"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mud settles

Silence and solitude are essential for me.

My soul was a bit clouded this morning. A multitude of thoughts were whirling and swimming in my mind, my heart and my soul as I started my day. The "mud and muck" that was clouding me and my soul were not bad things. There were no particular "bad" thoughts... they were just thoughts..."to dos", questions, problems, and ideas.

I just seem to need space, time, and quiet to let all the thoughts settle down. In his excellent book, The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen deals with this human need for solitude so poignantly illustrating his point by likening our souls to a pond. Like a pond, the water (or our souls) easily becomes cloudy. As we trod through our week, the mud and muck are stirred up within us. Looking at the muddy pond quickly, one could think there was no life within its banks. But, given a moment... maybe a long moment depending on the trodding... the mud settles, the sediments find their home at the bottom of the pond and the water clears. In the water's stillness, life suddenly appears. We can see clearly what is in the pond, the life that lives there. We need to give our souls moments... sometimes long moments... to settle.

Day-in-and-day-out I am bombarded by thoughts, ideas, problems and tasks to do. Sources of input, both internal and external, are innumerable. Each week, maybe each day, solitude and silence are essential for me.

I remember a mentor once explaining that it took him an hour in prayer just to get past all the random, wandering, wavering and bombarding thoughts. He just expected it. He needed at least an hour of thinking, and sitting, and settling. He needed that first ...and then he could pray. I think I am realizing how important silence and solitude are for me.

I went on a long walk today. I walked and walked and walked. At first I was walking fast, hardly aware of my breakneck speed. Where was I going? What was I rushing for? It seemed my body was expressing outwardly the thoughts that were filling my mind. Busy, full, fast thoughts raced as I moved along quickly. But, as the walk continued, I began to slow down. As the solitude and silence of heart (for my walk, of course, was full of noises all around) allowed me time, space and a quiet moment, I was able to think all thoughts that were reeling in my head. The pond began to settle. I just needed to think them.

Silence and solitude allowed my heart and mind to settle down. And, now I can pray. Or have I been praying all along? Did I pray on my walk? Yes. and no. Is it prayer to know you are walking with the Father, calling on His name every so often, and then just thinking?! David Hansen who wrote Long Wandering Prayer would suggest that this is most definitely prayer. I am still learning and broadening my definition of prayer. I think I might agree.

But whatever you call it, I just needed to think. I needed to think with God. There were just many things-- much... much was stirred up within me and it needed to settle down.

The mud and muck has settled and my soul feels quiet. Looking in now, I can see life again. In this pond-soul that is me, I am settled down and still.

Silence and solitude are essential for me.
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