The Discipline of Solitude / An Undivided Life, by Chris Lanier, Soli Deo Gloria

Comments on Chapter 7 of "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster,

General Comments

"Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude. The fear of being left alone petrifies people. A new child in the neighborhood sobs to her mother, 'no one ever plays with me.' A college freshman years for his high school days when he was the center of attention: 'Now, I'm a nobody.' A business executive sits dejected in her office, powerful, yet alone. An old woman lies in a nursing home waiting to go 'Home'. Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. We buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence. T.S. Eliot analyzes our culture well when he writes, 'Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.' But loneliness or clatter are not our only alternatives. We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment." - Richard J. Foster, "Celebration of Discipline"

The Scriptural Precedence for the Discipline of Simplicity

  • "Jesus lived in inward 'heart solitude'. He also frequently experienced outward solitude. He inaugurated his ministry by spending forty days alone in the desert (Matt. 4:1-11). Before he chose the twelve he spent the entire night alone in the desert hills (Luke 6:12). When he received the news of John the Baptist's death, he 'withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart.' (Matt. 14:13). After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand Jesus 'went up into the hills by himself...' (Matt 14:23). Following a long night of work, 'in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place...' (Mark 1:35). When the twelve returned from a preaching and healing mission, Jesus instructed them, 'Come away by yourselves to a lonely place' (Mark 6:31). Following the healing of a leper Jesus 'withdrew to the wilderness and prayed' (Luke 5:16). With three disciples he sought out the silence of a lonely mountain as the stage for the transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9). As he prepared for his highest and most holy work, Jesus sought the solitude of the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46). I could go on, but perhaps this is sufficient to show that the seeking out of solitary places was a regular practice for Jesus. So it should be for us." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

How the Discipline of Simplicity prepares us for the Transforming work of the Spirit

  • "Inward solitude has outward manifestations. There is the freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people but in order to hear the divine Whisper better." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • "Let him who cannot be alone beware of community... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone... Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together. Therefore, we must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meaningfully. We must seek the fellowship and accountability of others if we want to be alone safely. We must cultivate both if we are to live in obedience." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • "We must understand the connection between inner solitude and inner silence; they are inseparable. All the masters of the interior life speak of the two in the same breath." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • "There is an old proverb to the effect that 'all those who open their mouths, close their eyes!' The purpose of silence and solitude is to be able to see and hear. Control rather than no noise is the key to silence. James saw clearly that the person who could control his tounge is perfect (James 3:1-12). Under the Discipline of silence and solitude we learn when to speak and when to refrain from speaking." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • "If we are silent when we should speak, we are not living the Discipline of silence. If we speak when we should be silent, we again miss the mark." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • "One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • "One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don't need to straighten others out. There is a story of a medieval monk who was being unjustly accused of certain offenses. One day he looked out his window and saw a dog biting and tearing on a rug that had been hung out to dry. As he watched, the Lord spoke to him saying, 'That is what is happening to your reputation. But if you will trust me, I will care for you - reputation and all.' Perhaps more than anything else, silence brings us to believe that God can care for us - 'reputation and all.' - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • "The fruit of solitude is increased sensitivity and compassion for others. There comes a new freedom to be with people. There is new attentiveness to their needs, new responsiveness to their hurts. Thomas Merton observes, 'It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them.... Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • As our inward quiet life fails, "we go more constantly and desperately to the post office," but "the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while.... Read not the Times," he concludes, "read The Eternities!" - Thoreau

Understandable Misconceptions (Foster)

  • "Solitude is more a state of mind and hear than it is a place. There is solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. Crowds, or the lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentiveness. It is quite possible to be a desert hermit and never experience solitude. But if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Some Practical Techniques for Practicing the Discipline of Simplicity

  • In Ecclesiastes we read, 'To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools' (Eccl. 5:1). The sacrifice of fools is humanly initianted religious talk. The preacher continues, 'Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few' (Eccl. 5:2). - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • "The Spiritual Disciplines are things that we do. We must never lose sight of this fact. It is one thing to talk piously about 'the solitude of the heart,' but if that does not somehow work its way into our experience, then we have missed the point of the Disciplines. We are dealing with actions, not merely states of mind." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
  • Some good "steps" to solitude:
    • "Take advantage of "little solitudes" that fill our day. Consider the solitude of those early morning moments in bed before the family awakens. Think of the solitude of a morning cup of coffee before beginning the work of the day. There is the solitude of bumper-to-bumper traffic during the freeway rush hour.... Slip outside just before bed and taste the silent night." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
    • Find or develop a 'quiet place' designed for silence and solitude.
    • "In the chapter on study we considered the importance of observing ourselves to see how often our speech is a frantic attempt to explain and justify our actions. Having seen this in ourselves, let's experiment with doing deeds without any words of explanation whatever. We note our sense of fear that people will misunderstand why we have done what we have done. We seek to allow God to be our justifier." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
    • "Let's discipline ourselves so that our words are few and full." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
    • "Go another step. Try to live one entire day without words at all. Do it not as a law, but as an experiment. Note your feelings of helplessness and excessive dependence upon words to communicate. Try to find new ways to relate to tohers that are not dependent upon words. Enjoy, savor the day. Learn from it." - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
    • "Four times a year withdraw for three to four hours for the purpose of reorienting your life goals" - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

    An Invitation to Participate

    • "Don't you feel a tug, a yearning to sink down into the silence and solitude of God? Don't you long for something more? Doesn't every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure to his Presence? It is the Discipline of solitude that will open the door. You are welcome to come in and 'listen to God's speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence.' - Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

    "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster