About thinking

From the Psyche’s point of view, those who embrace this kind of prayer, must let go of thoughts. The main difficulty is not to get used to prayer, but to deny them; and this, because we tend to identify this flowing of the mind with ourselves.

  • I would like to know more about these points, how is it that we have to say goodbye to thoughts? I think that without them we would not be able to function, we would be like people with severe mental retardation.
  • I perfectly understand your objections. It happens that what we normally do cannot be called “thinking”, and in that sense, we must deny thoughts.

We must abandon any rambling way of thinking, an erroneous way of organizing our experience as we go through. We commonly call “thinking” to a certain way of labelling the phenomena perceived by our senses.

We also call thoughts to the associations that automatically happen in our mind between what we perceive and what we remember. Everything that we see receives a name from our mind and it stays permanently linked to our memory records, to what we have lived, to our personal biography. This can be seen as an interesting survival mechanism, but it certainly cannot be called “thinking”.

Strictly speaking, “thinking” is not something that we do; instead, it is something that is done, or that happens involuntarily, as the digestion of foods, breathing or the renovation of the skin cells. Likewise, inevitably, an image is generated in the mind, which is simultaneously related to what has been perceived. We never see the thing objectively, as our perception is tainted by our biography, personal projects, and themes of preferences.

This situation is part of our present human condition and, in a certain way, has to do with what is mentioned in the first chapters of the book of Genesis. This way of functioning of the mind, disconnects us from reality, preventing us from seeing what is happening and retaining us in a world with large doses of fantasy. Moreover, we have become accustomed to “live inside” these automaton processes of the mind and to identify ourselves with them.

We identify ourselves with this mental happening; Imagine that someone has the power to follow the digestive processes and to realize when the food is being dissolved and mixed with the acids inside the stomach. Now imagine that this person does this every day for the rest of his life.

This is very similar to what we do when we belief we are thinking. We think we think, but, in reality, we are being carried along by a mental digestion of the events that take place in our daily lives. When one stops living with his attentions, when one abandons the identification with these psychological processes, a new world that is unknown to us opens up.


Allowing Presence

Conversion Series II

A way of life that has become customary to us is to live stretched out, stretched out towards the future; generally toward diverse purposes in various areas of our life. Multiple desires form images of ideal situations and towards them we set out, usually in haste.

How does this start? It is a habit acquired through the family, the media, and culture in general. We observe our vital situation through the prism of likes and dislikes. To each perception we add a “like” or a “I don’t like” or a “more or less … but better if it were” … What we observe in social networks and in almost all media, this  “like” or “dislike” to what appears is actually a reflection of what was already happening in us. We perceive taking position, adding our personal imprint, adhering or rejecting. This is not perceiving. This is desiring. We live desiring. 

We live pulled by the shortcomings, almost all apparent. They are seldom such. This is neither bad nor good, it is a mode of operation very typical of the biological that aims to achieve the best environmental conditions to ensure the survival of the organism. However the life of the spirit is different. It is above all an attentive look. From there you can observe the situations and also the desires that appear as part of it. But it remains at a distance. There is an openness to the teaching that events bring as a result of the omnipresent will of God. The supreme mystery is revealed through what happens and reveals meanings accessible to the spiritual senses.

To see, we must leave what we want in parentheses. Allowing presence to manifest. Fast from appetites and from the many desires, not repressing but witnessing. This transforms them into perceived objects and strips them as simple impulses that come and go. There is no reason to live life at the expense of those variable winds and be subjected to their whim. Otherwise we are never more than stretched to where we think we are going. There is nothing wrong in heading towards some goal, in having some planning; the problem is in living beyond here; in extracting the vital force of an imagined future instead of a current now and in that sense, more true and truthful.

Where do we go? What do we despair of achieving? A sensation without a doubt. Feeling of peace, well-being and fullness. What if what we are looking for was already present but hidden precisely because of that inauthentic way of living? What if the problem was not in what I lack in this or that area of life but in my way of being and being? If this were so, if the center of the question were my mode of existence; the solution should necessarily come from within. Sometimes grace manifests itself as a deep understanding that allows for genuine and stable conversion. Or a radical fall into account may occur that draws back the veils, causes the surrender of fantasies and the air becomes clean as on a fresh morning.

The meaning of life does not derive from a purpose in the midst of unappealable finitude or diverse goals to be achieved. Meaning is something that runs through life right now and remains unchanged, available and abundant. They have called it the awakening of the spiritual senses; also The Christ of the heart or the light of the Holy Spirit. Beyond names and forms, it is an unmistakable presence that transfigures the world.

It sounds good but it seems somehow disconnected from my reality. How to bring it from words to my own reality? …


The inner lent

The conversion series I

What can you tell me about Lent?

In a way, life can be seen as a Lent, as the preparation for the final step, Easter, resurrection. It will be good to internalize Lent. Giving the body some fasting never hurts; it shows us the dependence we have on food as a means to appease anxieties, it exposes our slavery to acquired habits and customs. The main purification that fasting or some deprivation shows us; It results from this awareness that brings us back a bit to humility. It places us with more criteria in the reality that we live and not in which we believe we live.

What reality do we live in? Dependency. Endless desires that have become needs. It is no longer the need of drinking water but rather this or that flavored drink. It is no longer eating what we need but that particular dish that we want so much and that the more we taste the more we desire. And just as doing the exercise of depriving the body of something habitual puts us in the presence of the submission in which we live to its impulses; giving the mind some fasting leaves us surprised; we notice the vagabond sleeper in which we usually remain.

What would it be to fast in the mind?

Stop ruminating the same old thoughts. Stop always thinking about the same things as if in that chewing of tensions the problems were going to be solved. Recognize that, in the same way that we usually eat a certain sweet for breakfast, thoughts tend to run along the same old path, more or less at the same times. We always tend to eat the same thing, dependent as we are on such aromas and flavors. Likewise, we always tend to “think” the same thing, dependent as we are on certain “worrying” sensations that, if they were not present, would reveal the emptiness of meaning in our daily lives.

Disregarding the thoughts that appears and directing your attention to your inner purpose is a formidable mental fast. For example, directing our attention to the way of prayer to which we have consecrated ourselves or towards the perception of the presence of the divine in what happens, or simply, concentrating on doing the best possible with what we have in hand at the moment; it is continuous conversion. Grabbing the attention that escapes us, again and again and bringing it back home, to the heart and taking it where we really want to deposit it, is fasting, almsgiving, purification and Lent of the soul. 

Who remains present at the site of care, tends to eat less naturally, only what is necessary. From this attentive awareness, others are listened to more and a kind of spontaneous charity appropriate to each situation arises. This same vigilance shows us the constant pettiness that traps us and then we are more humble, but without sadness. It is a take off your makeup and look straight ahead and find yourself unconditionally love right there. This liturgical season is supposed as an opportunity for conversion, for profound change … to stop defending an image, to stop pretending, to let go of care and to abandon the vain reasons that bind us to suffering is to become authentic and true penance.

Extract from elsantonombre.org


The opaque glass

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus: We begin February with a series of posts in which we will review old texts from the blog and will include new ones on the topic of thoughts, such as the veil that hides the perception of the presence of God in our daily lives. In this way we want to continue with the subjects of the last retreat and also with something which is frequently tackled in the two courses offered on this site. We find it very useful for our way of being as well as being in the world. Receive a fraternal embrace invoking the Holy Name.

In the book “The Jesus Prayer – Initiation to the practice” in the first letter it is said: “From the point of view of the psyche, the one who embraces this prayer has to start to part with thoughts. The main difficulty is not to become accustomed to prayer but to renounce them. And this is because we tend to identify this flowing of the mind with ourselves”. – I would like to get some clarification on these points, how is it that we have to part with thoughts? I think that without them we would not be able to function, we would be like people with severe mental retardation.

I understand perfectly your objections or questions. It happens that what we usually do is not thinking at all. And, in that sense, it has been said there that we must renounce thoughts. We must give up a rambling way of thinking, an erroneous way of organizing our experience as we go through life. Generally, we call thinking a certain “labeling” of the phenomena that appear in front of our senses.

We also consider thoughts to be the associations that are automatically produced in our mind between what we perceive and what we remember. Each thing that we see receives from our mind a name and is immediately connected to our memory records, along with the things that we have lived.  This may be a very interesting survival mechanism, but it is not thinking.

Strictly speaking, thinking is not something that we do, but it is “done” in the same way as digestion is done, breathing or the renewal of skin cells and other processes of similar characteristics in our body. Also, inevitably, a fabrication is elaborated in the mind with regards to what has been perceived; placing what has been seen in relation to our future interests. We never see the thing in and of itself, but according to our pretensions, projects and preference of topics.

This situation is part of our present human condition and in a certain way, it has to do with what is mentioned in the first chapters of the book of Genesis. This way of functioning of the mind disengages us from reality, preventing us from seeing what is happening and keeping us in a world with large doses of fantasy. Moreover, we have become accustomed to “live inside” these automaton processes of the mind and we equate it with ourselves.

That is to say, we identify ourselves with this mental happening. Imagine that someone has the power to follow the digestive processes and to realize when the bile is secreted, when the food is dissolving, when the nutrients and vitamins are incorporated into the bloodstream… Imagine this person can direct their attention towards the peristaltic movements of the intestine, etc.  It is laughable, even more so if this happens every day and the person continues to concentrate on following this metabolic flow. Picture it in your mind, day after day, all of their life. What we do when we believe that we think is very similar.

It seems to us that we think, when in reality we are being carried away by a mental digestion of the experiences that occur.  When one stops “living there” with one’s attention, when one gives up the identification with these psychological processes, a new world opens up that is unknown to us… A transfiguration of the world takes place.

I understand what you are explaining, but how to get out of the mind? Or how to be able to live from the place where the real is perceived?

Once you have at least intellectually accepted what has been said, regarding that one is not that continuous process of thoughts that come and go, of endless dialogues and considerations about everything and all things, will it be possible to move towards another way of being. In this change at the beginning, it is decisive to direct the attention towards the senses, taking it away from the mental happening. Let us make this clear so that it is not misunderstood:

The common thing is to live “lost in thought”, that is to say, revolving around oneself in an egoic way, overwhelmed by one’s own problems and issues, absorbed in our psychological processes, enslaved by what is contrary to us, striving to achieve what we crave as happiness. That is why I was telling you that it is important to direct our attention out of this mental discourse and begin to pay attention to what we perceive. We cannot become aware of the divine presence in everyday life as long as we look without looking, listen without listening, or project instead of perceiving.

It is as if we are never really where we are. Our life has a lot of simulation in it because in truth we always want to be somewhere else, wherever our yearnings are pushing us to. The specific way of doing that is also mentioned in the book in letter three and the so-called “Sacrament of the present moment”, referred to in the “Spiritual Exercises of the Russian Pilgrim”, also allude to this need to place ourselves first where we are before undertaking any attempt to improve our life situation…

Extract to El vidrio opaco


Leave what is left

The outside shows the inside. In reality we are a unit and everything that happens in our life is closely related to what happens in the soul. Don’t we see that when our house or room is messy , this coincides with a messy mood? We have all lived it. Organizing on the outside harmonizes the forces within us and calming the mind and emotions leads us to be precise and attentive on the outside.

But the necessary background for all this is the desire for a simple life. When we manage what is necessary, everything becomes simple. Simple habits, clear behaviors and a growing freedom from circumstances are installed in our day.Avoiding complications, abandoning everything that is left over, choosing silence whenever possible, calms down the passions that separate us from God and bring us closer to the only passion that does not know disappointment, the devotion that burns in the heart.

We actually all love God very much. We do not realize much because that deep bond has been translated to us in different ways that disguise that love. But as some monks say in Philocalia: it is God himself who we look for when we are in a hurry after a certain thing, person or situation. Can we marvel at a delicious meal without remembering who cooked it ? Can we admire a landscape, a spring morning or the aroma of the humid earth without thinking about the Creator of it?

How about that person who we love so much, is it not sustained in the will of God? Who do we think looks at us through the eyes of a child or anyone else? He alone. God is truly present in every moment. He shows himself to us in everything. However we have lethargic the senses of the soul that are what allow us to perceive it from this world. How to remove the veil that opaque them?It is important to start simplifying everything. Differentiate need from desire. Slow down. Not committing ourselves to many things. And give the moments of prayer or silence the value they have. 

But we will not give real value to specific moments of prayer if we do not learn to get out of the mind and immerse ourselves in the spirit or the “nous”, that contemplative part of the soul according to the Philocalia praying. And it will be difficult to calm the mind while we remain slaves of the automatisms that govern our life.

There is a necessary understanding and a necessary attitude that open us to a new behavior. Our behavior is the result of what we carry inside. And what is it that cannot be missing inside us? The desire for God, the longing for Him, the passion to find that which never dies. It does not matter what is done, it does not matter what is to come, merging from this very moment is what counts. Abandon ourselves to what his will brings us at each step and act knowing that it is God himself who speaks to us through what happens.

From elsantonombre.org


The grotto of the heart

“Attention strengthens that to which it is applied.” This phrase struck me at the time. Then it appeared formulated in a similar way in other areas, at different times in different situations. I sensed it was expressing an open secret; that which is at hand, which is marvelous and which we tend to miss.

The point where we focus our attention constitutes “our world” and it widens or narrows, it deepens, becomes larger and expands depending on what that attention is encouraged by. Where does my attention go? What impulse guides it? The issues and objects to which we pay attention are like the threads with which we then spin the fabric of our lives. What texture will my world settle on?

Christmas can be an opportunity to discover Jesus in our heart. Christ lives in us but usually we do not realize it. We have become accustomed to think about Him, to hear about Him, to read about Him and to evoke Him through the various images that His memory evokes in us. And that’s all perfectly fine. But… how come He lives in our heart?

When we value the intention more than the outcome of the action; when we pay attention to the best qualities of other people; when in one situation we see the possibility rather than the difficulty; we begin to discover a certain inner strength that is not nourished by what is changeable. It is like a breeze of fresh air that cleans a musty room. It is not something complex, it is the heart becoming a grotto, a manger, a place for the Light that comes into the world.

God came but is still coming. Jesus was born but is yet to be born. It is something very vast that penetrates the world and wraps it. It is an immense mystery that God becomes man. To attend to the peace that is always present in the depths of the heart is an everlasting Christmas.

Dear friends, brothers and sisters of the heart, may you have a very merry Christmas! We send you a big hug for what we have shared this year. In a quick glance the images of all that we have experienced appear and then, very thankful, we call upon the Holy Name of the Lord Jesus.

From elsantonombre.org


Grace and Disgrace

The garden was a mess. Shattered land after the catastrophe. The hail had destroyed everything. The garden, the flowers and even the aromatic herbs that were arranged next to the shed. The two vines my father knew how to plant, which were about to bloom, had lost all their green. And it wasn’t the first time. My mood reflected what I saw. It was undone. So much love put into the work seemed to make no sense. I had already been told on occasions that it did not matter what was outside but the inner way in which things are done, however I could not avoid being upset.

Weren’t You the one who called me to the solitude of the field? Weren’t You who inspired me to live frugally from the fruit of my garden? Who planted in me the seed and the taste for the hermitic life? I cried out inside myself: Who understands you, my God? The mess of my soul was also reflected in my small house. And not even the so thick and perfect Bible that I had bought with hard economic effort inspired me to read. Other times just seeing it and flipping through its soft and perfumed pages ignited devotion. Now nothing. Everything was gray and my body felt weak. I lay on my back on the bed without looking at anything but the empty ceiling, without praying, almost without thinking. 

In the sleepless night that followed, dreaming without dreams came images of my teacher and his words and examples. With emphasis he insisted on the metaphor of the peach stone. How warm it had felt inside the fruit and how that shelter had seemed eternal and placid. In how he had despaired when he saw the excessive ripening of the fruit and then when it detached itself from the tree and fell to the ground, the pain of the putrefaction of what had been his refuge. Little by little the heart was left alone, in an unknown location, before a sky that he did not understand and the very tree in which he had been born seemed strange to him.

 Gesticulating vehemently, he said to me: “Do you realize the despair that a peach stone would feel when it felt an inexplicable internal force that destroys it by opening it in the middle, which disarms it and then when small limbs sprout that tie it to the ground?” . “How could it understand that what happens is it own vocation, that for which he has been called to life: to root and be the seed of a new tree.”

“It’s the same with us, we misinterpret misfortune. We often confuse grace with disgrace. We have been created and continue to be shaped by a very wise and loving sculptor. With marvelous art, the events of life happen for our good, so that we orient ourselves towards that for which we were conceived. How to remove the excess stone so that the beautiful sculpture appears? How to write an icon without first devastating the wood or painting in oil without first treating the canvas? ” Trust, trust! He always told me.

A few hours later, already grateful in my heart, I redrew the boundaries of the new garden. It would leave the soil very fine and worked and would organize the different species more coherently than before. I would put the best of myself in an impeccable attempt. I will let myself be worked by You Lord, Remove all the weeds from my proud heart! I will continue here waiting for your storms and I will seek not to surrender to fear or discouragement. I will remember that I am earth worked between Your beautiful hands. 


The beat of your name

The day begins… And this happens, then that; one must do this thing, then that other thing, and later that thing over there. Hours go by, our mood fluctuates, this is pleasing, that not so much. Rushing here and there, situations, desires, comings and goings around so many things…

But how different the day is when I’m willing to receive everything that happens, remembering that it all comes from You. Who else could it come from? And when I establish myself in that attitude of taking everything as a favour for the elevation of my spirit, the sacred begins to color the world. Things, people and the different scenarios we have to pass through in our day begin to be charged with meaning. A meaning that has always been there but that remained veiled is effortlessly discovered.

What a tremendous mystery that ray of light that, coming from a sphere ignited in the fire of Your love, has come to touch the leaves of the tree in my yard. What a mystery the bright green in the garden, the warmth of my little dog sit by my thigh, this fresh air coming in and out of my body, the flow of text on the keyboard…

Then the desire to return Your love arises. To do things well, to officiate that liturgy of the hours by means of the acts that are necessary, being attentive to the meaning they carry. Everything happens+ for something and the deep meaning is known to You, only You. But the heart knows it intuitively, follows its trace and intuits the remnants of a purpose that seems intimate and familiar. As if we had always known it.

O Lord! How great You are, source of all immensity…! In all things you are manifested, any look is yours, always and in everything you are. And the more you manifest yourself, the more we give ourselves. O Christ in the heart! Remove every thought with the wind of your grace and leave in that new clarity the single beat of Your Name!



The place of rest

Shortly after waking up we can tell if we are centered, off-center or losing our way. Let’s pay attention to the rush there is in our actions. If you do things in haste we already know the extent of our estrangement from the heart. It is a very simple criterion that frees us from error. When we jump from one moment to the next very much in a hurry, or when we are already wishing to finish this and move on to the next thing… We moved towards the periphery of ourselves.

The closer we are to our center, the calmer it is and there lies a balance which is clarity. In the past, very tall towers were built on the top of high mountains, which were sheltered from storms because they were above the clouds. They were impregnable places and, although they were totally exposed, remained sheltered. Being there implied distance and an easy observation of the whole environment.

Living in the inner hermitage, in the spiritual heart, enables us to have the same thing. It is a capacity to realize the different facts that converge in the same event and at the same time, to maintain a certain distance from them. It opens up a space that allows us to breathe in every sense of the word and not be overwhelmed by the reactions that occur in the environment, in our minds and bodies.

Being established there feels fresh and does not imply effort in the sense that we usually use the word. Being there does not make you tired. Accessing that place where we are authentic pervades our days with meaning and makes us feel a sense of familiarity with grace. And it is this same familiarity that calls us back when we are absent due to distractions, habits or sheer inertia.

Very different methods are used to reach that depth of the soul and are suited to different people in each situation or at a particular moment. But to realize that the result of our actions does not depend on us but on the divine providence is very necessary. Without this conviction it becomes difficult to go to the place of true rest. If what is happening depends ultimately on us, we are carrying a very heavy burden on our backs that we cannot bear.

Once I was told: Did you make the sun rise today? Have you decided the direction the clouds will follow? Do you know already how many people will come to the world or will leave it at the end of the day? Well, no. Do you tell the heart when to beat, the diaphragm how to breathe, or the blood where it should circulate? No, you don’t. Go through your life and you will see that the person you are with, the place where you live, that job and those other circumstances have happened beyond your intention. In any case, an interaction that you cannot specify has taken place.

Sticking to our scope of activity, doing the best we can in every moment and situation is our field of action. And that small space of freedom appears when we allow the grace of attention become present in us. This vigilant attention needs relaxation, not contraction. And that relaxation arises when we are aware of our role in the work of creation. If we travel in one of the seats of the bus and behave as if we were the driver, we will feel embittered during our trip. We will complain that our course is not being followed and we will not understand what we are doing wrong.

The practice of Jesus’ prayer, for example, or other forms of prayer and meditation are intended to silence the mind. And this is because the mind is not the proper tool to guide our life. If we put the “crazy lady of the house” in charge we find ourselves with lives full of suffering and inconsistency. Let’s continue to talk about this in the days ahead if you like.



Silence is alive

At this time of year it is usual to have new year’s resolutions and wishes, certain objectives or goals to be achieved arise… What can you tell me about this subject?

It is very common. When we are guided by the calendar we notice a change, a kind of new stage or opportunity to start over. It’s a bit like that notebook with blank pages I was telling you about, that taste we have for starting from scratch, that taste for writing skillfully and neatly. All these proposals for change, for improvement, for doing things differently, are very useful to each one according to their stage of the journey they’re at.

But I would say that the best purpose or goal is that which is achieved at the very moment we find ourselves in right now. Something that you have right now and that by its very nature cannot be lost. We all seek a stable peace and well-being that we intend to achieve in some future through this or that. However, that soft joy and serene contentment are right here and now and are independent of whatever is happening in our current perception, that is, what we observe in the world or in our mind.

Precisely this one who observes lives at the core of the spiritual heart in an environment of sonorous silence… It is an echoing silence because it is full. It is not the silence of a dead void, of inert things irreparably. It is a very living silence, as if it were a fresh and immaterial liquid or a living aroma that ripples everywhere.

How to get there?

It is precisely when you see it as something that is ” out there” or in the future that the essence of what we are talking about escapes you. You have to try to believe what I tell you and try, to take a sample in your own experience to see if what I tell you is true. As soon as you have a moment in the daily hustle and bustle of life, sit down for a moment where you are comfortable. Leave your body still for a few moments, without stiffness but more or less still. Ignore the countless fluctuations of the mind just for a few moments. Remain present and attend to the silence… It is like a space between sounds, an intangible something that you will nevertheless perceive. Or, if you prefer, attend to the space between things, to that “emptiness” that separates one object from another… I can’t tell you more… It’s something you notice or maybe not, it depends a lot on the willingness and dedication you put into that attention.

How can I tell if I have discovered what you are referring to?

Again you take the mind stance and from there, you try to grasp something that cannot be grasped or possessed because it is immaterial. But it is not the nothingness, but rather the whole of God’s subtle presence, or as I like to say: it is Christ embracing you. It is likely that you feel a gratitude emerging from your heart that has no object, you feel grateful for no reason. When we realize that in reality we are always involved in grace, feeling grateful seems the only thing to “do”. We discover that we are always protected, sheltered; the hidden helplessness by which we usually live disappears. What the psalmist said becomes our own truth, and some monks sing: “My refuge is in the Most High… my refuge is with the Most High…!

But it’s difficult, not because I sit still for a while and listen, I’m going to find what he says. I have taken similar attitudes but the mind prevailed and that made me feel uneasy.

It is possible. In that case, offer your restlessness and uneasiness to that God you seek and that you can’t find. Claim your right to discover the meaning of life, which is what line us up with His will. Claim with respect but vehemently your right to peace and meaning, to the access to the sacred. When that cry is deep, when you realize that it is the only thing you truly desire beyond all that you seek… You recognize in your very act of consecration and search that which you claim. Everything that happens has meaning, rest in it…