• Mark T. Whitten

Poustinia (Poo-steen-ya)

Updated: Jan 27

This was an original post from my Re-Monk.com blog in February 2012. I thought you might enjoy it, so I brought it out of the vault.


I took my eight-month old son into the woods with me to pray last weekend.  It was a cold morning and we were both bundled up in our winter gear.  Usually at this time of the morning he is extremely busy and a bit noisy exploring and discovering new things that have been left on the floor by our other children. 


But as we hiked through the woods and up to the bluff that overlooks our little valley he was quiet.  


Jed Asher seemed to be in awe of this new world that I was showing him.  We arrived at the log, where I usually sit to pray and read the Scriptures, expecting him to begin his normal routine of wiggling, grunting, and slapping, and arching and thrusting himself toward dangerous things.  However, something quite different occurred.  He became unusually quiet as the sun crept through the maze of naked trees.  There, in the silence, with his head upon his papa's heart, my little Jedediah fell asleep...amid the quiet forest...on our log...in my arms.


Pousitnia is Russian for desert, or desolate place.  In its most literal sense, Poustinia is a geographical term, however, to many devout Russians it has another connotation.  


Catherine Doherty (the mother of Western Poustinias) writes, "To a Russian, then, the word can mean a quiet, lonely place that people wish to enter, to find the God who dwells within them."  In essence, the poustinia is the place where we go so that we can "Be still and know our God; that He may be exalted in the earth."


In an era that rages against silence, where technology wins the battle for our time, and when the church exchanges the peace of God for anti-depressants and unending entertainment, we find ourselves lost and looking for an anchor to ground our weary souls.  Beloved, we have allowed the sacred space that God created in us, for Himself, to become everything but a place of silent solitude, where we can retreat to find the One who longs to bring us comfort, peace, and fulfillment.  The noises of our lives have become idols that keep us from hearing the whisper of God.  May we, like the wise and holy Russians of old, reclaim the poustinia in our lives, that we too may find rest in the Father's arms and listen to His heart that beats with love for us.


If you are interested in learning more about the concept and practice of the Poustinia, I highly recommend reading Catherine Doherty's book Poustinia. Visit her website as well to discover this incredible woman.



"With a gentle hand, He pulled me out to set me down safely on a warm rock; He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again. As if that were not enough, because of Him, my mind is clearing up."~Psalm 40:2-3 (The Voice)

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