I partied with some monks this weekend. Kind of. A friend and I went to a monastery for a bit of solitude and silence. I knew I needed it in the worst kind of way. But while I was there, this thought kept coming into my head:
“Solitude and silence make me _____________ .” Fill in the blank with anything. Tired. Angry. Bored. Depressed. Lonely. Frustrated. Feeling like crap.
People sometimes talk about spiritual practices like solitude and silence as if they’re a day spa for your soul, a way of pampering yourself and feeling strong again. And in a sense, they are. But these experiences don’t usually start that way for me. It usually feels more like my soul is going through boot camp than being coddled.
But another thought hit me, too.
“This experience isn’t making me ___________. It’s just revealing how ___________ I am.”
The reason I sometimes feel like crap when I’m practicing a discipline is because I’ve been repressing and avoiding and ignoring the junk everyday.
The good news is that it doesn’t stay that way. The afternoon and early evening were kind of a drag for me, but last night was terrific. The peace of not belonging to anyone’s expectations – including my own – for a few minutes was liberating.
I know this is starting to sound like a one-man version of “The View”. You’re probably thinking, “Wow, Jason… just how much estrogen is running through all of those big, bad, mean, emotions that have been bullying you around? You must have watched too much Mr. Rogers when you were a kid.” But the alternative is much worse. I don’t quite understand how it is that our spirits and bodies and emotions are all connected, but I know that they are. The strongest people I’ve known have been the ones who are living from the deeper parts of themselves. I don’t want to feign strength. I want to discover it for real, and I’m sure it comes from bringing the truest, most real version of myself in front of God and seeing what He does. I’ve got a clearer picture of who God is today, and with that comes a clearer sense of myself. I’ve got a loaded couple of weeks ahead, but after my foray into the contemplative life, I’m here to say BRING IT ON.
When’s the last time you shut things down so you could tune in to yourself and God? I’d love to hear a little about your experience. What did you learn? If it's been a long time, what's keeping you?