Thoughts on Solitude from people who call Ekklesia home.
Thoughts on Solitude from people who call Ekklesia home.

In preparation for a message on the spiritual discipline of solitude (and the related disciplines of silence and prayer), we reached out to a handful of people who attend Ekklesia for their thoughts. How do you make space in your life for solitude? Here are some of their responses.

If I am feeling overwhelmed/stressed, I will make a point of not turning on music or anything else to listen to while driving. Having some quiet and some time to just be with my thoughts isn’t something I often have. It’s a great way to reset and breathe!

I also intentionally make space for solitude/stillness by going to a yoga class at least once a week. I am not able to get distracted by my phone or chores when I go to an actual class vs. doing yoga at home. Technically the yoga classes aren’t silent and don’t involve solitude as there are other people there, but it gives me the chance to step away from all distractions and find stillness/solitude within my own mind as I go through the practice. I sometimes hear God “speak” to me (this is a very rare thing for me) during yoga practice.

I jog 3-4 days a week for this very reason. I’m outside in God’s beauty just enjoying time clearing my head and having conversations with him.

I usually take a moment to curl up with my cat (Julian of Purrwich, officially). She sits upon me and purrs and this reminds me that all will indeed be well.

I tend to get up in the morning just a hair earlier than the rest of my family, so usually in that time I make myself a cup of tea/coffee and just be still and remember that God is good, as is my body.

Ironically (at least to people who don’t realize how loud Deaf people actually are) this is the only silence I really get in my Deaf household.

I need this. Desperately. I’m no good at it at all, but the best I’ve probably done is the extra 5-10 minutes of car time before walking in somewhere.

5-6 days a week I go to CrossFit about 20-30 minutes before the scheduled workout. I’m the only one there. I get at least 15 min of silence to foam roll, stretch, focus, think… or just smell the sweat of the gym while I clear my mind… then others show up and we rock and roll 😉 I call this my zen time.

I wish I had an answer here, but the truth is, this season of life with a baby has disrupted prior habits I had in solitude/silence. The closest thing I have to this now, is in the quiet of the early morning or night, after she is fed and has since fallen asleep in my arms, I will often pray or just sit enjoying the silence while snuggling her.

My favorite time of solitude is in the early morning, straight out of bed. I think it is important to meditate during this time since it is the most quiet part of the day. The activity/motion inside you has not begun to arise like it will once you begin your day’s tasks, and the world around you is still as well. This is the ideal environment for blocking out distractions so that you can center yourself on Christ. Once you are centered (sometimes it may take me up to 15 minutes to get my mind completely focused on him and to become one with him), you can listen for his voice in the stillness and allow his spirit to wash over you. Once you have been in that very special intimate place with him mentally, you carry the mindset of peace and joy with you for the rest of the day.

I tend to sit in my car before walking in the door which is ironic because I live alone haha. I also have done deep breathing exercises and I am attempting to take more time to read daily. Another new resource that I recently started using for meditation/overall wellness is an app called Sanvello. The basic version is free which is great or if you want enhanced features its $8.99 per month or $53.99 annually. It offers daily check-ins for your feelings, guided meditations, a hope board as place of inspiration/coping/joy, goals tab where you can set a daily challenge, as well as guided journeys to help deal with things such as anxiety and depression. I have only been using it about a week but it has been a great tool to help me tune into my feelings and be more comfortable with silence. I hope this helps! Thank you for all you do for the church. I am so grateful to have found Ekklesia.

I’m able to have some silence and solitude by getting up earlier than I “need” to. This gives me time to jog and recite verses in my head, or just listen…which I think is the true ‘silence’ (and the hardest to practice). I’m all alone, outside, in the middle of our neighborhood! (4:30am…) I also read scripture and theological works, all alone in the early morning hours.

Sometimes I take my kids to daycare even on days I don’t have much work 🙂

The topics of rest, silence, and soul care are something I’m really interested in, so I can’t wait to listen and see other people’s ideas for this practice!

The way I try to practice silence daily is just waking up before everyone else in my home. The ritual of making coffee, lighting a candle and stretching are like signals that help me transition into the day and act as signposts for a time of quiet and listening. Then I usually sit with my coffee on the deck for a few minutes of silence before I begin reading something.

Another way that I try to practice silence a few times a week is a walk in nature. I’m prone to just want to pop my headphones in for a podcast but I try to give the first 5-10 minutes to just walking with my thoughts and practicing intentional listening. Sometimes silence and listening are easier when our bodies are engaged in movement.

Nothing groundbreaking or very creative but those small things make a big difference in my anxiousness and feeling connected to God. In regards to that, a few books I’ve really enjoyed that include this topic are: Sacred Rhythms, Monk Habits for Everyday People, and The Listening Life.

As a stay-at-home mom, I often find myself experiencing guilt anytime I use things like the TV or screens. After all, being with these kids is “my job”. So I will start by saying that I have to remind myself that If I am not in a place of health and peace, it is impossible for me to be that example to my kids.

After reminding myself of that … in the mornings, when the kids wake up, I give them a cup of cereal, turn the TV on, then I go Into my room for 20 minutes of relaxation/stretching/yoga. This is a practice I try to do everyday, but sometimes it’s every 2 days.

I find that before I “can begin”, I ceremonially light a candle. As a way to represent a space of peace and relaxation. That helps me enter into the space.

NATURE! Whether hiking or going to a farmers market or looking at a starlit sky. Always soothes my soul. TRAVEL! Sometimes taking time to explore a new neighborhood or people-watch at an outdoor cafe. Even if I can’t go far, I love out-of-the-box experiences that freshen my perspective. PHOTOGRAPHY! Just taking a different view and looking at something “everyday” and shooting it at unique angles can be a unique discovery. MUSIC! I love delving into music that reminds me of a place and time. Focusing on fond memories through tunes may make me want to dance or talk to a friend who remembers them, too. QUALITY TIME with good friends! I want to focus on them- celebrate, laugh, cry, be present. CREATIVITY! It can be as simple as collecting shells or rocks in interesting colors/shapes, going to the farmers market and getting a new vegetable and going on Pinterest to find a yummy way to prepare it, or making a vision board using magazine clippings to give me a representation of what I love and what I want to be or do in the near future. READ! Diving into a great book is like taking a vacation in my head!

I learned a long time ago you have to be very intentional at first, but then after you practice it for a while it becomes (at least for me) something I look forward to and the favorite part of my day.

I get up between 4:30 – 5:00 and go out on our porch, even when it is cold (I look funny wrapped up in my heavy coat with a blanket and heater). I spend some time in just dark silence and then I will journal mostly and/or read with a camping light on my head. The porch has been essential in doing this because of being immersed in the morning sounds of the woods behind our house, and obviously it is completely separate from the rest of the house. It really is the best part of my day and I have been doing it for a long time, but it didn’t just magically happen with out deciding to do it.

The other way I do it is go kayaking although I will listen to podcast a lot, but during some part of my ride (usually two hours) I will play this mix tape of instrumental music. It is not the same kind of solitude as my morning routine.

Space and silence had never held importance to me, until I was single and then not. I realized quickly that I needed alone time that I had always naturally had after my kids went to sleep. Now that my life is considerably more chaotic, that time and space has changed over the years. So. Here is an incomplete list of all of the things I do to make space in my life for silence, while sometimes forced and often in a crowded room…

  • Lift weights.
  • Walk. (Or in my healthier days, run)
  • Sneak out to the porch with a doggo or too in the evening.
  • Linger in the car at home or work or a store
  • Soak in a tub
  • Use a mediation app before bed (headspace or calm… this is usually when I *need* time but can’t seem to find it)
  • Yoga on the living room floor

I’m sure there are more. And Joel would probably be able to tell you more about this quirky habit I have. But. In the day to day… it typically means I stay in a room long after others have left. Or go to a space (like the gym) where no one will need anything from me.

Like it or not I truly believe that the best way to spend time with God in solitude and quiet is to wake up early. It’s the only thing that works for me especially with work and kids. Also planning a vacation that is also a retreat is an excellent way to refresh your soul. We did that for our Anniversary. Agenda: nothing. Peace and spending time with God and each other. It was awesome.

The shower can be my peace and quiet and drown out other noises, as well as gardening (on a cool day!) while the kids are at school. However, some of my best times have been on long rural drives by myself on non-crowded roads. When my dad died, a friend came over and babysat the kids so I could be by myself for a bit so I drove down the road to a church parking lot (it is now a Hindu temple) and parked in the corner facing a cement block wall and woods so I could sob out of sight of people taking walks and no one would disturb me.

Drive to Life Time Fitness. Park in the corner. Put up the sun shade. Solitude.

Take a fast from radio/music/podcasts while in the car driving, and silence my phone.

I come home sometimes when I know that Lindsay and the kids are gone during the day and just stand/chill on my back deck for about 5-10 minutes.

I’m looking forward to seeing others’ ideas. I SUCK big time when it comes to solitude. Just can’t do it.

Our attic is not heated or cooled. I have a stationary bike up there. Within the past month I’ve started going up there in the evenings to ride the bike in the 80 degree heat. Then I’ll sit on the floor, lights off, eyes closed and meditate to Reckless Love or Do It Again. It’s pretty nasty because I’m super sweaty and the room is so stuffy, but I’ve fallen in love with it. During that time I focus my mind on many things, but whatever I’m focusing, I use it as my prayer. It’s been extremely powerful for me. Those sessions often end in tears for me as I think of God and all the love I have in my life.

Another thing I do is listen to a centering prayer on Apple Podcast. It is called Loving-Kindness Meditation with Susan Stabile. It focuses my thoughts on positivity. It’s a centering prayer I pray for myself, my family and my enemies. I often do that in bed, all lights off to help me fall asleep.

I use my hour-long drive into work as my quiet time, and any other time I’m in the car. My husband takes my daughter to school, so my driving time is where I am the quietest. I often time spend it praying, singing praise and worship songs, and sometimes screaming or crying out to God for answers in the darkness of the valleys.

Early this year, I was in such a difficult place, starving for God, that I booked a 3-day retreat for myself in the Outer Banks. I stayed on the water, because water (and mountains) are where I feel God’s creation most tangibly. I spent the time in solitude, reading his word, praying, listening, and writing anything and everything that came to my mind. I turned off social media and stopped at every lookout or viewpoint on the drive to see new vantage points of both the water and of my heart. I left that weekend feeling so refreshed and with so much clarity on the importance of cultivating my relationship with God. It doesn’t just happen, just like our relationships with our family or friends. We have to put in the time. And with God, we often have to be still, to rest, so that we can hear what He’s trying to tell us. And sometimes all He’s telling us is to simply be still. To simply be His. And to simply trust that we don’t need the answers. While it’s certainly handy when His voice comes with the booming clarity of a thrown-open floodgate, He often uses the still small voice, providing snippets or rain drops of answers while we gradually see His plans unfold.

A) simply keeping the radio off in the car while driving has been very helpful

B) centering prayer, as described by Thomas Keating, and augmented by using an app that Heather Doss had mentioned in her sermon over the summer (aptly called centering prayer, from contemplatively Outreach)

C) almost any solo trip into a park with hiking trail, into the mountains, walk along the beach.(ie nature)

I sit in my moms memorial garden and listen to nature around me. Also sitting around a bonfire by myself just reflecting.

Disc golf.

My therapist and I have talked a lot about this recently. Here are some strategies I have been trying.

At work. Work has been a big anxiety inducing trigger for me recently. My goal is to stop everything that’s going on when the anxiety wave hits and ground myself. I have been doing that by doing what I call “5 things” 3 times. For example I will have myself:

1. Find 5 things that are blue in the room.
2. Listen for 5 things I can hear.
3. Find 5 things that are round.

It’s a simple mindfulness exercise that helps turn down the volume of all the things that cause worry.

At home. I read before bed every night. Even if it’s just a few pages. This helps in not letting my phone be the last thing I see before I go to sleep. I [also] practice box breathing or four count breathing. Inhale for 4. Hold for 4. Exhale for 4. Hold for 4.

The North Carolina Art Museum is my favorite place in all of the triangle. It is the perfect location to sit and be still. There is usually a breeze and just closing your eyes and feeling the wind on your body, or watching as the breeze makes the sculptures in the park sway or walking along the greenway and hearing the leaves rustle. It is truly a place of peace for me.

Where i find little moments of solitude/peace/relative silence are:

  • When my kids are playing and having fun and don’t need my input. I just take a moment to enjoy their noises and breathe
  • On my way home from work i find i arrive home ready to be a father better if i don’t have the radio on and don’t call anyone. That silence helps me transition and honestly feels really good.
  • At work when i need to take a break i go stare out the window in a posture that indicates i am thinking deep thoughts (in case someone is watching) but really I’m thinking about nothing.
  • I’ve been unsuccessful praying and having silence in the morning because i just fall asleep. Frankly, same thing in the evening. So I hope someone has some suggestions on that front.

I take my dogs to the dog park. 🙂

I enjoy the silence at the shop getting ready to work on a project for the day. I hear the neighbor’s hens murmur, the great dane warning its owner of my presence, the tin roof above settling to the warming sun, and then when I’m good and ready … I turn up the heavy metal to eleven. Woo!

Based on my current season of life (and my introverted tendencies), I naturally have what feels like a lot of solitude. But, if I am intentionally seeking out time to “take a moment” then Lake Johnson is my go to – I actually just went this afternoon:-) Walking the trail always leaves me in a much better head space; and if the weather is extra nice, I’ll set up my hammock and read for awhile.

For silence …

  • The car.
  • Home alone—randomly throughout the day—staring out the kitchen window (doing dishes)
  • Morning coffee on the patio
  • Laying in the hammock
  • A Walk (without music)
  • Laying in bed

Before, I would “work” in the office and sometimes just sit. The car is always tried and true—sit for a few minutes before going into work/home. Many days I crave quiet. Need it to feel at peace.

I feel like my life is never quiet. I will say though, at work I have started using my headphones and playing white noise to drown out conversations around me and that helps. Maybe I should try it at home.

Hmmm, i have to get very creative with finding quiet time but i mostly rely on the YMCA. I credit them with my sanity these days. They take my kids for two hours and sometimes i don’t even work out. I just sit in the lobby or locker room and enjoy the peace.

Mark and i also wear noise canceling head phones during dinners sometimes because our kids are so loud😝 and we feel they are absolutely necessary. No joke.

If it isn’t too hot, I sometimes eat my lunch in my car in the office parking deck. Windows down. Quiet. Private.

Two places I find peace. One is the most unlikely place, the other one is pretty much on brand for me.

1) Every evening when I get home, I have to use the bathroom. While I am there, I just sit for a while and decompress from the work day. Then I emerge ready for what the evening holds. I just need those few minutes after a long work day and long drive back home.

2)In the past, I used to just go to my parents house and sit out on their screened in porch and read comics for a while. My parents leave me be and let me have those moments of piece. In the current house with Amy, I have a reading chair that I will sit in and read in. Either way, it calms me.

I like to sit out on the back terrace just before sunset and look over the gardens and observe the birds flying in for their last meal before they perch in the trees for the night. It’s a moment of peace and of wonder.

Every morning I drive the 20-45 min drive to the school I teach at listening only to K-love, then when I get there I sit in the car in silence for about two to five mins gathering my thoughts, praying, and setting my mind right to be the best teacher and co-worker I can be.