Thursday, August 16, 2012

The challenge of solitude reveals our need for it

Probably next to fasting, the most challenging of the spiritual disciplines is that of solitude. Henri Nouwen captured the challenge of this discipline by showing us how its challenge reveals our need to practice it.
"As soon as we are alone,...inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distraction, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important."

Even Heidegger noted how we effectively employ distractions to avoid the only question that really matters, the question of our being, the discovery of our I, the discovery of our authentic selves, which is necessary in order to live authentically.

John O'Donohue wrote, "Solitude gradually clarifies the heart until a true tranquility is reached. The irony is that at the heart of that aloneness you feel intimately connected with the world."

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