When was the last time you went away to a quiet place to spend some extended quality time with your inner self? No interior life pilgrim will be able to make headway in this journey without entering seasons of hiddenness from time to time.
In this episode I share why seasons of hiddenness from the distractions and pressures of our lives are invaluable for going within and connecting with the core of our being.
Do you feel like you have been losing touch with your inner self? Or that busyness has been keeping you circling on the outer layer of your life without being able to pay attention to the core of your being? This episode is meant for you!
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01:33 - Hiddenness & Inner Growth
05:16 - Retreats
09:45 - Longer Seasons of Hiddenness
16:30 - The Fruit of Hiddenness
20:39 - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
22:06 - Courage to Seek Hiddenness
- As you listened to today's episode, what struck you? Does something resonate particularly strongly with you?
- How does the thought of entering a season of hiddenness make you feel? Let your emotions review of themselves to you without judging them. What do you think your emotional response to being hidden is telling you about the state of your inner being?
- Identify an area or two in your life that would benefit from a time of hiddenness and tending.
- Then plan for a period of time to get away and be hidden where you can be in silence and solitude and be tended to.
For full details of this reflection prompt, please see transcript.
Blog: Hide Me So I Can Be Found
Other episodes that would help you understand and apply the lessons in this episode:
- Ep 4 & 5 Living from the Inside Out (Part 1 & 2)
- Ep 8 The Necessity of Making Space
- Ep 9 The Wisdom in Slowing Down
Interested in Going on Retreat?
Retreat Go Where? Relaxing spots for a spiritual getaway in Singapore.
Spiritual Retreats: A Time to Refresh Our Souls (Salt & Light)
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EP 16 | THE JOY OF HIDDENESS
Sometimes we need to get away for a while in order to remember who we are
Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax and listen on to Becoming Me.
Hello again, dear listeners. In the last few episodes of this podcast, I have spoken about how growth can sometimes feel like we are regressing. I've talked about the challenges of trying to measure up to expectations all the time, and the challenge of establishing healthy boundaries in our relationships, as well as the experience of being an imposter - or feeling like an impostor when the lives we lead are not aligned to the truth of who we are at the core of our being.
Those topics are about the challenge side of things in our journey into authenticity and wholeness. And this podcast is about both the challenges as well as the joys of this journey. So I thought, you know, it's time for a change of pace. And in today's episode, I'm going to be talking about the joy of hiddenness.
[00:01:33] HIDDENNESS AND INNER GROWTH
To be hidden means to be concealed from others. Whether that is a positive or negative thing would depend on what the purpose of hiddenness is and what we are being hidden from. If we are hiding from what will bring us greater freedom and fuller of life, then our hiddenness keeps us trapped.
But if we are hiding from what will rob our life and joy from us, then our hiddenness empowers us to journey into wholeness. In this world we live in, we don't often hear about the value of hiddenness. Instead, we keep hearing about how important it is for us to put ourselves out there to be seen, to be heard, to be followed and liked.
It seems more and more that people are suffering from overexposure when even what is intimate and sacred is now being put on display for strangers, even, to view and comment. In many ways, this is how the world has set up the measures of success.
Those of us who wish to make the interior journey into wholeness and authenticity need to know this: that constant exposure to the commentary, valuation and judgment of external voices will impede our growth, especially when we are just beginning on the journey.
The journey of becoming ourselves requires us to grow deep roots into the ground of our being, so that more and more the voice we heed is from the wisdom of our inner being. This inner wisdom is the voice which shows us the way to integration and wholeness, but we struggle to hear this voice because we are constantly bombarded by external voices that attempt to tell us our value and worth.
The noise of the world is so loud and so constant that unless we learn how to go away from time to time and be hidden from it, it would be very difficult for us to make headway in the interior journey. There is such great value to seasons of hiddenness where there are fewer external pressures and demands on your performance. When you don't have to focus on someone else whose needs make you struggle to even notice your own.
Sometimes the seasons can come organically, according to a certain life stage that we are at. Sometimes we need to actively seek such seasons out and make them happen. They can be short or they can be long. There is no set length, but unless we know just how incredibly important and powerful seasons of hiddenness are for us, we won't embrace them when they come much less seek such seasons out when we actually need them.
Seasons of hiddenness can feel like winter when nothing seems to be happening on the surface. But in deep places that are unnoticed, there is growth happening, consolidation, new revelations about ourselves and healing. During seasons of hiddenness, we can descend deeper below the external layer of our lives and remain there longer while we grow deeper roots into the ground of our being.
These seasons prepare us for even greater fruitfulness in our lives by pruning us and anchoring us in the nourishment we need. Sometimes we can choose to enter a short period of hiddenness to focus on our interior life. An example of this would be going on a silent individual retreat.
[00:05:16] SEEKING HIDDENNESS: RETREATS
Going on retreat is a time-honoured practice in many different religious and spiritual traditions. It consists of taking a break from the preoccupations of daily living and the noise of the world in order to go away, often to a remote and quiet location to spend a length of time in solitude and silence.
Many retreat centers around the world are in beautiful and remote locations, close to nature. The purpose of retreating is to conceal ourselves from all the stimuli that is preventing us from connecting with our inner selves. A retreat, unlike a vacation that is usually filled with activity and sightseeing is usually focused on simplicity, silence, solitude, rest, and prayer.
It is about freeing our minds and hearts from external preoccupations so that we can begin to listen to the cry of our own souls. If we are still new to this kind of hiddenness, it can feel uncomfortable when we first experience it. My own first experience of a fully silent retreat was not exactly pleasurable.
There were no talks to attend no planned activity or program, no reading material. Apart from what my spiritual director might assign me. No internet connection, no computers. Meals were taken in silence. And the only person I spoke to during those five days was my spiritual director, whom I met for about half an hour to 40 minutes every day.
There was quite literally nothing to do. And that's the point actually of a silent retreat: to take us away from our compulsion to be busy all the time. But I was so used to being on the go all the time, that when I suddenly had all this blank space and nothing to do, I felt very uncomfortable.
The first three days of that retreat were really, really difficult for me. It was easy to refrain from speaking. What was difficult was the lack of distraction to keep my mind occupied. I became keenly aware of how distracted I usually am because with nothing to do, I was suddenly forced into awareness of how noisy my mind and heart were.
Without my usual busy-ness to distract me, I suddenly had to deal with the fact that my inner self was shouting for attention. It became apparent that I had a lot of angst buried within me. And in those first few days of silence, all that angst bubbled to the surface. I felt angry, impatient and frustrated for no seeming reason.
[00:08:03] It was a silent retreat, so anybody else that was also staying in the same place. They were all minding their own business. Nobody spoke to me or had any interaction with me. And yet I could feel angry at the slightest thing, such as when someone took a chair that I had planned on sitting in to relax after dinner.
By the fourth day of my retreat, I had experienced a shift, thankfully. The fog of angst had come and cleared. And when that fog cleared, I encountered for the first time, a deeper part of myself that I had never met. In past retreats that I have attended. Uh, those were treats were not silent. They were preached retreats, but during those retreats, and usually by the end of retreat, I would usually experience a kind of spiritual high. But when the silent retreat ended, there was no high. In fact, there wasn't even a sense of completion.
Instead, I, I realized that I felt a new gravity inside of me. It felt as if I had touched something holy inside of me, which I had not encountered before. This new expense it's made me realize for the first time that there was a whole other world within me that only silence and solitude and being undisturbed from the outside world can help me to access.
And because of this experience, I began to make regular annual silent retreats. And each time I made one, I became more accustomed with silence and I was able to delve deeper into my inner self.
[00:09:45] LONGER SEASONS OF HIDDENNESS
Apart from going away on retreat, life itself sometimes gives us opportunities for longer seasons, where we can enter a period of slowing down and hiddenness. This usually happens as a combination of a life transition and personal choice. By life transition I mean such times as when we are in between jobs, or when what has occupied all our energy and time in a previous season is no longer present. Such as when parents experience empty nest syndrome or when young children grow up and now spend more time in school.
Or perhaps when we retire from a very fulfilling or very busy career. And suddenly we have a lot of time. When we suddenly have a lot more time and space in our lives, what do we do with it? We could easily fill it up with busy-ness. Any activity that keeps us compulsively living at the surface level of our lives is a distraction.
We could fill up our time even with seemingly productive activity, such as taking a course or volunteering for a good cause. But if these good things are not decided upon from listening to our inner selves, then they are obstacles to our interior journey because they prevent us from really entering deep into our inner selves and becoming grounded in our core.
I've spoken about the necessity of making space in our lives in episode 8. Sometimes life affords us an opportunity for making space in a much bigger way than just carving a few hours out each week. Whether it is for a few weeks or a few months, or even longer than that. This time can be a golden opportunity to really listen to our lives and tend to the areas that need healing in a deeper and more focused way.
About six years ago now, I left my job of working full-time in the parish and it was during that season of full-time parish ministry that I burned out. Even though during that entire time I was doing the best I could to practice soul care with monthly spiritual direction. I was going for annual retreats. Inner healing sessions.
It felt like the healing could not keep up with the wounding. I was collecting new battle wounds, even as old wounds were reopened and I was under constant stress. Throughout that time I had the feeling that any healing I could avail myself to was just to get me well enough to get back into action again.
There wasn't time at all during that season in my life to really examine what were the areas in my life that needed deeper healing. As time went by I became aware I really needed more than what I was receiving, but in order for that to happen, I needed to get off the field of action for a longer period of time. I needed to be able to go away.
So after I left my job in the parish, I chose to go on sabbatical, even though I had the opportunity of taking up another job right away. It took me three months before I could decompress sufficiently to relax without feeling that familiar underlying anxiety when I woke up in the morning. And it was three months before I stopped feeling guilty that I was wasting my time by being on sabbatical and to finally become present to myself.
For that first year, I often received an image when I was in prayer and it was the image of a ship that had been dry docked for repair. After five and a half years of being out there nonstop with no proper practice of Sabbath rest, I was in bad condition. I realized that I had a compulsive personality and I worked compulsively.
That drivenness inside me that came from a fear of being a failure of disappointing others. That kept me going until I was really rundown. But now finally, I was entering a season where my energy could be focused inward for integration and healing. So I dropped out of sight from public life and ministry quite completely for a good period of time, maybe a couple of years.
And I spent that bulk of my time alone as if I was on a long, extended retreat. I learned to listen to my thoughts and feelings as I went about my day. I learned to listen to my body, to rest when I felt tired. I gave myself permission to take naps. I started exercising again and found a creative outlet in contemplative photography.
I was so out of practice of just listening to my needs, that I needed that extended time to learn to recognize what my body was saying to me, and also to just enjoy simple things again. Like going out for brunch with my husband on the weekend, something that I never had the chance to do when I was in full-time ministry in the parish, because weekends were always the most busy.
My soul hungered for beauty and wonder. My body and mind hungered for rest and healing. And my heart, it yearned for authentic connections with people where we could really just rest together and be together. Instead of always meeting people with an agenda, I was tired of needing to persuade worn out volunteers into even more service and ministry, and feeling half the time or even more than half the time that I was treating them as a means to an end in order to reach some KPI that I had to meet for my work.
And in this prolonged season of hiddenness that I allowed myself to enter into, I could finally be nourished and restored. At some point, the image of the ship in dry dock that I would receive in prayer began to change. I began to see the ship sailing the ocean again, and I knew that I was being prepared to be launched out into new adventures again, at some point. In fact, I had the sense that the healing and integration that I was receiving in this season of hiddenness would prepare me to travel even further than before.
[00:16:30] THE FRUIT OF HIDDENNESS
As I gradually came out of this time of hiddenness I found that I had new reserves I didn't have before, especially when I was ministering to those who are very wounded and tired. There was a new spaciousness within myself that I had cultivated through the months of living in quiet and contemplation. This spaciousness within me allowed me to bring the gift of restful presence to those I met people who needed rest desperately, but had no chance to take it. Just like I had been in the season before. I realized that my season of hiddenness was blessing, not just me, but those that I was sent to as well.
Another fruit from this prolonged season of hiddenness was new clarity about my identity and vocation. Being in dry dock so to speak has given me the time and space I needed to finally unpack and reflect on my experiences, and to listen more deeply to my life without interruption.
I gained new understanding about my history, my wounds, and my mission. As we receive healing in our lives, we will find that we are often called and sent as bearers of hope and healing to other people who share similar wounds as we do. We become what renowned spiritual author Henry Nouwen calls wounded healers.
My season of hiddenness formally ended midway through 2020. That was when I felt called to start this podcast and a coaching, consulting and formation practice as part of my personal vocation. All the experiences that I have integrated during the season of hiddenness is now being shared with others, with new intensity, as well as new clarity.
So before this, I was already going out and reaching out to people and giving talks, but it was always, you know, emerging from the wilderness, doing the work, and then going back into the silence, going back into hiddenness. But since I began podcasting , I've been back in the experience of being out there the whole time.
So as I enter into this new season of action and service, I am experiencing once again, that tension of trying to remain rooted in my being while responding to the push and pull of external demands. I'm finding that I need the deeper roots that I have grown in the previous season of hiddenness in order to remain faithful to my inner self and to my ongoing interior journey.
I named this episode, the joy of hiddenness, because I wish to convey to you the great value that hiddenness can offer. Real transformational growth can't happen without seasons of hiddenness. And in God's Providence life will always give us opportunities to slow down, unplug and delve in a deeper way into our interior journey.
We just need to know how to look out for those opportunities. The question is whether or not we want it and whether or not, when we recognize that opportunity, we will choose it. Or whether we will choose instead to remain distracted and preoccupied with activities on the surface level of our lives.
There are different ways that opportunities for hiddenness can come to us. It may not always take the form of a prolonged sabbatical. It takes experience and insight to recognize those opportunities, though, as I've often said, this journey can not be undertaken alone. It's not meant to be done alone. We need the guidance and support of others who understand the interior journey.
I continue to rely on the love and support that others offer me. I am not making my journey alone. And it is precisely because I know that this journey cannot be made alone, that I started this podcast and Parrhesia, my coaching practice. These are the ways that my unique life experience and gifting can support fellow pilgrims like you, who are also making the interior journey.
[00:20:39] PRAXIS: LISTEN. PONDER. ACT.
As we come to a close for this episode, let's turn now to the praxis prompts.
One: Listen – as you listened to today's episode, what struck you? Does something resonate particularly strongly with you?
Two: Ponder – how does the thought of entering a season of hiddenness make you feel? Let your emotions review of themselves to you without judging them. What do you think your emotional response to being hidden is telling you about the state of your inner being?
Three: Act – identify an area or two in your life that would benefit from a time of hiddenness and tending. Then plan for a period of time to get away and be hidden where you can be in silence and solitude and be tended to. You can do a search on Google for retreat centers, close to you in the show notes for this episode, I will post links to some retreat centers in Singapore.
If you are new to silence, you may wish to do just dip your toes in with a short day of recollection or just a weekend of silent retreat. If you feel that you're in need of more silence and solitude, there are also options for longer retreats. You can always write into the retreat centers and find out if they have an upcoming program that may be suitable for you.
[00:22:06] COURAGE TO SEEK HIDDENNESS
Finally, there may be some of you who are listening to this right now, who instinctively know that perhaps even a longer retreat may not be sufficient. This would be especially the case if you know that you're burning out, or maybe you have already suffered burnout. Maybe you have hit a crisis point and you feel that your life has spiraled out of control. And if that's the case, you may feel that you need a longer time to just pause and revisit the most important things in your life.
Maybe you need a longer period of time of being hidden to unpack significant life-changing events that may have happened in recent years or months. If that is the case, I urge you to consider the possibility of hitting the pause button in your life. You are worth it.
If you really want to make this journey into authenticity and wholeness, take a deep breath and, and be honest with yourself about what you need. And I hope that you will be willing to consider taking a courageous step for your own sake. It may require you to make a big change to the way that your life is right now, perhaps leaving a job, ending a relationship, changing living conditions, whatever it is that is within your choice within something that you're able to do.
It may require a sacrifice of some sort, but I hope that you will find enough conviction in you to believe that you are worth this. You are worth this change. You are worth this season of hiddenness. You are worth the restoration and the healing and the rest that you need and deserve.
Before I end, I just want to send a message to those listeners who like me have known from experience the joy of being hidden for a period of time. And if you have gone through that, you know, just how. Deeply restorative, such seasons can be, and it can be very difficult to come out of such seasons of hiddenness. But don't worry. That's just how the interior journey goes.
There are seasons and seasons change, and if we know how to be present, we can find beauty in every season, even though they can be so different from one another.
Well, that brings us to a close to this episode on the joy of hiddenness. Take care and I hope that the next time you have an opportunity to, you will enter and discover the joy of being hidden.
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction no matter how small those steps might be. And no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin.
The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingme.sg and subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!