I stumbled into practicing the spiritual disciplines in order to save my life.
I was depressed, in a mid-life crisis, had zero passions, desires, or reason to stay in the game other than a strong compelling desire to be present and engaged with my wife and kids.
One thing became clear fast, I needed time alone to reflect, to rejuvenate, to begin to find a place of healing and renewal.
It wasn’t until two years after beginning this journey that I learned I was instinctively practicing the spiritual discipline of solitude.
After learning what it was that I was doing, I then delved into uncovering why this discipline had such a positive effect on my life in order to share it with my family, friends, and whoever else would benefit from it.
In that research, I learned that even though there were great gains that were made, I was still missing the most transformational part of this discipline.
Richard Foster says in his incredible book on spiritual disciplines, the “fruit” of the discipline of solitude is this….. “Solitude allows us to be genuinely present to people when we are with them.” Celebration of Discipline.
This is a conundrum that we will get into, a discipline practiced alone empowers you to be genuinely present to people when you are with them? Embody true empathy?
I was not fully there in my experience so I pressed further up and further in.
What I missed is what I want to share with you today, so you can make faster and more profound progress than stumbling through this exercise like I have done.
A short while from now you can know who you are, why you are here, and have the determination and energy reserves to live it out and impact souls in the way that God has placed inside of you when he custom-crafted your 100% unique DNA.
Today you will learn,
- What solitude is
- How to gauge if times of solitude are successful
- How solitude will empower all other spiritual disciplines
- The most powerful solitude exercise
- And 21 ways to experience solitude in your day as you go through life
The kingdom of Heaven is here now, and the fundamental discipline to realize it’s presence is solitude, here’s why.
What is Spiritual Solitude? What does solitude mean?
In the beginning, solitude as a spiritual discipline is practiced and engaged in
- Anytime you are alone in your mind and your reflection and thoughts are solely on yourself and God.
- When you’re setting aside a predetermined block of time to make forward progress in something you need to do in your life.
But even more profound than that
- Solitude is not doing anything at all, simply being present and by yourself.
Dallas Willard calls solitude one of the most important disciplines and explains it this way in the Divine Conspiracy,
“By Solitude we mean being out of human contact, being alone, and being so for lengthy periods of time… human contact lingers long after it is in one sense over”
Richard Foster, in Celebration of Disciplines, explains…
“Solitude is inner fulfillment… We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear”
How can not doing anything be a discipline? How is this spiritual?
What Most People Miss When “thinking” they are Solituding
So all I gotta do is, “be out of human contact, be alone, and being so for lengthy periods of time”?
Real “Solituding” is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Entertaining and engaging with thoughts where no other person creeps in.
Examples of how thoughts of others consume our mind when attempting to practice solitude:
When reading, how many times do you wish your spouse saw what you were seeing?
How many times when you are listening to that Jordan Peterson keynote do you wish your good friend would hear this as well?
A scene in a movie reveals to you exactly why your boss is the punk that you knew he was and you hope he sees this movie and changes, fast!
If the fruit of solitude is being more empathetic, Who needs to think less of themselves and more about others?
Your boss, your spouse, a client, a close friend, one or all of your kids?
Solitude and silence fail once someone else enters your mind other than you.
Solitude is also not doing anything that is contact with another person.
This means, when watching a TV show, news program, checking email, social media, or hearing another person talk about nature, you are not engaging in the availability of healing and health in solitude.
These create inside of you, news about others, actors, fictional characters, impressions in your mind stories about others life.
What God has for you is to find your 100% uniqueness and create news with your life.
In order to hear and know yourself, hear and know God, you have to get others out of your head and affecting your actions.
If it were easy it would not be worthwhile, you will overcome because that is who you are and what you do!
Profound Benefits of Solitude. Solitude and Silence – All Together Separate
Want to finally quit a porn addiction, overcome chocolate, coffee, or soda addictions, be relieved of the addiction of impressing and pleasing others?
Quit choosing your shirt because of the people you will see today?
All of these and more “sins” fade away after committing to a spiritual discipline of solitude.
God is in your life, he wants to make himself known to you more and more each day but He will not barge in.
He’s the still small voice, the whisper in the wind. Solitude is key to cultivating a life atmosphere that is quiet enough to hear and know God.
With solitude times as the foundation, in addition to the profound experience of directing your time, silence, study, meditation, prayer, and many more spiritual disciplines can and will be experienced.
With daily blocks of time set aside to “counsel” and discover yourself, you will soon learn that once you put your mind to something, there is nothing you can not accomplish.
The Ultimate Good “Habit Stacking” Discipline
A good habit formation hack I learned from James Clear in Atomic Habits is called habit stacking.
A habit stack is when you add in another good habit to an established and already existing good habit.
So, what does this have to do with Spiritual Discipline?
Solitude is the ultimate foundation for habit stacking, adding in everything you want to do but never had the time to do.
Want to read more, pray more, worship “in your closet” more?
Start with simple solitude.
Or even learn a new skill, develop good life habits?
Again, start with solitude.
If this seems a little far-fetched or disconnected I challenge you to try it.
How to Improve Your Life This Week With Solitude
Solitude and the Power of Implementation with the 1% Rule
Instead of going from zero to hero overnight and fizzling out 12 days or less from now, with the 1% rule you simply begin at a seemingly insignificant place today and add 1% to that spot tomorrow, then 1% the next day, and next and so on.
A few months from now you won’t even recognize yourself because these incremental changes over time make a dramatic difference.
How do you implement the 1% rule in practicing the discipline of solitude?
You begin with 15-minutes tomorrow.
A work break amount of time in solitude.
When Can You Do These 15-Minutes and Guaranty ZERO Interruptions?
You wake up 15-minutes earlier tomorrow than you did this same day last week and you apply the 1% rule to the next day. I hate to break it to ya, but this is critical for all areas of your life.
If your house is silent in the morning when you wake up, you’re set!
If not, it will require a little creativity,
Throw a folding chair in your trunk right now, leave for work 15-minutes early and stop at a park, nature center, or the back corner of the parking lot and sit.
Stop at a library, go to a coffee shop, hit the break room without a TV, get to your office 15-minutes early, etc.
You got this, you are creative. It’s handed down from the Ultimate creator in your DNA!
What do you do in this time?
Whatever you want!! Or better yet, NOTHING! No agenda, nowhere to be, a complete letting go and experiencing rest.
There should probably be a few rules to adhere to, things to not do like check Facebook, email, etc. (because all of these activities bring other people into your time of solitude) but like William Law says,
“The disciple will become a disciple when he determines to direct his time, regardless of how un-spiritual that thing he does in the time directed, this discipline will over time permeate all areas of his life.”
This was my experience, and why I say, how I accidentally began living a spiritually disciplined life.
Read one of the 57 books on your wish list, read the Bible, pray, sit in silence, chant your Psalm of the year(the Psalm that is the number you are old), or practice your salsa dancing!
It’s all time directing and solitude!
You and God, your ultimate life leader, engaging with, asking questions, and following the instructions he gives you for this time will be your guide.
Over time you will create your perfect most favorite and joyous connecting, wrestling, getting ticked off, loving, smiling, laughing at yourself morning routine with God ever!
Here’s how to get a jump on what that beautiful morning routine will look like!
Perfect Day Exercise
Set apart 3-hours (a sacrifice I know!) in the next 7 days and plan your life.
This “perfect day” exercise changed my life and I did not know it was a “spiritual” discipline of solitude until I heard Richard Foster say,
“Perhaps as you enter into a listening silence the joyful impression to learn how to weave or how to make pottery emerges. Does that sound too earthy, too unspiritual a goal?
God is intently interested in such matters. Are you?”
What is the perfect day exercise?
Got three hours now?
Watch this video that will walk you through this intention and vision casting solitude exercise.
[Disclaimer, this video was created for marketers, so the last third or so will not be useful unless you have a side hustle or business]
21 Ways to Practice Spiritual Solitude
Can you practice the discipline of solitude as you go each day? Richard Foster writes in Celebration of Discipline, “the first thing we can do… take advantage of the ‘little solitudes’ that fill our day”
Transcend the muck by noticing these “little solitudes” as you go about your life,
- Rivers under the bridges you drive over
- A friends face
- Your children playing games
- Your spouse’s eyes
- How amazing the coffee your drinking is
- The steak
- The conversations
- A singing voice
- A guitar
- Smoke a pipe
- Smoke a cigar
- Piano music
- Harp music
- Bare feet on the grass
- A nap
- A bush
- and more.
These are spiritual exercises of solitude when you experience them.
Drink them into your soul and give thanks for and glory to such an amazing creator!
Blocks of time experimenting with solitude is the first step to turning your life around.
Dream, create, inspire, challenge, and encourage others.
Love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, your neighbor, and yourself..
No fear, no loneliness, automatically doing what is right, it all begins here in solitude.
A perfect and holy son or daughter of God, a uniquely shaped hand-cut stone that has a perfect place in building this “holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home” Eph 2 The MSG.
How do you begin to uncover your place?
How do you completely believe this is who you are before you die?
By implementing a discipline of solitude and discipline stacking from this routine of established solitude time each week.