Solitude and Connection


You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and pastime.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

I recently read this quote in a book about introverts. The words pierced me sharply and took my breath away. Convicted me, one might say.

I’m not an introvert, you see. I have long realised that for me to continue growing in my relationship with God, I need to be in community with other people doing so. I feel close to God when doing God-related stuff with other people who want to be close to God too. So I make time for those activities: for about 18 years I’ve been involved with worship leading in a variety of contexts, working with others to craft spaces where people might encounter God; I have been involved in groups, prayers groups, homegroups, student groups, and reading groups; I have committed myself to things like The Daily Marinade, knowing that it will push me towards God if I am in a position of having to write something other people will read.

For a long time, I’ve accepted that I need those things. But sometimes I slip from acceptance and knowledge that I need those things to relying on those things to the degree that they become my only relationship with God. And that is why the Gibran quote struck me.

In the quietist practice of contemplative prayer — which I have tried on and off to practice for some 16 years or so — we turn our attention inward and focus on our ‘hearts’, a metaphor for that small place in us where, somehow, miraculously, mysteriously, the Holy Spirit dwells. We don’t have to produce, we don’t have to speak, we just have to be still and know. When I read the Gibran quote recently, I realised that I had been living through my ‘lips’, through communications with others over contemplation in the solitude of my heart.

I do need others, that is true. But spending time alone and in contemplation strengthens my connection — not just with God, but with who I am when others are not around. In fact, on one point I disagree with Gibran — our hearts are not a place of solitude, but a place of true unity and connection. When we take multiple small moments in our day to draw ourselves inwards in little sips of apparent solitude, even those of us that are extroverted can find connection to the Mystery of the indwelling Spirit.

Kelly Dombroski is a writer, mother, lecturer and avid reader, among other things. She blogs at Tweets as @DombroskiKelly.