Routine

Today I did a little experiment with my daily solitude. I needed to run to the gas station to fill up my manly mini-van.  I journaled for a few minutes, read the next chapter in Mark (I have been reading through the Gospel of Mark lately during my daily solitude), and then took the rest of my daily solitude as I drove to get gas.

Surprisingly to me, this actually worked quite well. The key is, I had to be intentional about it. Under normal circumstances, I would have just listened to the radio. But instead, I turned the radio off and really took the time to reflect, spend some time in prayer, and just enjoy the silence.

Solitude doesn’t always mean you have to get away from everyone and everything. If you are intentional about it, sometimes you can experience solitude right in the midst of your daily routine.

Distractions

I am almost done with my first month of embracing daily solitude and am beginning to look forward to next month. ¬†Ultimately, this year long project is about developing habits. ¬†On the embrace side, I really want to focus on habits that I think will be beneficial. ¬†Focusing on something for a solid month is really a good start on developing a good habit. ¬† This last month, I have been re-developing an old habit. ¬†It has been so good to revisit solitude. ¬†I fully plan on keeping this month’s practice going forward. ¬†The temptation will be to take a little breather, but I really want this to be a habit… not just something I try for a month. ¬†So I am going to keep up with daily solitude. ¬†More on that when I post the month review.

As I move on to my first month of refrain… this is going to be about limiting distractions so I can focus on more positive things. ¬†Lately I have been working at learning some new skills. ¬†I have started learning HTML, CSS, and a little JavaScript. ¬†I am in the beginning stages, but so far I am really enjoying what I am learning. ¬†However, I’ve noticed that my progress has stalled over the last few weeks. ¬†I get to the end of the day, the kids go to sleep, and I just don’t feel like learning something or being productive. ¬†So I play a game, or two, or three… instead of diving into learning. ¬†I mostly play Settlers of Catan online, or Ticket to Ride on my iPad. ¬†And just like that, I can waste a whole evening. ¬†This month: ¬†none of that. ¬†I am going to refrain from “wasting” time online.

Wasting time online is a pretty broad category, but for me it really boils down to a few things. ¬†I really don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, as I mostly use it to communicate. ¬†So for me, Facebook will be fair game. ¬†It ¬†will mostly be refraining from playing games and mindless web surfing. ¬† I can quickly spend 45 minutes just browsing through ESPN. ¬†Oh.. that story on Peyton Manning looks interesting. ¬†Really, did I need to read that and 5 other articles about teams I don’t even root for?

There will probably be some grey areas that I will need to work through on the fly. ¬†I spend a decent amount of time reading blogs, but most of that I really see as beneficial and connected to things I am trying to learn more about. ¬†I don’t see most of that as wasting time, but it can get that way, so I’ll just have to try to stay on top of it. ¬†Another grey area is Twitter, where I mostly use it to follow organizations and keep up with friends… but from time to time I can spend more time there than is useful.

Just like this month, I’ll post over the month and record my progress as I refrain from “wasting time online”. ¬†I hope to be posting about some of the positive things I am using my time doing when I would normally be escaping into the land of games and mindless web browsing. ¬† It will be interesting to see if I just find other ways to waste time that are not “online”.

Just curious… if you were to spend a month refraining from wasting time online, what would be the main things you stay away from?

“What’s next”

You might think this is about next month, but it’s not! ¬†It’s actually about right now, which is ironical concerning the topic of this post.

I tend to be a “what’s next” type of person. ¬†I am often thinking about what might be just around the corner. ¬†I do this in big life decisions, but I also tend to do it with small things. ¬†Being a “what’s next” person can be good in some ways. ¬†I anticipate well. ¬†I can adjust quickly when things happen spontaneously. ¬†I am usually well prepared for things I know are coming up. ¬†Being a “what’s next” person can also be a bad thing. ¬†It means that at times, it is hard for me to just live in the present and enjoy the moment I am in.

I’ve noticed over the last week or so, that I am having an easier time just being present in the current moment. ¬†I wonder if that has at least something to do with practicing daily solitude.

When my family has an open weekend (one without a lot of stuff going on), I tend to get really antsy, not really knowing what to do. ¬†If I don’t have a project I am working on, or something coming up… I actually get pretty anxious. ¬†Last weekend was pretty open. ¬†I didn’t notice it at the time, but when I was journaling Sunday evening, it suddenly¬†occurred¬†to me… that despite having a weekend with not much going on, I didn’t get antsy and anxious like I normally do. ¬†Instead, I really just enjoyed the moment, the weekend. ¬†This is a great thing.

Ultimately, I want to be the type of person that can both be prepared and excited for what’s next (both big and small)… but also live fully in the present moment with the people I am so blessed to be around. ¬†What about you: ¬†are you a “what’s next” type of person? ¬†How can you live more fully in the present moment?

 

 

Why I Need Daily Solitude

Practicing solitude has been a part of my life since I was probably 11 or 12. ¬†In Jr. High and High School, it was mostly in the form of a daily devotion (about once or twice a week). ¬†I was encouraged to do this ¬†by my church and youth group. ¬†That was good, but in college a mentor of mine helped me see that solitude was much more. ¬†He helped me experience solitude beyond just a time to read something encouraging or challenging for the day. ¬†Solitude became an opportunity to get away from the pace of life… to reflect on what is really going on in my life… ¬† to be still and quiet for longer periods of time than I was accustomed to. ¬†I’ve learned over time that solitude means asking myself tough questions and looking closely at who I am becoming. ¬†It means seriously trying to listen for the voice of God in the midst of this crazy world we live in.

Solitude became a big part of my life and it has been ever since. ¬†But… it was never a daily thing. ¬†It never really needed to be. ¬†For most of my days since college, I would practice solitude here and there for longer periods of time. I might take a quiet walk for 2 hours one week. ¬†The next I might get away at a camp or church to find 2-3 hours of solitude. ¬†Sometimes I would go to a cabin for an overnight stay in solitude. ¬†Finding random opportunities for solitude worked pretty well for me as a single young-adult and even into my early 30’s.

Sometime over the past 3-5 years, all of that changed. ¬†I now have 3 kids, and before I quit my job, my professional life was also much¬†busier. ¬†Even now as a stay at home Dad (maybe even more so), I just don’t have random blocks of 2-3 hours to get away all that often. ¬†This was probably all a gradual change, so I didn’t really notice it. ¬†But after a while, I realized that solitude was no longer a regular part of my life. ¬†And that needed to change. ¬†That is why I am in need of daily solitude at this point in my life.

The past few weeks have been like visiting with an old friend. ¬†Spending time away from the normal pace of life, away from distractions, is just simply life giving. ¬†It is awesome. ¬†It really doesn’t matter whether it is 20 minutes a day, or 2 hours a week. ¬†Challenge yourself this week to find a way to spend some time in solitude.

 

Week 2 – Daily Solitude

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.

Sunny and Warm!

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…

 

Week 1 – Daily Solitude

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.

Busy-Ness

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.