Feel like you need a break? Maybe it’s time to practice solitude. That’s the advice in this post from my friend Lisa O’Brien (you can read more about her and her work with leaders at the end of this post). Lisa is a passionate leadership coach and spiritual director. Enjoy her wisdom and practical ideas as she encourages you toward a sacred place.
A sacred place is where your soul goes to be still and connect deeply. It’s a place where the distractions of this world seem to fade away. A place where your heart and soul expand with life. It’s a place that can be found in the practice of solitude.
The “place” can be an actual location. It can be in relationship. It can even be in the quiet of your own spirit.
Sacred places are an important part of our spiritual formation, maturity, and development. They provide us retreat, inspiration, and breath when most needed on our journey. They create a space for the deep work of our souls.
I see a common theme among many of my spiritual direction clients. It’s a theme of constant movement. There seems to be an epidemic of the human soul in constant motion.
Where do we think we are going? What are we trying to achieve? Why do we feel the need to always be moving?
Solitude is a very neglected discipline in today’s fast-paced culture. We often shy away, or run away, from the practice and even idea of solitude. I’m curious about our practice of desiring, praying, and striving for the very thing solitude provides, while avoiding solitude completely.
It’s as if our souls have adopted the convenience mentality. Our souls desire to be developed, but we are looking for a shortcut. Our hearts long to be discovered, but we seek a microwave solution. We crave real growth and maturity, but want to receive it in a drive-through scenario.
Solitude is important to our soul’s journey for a few reasons. It creates a space for us to listen, to rest, and to connect. It provides us the very things we are so busy trying to achieve, receive, and find with all our frantic movement.
So, how do we find it? How do we start to learn to practice solitude? What does it look like?
I’d love to suggest a few things to think about as you consider solitude.
Stop–There’s a rhythm that our souls are trying to find on this journey. It could be compared to a long road trip. The rhythm to a road trip includes forward movement and consistent stopping. Solitude becomes to our soul like a filling station on a long highway or a pit stop on a long and intense race. When our soul’s rhythm is always moving, we will eventually run out of gas. The first step to finding solitude is to actually stop moving, working, and striving. What does it look like to find the pause button for your soul?
Unplug–We are so connected through technology and are able to fill every single second of our lives. Solitude invites us to disconnect from all that noise and connect to the deepest parts of ourselves. It allows us to listen to the cries of our soul that are being drowned out by the constant noise. We are able to connect intimately with our Maker, letting Him fill the silence we create for Him. He is able to share deep mysteries, untold secrets, and profound truths with our hearts. This essential act of unplugging begins to make God more available to us. What does it look like for you to unplug?
Still–Learning to enter into solitude and be with what we find, is a process. Sometimes we see clearly the weariness of our own soul and it frightens us. Sometimes we run into the ways that weariness seeps out destructively in relationships and we want to turn away. Sometimes we come face to face with a profound loneliness that our soul feels when we find stillness. Something profound happens in us when we are courageous enough to just be still. We allow and invite God to do the work in us that only He can do! Be brave enough to find out who you are when you are completely still before your Maker.
Receive–Our souls have legitimate needs on this journey called life. The truth is, life has left many of us with weary and exhausted souls. They are tired and battered. Our ability to connect, love, trust, give, and receive are deeply impacted by the unseen weariness of our souls. In all honesty, our souls have a desperate need to receive and receive deeply. We find “snacks” for our souls’ deep need in books, activities, sermons, acts of service, inspirational quotes, relationships, and many other places. Yet the real need for sustenance in our souls goes unmet by neglecting solitude. What does your soul most deeply need to receive?
I’m reminded of a beautiful scripture written by Moses. The moment is one of profound need and weariness. One that speaks to us today.
The people of Israel had escaped slavery in Egypt through miraculous intervention. They found themselves with the Red Sea ahead of them and the whole of the Egyptian army in pursuit behind them. They started to panic! They were screaming, complaining, becoming angry, strategizing, devising plans, and desperate for a way out. Moses wisely said this:
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14).
I wonder, what deep need are you chasing after with a fury? What battle are you trying to win for yourself? What does it look like to just be still?
Lisa is a certified professional leadership coach, spiritual director, author, and speaker. She has served over 25 years in various areas of leadership development, spiritual direction, recovery, non-profit, church planting, pastoral counseling, and faith-based ministry. Lisa is currently living abroad with her family in the United Kingdom.
© 2016 Amy Simpson.