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…


The wandering mind

Dear friends of Jesus’ prayer,

I begin my epistolary relationship with you by dealing with an incessant process, a constant dialogue, a permanent oscillation. It is our wandering mind that moves like a leaf blown by the wind. It is necessary to become aware of the state of our mind, how it tricks us, how enslaved we are by its ups and downs.

The movement of the body’s moods is reflected in it. For each digestive process, respiratory rhythm, state of the organs, each muscular tension, there is an inmediate mental agitation without us noticing it. It is what we usually call thoughts. But it would be more accurate to speak of ramblings, because thought is something organized and the outcome of intention.

A keen observation shows us that sensible thoughts are rare and that, in general, they are formed on the basis of cravings binding us to different kinds of appetites. Jesus’ prayer is a long and deep path that nevertheless does not take long to show its effects. But to do so, it is necessary to be clear as to what the first objective is: to replace ramblings with prayer.

Although it may not seem so, that permanent background chatter that constitutes the internal dialogues, can be silenced in not much time through the repetition of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ. After prayer has become a habit of the mind, it will be time for new stages of deepening, worship, silence and contemplation.

But to acquire this holy habit it is necessary to make the inner act of renunciation to mental chatter. Silence of the mouth is useful as long as it results from mental silence. Otherwise, he who is silent outside, shouts inside.

There are those who believe that Jesus’ prayer, also called “prayer of the heart”, is a method with regard to the meaning of “way”, and it is not wrong to think so. But those who practice it assiduously and over a long period of time have been convinced that it is much more. It is a way of living in the Presence of the Lord and it comes to modify the life of the practitioner from its very root. Those who go into it cannot go back. It is necessary to do some reflection before adopting it for oneself, since it produces an increasing depth in one’s own consciousness, in such a way that to know oneself as something small, in extreme need of divine help and prey to innumerable weaknesses, becomes evident.

From the point of view of the psyche, the one that embraces this prayer has to part with thoughts. The main difficulty is not to get used to prayer but to reject the thoughts. This is because we usually identify this flow of the mind with ourselves. This is not so, but it takes a while to realize it. We are not that which speaks at every moment, I am not the one who thinks this or that; I am not that opinion or that judgment or belief about that other person or what is beyond.

One comes to discover by one’s own experience and not by sayings or readings, that Christ dwells in the heart as a continuous altar lamp. And in the light of that beautiful radiance the very face of the sincere seeker who chose His Name as a tool, flag and object of devotion will come to be revealed. Those who are very attached to their thoughts should not begin this path. Nor should anyone who is satisfied with their spiritual life. It is for those who have not yet found God, for those who do not feel satisfied with their progress, for those who sometimes feel that they fail continuously in everything they undertake. And not because things go wrong for them in the world necessarily but because they do not feel complete in any activity.

The Lord calls us through different ways and all of them are suitable for different persons. To this path one also has to be called. This call usually manifests as an inclination of the heart towards simplicity, as a desire for silence and absence of complications. Also as a growing love for the person of Jesus Christ and a deep admiration for him. Therefore, the first thing is to accustom the mind to prayer. There are those who take paper and pencil and write it down as it used to be written in schools, to repeat the writing of a sentence. Some people go out for a walk and carry it on their steps as if accompanying the pace. Others pronounce it with their mouths whenever they can and even sing it. I have also seen those who sit quietly looking for the slow exhalation of the Name.

In general, some things can serve everyone:

– Upon wakening up, when you are barely aware of the start of a new day, pronounce the prayer of Jesus, once and many times, calmly, with your mouth or your mind, while you are getting dressed and preparing yourself for the day.

– Repeat it in every moment of solitude or when you pause in the midst of the frenzy of daily life. Whether you are in an elevator, waiting for the public transport or simply going to the bathroom.

– Appeal to it every time you find yourself restless, distressed or out of focus. Say the chosen phrase with depth of feeling.

– When you go to bed, while you get undressed, as you wrap yourself up in bed, entering into the restful sleep, trust in the mercy of the One whom we name.

Regarding the phrase in Jesus’ prayer

The ejaculatory prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, sinner” besides being the traditional form, offers a benefit that we will discuss later. There are those who replace the word “piety” by “mercy”, understanding by this that they call on the approach of the Lord to their own heart in a better way.

The prayer to be used can be shortened without any problem according to the feeling that the praying person perceives as more appropriate. Even many come to pronounce only “Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ!, as a way of constant adoration. Let us be careful to say it with feeling, emphasizing with emotion the words, whether mental or vocal. But let’s not be discouraged if we say it without having considered it or even not being totally aware of it at some point.

What matters is that it is sculpted throughout the inner temple and automatically will remind us that we were saying it without feeling it. But it is better to repeat His Name without being conscious of it, than to wander with the same unconsciousness around any wind. At some other moment we will deal with the revealed mystery that the same Name brings the presence of the One who is named.

I greet you by calling on Jesus Christ, the source of all mercies.


Change of habits

One of the best teachings I have received about habits and their modification says: “The first step in changing a habit is to replace it with another.” In this clear case, the instruction referred to quitting a harmful habit for another good one, or at least one that was not as harmful as the previous one. This allows the displacement of energy that was used in one activity to another. It is something transitory and in a way it comes to compensate for a deficiency and not to resolve it or transcend it, however it is a good beginning of the transformation.

Then, each time the compulsion or the impulse towards the realization of that habit that I want to give up arises, I immediately start the new behavior with which I intend to replace it. You will remember the example given in “The Russian Pilgrim” where an alcoholic practiced this. Every time he wanted to drink, he read the Gospels and in a short time the urge to drink had passed. And this serves as an example that we can adapt to our own life. This immediate replacement of one behavior for another shows us that vices have a “peak of the wave” and that then it diminishes by itself. It is necessary to go through this kind of “critical moment”, until one can intentionally overcome the stimulus that presses us with strong desire. Habits are formed by simple repetition.

You have to repeat the new behavior you want to install each time the desire for the previous habit appears. In a few days we will feel stronger, increasingly able to overcome the difficult moment. Later, we get used to going through the critical moment without replacing the behavior. We simply remain attentive to this desire that arises with force to repeat some behavior and when observing what happens in some way we differentiate ourselves, we distance ourselves and a space appears that gives some margin of freedom. So first replace, then learn to go through and while this happens, understand what is hidden behind the habit.

A harmful habit is a symptom, it has arisen in response to certain internal and external situations. In a way it served as an analgesic, it was like an anesthetic for the pain that was there at that time. But you cannot live on painkillers, you have to discover and solve the origin of the pain. In very general terms, a life in which we do not find meaning and where we do not often perceive the presence of God in the everyday is a breeding ground for a multitude of harmful habits. The integral answer lies in the sacralization of life. Or, rather, to attend to the sacred that is shown in passing.

But this cannot be imposed, it must be experienced. For this, it is necessary to cultivate attention and train the look. The gaze (towards where we direct the perception) can also get used to and get into the habit of looking for God in everything and everything. A fraternal hug to all invoking the Holy Name of Jesus.


Opening the spiritual senses

The great mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal was able to say at the time that most of the problems of the human being arise from his inability to sit still and do nothing in his room. How right he was! Let’s reflect on this a bit.

Lacking fullness, that is, a feeling of autonomous well-being in ourselves, we throw ourselves towards things, people and situations, pretending that contact with them produces that satiety that we never achieve. Lacking the perception of the divine presence, life appears to us desecrated, meaningless or with meanings that continually change and are transitory.

We live to achieve this and then that and then the beyond, in a hurry we go after a mirage that will always be ahead. An object, a title, a person, a trip, a love affair, an acknowledgment, a meal … inside us a constant murmur tells us: “When you have this or that you can rest and be happy …” “This now is not important, hurry to achieve that, that is what you lack … ”and similar statements.

The fact is that if we stay still, we soon despair. “Go inside!”, “Heaven is within us”, “Find God in your heart”, the spiritual texts tell us, but when we remain still and pay attention inside, we conect with anxiety, boredom, fear, negative thoughts, oppressive memories, fatalistic imaginations, anger, worries and an extensive menu that makes us go terrified towards any activity that allows us to anesthetize and forget this absence in us: the absence of contentment that derives from a brittle faith , of multiple dependencies and the feeling of being separated from God.

How happy the one who does not fear because he needs nothing! And needs nothing because has everything. He has a heart full of certainty, he feels the living God acting in him, as present and real as the sun feels on his face or the sound of thunder and then heavy rain. It seems necessary to open and strengthen the capacity of our spiritual senses; the eyes of the heart, the ears of the soul, the touch of the Spirit within. How will we do this?

How many activities did I do today feeding dependencies or habits that enslave me? How many activities were there to anesthetize the pain that Your absence causes me? Have I tried to make things, no matter how small, as a worship liturgy? How to officiate the ceremony of the moment? For a muscle to grow, it must be exercised, to achieve proficiency, it must be dedicated to it, any development depends on grace but also requires application of our energy and attention.

Let’s see if we can go on tackling some exercise later that allows us to awaken and strengthen the spiritual senses that lie intact but asleep in the depths of the soul.


The Quality of the eternal

What is the most important thing in your opinion in religious life? What is essential, that which cannot be missing?

The intimate experience of God in the heart. That certainty of his existence, that sense of his presence at every moment while the everyday goes by. The purpose of religious life is to facilitate access to this inner experience. Of course, everyone lives it in their own particularity and approaches or moves away from it according to the path of their own spiritual development.

It is good to remember this, not to forget the ultimate meaning of what we do. Even more so in these times, in which, in addition to a continuous desacralization of human activities, a certain relativism of faith prevails, which I believe manifests a fundamental nihilism.

In a way, it is as if a “habit of disappointment” tended to settle in, a condescending way of looking, as if we knew how all things are and what can be expected of life. More than a routine in itself of events, it is a routine of the gaze, a vice in the way of seeing.

In your opinion, what is the closest thing to this experience of God in your heart?
The sentence. And this, understood not only in its particular liturgical and / or personal meaning, but also as a way of being and being in life, as a way of being the conscience pending of God, of his presence and manifestation while time passes. 
We live unfolding our intention between the categories of space and time; however they are not absolute but are traversed by what we would call the quality of the eternal. This divine quality of events that is present as the background of existence, can be made perceptible to those who, with attention and love, seek the sacred in events.

What happens can be pleasant or unpleasant, it can give us happiness or sometimes a lot of pain; even many times it is incomprehensible, not assimilable. The behavior of others and even our own often leave us perplexed and frightened. However, the intelligence of redemption is also at work there.

Could you explain a bit more?
Hardly. It is something that can be sensed but not fully explained. I would tell you that everything is made for our redemption and transformation, that the destiny of individual and social man is good and perfect, although we cannot see it at times.

And how can one pray, how to reach that state of continuous prayer?
The prayer of Jesus is my way, the invocation of the Name, which tends to replace ramblings and desires and which little by little is focusing us on the only thing necessary. However, there are different ways of praying and approaching God. Each one is called to travel a certain path and that is for something, some particularity has that form to which the heart of each one leans that makes it necessary, suitable for each one.

In general, I would say that it helps not to spend yourself on secondary things, to focus on what is important. We must not forget certain truths, which we do not like to remember very much. We must remember that this life is transitory, that old age, illness and death exist and that only before them do we put things in the necessary perspective.

When you remember these things, you immediately turn to God and wonder about the meaning of life. That question, that excruciating concern is the first form of prayer that I have ever known and, at the same time, the first manifestation of God’s love, of his intimate and personal call.