The importance of quiet reflection is undeniable. Embracing this practice is beneficial for everyone. It provides greater understanding of ourselves and the world we live in, nourishment for our soul, and peace. For introverts, it offers a lifeline in an exhaustingly externalized culture.
Personal reflection is so important that the Queen chose it as one of the primary themes in her most recent Christmas address. She explains:
“We all need to get the balance right, between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock. Be it through contemplation, prayer or even keeping a diary, many have found the practice of quiet personal reflection surprisingly rewarding, even discovering greater spiritual depth to their lives.”
Greater Understanding of The World
“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” -Mahatma Gandhi
When we take time to reflect on our experiences, we open ourselves up to greater understanding of the world. The Queen emphasizes this point with an insightful anecdote:
“I once knew someone who spent a year in a plaster cast recovering from an operation on his back. He read a lot and thought a lot and felt miserable. Later he realized this time of forced retreat from the world had helped him to understand the world more clearly.”
Discovering Who We Truly Are
“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are.” Ani Pema Chodron
We are living in a material world, but that doesn’t mean that we are merely material beings. It is only during reflection and solitude that we understand who we are when our possessions and titles are stripped away. The truth is that we are very real beings struggling to survive in a world of false idols and illusions.
The other day, I was reflecting on the person I was in my early twenties. Like most young adults, I thought I was pretty mature and evolved. But compared to what I know now, I didn’t know squat back then. And ten years from now, I hope I feel the same way about my current state. We are all people in progress. There will never be a point in our lifetime when we are complete. This is how it is supposed to be.
Contrary to what other people might tell us, the most hopeless point in our lives is not when we lack material possessions or status; it is when we close our hearts to growth. When we say to ourselves – I’ve been here long enough. I know it all – that is when we are at our most ignorant.
Retreat For The Soul
“True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” ~William Penn
As introverts, we can become drained by the external world more quickly than others. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that our exhaustion is a product of our environment. We think that this is how life is supposed to be – overwhelming, exhausting and full of distractions. It is true that we can’t escape the stresses of the world we live in. But through quiet reflection, we can create our own oasis within the chaos.
Some people might say that too much solitude and reflection is counterproductive. We are an action-oriented society focused on outcomes. It is hard for us to believe that activities such as wandering through the woods, journaling, reading (for pleasure) and simply sitting in silence are worthwhile. These activities don’t produce the kind of concrete outcomes our culture worships. Instead, they have an impact on things that are far more important. Consider the words of Henry David Thoreau:
“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
If one of the greatest writers in history could afford to spend at least four hours a day sauntering through nature, I think that we can justify setting aside some time each day in 2014 for our own spiritual nourishment.