Having just written about the importance of wandering into Home within a spiritual community, I feel led to reflect on the other side of the coin: the gift of sacred solitude. If there are times when the soul is fainting within from the absence of nourishment by a beloved community, aren’t there also times when the press of too many noisy or needy people around us calls us into the reverence of being alone? Aren’t there inner nudges inviting us to steal away into stillness before or after we have been in the throng of the human family?
John O’Donohue wrote the following concerning this paradox: “If we become addicted to the external, our interiority will haunt us. We will become hungry with a hunger no image, person, or deed can still,” (p. xvi). In such times he says we need to “explore the art of inner friendship. When you cease to fear your solitude, a new creativity awakens in you. Your forgotten or neglected inner wealth begins to reveal itself. You come home to yourself and learn to rest within,” (pp. xviii-xix).
Soon I will be gathering with a group of seniors at the Mercy Endeavors Senior Center for a brief time of sharing and then centering prayer. Then I will gather some clothing from a new widow in our church. Then I will facilitate a centering prayer group at Loyola University. Then I will offer spiritual direction with a participant in our School for Contemplative Living. Then I will join our homeless friends and volunteers in our Good Samaritan/Open Table ministry. The day will be full of time spent in community.
So as the sun rose this morning my life asked me to start slowly in sacred solitude: sacred yoga in our extra bedroom, concluded with silent sitting, a little spiritual reading, a little breakfast, and some time to listen to this reflection as it emerged within me. First the stillness in solitude, and later the sharing in community. As John O’Donohue said, “No one else cane bring [me] news of this inner world.” So first things first on a contemplative path: first the sacred solitude, and then the sacred community.