Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself (Teresa of Ávila).
By “solitude”, Foster means also to include “silence” and as usual warns against excess and vanity:
“The person who views the Disciplines as laws will always turn silence into an absurdity: ‘I’ll not speak for the next forty days!’”
Finding peace in the desert places is key to hearing the voice of God, but this does not mean to literally move to the desert. For most of us, that is not our calling.
Foster suggests that we try to find “little solitudes” to fill our day. Quiet places at work, outside, and at home can be havens of calm in our otherwise noisy lives. Once we are habituated to enjoying the quiet of our own company in the presence of God, we can then go further. Try to live an entire day without words at all. I would include here the words we read and type on screens — this is the great noise of our time. Then plan occasional longer retreats.
I would grade myself A- in the discipline of solitude, although that’s mainly a feature of a somewhat introverted character. Because I like being alone, Bonhoeffer’s warning is important to me:
“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community . . . Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.”
Still, it’s a happy thing to find a discipline which comes naturally, although I think I need to greatly reduce the e-noise in my life.
The church gets a B. When we want to we can do reverence very well. Witness our children who sit reasonably quietly for 70 minutes of sacrament meeting. But also witness the cacophony of noise that descends on our chapels once the amen is said. We also seem to abhor silence in fast and testimony meetings as if that is a bad thing. The Quakers are right: in the silence rather than our own babble is found the still, small voice. The retreat tradition is found somewhat in temple worship, especially in Europe where larger temples are built along with patrons’ hostels. As van Beek observed, something was lost in Dutch Mormonism when they had their own “small” temple and no longer went on week-long retreats to England or Germany.
How are you at the discipline of solitude?