Silence, stillness, solitude

This week I listened to an exception episode of an outstanding podcast. If you have never listened to “Encountering Silence,” I cannot recommend it enough. Hosts Cassidy, Kevin, and Carl spoke with that font of spiritual wisdom, Joyce Rupp. This is an episode I am sure I will listen to again, and I have already recommended it to several friends.

Labyrinth, National Shrine of St Therese, Juneau, AK – a place of exceptional silence and grace.

One of the things that most struck me was when Sr. Joyce spoke about silence and stillness. She was talking about how silence is one thing, but stillness is something else entirely. This is one of those things that I not given much thought to, so it made me stop and reflect.

Silence is a necessity to me. By nature, I am a kind of noisy person, but my nature also means having adequate amounts of silence in my day. My mornings are spent in silence as I awaken first and sit quietly, reading, praying, writing, thinking. You may notice a clear lack of stillness in that mix – more on that in a minute. If I do not get that quiet time, my day is simply off. People wonder why I wake up so early, but it is as necessary as a medication is for a chronic condition. Without it, I would not find the solitude that I require to be present in life.

My woods, my outdoor monastery.

I also like to walk, and while I used to always walk and listen to a podcast, I now generally walk in silence. After a hectic day at work, being in the forest, listening to the breeze in the trees, the birds singing, the movement of woodland creatures under the brush is all a healing balm to me. This is a kind of silence, but once again, not necessarily stillness.

Listening to the podcast reminded me that I might want to incorporate periods of stillness into my silence. I’m wondering what you all might think about this topic. Do you pursue intentional silence? Is stillness a practice in your life? What contemplative paths do you follow? I’m curious to see if we can find some conversation about this – even though the topic is silence. After all, know more about how we each live our silence might help us all.

Solitude

Solitude Quote St Therse Shrine ImageI’m still here – just enjoying some solitude. Hope everyone had a great summer (or winter, should you live south of the equator!) and is moving into autumn with joy. (Or spring!)

My friend Cassidy Hall posted this quote on Twitter the other day, which inspired me to create this image. The photo was taken last May when I was at The National Shrine of Saint Therese in Juneau, Alaska.

John O’Donohue was an Irish poet and philosopher, a former priest, and he died suddenly in early 2008. I can still remember the shock of learning of his passing. His legacy lives on in his work. I highly recommend learning more about him. Right around the time of his death this interview was released; it is a great listen and I think you will be enchanted with the conversation.

Speaking of good listens, I highly recommend listening to the work of Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson, and Carl McColman via their podcast, Encountering Silence. You will find soul stirring conversation that invites us all into deeper silence. Sure – talking about silence seems counterintuitive, but I hope you will follow the path of words that will lead you to a remarkable solitude.

Deo gratias

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That’s Paula on the right and me on the left! A very blessed meeting of two longtime online friends!

Alaska, a destination long in my horizon, is now in my rear view mirror. And in that mirror the words roll over in my heart, over and over… Deo gratias. Thanks be to God.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for this journey. For those of you who sent prayer requests to me, be assured how dearly you were held in prayer, in the glory of this spectacular place. I only visited a tiny portion of this enormous state, but what a magnificent tiny portion it was.

First and foremost were the people I met. If heaven has a receiving line, I believe that I had a preview of it in Alaska! Invited there by a ministry of the Diocese of Juneau, my first encounter was with longtime social media friend, Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher.

It was Paula that brought my name up with her ministry as they prepared for a retreat, and Deo gratias, I was selected by this ministry to walk with them for a weekend. In any case, I was so happy to meet this longtime online friend for the first time. The nature of welcome that I received from Paula and others came from a deep well of hospitality that was evident in every step of my Alaskan journey. Through the deep generosity of one of the retreatants, miles were donated to get me to Juneau, a gift I will never forget – and never stop being thankful for. Speaking of gratitude – I offer it to and for my friends in NJ who took exception care of me at both ends of the journey. Thank you.

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Labyrinth at the National Shrine of Saint Therese

The retreat seemed to go well – as I like to say, ask those who attended! Our setting was the National Shrine of St. Thérèse, a place so remarkable that it defies words. If you ever get the chance to go there, do not hesitate! The glory of God was on full display at this remarkable place. However, it was each and every one of the women on retreat that made the journey more special. May they all be blessed – I thank God for all of them and for their welcome to me. Here are a few photos.

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As for the rest of my trip – I met so many people, I saw so much of God’s glory.  There will be so much more to tell, but in due time. I’m still readjusting time wise, getting laundry done, and reorienting myself to being home. More to follow. In the meantime, thank you so much! Be assured of my prayers. And no matter where you go or what you do – remember to thank God always, Deo gratias.

North to Alaska

TJJO_Downtown_Juneau_4_2015_868ae45f-1b73-4c52-9c4f-dbea12170952This week I will head north to Alaska! No, I have never been there, and honestly – I never imagined that I would go there. My spouse has little interest in it, and at our age and with our budget, trips have to be something we both want to invest in when we take them.

It was however a delightful surprise to be asked if I would be Continue reading