Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Question: Controlling My Thoughts
"HOW CAN I CONTROL what I think?" a friend asked me this weekend.
Obviously trying to control the thoughts that come to one's mind would make a person nutty. A victorious life has nothing to do with being a wierdo.
It is better to think of the mind as your home. It has a front door. The question becomes, then,
When a harmful thought comes to me, do I welcome it in, seat it by the fireplace, bring it a cup of coffee and have a nice chat with it?
Do I regard it as an enemy and a stranger?
For example, the Fathers tell us that thinking over and over about the bad stuff people have done to you ("the remembrance of wrongs") is something that will mess you up and ruin your prayers. So, when that cruel person or event pops in my head, do I push the thought away, or do I meditate on what was done to me, how unfair it was, and how much I need revenge?
As far as thoughts relating to fornication and sexual impurity, do I have an "open-door policy"? Do develop and refine schemes for achieving sinful ends over and over in my head?
Taking the metaphor one more step:
Is my mind an open doorway where any thought can come and go as it pleases? Or do I have an armed guard there (positive hobbies and interests, holy thoughts)? Have I reinforced the door with the Word of God and spiritual reading, or have I smashed it down and filled it with holes (with poisonous material)?
Hesychios the Priest notes, "Watchfulness is a continual fixing and halting of thought at the entrance to the heart. In this way predatory and murderous thoughts are marked down as they approach and what they say and do is noted...If we are conscientious in this, we can gain much experience and knowledge of spiritual warfare."*
*On Watchfulness and Holiness no. 6