Now that we are almost half-way through the month, I am beginning to notice some interesting things about practicing daily solitude. Here are a few thoughts so far:
- Anxiety: I don’t consider myself overly anxious, but I have noticed that I have been less anxious when I practice daily solitude. I am the type of person who quite possibly thinks too much. As I often over-think things during the normal course of the day, some of that can turn into anxiety. So far, taking daily time to reflect helps me keep a better perspective and keeps much of that anxiety at bay.
- Spending daily time in the Scriptures: Over the first part of the month, I started reading through Philippians during my daily solitude. Since I have finished Philippians, I have started reading a Psalm a day. To be honest, when I read scripture on a regular basis, I typically end up with more questions than I do answers. Depending on who you talk to, this could be good or bad. But despite the big picture questions that rattle around in my over-thinking head, I also feel more grounded and challenged to live more fully. This is a good thing…
It will be interesting to see after a year of embrace / refrain, which practices I keep and which ones I don’t. This is a practice I have used on and off for years, but I have always seen the value in a reflective way of life. I hope this is a practice that I re-develop into a daily habit.
The last two days have been 50 degrees and sunny here in West Michigan. That is just slightly warmer (say about 40 degrees) than normal and I think we have exceeded our normal days of sunshine for January as well. I had the chance to get outside for my daily solitude and it was awesome. Yesterday, I sat and journaled at a park while my kids played, then we went for a hike. Today, I got out to a local park and went for a 4 mile hike. I have really been enjoying finding time each day to spend away from distractions, but when I am outside it is even better. The snow and cold return to normal tomorrow…
I am not sure 20 minutes a day actually counts as solitude… but I am 6 days in. I have been taking about 20-25 minutes a day to reflect and be quiet (and away from screens and such). After six days, that has amounted to a little over two hours. Funny, if I had planned on spending 2 hours a week, I probably would still have 2 hours to go and I’d have to fit it all in tomorrow. 20 minutes a day hasn’t felt like much at all.
Overall, practicing daily solitude has been going well. I don’t have anything huge to report, which is probably to be expected after just a week of practicing something. I have really noticed the resistance I often feel to actually stepping away from whatever is that I think is so important. It’s hard to believe that checking my email or RSS feed for the 50th time could be important… but I’ll find any excuse I can to keep myself busy and entertained. Despite the resistance I feel, once I actually step away I find time in solitude very refreshing and life-giving.
I didn’t have an initial plan for how to use my time. So far my time has been mostly spent journaling, doing some form of breath prayer or centering prayer, and reading slowly through Philippians. These are practices I have done before, so it’s not surprising that I started there. When I do take time to be quiet, these are the practices I tend to default to.
As I head into week 2, I hope to find a day to spend closer to an hour in solitude. I’d also like to get outside (especially if we can get some SNOW!) for at least a day or two next week as well. I find that I most easily decompress and reflect when I am outside, in the woods, going for a walk.
It really struck me today how so many things seemed to be drawing me away from actually taking the 20 minutes to step away and just be. I need to check this website, or I need to get this done, or I need to… and so on. Busy-ness has just become what I am, whether or not I am actually busy or not. Today was one step toward something different.
I’m very excited to be on the eve of my first month for Embrace / Refrain. I am a little sad that it falls on New Years Eve, since as I am writing this it feels like a New Years Resolution. That is not what this is at all. The whole idea has been rattling around in my head for awhile now, and it’s pure coincidence that my first month is January. But since I initially wanted to try this for a year, January works well enough.
My first project is to spend 20 minutes in solitude a day. It can be more, but I’d like to make it through the 31 days of January without it being less. My ground rules are simple: No screens, no people, 20 minutes. It almost sounds too easy. Yet, as I look at the last month, I have maybe done this intentionally once or twice. I will try to use this time wisely, but I don’t have a prescribed way to go about it. Some days I might journal, others I may just spend the time in silence. I don’t plan on using the time to read, but I will likely use it to reflect on passages of scripture and poetry.
I used to spend a regular amount of time in solitude and reflection. It wasn’t necessarily daily time, but it was definitely much more than I currently do. I hope that this month helps me rediscover the beauty of that time and redevelop a habit of spending time regularly in quiet.