Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What is Necessary for Troubled Times.

These times are difficult and troubled. It seems like there is an over abundance of anger and disregard for the needs of others. Saint Paisios says this: 
“May God forgive me, but the world has become a huge mad house! No one thinks of the next life any more. All they want is more and more material goods. This is why they cannot find piece and run around constantly.”  (P 169 With Pain And Love for Contemporary Man, Saint Paisios)
Christ is the light of the world and it is His light that can bring peace through spiritual disciplines. Jesus said 
“I am the light of the world,” and “you are the light of the world.”
The way to peace is through a union with Christ so His light and divine love can live through each of us. Saint Porphyrios tells us the following:
“Out task is to attempt to find a way to enter into the light of Christ...The essence of the matter is for us to be with Christ; for our soul to wake up and love Christ and become holy.” (P 96 Wounded by Love)
This is not about theology or philosophy but practical aspects of spiritual life based on Scripture, and living what Christ has taught through an Orthodox way of life. The key is to purify our hearts by mastering our distracting thoughts in our minds. We must tame the passions that polite our hearts with angry thoughts. Christ and Church fathers and traditions of church show us the way.

The human mind is like a flickering candle in breeze. It is ever active and can easily lead us to sinful ways like anger and selfishness. Without the breeze of temptations, this flickering flame can be steadied. One of the important elements of the Orthodox way of life that can help us is  the Jesus Prayer practiced in the context of Church.

We can become like a bright light. Saint Porphyrios says,
This light is the uncreated light of Christ. If we acquire this light we will know the truth. And God is truth. God knows everything. For Him all things are known and luminous. The world is the work of God. God illuminates this world with His uncreated light. God is light because He knows Himself. We do not know ourselves, and that is why we are in darkness. When we allow the light to flood over us we have communion with God...When we are united with Him, Christ makes us luminous. He offers the ‘great light’ to each of us. If only we would receive it. (P 149 Wounded by Love)
To receive this light we must reach deep into the unconscious mind of our souls through worship prayer and fasting. Saint Porphyrios reminds us:
“No one can ascend to spirituality without exercising himself” (p 156 Wounded by Love)
The Jesus prayer of the heart is a prayer from the depths of the heart. With it comes grace, the Holy Spirit, to enlighten, to purify, and conquer our anxieties and fears. Divine forces are released. It demands a total faith, a surrender and dependence on the Lord.
“When I am repeating the prayer in my mind, sometimes my joy becomes more and more intense. And when my joy becomes ever stronger with the words “Lord Jesus Christ...”, I feel my mind leaping within me along with my heart and there I experience all this joy as I say the prayer.  (P 123 Wounded by Love)
Our current life is being distorted by cultural wars. Bad habits have been normalized and therefore we must reach deep to change or eradicate them. Suffering with anxieties and fear of our future we have to go deep inside just like the saints. Many spiritual men and women show us the way of deep prayer, one that reaches depths of our hearts, purifying so we can receive this divine light.

Jesus tells our prayers will be answered. As a foundation We need the faith of Abraham, Apostles, martyrs, and ascetics. With such faith and our own acetic efforts through deep prayer we not only release forces to heal ourselves but also those around us. We become a beacon of His light. You can become peaceful and a force for peace in the world.

Overcome judgement and anger we can receive love and compassion in the healing light of a Christ. Cultivate it with deep prayer based on Love of Christ and work helping others in a selfless manner. Approach everything with love. You will in this way escape destructive ways of thinking and instead of anxiety and anger you will find joy.

This is the best way to deal with our troubled times.

Monday, December 31, 2018

10 Orthodox New Years Resolutions

Making New Years resolutions? Consider the following Ten Points for a better Orthodox way of life. These will nourish your soul and bring you closer to God and an eternal ire in His kingdom.

1. Praying Daily: Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayer.
2. Worshiping and Participating in the Sacraments: Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in Confession.
3. Honoring the Liturgical Cycle: Follow the seasons of the church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.
4. Using the Jesus Prayer: Repeat the Holy name whenever possible throughout the day or night.
5. Slowing Down and Ordering Your Life: Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction caused by a hurried life.
6. Being Watchful: Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment.
7. Taming the Passions: Overcome your habits, attachment to your likes and dislikes, and learn to practice the virtues.
8. Putting Others First: Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others.
9. Spiritual Fellowship: Spend time regularly with other Orthodox Christians for support and inspiration.
10. Reading Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers.

Link to guidance on these ten points: Ten Points for an Orthodox way of lifef
For hard copy email 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Culture Wars: Can Christianity Change the World?

Today we face much cultural turmoil and seemingly unreconcilable differences. Our discourse often becomes harsh and even hate filled. It seems we have lost a Christ centeredness in our lives. We seem to be trying to solve our cultural value issues thinking we can change it through political ends. We use social media to spew out our differing opinions thinking that this will make a difference. But history clearly tells us changing a culture is not so easily done. 

Is it possible that Christians today have taken the wrong track in putting their energies into political action and social media? When we engage in these arenas don’t we become one with the culture we don’t like. Do we act in a way that exhibits the life and teachings of our Savior? Our actions do not communicate an alternative to the present potpourri of ideas and values. Sociologist James Davidson Hunter demonstrates that political action has never been the cause of cultural shifts even though some good things can happen in this way. More often it leads to oppression of minority views, more division and greater discord. If we truly want to bring Christ back to the center of our lives, a different approach is necessary. 

We are creatures of God called to something much higher than life in this world, the Kingdom of Heaven. To reach this kingdom, Scripture makes it clear, we must become continually better at living like Jesus Christ and become an active participant in a true compassionate faith community. To achieve our God given calling and make a difference in this world, our lived life in our faith community must be different from the general society. 

This view is clearly spelled out by the acclaimed sociologist Dr James Davison Hunter in his book, To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. I suggest you read it. 
He writes, 
“Contemporary Christian understandings of power and politics are a very large part of what has made contemporary Christianity in America appalling, irrelevant, and ineffective—part and parcel of the worst elements of our late-modern culture today, rather than a healthy alternative to it.” Pg 94 
Jesus offers a new alternative. His power is quite different. It is based on His submission to His Father’s will. This we must learn to follow.
“The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. . . . I can do nothing on my own. . . . I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5: 19, 30) 
He is also extremely humble becoming a servant, taking on human flesh and is obedient even to death on the Cross. He is compassionate. We too must learn humility and compassion.
“Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10: 45) 
He never advocated violence or coercion. in the Sermon on the Mount he said, 
“Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” And also, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5: 39, 44). 
Our actions cannot limit freedom, promote violence or hatred or involve coersion. Jesus demonstrates a different, non political power.  To follow Him is difficult in our modern pluralistic society that embraces diversity and relativism. We must become leaders, but not in a political sense. We lead through humility and obedience.

His teaching calls us to “observe all things [He] commanded” (Matt 28:19-20). Saint Paul teaches to walk in the Spirit: 
To be  “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1: 9–10). 
This way of life is known to be a struggle, requiring preparation, training, ascesis, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the needed role of the Church.

When we examine how the early church grew and shaped a new culture over many years, we find that Christians lived a life based on the way Christ lived. They were different in how they lived. Many even sacrificed their life to stay true to their faith.  It was their faithfulness to His way, His teachings, and their exemplary love for all humankind that made them different. They lived in a very difficult time that was in great odds with Christian teachings. Even so, they did not seek to overthrow or change the government, but lived by the Spirit, as Saint Paul says. They understood that the kingdom sought was not of the world but of the Kingdom of Heaven. They trusted in God and relied on the work of the Holy Spirit. They were faithful in all things. Their efforts were aimed at becoming like Christ, humble, obedient to His teachings, compassionate, accepting that we are all sinners knowing we are all made in God’s image. 

Isn't this is what we as Christians must now do? First, we must understand the limits of our current condition and accept the reality that our current Christian institutions, our leaders and members, and most importantly, ourselves, do not model the life and teachings of Christ. Thus we are powerless. Filled with pride, we only profess Christian ideals and try to impose morality on others through political actions and social media. Sometimes we even forget the commandment to love our neighbors, even our enemies, finding ourselves rejecting or condemning others because they are different. We must learn to live with love in a world with a plurality of values and ideas while holding true to those Christ teaches us. 

I do not think it is likely that the current state of Christianity will ever bring about societal change. Our churches can best focus on spiritual development of its members, helping them to gain the power of the Holy Spirit, to become mystically united with God, to unite their will with the will of God, and live in love and humility.

This is the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the way of life it prescribes and nurtures. The Church is a place for spiritual healing, it’s the loving body of Christ, a place where we can surrender to His teachings and be guided to a way of life that is filled with love of all mankind. So what are a few of the key elements in this Orthodox way of life?
1. Praying Daily: Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayer.
2. Worshiping and Participating in the Sacraments: Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in Confession.
3. Honoring the Liturgical Cycle: Follow the seasons of the church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.
4. Using the Jesus Prayer: Repeat the Holy name whenever possible throughout the day or night.
5. Slowing Down and Ordering Your Life: Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction caused by a hurried life.
6. Being Watchful: Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment.
7. Taming the Passions: Overcome your habits, attachment to your likes and dislikes, and learn to practice the virtues.
8. Putting Others First: Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others.
9. Spiritual Fellowship: Spend time regularly with other Orthodox Christians for support and inspiration.
10. Reading Scripture and writings of the Church fathers. 
Practicing these basic elements will lead to continual spiritual formation, a deeper and deeper faith, and a change in our way of life when practiced as a member of a church community under the guidance of a spiritual father. It is a life that begins with faith and nurtured by repentance and cooperation with grace. It demands humility and an open heart for God’s love to permeate.

James Davidson Hunter writes in his book,
The task for the church and all Christians—in every generation is to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”; to seek to integrate the very order of the heavens within our personal lives and relationships, our families, our work and leisure, and our communities. God’s Kingdom, of course, is not political in character but spiritual, moral, relational, vocational, and environmental (including the social milieu). P 268. 
Christians, like most modern people, have politicized every aspect of public life and private life as well—from church/ state issues, education, the media, entertainment and the arts, and the environment to family values, sexuality, and parenting. In this, they mistakenly imagine that to pass a referendum, elect a candidate, pass a law, or change a policy is to change culture.
In so doing, Christians undermine the message of the very gospel they cherish and desire to advance.  P275
Christians must cultivate tension with the world by affirming the centrality of the church itself and the parish or local congregation in particular.
James Davidson Hunter

Reference: Dr James Davison Hunter, To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Politics and Spirituality: Feeling anxious or distracted by Political rhetoric?

In today’s heated political season it is important not to get distracted. Saint Paisios warns, 
"Now days, too much "world"-- an excess of secular spirit  -- has entered the world and will destroy us. People have taken this "world" into their hearts and have expelled Christ."
Take for example the current popular political slogan, "Make America Great Again." (I use this as an example at the risk of being accused of being political, but this is not my intent. Hear me out. Its not an issue of being Republican or Democrat on any other political persuasion.) Have you thought about what Great means in this context? If you ask around, you will find that there is no agreement what is meant by this. Each person has their own idea about what will make their country great.

We can think about “greatness” in two ways. One is secular or worldly and the other spiritual. Generally we think in secular terms, worldly or politically, seeking ways the government can better our lives. This is the realm of politics. In this realm we all have differing views. Some want new laws while others want old laws revoked. Some want a racial bias in our rulers and others more diversity. Some want an economy where there is some income distribution while others oppose any. Some are pro-life and others pro-choice and so on. The issues are all worldly. The list of differences is endless and sometimes they are very extreme. There is no basis for a common view. Everyone has their own option. There is no absolute truth, right or wrong. When we become aligned with a political part, we are no longer capable of having a rational dialogue with those of another party. Friends are lost as we find our selves angered by opposing views or personalities. It is like our minds are frozen. Each person thinks that if their idea is implemented by the government it will make society greater and any other view will bring disaster. The political slogans become divisive rather than unifying.

When we think of greatness in spiritual terms, the focus shifts from thinking of the government as our savior to  our relationship with God. As we examine the ideal life taught by Jesus, we discover the limitations we have in ourselves. Jesus came to teach that peace and joy only comes from within ourselves. It’s no longer about the external laws. The "kingdom of God is within," "Purify your heart and see God,"  He teaches.

Even Jesus struggled with communicating this message because the Jews were expecting a great political leader to make them great and free them from a oppressive Roman government. They could not grasp His spiritual message about the Kingdom of heaven. They were blinded and distracted by their political or worldly aims of control and power to enforce external laws.

When we view greatness spiritually, we see that for greatness it is necessary for each of us to correct the imperfections in ourselves, learn to control our own passions so that we can truly love God and love others as ourselves. We need to overcome our anger, our desires, our lust, and so forth. This is what is meant by, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In heaven there is no struggle. Greatness in this spiritual sense then becomes unifying. We find that all of us are struggling to become better persons, and with mutual love seeking forgiveness and forgiving others. With this view, a great society is one where everyone is seeking to improve themselves, learning how to love each other as themselves, and with faith calling on the Holy Spirit to help us all. 

I think this spiritual quest is the only way we will gain what we are seeking. While there may be some small incremental improvements that can be made in the secular arena, our aim must be a union with God and eternal life in His kingdom. This may not be possible in this earthly life, but we can have hope with faith, and give our best efforts to purify our hearts to be worthy of eternal life is His kingdom. 

We must heed the warning given us by Saint Paisios and not become distracted by the many worldly slogans that politicians bombard us with through highly polished advertisements. Don’t let this heated political season distract you from our goal to be united with Christ. Guard against anger. Don’t fall into hatred of anyone or any group of people. Have compassion for those who think differently from you. Try to understand their point of view. Remember we are all made in God’s image and all struggle with our passions. Don’t put time into watching cable news instead of your daily prayer time. Read Scripture and a book by one of our Church Fathers. Attend Liturgy, prepare and receive Holy Communion and pray for the well being of all humanity. Review the Ten Points for an Orthodox life and focus on becoming more like Christ in all your daily activities.

Don’t let the “world” overtake your heart and blot out Christ.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Prayer - 54 Points on Prayer from Saint Theophan

The following 54 points on prayer from Saint Theophan the Recluse are taken from the collection of writings on prayer found in the book The Art of Prayer.

1. Enter into the spirit of the prayers which you hear and read, reproducing them in your heart; and in this way offer them up from your heart to God, as if they had been born in your own heart under the action of the grace of God.
2. Prayer is the primary work of the moral and religious life. p62
3. The atmosphere of the soul is not purified until a small spiritual flame is kindled in the soul. This flame is the work of the grace of God....This flame appears when a man has attained a certain measure of purity in the general moral order of life. p 65
4. The principal thing in prayer is a feeling heart. p 67
5. You must not let your thoughts to wander at random, but as soon as they run away, you must immediately bring them back, reproaching yourself, regretting and deploring this straying of the mind...you must make great effort. p 67
6. The virtuous and humble monk hides his virtues as a rich man hides his treasures, and does not follow his own wishes. p 75
7. Do not allow your mind to be idle, but let it meditate and pray in secret...sometimes meditating on a verse from the Psalms, and sometimes praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” p 77
8. Meditate on the thought of God, On the remembrance of death, and recollect your sins with self reproach. Be conscious of these things and speak about them often with yourself m where am I going? Or: I am a worm and not man. p 79
9. Prayer must not be simply an occupation for a certain time ,but a permanent state of spirit. p 80
10. He who prays without ceasing dwells constantly in the Lord, knows the Lord as God, acquires fear of Him, by fear enters into purity, and by purity into divine love. p 84
11. God is everywhere: see that your thoughts too are always with God. p86
12. The principle thing is to walk before God, or under God’s eye, aware that God is looking at you, searching your soul and heart, seeing all that is there. p 90
13. There is just one method which is obligatory for all: to stand with the attention in the heart. p98
The essential part is to dwell in God, and this walking before God means that you live with the conviction ever before your consciousness that God is in you, as He is in everything: you live in the firm assurance that He sees all that is within you, knowing you better than you know yourself. p100
14. Awaken in your soul the thirst for salvation...And then cry out to Him...It is not words that matter but your feeling nags towards the Lord. p 108
15. Let the Jesus Prayer be on your tongue; let God’s presence be before your mind; and in your heart let there be the thirst for God, for communion with the Lord. When all this becomes permanent, then the Lord, seeing how you exert yourself, will give you what you ask. p108
16. To achieve spontaneous prayer, we must force ourselves to pray in a particular way — with the Jesus Prayer. p113
17. Before or after your rule of prayer, night and morning or during the day, consecrate a fixed period of time for the performance of this one prayer. p 113
18. The more the Jesus Prayer penetrates into the heart, the warmer the heart becomes, and the more self propelled becomes the prayer, so that the fire of spiritual life is kindled in the heart. p 114
19. When you pray, do not end your prayer without having aroused in your heart some feeling towards God, whether it be reverence, or devotion, or thanksgiving, or glorification, or humility and contrition, or hope and trust. Also when after prayer you begin to read, do not finish reading without having felt in your heart the truth of what you read. p 120
20. Our whole object is to acquire the habit of keeping our attention always on the Lord... p122
21. Any rule of prayer that is properly followed will produce as its first fruits attention and a warm tenderness of heart. p 124
22. It is necessary in the first place to be cleansed of passions. p 126
23. Try to acquire a kind of soreness in your heart. p 127
24. Consider everyone to be better than yourself. p 129
25. Establish in the heart a quiet but warm and constant feeling towards God, not expecting ecstasy or any extraordinary state. p131
26. But as soon as man expects to achieve something in virtue of his own power and self-mastery, then immediately true spiritual life, full of grace, is extinguished. p 134
27. Also must he force himself to self-belittlement, regarding himself as poor and the lowest of all men; he must refrain from idle talk, always studying the words of the lord and keeping them on his lips and in his heart. He should also force himself to avoid irritation and angry speech... p135
28. It is best never to think of yourself as having attained anything, but always to see yourself as poor, naked, blind, and worthless. p 136
29. He who in total humility puts himself in the hand of a merciful God, attracts the Lord to himself. p 136
30. If you have filled your mind with earthly things, if you have given yourself up to the cares of daily business, you have already quenched the Spirit. p150
31. Set your affection on things above, not on things of the earth. p151
32. Do not measure yourself. If you think you can decide any question about your progress, it means that you are beginning to measure yourself to see how much you have grown. Please avoid this as you would avoid fire. p 159
33. Remembrance of God is never idle but invariably leads us to meditate on the perfection of God and on His goodness, truth, creation, Providence, redemption, judgement, and reward. p 163
34. It is wrong to become attached to too much reading. It leads to no good and builds a wall between heart and God. It leads to the development of a harmful curiosity and sophistry. p168
35. Instead of concentration upon external behavior, all those who work on themselves must have as their aim to be attentive and vigilant, and to walk in the presence of God. p 170
36. When we have no communion with God, and do not feel Him within us, we must recognize that we have turned away from our aim and from the way chosen for us. p 172
37. You must believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is within us—by the power of baptism and holy communion, according to His own promise; for He is united with us through these Sacraments. p 173
38. The kingdom of God is within us when God reigns in us... This reign begins as soon as we resolve to serve God in our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Then the Christian hands over to God his consciousness and freedom...and God accepts the sacrifice. p 180
39. What have you to feel above all else? Self-satisfaction, self-appreciation, self-conceit, and all other things beginning with self. p 187
40. Giving yourself in prayerful surrender to God and His grace, call out each of the things that incite you to sin and try to turn your heart away from them, directing it towards their opposite... It is necessary to go on working on ourselves in this way until, instead of self-pity, there is born in us mercifulness and ruthlessness towards ourselves, a desire to suffer, to torture ourselves, to tire out our soul and body.... It is ne essay to go on working until our appetite exclusively for things material, sensory, and visible disappears completely, and is replaced by a feeling of disgust for such things; and instead we begin to thirst and to search only for what is spiritual, pure, and divine. ...the heart comes to be filled with a sense of being but a pilgrim on earth, whose whole longing is for his heavenly home. p 203
41. Do not theologize. P 208
42. High opinion of ourselves gives rise to two things: blowing our own trumpet and censuring others. p 209
43. Refrain from any kind of judging. We should do better to direct our censure and criticism against ourselves. p 210
44. Self-gratification is the cause of all evils. p 214
45. When you talk to someone, above all refrain from upsetting him by aggressiveness, or by expressing an opinion directly opposed to his, from an obvious desire to have your own way. P 217
46. Progress in the spiritual life is shown by an ever-increasing realization of our own worthlessness, in the full and literal sense of this word. p222
47. Tears are the measure of progress, an unceasing tears are a sign of coming perfection. p226
48. The more man contemplates his sin and the more he laments over himself, the more pleasing and accessible he is to the Holy Spirit, who like a physician approaches only those who recognize themselves as being ill... Look upon your sin, and search it out... Deny yourself...and weep over it. p 227
49. Activities are not the main thing in life. The most important is to have the heart directed and attuned to God. p 235
50. Act and speak always with the awareness that the Lord is near and direct everything according to His pleasure. p 239
51. A custom yourself to be with the Lord unceasingly, whatever you may be doing, and do everything for Him, striving to bring it to harmony with His commandments. Then you will never feel sad, for you will know that you are always doing His work. p 239
52. To do everything in the Name of the Lord means to turn all to His glory, to try to perform everything in such a way as to please Him, conscious that it is His will. It means also to surround every deed by prayer to Him; to begin it with prayer and to end it with prayer; as we begin, to ask His blessing; as we proceed, to beg His help; and as we finish, to give Him thanks for accomplishing His work in us and through us. p 249
53. Wish that the spirit of deep humility should always reign in you. This brings tears and contrition, and it also prevents us from being puffed up with pride at having them. p 274. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

More wisdom on Reading

When reading the holy fathers, we find a place that responds to us: say, a word about a virtue that we do not have, but would like to acquire, or about any shortcoming that we have and from which we wish to get rid of, - let us stop and reflect on this. For example, I found some teaching on the passion of anger. I close the book, I sit, I think and I pray, how can I stop being angry, and imprint it in my mind. And when we read an infinite number of pages in a row, and we like everything, and the content is full of meaning, then we forget a lot. If I read, read, read, and eventually close the book and leave - then I do not remember anything and do not return my mind to the read. The goal is not to read as many pages as possible, but to make us benefit from what we read.
Abbess Theosemni of Chrysiopigi Monastery Chania, Crete

Monday, July 9, 2018

Beware of Too Much Reading

When we begin our search for a God it is natural for us to seek out knowledge from books, especially those written by our Church Fathers, the saints and elders of the Church. But there is a danger in this that we must be aware of.

Saint Theophan the Recluse says,
Turning his mind towards God with all his might, his one desire would be to read only of Him, to speak only of Him. But these occupations alone will not lead to what is sought, unless accompanied by other, more practical activities.
We also need to learn how to live the Orthodox life. This involves prayer, both collective prayer we experience in our worship services and our private prayer that is a daily activity. We must participate in the Sacraments especially Holy Communion and Confession. The other ascetic practices such of fasting are also important. We must gain self knowledge so we can make changes in our way of life. There are passions or habits we have that must be controlled. (See booklet Ten Points For an Orthodox Way of Life). So what is the danger in reading?

Saint Theophan writes,
The practice of reading and speaking of God will, used on his own, create a facile habit for such things: It is easier to philosophize than to pray or pay attention to oneself. But since it is a work of the mind, which falls so easy into pride, he predisposes a man to self-esteem. It may altogether cool the desire for practical effort, and consequently hinder sound progress by a flattering successfulness in this mental activity. For this reason sound-minded teachers warn their pupils of the danger and advise them not to concern themselves too much with such reading and talk to the detriment of other things.
Reading and dialog can become a substitute for what is really necessary to acquire the Holy Spirit so one can live in a way that is Christ like to live in union with Him.

Saint Theophan again,
It is wrong to become too much attached to reading it leads to no good and builds a wall between the heart and God would lead to the development of harmful.
When you read, read with the intention of learning how to change yourself. Then make a sincere effort to actually change how you live. Without changes little is gained.

Reference: Saint Theophan, The Art of Prayer, p 168