Creating your own spiritual path is all about learning to follow the guidance of your own intuition – that still, small voice within you which can be relied upon to lead you in exactly the right direction at exactly the right time. Before you can follow that inner voice, however, you first need to be able to hear it, and it is therefore no surprise that one of the key practices in almost all spiritual traditions is spending time in silence and solitude.
– Around 2,600 years ago, the prince Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha, or ‘awakened one’ after developing and practicing Samatha and Vipassana, or what we now refer to as concentration and mindfulness meditation.
– Around 2,000 years ago, Jesus was in the habit of spending a great deal of time in silence and solitude. Mark 1:35 says that: ‘Early in the morning, while it was still dark, he rose up and went out, and departed into a deserted place, and prayed there.’ The Bible also reveals that he often liked to sit by a lake, or on a mountainside, and that his ministry began only after he had spent forty days in the desert.
Explore other traditions and you will find similar accounts of spiritual development being realised through silence and solitude, and so it is a proven habit which can be just as fruitful today as it was in previous times. In fact, when you consider how much noisier and busier the world is today, it could be argued that the practice of silence and solitude is even more important.
Learning to meditate properly and then doing so on a regular basis is one of the simplest ways of spending time in silence and solitude, and two of the very best books on the subject (both from the Buddhist tradition) are Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana and Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond by Ajahn Brahm.
Of course, meditating isn’t the only way to spend time in silence and solitude, and you could also consider taking yourself away to a natural environment – by a lake or the coast, or in the heart of woodland, for example – to simply sit and enjoy the peace and stillness of that place.
Whichever of those approaches you choose to pursue, the important thing is to immerse yourself in the silence and solitude. This doesn’t always come easy, because we live in a world in which it is considered normal to check emails, texts and social network updates around the clock, but if you make a resolute effort to ‘unplug’ from the noise of daily life for a few minutes each day, you will soon appreciate the benefits.
And what are those benefits? Well, they are numerous, as any number of scientifically rigorous studies can confirm. Your mind will quieten, your stress levels will reduce and your perspective will broaden. You will also find that the inner voice of your intuition becomes a great deal easier to hear, putting you in closer touch with a built-in spiritual guidance system that will never let you down.