Grief and the Quality of the Thoughts

While most people come to know us through our actions, our lives are actually determined by our thoughts. It is precisely in the inner realm of the thoughts that outward action first germinates and later comes to fruition, always supported by the moist or dry, rich or barren, smooth or rocky soil of our thoughts. This is also true for those who are experiencing grief. It is the quality and direction of our thoughts about the departed, about ourselves without that person near us, and about our world in that person’s absence, which ultimately determine the course of our grief and the resolution … [Read more...]

Peace, Be Still

And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.  And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?  And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great … [Read more...]

Prayer for the Departed

In our last post, we spoke about the importance of thoughts related to remembrance of death and the relation of those thoughts to repentance. For any thought to have strength to effect a change deep within the soul, it needs to be incarnate in daily life and find expression in human behavior. For the Christian, the remembrance of death is also the remembrance of eternal life; and that remembrance becomes strong only by contact with death and with true life. Saint John Maximovitch, who reposed in 1966, often visited the sick in hospitals. He speaks about the comfort of faith in the time of … [Read more...]

Contemporary Culture, Remembrance of Death, and the Hope of Repentance

Our thoughts are precious, for they express the innermost content of our lives, but those thoughts are not entirely ours. They are in constant dialogue with what we see, what we hear, and what we do. That dialogue often unwittingly reshapes us, altering our intentions, motivations, expectations, as well as the focus of our attention. And this is yet another reason why we need to be watchful, for if we are not watchful, we will never be free. This is one of the reasons why the ancient fathers went into the desert, stripping themselves of the trappings of the sophistication of antiquity, so that … [Read more...]

Keeping a Thought Nothing More than a Thought

Anyone who has read these blog posts or read Ancient Christian Wisdom can recognize that how we handle the thoughts plays a crucial role in our relationships with others, our spiritual healing, and ultimately salvation and eternal life.  The key to handling the thoughts properly is first quickly to distinguish between good thoughts and bad thoughts and second not to allow a bad thought or temptation to become anything more than just a passing thought, which means we don’t entertain it and certainly don’t allow it to materialize in the form of further action.  Ancient Christian Wisdom offers … [Read more...]

Suffering and Alcohol Addiction

In the last blog post, I mentioned maladaptive means of coping with alienation from God.  This so-called “second level” of human suffering is integral to any hopeful analysis of suffering, because it’s precisely the level at which we have the responsibility and capability to effect change in our personal situation.   In terms of the suffering that comes as a result of alcohol or drug addiction, the actual use of alcohol or mind-altering substance is the symptom of a more deeply rooted problem.  This problem is rooted in a mindless captivity to dysfunctional thought patterns, which lead to … [Read more...]

Chaos theory, Butterfly Wings, and Watchfulness over the Thoughts

One of the more important contemporary theories that make sense of phenomenon in the physical world is chaos theory. It affirms that open systems are nonlinear, which is a scientific way of saying that minute changes can have enormous consequences in emergent patterns. For example, when the meteorologist Edward Lorenz was developing computer simulations for weather predictions, he found that rounding numbers from six decimal points to three (a fraction of a thousand) made huge differences in the ultimate predictions. This was called the butterfly effect: the flapping of a butterfly's wings can … [Read more...]

The Role of the Mind and the Body in Behavioral Modification

The Fathers rightly understood that man is a composite of mind and body and that both must be addressed in order to correct the thoughts and actions.  Long before cognitive psychology appeared on the scene to correct one-side behavioralism, patristic tradition had a unified understanding of human mental functioning in terms of theoria and praxis.  For the Fathers, theoria and praxis refer to the inward and outward aspects of life in Christ respectively.  Theoria concerns the correct ordering and control of thoughts while praxis refers to properly ordered outward acts.  Nepsis (or watchfulness) … [Read more...]

More on Thoughts. . .

One might wonder why I’m spending quite some time on the nature of thoughts.  Well, they are at the root of every human act-whether it be virtuous or full of vice.  The act starts in the thoughts.  It’s also in the realm of the thoughts that the spiritual warfare is fought.  In chapter 8 of my book, entitled, “To Survey the Thoughts”, I note that “monastic tradition enjoins beginners in the Christian life to turn to prayer whenever they are confronted with enticing, ambiguous, or deceitful thoughts.  For example, St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite advises those who are unable to resist or repel … [Read more...]