Most mornings I begin the day in my version of a monastery; the room I call the garret. I climb the one flight of stairs, as if to a bell tower. I turn on the twinkle lights around the window and the wiry tree of lights that sits on the ledge before settling into a comfortable chair for prayer time, meditation time, study, and journaling time.
Once a month or so a group of friends gather for a meal and conversation. The hosts suggest a question or topic to consider; something that will deepen our awareness of ourselves and each other. At the most recent gathering we considered our core values. Our host had sent a long list of possible values –over 60, actually–and directed each of us to sort them into categories: Those That Matter Most to Me; Those That Matter Some to Me; and Those That Matter Least to Me.
A daunting task, but I decided to sort through them quickly and try not to second-guess myself.
The next step was to divide the “matter most” pile into the top ten and then the top five. Here’s my selection:
During our dinner conversation, we were each invited to focus on one of the values from our top five choices. I chose “solitude,” which is number four on the list, but as I reflected, I wondered if it is actually number two or even number one.
I learned how to be alone as a child, mainly because we moved often and there were always the summer months before starting school and making new friends. Perhaps those circumstances contributed to my introverted nature, but I think the desire for, the need for solitude goes beyond my designation as an introvert on the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory.
A regular practice of solitude brings me closer to my essence, to the person I was created to be. Solitude opens me more fully to the movement of God in my life and the life around me.
It is true that sometimes I enter solitude weary and the alone time helps me renew my energy, but creating time and space for solitude means much more than substituting quiet for noise or stillness for busyness. Solitude is a time to listen to my inner voice, the soul voice, the voice of Spirit reaching out to me, into me.
Once I knew and accepted this about myself and was truly able to own that value, life became much easier for me. And as I look at this list of my values, I see how solitude is integral to each of the other values. Solitude, as my companion on my spiritual journey, helps me clarify my purpose, and opens me to self-awareness. Solitude leads me to gratitude and mindfulness and forgiveness and supports my love of family and friends. In solitude, wisdom has room to grow.
I thank Glenn Mitchell of Oasis Ministries,( https://www.oasismin.org/prayernotes )which is where I trained as a spiritual director, for this reflection about prayer, which feels so applicable to my feelings about solitude:
I think my formal prayer grounds me well in my life.I think it help keep me porous and resilient. I think it keeps my spirit receptive and responsive. I think over time it has blessed me with a greater sense of peace and calm. In many ways it prepares the soil of my life for the new day.
My word for the year, as discussed in an earlier post, is rhythm, and more and more I realize how solitude helps me recognize and cross the threshold into the life-giving rhythms of my life.
An Invitation: What are your key values? I would love to know.
NOTE: To sort through your values, check out The Live Your Values Deck https://lisacongdon.com/products/values-deck