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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Being Intentional

I've already talked about the mental noise associated with addiction, and Fr. Meletios' talks almost always get into the topic.  Inner stillness and peace is a great challenge even for non-addicts.  'Pure prayer' in an undistracted, continuous flow is virtually unknown: even great men of prayer speak of their experiences of intrusive thoughts.

Focus is what we need.  Addiction provides such a focus, but that focus is often not on reality, but rather the constructed reality of the addiction.  It is personal and false.

What we need is a focus on the moment, to be in the present with God rather than in our imaginary worlds all by ourselves.  We must act not out of habit, or some pre-programmed auto-pilot, but with intention.

By intention, I mean that we must conduct each action in each moment with focus on that specific action, rather than thinking of something else.  It means staying in reality than the alluring world of the imagination.

In order to be in the present, the present must be tolerable, and so our work begins with cleaning our present so that we can be in it with some degree of comfort.  If we are angry or ashamed, then we must first resolve these forms of suffering so that we can be present without the distractions of suffering.

The ultimate form of being present is the awareness of God's presence with us, which is why prayer, even the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer, is so important.  Many Fathers counsel monks to be constantly mindful of God's present, even if it is to say something unimportant, like, "I am going to walk into the other room."  If you are speaking to God, then you are present.  You are intentional.

The unintentional person is blown about by impulses, reacting to the shifting world of his shifting mind.  Yes, the mind shifts, and it was born to do that so that we would be vigilant to exterior threats.  We should not utterly ignore the outside world, but we should also not live only to react to it, particularly if the distraction has nothing to do with us.

The mind churns out thoughts as well.  Will you react to all of them?  Again, being intentional does not mean having no thoughts, but rather choosing which thoughts to engage and which ones to let go of.  We must discipline ourselves, and bring the mind into the present.  Stillness does not mean 'no thought,' but it is a matter of degree.  It means that we engage the thoughts we want to.

Being intentional means being free from having to engage every thought.  It is a state of spiritual liberty.

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