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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Meditation: Control of the Thoughts, a Prescription for Spiritual Health

Today has offered a continual reminder that one of the keys to happiness is to control our thoughts. A constant litany of negativity is the quickest way to discouragement and depression. When I was on Facebook this morning, I came across a video of Zig Ziglar. It intrigued me so I took a look at his bio. His life wasn't all roses and bonbons. His father died when he was only six years old and his baby sister died two days later. His family was poor. He was a salesman who struggled to make enough to take care of his family. And yet, he never gave up and ended up a successful motivational speakers helping millions of people "overcome obstacles." Here's just one short video with an important message about life.

Now one thing I'm sure of is that grace builds on nature. Ziglar's message seems to me to be sheer common sense. But after this little message from a man speaking from experience, I came across an article this evening about the Desert Fathers of the Church and their prescription for dealing with negative thoughts. And just like Ziglar's discussion about negativity and its destructive influence on a person's life, the Desert Fathers offer solid advice for the cure. Control your negative thoughts and control the passions of the heart. Here's just a bit:
For these ancient monks the objective of gaining control of their thoughts was to reach Hesychasm; a state characterized by peace, calm, rest, silence, and deep inner solitude; necessary for the spiritual contemplation of things and beings, and the understanding of God. The Desert Fathers prescribed many methods to achieve this: “guarding the heart”, sobriety, hospitality and practicing meditation.
Guarding the heart, in Greek nepsis (vigilance), is being attentive to everything that happens in our heart. It is a spiritual method which aims to free man of bad or passionate thoughts. It invites us to observe the thoughts which penetrate our soul, and to discern between the good and the bad. Evagrius said: “Take care of yourself, be the gatekeeper to your heart and don’t let any thought enter without questioning it.” As Xerri points out: “The elders noticed that holy thoughts led to a peaceful state, the others to a troubled state.” (Read more....)
Ziglar was a devout Baptist, but in terms of his philosophy of life he had a lot in common with the Desert Fathers. You can watch his videos on YouTube where he urges you to be a "good finder" not a "fault finder." He advises people not to have an advanced case of "stinkin' thinkin'." He reminded me of G.K. Chesterton when he said, "The healthiest of human emotions is gratitude." Chesterton said we should say grace before everything. He described gratitude as "happiness doubled by wonder." Did Ziglar read Chesterton? He certainly internalized him.

Zig Ziglar died in 2012 centuries after the Desert Fathers, but I think they would have seen him as an acolyte. So I'm praying for him tonight and I hope you will too. He helped a lot of people recognize that your greatest enemy is often yourself.


Chriss Rainey said...

I think it would be wise to thoroughly investigate hesychasm and its likely connection to mysticism and how as such it may be of the occult and dangerous.

I personally do not ever want to put my mind "in a state".

Where I totally agree with your post is in the notion we have a choice to embrace suffering and be happy in spite of it.

The monks were completely beyond the pale. What they did was Hindu, not Catholic.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

The Church has always encouraged ejaculatory prayer and the "Jesus prayer" is a constant reminder of where our attention should be -- "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner." It's the prayer of the publican and a good prescription against pride and presumption.

With regard to "hesychasm Is there anything that can't be abused? We need to keep in mind the parable about the man who has seven demons driven out only to have them return with even more.

We can't just empty ourselves. We need to empty ourselves of worldly idols so we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we use meditation in that way, there is nothing to fear.

"Come, O Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of thy love."

elpine flower said...

St John Cassian practiced Hesychasm and brought this form of meditation from the writings of the Early Church Fathers and the Desert Fathers or Hermits. Thus these aesthetical practices of prayer of the heart formed a basis of spirituality in the Order of St Benedict and it's offshoots.
Lord Jesus Christ Son of God,have mercy on me, a sinner.
Hesychasm has nothing to with Hinduism as it was first practiced by Christian hermits and monks in Egypt .