Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pay attention to our thoughts and seek to quiet them....

The Church Fathers all seem to direct us to pay attention to our thoughts and seek to quiet them for prayer.

Saint Theophan says our inward attention should be directed at thoughts, for "the passions and desires rarely attack by themselves––they are most often born of thoughts.  from this we can make a rule: cut off thoughts and you will cut off everything."

Elder Silouan affirms: " The experience of the Holy Fathers shows various ways of combating intrusive thoughts but it is best of all not to argue with them.  the spirit that debates with such a thought will be faced with its steady development, and, bemused by the exchange, will be distracted from remembrance of God, which is exactly what the demons are after––having diverted the spirit from God, they confuse it, and it will not emerge clean."

Saint John Climacus teaches, It is enough to simply observe the thoughts as they arise

Elder Paisios of Mount Athos says, "When someone is in the beginning of his spiritual life, he should not study a lot, but instead watch himself and observe his thoughts."

Abba Pimen teaches: "If we do not do anything about thoughts, in time they are spoiled, that is to say they disintegrate.

Saint Macarius says, Never allow your mind to be dragged down, but always raise it on high, and God will hep you.

Our task is to learn how to simply watch our thoughts is if we were an objective and disinterested spectator––watching them pass by one by one.  We cannot  force our mind to empty of its thoughts.  Sooner or later after a period of observation we will see that thoughts are not who we are and not even our own but are some kind of foreign element. As we separate from our thoughts we will find that God comes closer to us.


  1. Fr, I am trying to work out the relationship between this detached way of observing our thoughts to the more violent terms of the Church Fathers. I hear the Father's using terms like despise, think of hell, death, and the judgement, cut down, chase out, and such and such words. So, am I seeing two distinct ways of dealing with thoughts with one being detached and another being violent or are these "violent" words essentially describing the detached way of observing thoughts?

  2. God gave us anger to attack the devil. So there are times when it is necessary to be harsh against interruptions in prayer but you need to quickly return to a peaceful concentration on the words. The advice in snot to argue with the negative thoughts but to chase them away, to totally in gone them. Once you start debating them you are drawn into the snare and no telling where the argument ends up. Push the bad thoughts away until you can observe them and they automatically dissipate.


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