My wife and I spent a recent weekend camping at Solitude Farmz in upstate New York. We spent time watching the wind create a burst of ripples on a smooth as glass pond, a swallow snaring a dragonfly in midair, and we heard the creaks of the upper tree canopy in the wind and the evening serenade of bullfrogs. We spent joyful time in solitude, the farm is aptly named.

Solitude is the absence of distractions like people, computers, cell phones, tv, radio, and many other disruptions. Solitude is based on intentionality and takes effort and persistence. It can seem out of reach to many of us. In truth, finding solitude is very feasible even in this present age of constant contact. It does not have to be a result of long periods of meditation or weekend getaways, it can be as simple as finding a quiet place for an hour or even just a few minutes before getting out of bed in the morning, while the coffee is brewing, or under a tree in a park.

When we spend time in solitude, we get away from all the distractions that are part of our day-to-day busyness. A world that can be noisy and verbose. Words and stimuli barrage us from all directions and sources. Solitude brings us peace that we just can’t get when we’re surrounded by the noise. Solitude can provide ample time and space to create; and to lose ourselves, only to be found again. It creates an environment for rest and renewal. With solitude we can adapt to our future by intentionally becoming a day older and a day wiser. Time doesn’t hang weightily with Solitude.

Solitude is a state of being. In solitude, we have deliberately separated from others either by physical bounds, or simply in the way we choose to apply our mental focus. It isn’t about avoiding being with other people as much as it is about being unaccompanied. This is different than loneliness, that can be a disengagement from others, not by choice.

In the words of Lao Tzu, “Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.” Thomas Merton said that all men need enough solitude in their lives to “enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally” – without it his life will be miserable and exhausting. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

In the poem Daffodils by William Wordsworth, he uses the expression ‘bliss of solitude.’ Wordsworth is saying that when he is alone in a clear and reflective mood, the daffodils which he had seen in the valley flash upon his inward eye and fill his heart with pleasure. Thoreau, when he so famously lived at Walden Pond and spent countless hours enjoying the silence and solitude of the woods wrote, “I love a broad margin to my life,” margin that reduced stress.

Solitude is an important discipline for the spiritual life. It can be the purposeful creation of an open space in our lives needed for undistracted and fruitful reflection so that we can connect with God. It can allow the voice of God to rise above the background noise of our lives. Some of us avoid solitude with God as it can force us to confront everything in our lives head-on and face the aspects that need the most work. However, God wants us to spend time knowing Him and His plan for us, an aspect of our faith we put into practice far less frequently than we should. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:11)

The prophet Isaiah (30:15) proclaimed a message related to the invasion of the land of Judah by Assyria, “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust shall be your strength. But this you did not will.” They rejected the counsel of God and chose restlessness over solitude. Instead of trusting quietly in God they invited defeat by trust in military strength.

The most consistent role model for the need for solitude was Jesus. Jesus understood the need to re-center and reconnect with His Father. He understood the power of quiet to be able to hear His voice. Jesus mentored His disciples by His pattern of going into solitude to be with the Father in a distinct way, praying and listening to him.

  • “Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him,” (Luke 9:18)
  • “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
  • “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)
  • “but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.” (Luke 5:16)

Scholars speculate that St. Paul spent his three years in the Arabian desert in solitary time studying the Scriptures, praying, and contemplating with the resurrected Christ before he began his ministry. Paul writes in Galatians 1:15-18, “But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days.” According to tradition, John also spent time in solitude, exiled on Patmos Island, where he received the Revelation.

Solitude allows us to recharge our batteries, to reflect on and be intentional about our values, virtues, inspirations, and motivations. To examine a life worth living. Through solitude we grow closer to God, we see clearly through a Godly perspective, what is important in our lives. St. Francis de Sales points out we must “retire at various times into the solitude of our own heart” because this solitude cannot be violated by people who surround us since they are not standing around our heart but outside our body – the heart remains alone in the presence of God.

At Solitude Farmz they say, “Shhh…it will all make sense.”


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