available only in the dining room.
• Be silent at meals and in rooms. No guests in rooms.
• Walk in silence, read in silence, meditate in silence, and eat in silence to listen to God.

The fidelity of my contemplative prayer practice that I learned at my first retreat [March 1987] has helped me to keep going through anxious days and the fires of sorrow. Each retreat revealed a part of me longing for Home. Solitude fostered a deep trust in that quiet place within me where I know that I belong to God.

As I walked in silence, the natural world opened my senses: A spider web glistened in the morning dew. Palm branches made a clacking sound as they caught a ride on the wind. Listening to the solitary note of a faucet dripping water into a rock bowl where cardinals and even javelina were refreshed. Walking west to catch the last rays of an orange ball sunset, a hush settled over the land as dusk came.

Solitude is essential for our spiritual lives… it is not immediately satisfying because we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. Henri Nouwen

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