For those who know me, you can attest to the fact that I am generally a “people” person. I love people watching, learning from people, and I especially love talking to people. I would consider myself an extrovert, and the many personality tests I have taken confirms that fact. Yet no matter how extroverted someone might be, everyone needs some alone time.
In today’s high-paced culture sound and noise surround us. Rarely are we allowed to be alone with our thoughts or to appreciate and embrace silence. If we are not filling the space with people, then it is some other device like the soft hum of a TV left on, or ear-buds transferring sounds from our ipods to our minds for an entire day. Today’s culture craves noise. I would even be so bold to claim that there is a fear developing in our society that avoids silence and clings to noise.
Thankfully, I recently had an opportunity to experience silence in a new way. Myself and 5 others went to a retreat center where they had individual cabins for people to spend a day in solitude. Although I was unsure what to expect, it turned out that a day of solitude was exactly what I needed. For the first half of the morning, we were asked to review the year in full, writing down our blessings and challenges that we had encountered. I was amazed at how many blessings I had forgotten about and even more amazed that my blessings list for each month was larger than my challenges list.
After the first half of the day, some of us gathered for a brief 15 minute lunch. I was honestly surprised when I heard a knock on my cabin telling me that it was time for lunch. I seriously questioned where all the time had gone. After the short interruption, we went back to solitude, this time focusing on our goals for the rest of the year and to take some time to pray. The second half of the day was probably even better than the first half. Alone to my thoughts and prayers, I was able to listen, really listen. During that time, I learned about myself, heard God talk to me through my thoughts, and was able to look forward with a clear, hopeful mind. It might seem exaggerated that I received all this from just a bit of solitude, but in all honesty, it was incredible.
Before we did the solitude retreat, we had been asked to read an article on solitude. The article explained that solitude, although can be difficult, actually enriches the time spent with others. When we spend all our waking hours with people and noise, we tend to lose focus on our own thoughts and can experience a fatigue from being around noise. We might not recognize the cause of the fatigue, and may even deny that it could have any relation to constantly being around people, but it does ware us down. When we take some time of solitude, we are enabling ourselves to be recharged and therefore have more endurance and patience when we are with others. Not only that, but we are able to discover new things about ourselves, confront what our hearts are telling us, and appreciate noise more fully after a period to ourselves.
For me personally, I hope to make it a goal to have a day of solitude at least one time a year, and I highly recommend it. It might take some feelings of slight discomfort, but if you can forge past the discomfort you will be able to perceive silence and sound in a new way.