Awakening: Solitude

Hi Everyone, I pray blessings upon you, that you are experiencing the presence of God in every moment of your days. Now is a good time to be still and let God speak in your heart.

As we continue to explore the contemplative life I would like to consider together two key components, which are solitude and silence. This week and the next two weeks we will consider solitude, followed by a three week exploration of silence. This will bring us to the season of Advent.


“The ears with which one hears the message of the Gospel are hidden in a person’s heart, and these ears do not hear anything unless they are favored with a certain interior solitude and silence.”

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, pg. Xii

There are two important components for the development of contemplative listening; these being solitude and silence. These stand at the heart of our exploration into contemplative listening. First, we will consider solitude followed by silence. Historically solitude has been sought in two manners, 1) by an eremitic life in which isolation becomes the primary milieu and 2) through an interior solitude that is developed in the process of life lived together with other people. Both carry with them their own difficulties, as the hermit in solitude can easily carry the distractions of the world with them into the desert. Likewise, the person seeking interior solitude in the midst of all life’s interactions and distractions have their own problems dealing with distraction. However, whichever way solitude is sought there are three common and necessary components which need to be developed; these being, discernment, humility, and an inner withdrawal from controversy. For the person who is active in community these need to be done within the context of regular participation and cooperation with others. It is the inner solitude and silence of the active that we will address over these six weeks.

Over the coming weeks we will consider solitude for the active person at three levels, which are 1) personal, 2) in community and 3) that of the world. This week we consider personal solitude.

Time alone, just you and God. Discovering or rediscovering the kingdom of God within you. This is something we do by settling ourselves down, away from everyday life.

“Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon God in yourself”

Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle

During this time we ask God to reveal distractions and blockages in our life: such things as avarice, self-centeredness and greed, to mention a few. We ask the Lord to give us the strength to confront these blockages, head on. With the psalmist we pray…

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

NRS Psalm 139:23-24

During this personal time in solitude we intentionally remove ourselves for the world. We do not do this because other people are so annoying to us, as much as this may be true from time to time, but so we can address and remove any contentiousness tendencies within us that arise from our desire to change them.

Abba Apphy struggled with his sense of inner solitude when he was forced to leave his life in eremitic solitude when he became a Bishop of Oxyrhynchus. He even asked himself if God had withdrawn grace from him for becoming a Bishop. Having prayed he realized that when he was in the desert “there was no one else but God to help him. Now that he was in the world, it was people.”

During our time in personal solitude we are to sit at the feet of God, our only helper, asking to be trained to go into community and then into the world with the same heart that we have developed.


Write a paragraph or two describing a time of personal solitude in your life. If you cannot seem to recall one, write an imaginative description of how you would expect the experience would feel to you.

Continued next week with “Solitude in Community.”

1 Excerpt from The Awakening Institutes five week study on Contemplative Listening. For more details and a free syllabus feel free to email… , or visit our website

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