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? …


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


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!



Disappearing in you

O Beloved of the heart! Creator of all that exists! You who encourage behind the atoms, who drive the dancing journey of the galaxies! You who sustain the innumerable forms of life and who feed the fire of the most distant suns!

Let us remove the shell of pride that covers our hearts so that we can feel your embrace in the midst of everyday life. Help us to feel your steps as evening falls in the garden of our life. Let the rain of Your grace fall, send the thunder of Your Spirit, silence the noise of our mind with the wind of Your love.

Help us to remember that it is You whom we love behind the multiple desires that bind us. Soothe our dryness with the water of wonder and return to our eyes the look we had as children. Allow us to recognize you in others and to ignore the apparent differences. Sacralize our steps and give us light to be officiants in the ceremony of the moment.

Make our whole life part of the cosmic liturgy, use our steps to manifest Yourself in the world, consume our petty mood so that we may, once and for all, disappear in You.


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.


The desert of the unexpected

Our particular internal situation becomes clear when we are in the middle of the desert. When we are left without being able to dispose of what we cling to. Suddenly, we cannot repeat the execution of that habit or start a conversation with that person, we can no longer count on what we had. The desert can come when sickness, unemployment, unwanted loneliness or a sudden change in mood that leaves us in heartburn.

The desert, that which has no boundaries, leaves us without hold, tears away our dependencies, strips us; it shows us its own face, the one we do not want to see, so as not to feel the pain of our constant postponement of change. This figure – that of the desert – which is always mentioned in the history of spirituality, reflects the situation of the human soul: We are here, in the middle of the immensity, included in what cannot be measured or understood.

It is in this situation of perplexity before the mysterious existence, when the real questions can manifest in us. For this reason, The Voice cries out in the desert, (John 1, 23) calling us to profound transformation, to a more true living, inspires us with the desire to make life sacred. Is it that life has meaning without the sacred in it?

The irruption of the desert in our life, -the emergence of the unwanted or the fall of illusions- is a way in which God calls us to awaken the spirit. The emptiness of the desert overwhelms us, dismantles false securities, reveals what it is. What if I am not going to make that purchase? Or if I’m not going to talk to that person? Or if I don’t turn on the television or go online? What if I allow the desert to enter my life? And, in that case, how do you really go through it on a daily basis?

Let us clear the way, so that that Light of which John was a witness may manifest in our lives. (John 1, 6-8) And then how to clear the way?


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.