Tag Archives: solitude

How Far Would You Go?

News on TV is fear driven,  panicky,  and biased.  I try not to  allow myself to be swayed by the media.  Sitting for any length with the media is neither good for my stress level or my soul.   I like  the facts, ma’am, then I will find a quiet place to ruminate on the facts.  When you think about it, a news fact only takes a few seconds or minutes at most to relay.  When the media reports for hours on end, we are receiving far more than facts.  It is like an injection of  fearful stress.  

The weather channel.  Online.  They have cool reports of neat things that I wouldn’t ordinarily know. I can enjoy them and they do not affect me like the news media.  

Like wonderful cloud formations.  Or one of a kind underwater photos.   

Last week they took me to monasteries around the world that literally hang off cliffs.   And now I ask again….How far would you go….for silence and rumination?  Would you hang onto a side of a cliff?  Would that be far enough away?

Do we need to go to the ends of the earth to find that silence?  Is it the only place that we can go to get far enough away from it all so we can hear ourselves think?  Better yet.. so we can hear God speak to us?  Hear Him help us understand all being heard in this really loud world?   So He can help us sift the worthwhile from the worthless?

I don’t know about you, but I am easily scared.  If I listen to the news media for any length of time, they accomplish their mission.

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It would be worth my while to travel to any one of these sacred places.  Not to mention,  breathtakingly cool.    But I still question…do I need to, to get what I need…which is peace, perspective, quiet, and answers.

In my experience?  No.

God hears me everywhere.  And God takes me where I am.   AS  I am.  Thank goodness, cause there is always some business that He needs to address with me.    I cannot hear Him unless I make myself available.  Going somewhere quiet IS necessary for me.  Not sure I have to go to the ends of the earth though.  I can’t concentrate on anything when there is something else going on.  Can you?

Going for a quiet walk works.  Sitting in a Chapel works.  Sitting in a room by my self works.  Staring out a window works.  Actually,  sitting at stop lights work.   I suppose it is just a matter of getting out of the world for a bit and stepping into His world is all that it takes.  Tell me, Lord.  Show me, Lord.

Have you ever noticed people who like silence and quiet have a calm, joyful quality about them?   I admire that.   It just occurred to me the reason may be that through their silent and quiet time, they are hearing God and receiving His graces to be calm, and grateful.  Wow.  I want that.

No matter our circumstances, we all can reach that same place with Him.  Any one of us can find a quiet place.  It is just a matter of choosing to do so or not.

God bless,

Karen

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Organic Hoosier Apple? And Thomas Merton?

The beauty queen of the Shieling.

The beauty queen of the Shieling.

Oxymoron?  I have been told there is no such thing as an organic Indiana apple.  We began out orchard from scratch 6 years ago.  This year was the first time blossoms presented themselves.  We decided to let the trees do their thing.  No sprays.  No powders.  No nothin’.  Just a dose of wishing and a little prayer.   Well.  Well.  Well.  Here we have an apple.  A most gorgeous one.

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Not a bad size either, if I do say so.    I will admit that this is by far the most beauteeful one of the bunch.  But the bunch tastes pretty wonderful.   We plan to cull them next year to hope for larger apples.

We have picked 4 five gallon buckets full.  Not bad for the first season.  And you are wondering….are they diseased?  Is there such thing as an organic Hoosier apple?  They are not diseased.  Nothing too terrible got to them.  They have this black splotchy stuff on them.   I have read that the black splotchy stuff is harmless and it washes them apples up nice and pretty.  Just like the store makes them.   I bet there are children (and adults) that think apples grow in the back room of the grocers.

Organic apples in Hoosierland do indeed exist.

End of apple story.  Have you heard of Thomas Merton?

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He was a Trappist Monk priest who lived as a hermit for many years at The Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky.  Wikipedia describes him as a poet, a social activist, and a student of comparative religion.   He was all those things but much more.   He is known for studying and embracing many other religions in an effort to bridge social/religious gaps between other religions and his, Catholicism.  An ambassador of sorts.

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He has written many really good books.  Look his work up if you haven’t already.

Thomas can be considered a “cool dude”.  He is by far not the stereotype priest or monk.  And has had much controversy surrounding his life because of his unconventionalism.  Life before monkhood took him places that made him very uncomfortable.  Same places I (and probably you too) have been.   He did not feel a part much of the time and felt out-of-place in this world.  Check.  Check.  Been there.  Alone in his thoughts often.  Check.  When he encountered life that included God, he began to feel more himself.  Though rebellion in a sense remained with him.

His writings have taught me about contemplative prayer and embracing solitude.  Contemplative prayer is a state, not too unlike meditation, that  you enter into with God and just be.  In His Presence.  I am with you, God.  Wholly.  I am sitting with You.   Opening a door to let your relationship grow on God’s terms and not yours.  By staying silent, we are inviting God to do the talking and not us.   It is a powerful form of prayer.  It is,  by and large,  the type of prayer that has so greatly enriched my relationship with Him. How can I hear Him if I am doing all the talking.  I really want to know what He has for me.  What He has to say to me.  And if I face the truth, what I have to say in any matter doesn’t work or matter or interest me.  Really.

He spent years in communication with other religious leaders and finally was able to participate in an interfaith conference between Catholic and non-Christian leaders in Bangkok in 1968.  He spoke at the conference, went back to his hotel to rest up and was electrocuted stepping out of  the shower and died at the age of 53.  Controversial even in death.    There are numerous books written by him that are wonderful, inspiring, and educational as well as an autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain, which is also a great read.

Apples and Thomas Merton are both food for the soul.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

• Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

God bless,

Karen

 

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Diggin’ a Ditch Where Silence Lives…

…Words sung by Dave Matthews.  Those words strike my core.  One of my favorite lines of all time.

 When I started spending a lot of time in my studio about 12 or so years ago, I  thought I was going stir crazy with the isolation.  I would emerge from the dungeon of creativity in late afternoon and be beside myself with the need to communicate.    I really thought that it was a negative.  You don’t understand, I have to be BY MYSELF ALL DAY !!!   is how I felt.  And it was,  as long as I thought of it in those terms.  Isolation.

BUT THEN ……. (I cant figure out how to make my font bigger on this program.  I would like to see those words bigger.)

…. I saw it differently.  I began to study Contemplative prayer.  It is  a type of prayer where you learn to sit in quiet.  And listen.  And learn.

It sounds like meditation.  And it IS a form of.

Wiki’s definition for meditation is:

The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices (like sports), which range from techniques designed to promote relaxation, contacting spiritual guides, building internal energy (chi, ki, prana, etc.), receiving psychic visions, getting closer to god, seeing past lives, taking astral journeys, and so forth, to more technical exercises targeted at developing compassion, love, patience, generosity, forgiveness and more far-reaching goals such as effortless sustained single-pointed concentration,[3

That is not what I wanted to learn.  That is WAY to broad for me.  Too much wiggle room.  I wanted a tight fit.  My intention was to narrow in on Christian contemplation.  The wiki definition refers to it as a “gaze of faith”  or “a silent love”.  I love that.  A silent love.  Wow.    It also says it is   “the soul’s inward vision and the heart’s simple repose in God.”

So,  in my journey,  I have learned that there is a difference between “isolation”  and “solitude” .  Isolation  can bring about negative feelings and emotions.  It is not intentional state of being.   We get stuck inside ourselves and negative thoughts and feelings swirl around.  It is just the act of being alone.

Solitude can be a rich experience where we empty the contents of our mind that  float around getting clogged and jammed and invite God in to teach us wisdom,  guide us and just simply love us.    But it is an intentional act.  We have to want it.

I am amazed at what difference it makes.  I leave my studio time  with a sense of calm and peace and a feeling of being loved.  It is truly remarkable.

You do not have to be sitting doing nothing to be in contemplative prayer.  You can be doing.  The only requirements are to allow your mind to empty.  And allow God to fill.   Pretty simple, eh?  Not really.  It is hard.  But anything we put our mind to is hard.   Dave’s  song is all about it.  Diggin’  a ditch aint no easy task.

Sometimes it takes A LONG time to quiet ourselves and just be.   We live in a loud,  over stimulated world.  The media and what not want us to be overloaded with “stuff”.   And it is SO easy to invite it all in.  And maybe we don’t want it all in,  but if we sit in its presence its comin’  ready or not.  Unless we get quiet with some solitude.

Also,  since it is a form of prayer  we have the idea that  we should be the ones doin’ all the talking.  Not so.  Speaking for myself,   I need to shut up every now so that I can hear, learn,  and be loved.

So, how can this be done?  It can be done anywhere, anytime.   Turn off external hardware (radio, tv, computer,etc.  It will all be there waiting for you.  And believe me when I say you will not be missing anything).  Invite God to your side.  Then just be.  When your mind wants to go somewhere without you.  Yank it back.    Your plan will suit it better.  Take in the present moment without making a judgement about it.  Look  what is going on outside your car window.  Without making a judgement about it.  Spend the moment NOT MAKING A JUDGEMENT about it.  Just take it in like it is the first time you’ve seen it.  Let your mind slip from that moment into the next and just sit in it keeping it open to hear what He wants you to see, hear and learn.  Without making a judgement about it.

Takes practice.  I hope you’ll give it a try.

It will take you to new heights.

God bless,

Karen

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