St. Simeon Skete, Taylorsville Kentucky USA

With St. Simeon, the God receiver, as our patron, the skete seeks to practice the ideals found in our Rule, The Thousand Day Nazareth. In simplicity and poverty, the skete embraces the struggle of inner life through the practice of the Prayer Rope.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Minding the Mind

Written by Seraphim+, St. Simeon Skete

In the Prayer Rope as we pray the third strand, see yourself as being in each Mystery - take in the smells, sounds, sights, feelings, and the distractions.  

This is "different" from what we so often hear, which is not wrong, i.e. not "just" this Mystery being in us but also us being in the Mystery and not another place. We thus combat distraction's three lines of attack: 1). daily concerns, 2). memories, pestiferous memories and 3). the 'what ifs' of the future.  The Mystery is to be in us (Col.1:27) and we in the Mystery (Eph. 2:6, 13; 1:10)... because outside the Mystery the Remembrance may not come. If we are in the Mystery we'll see the trees, the stones, the earth, the weeds and flowers, 

we'll see the birds, the stray dogs, 

the wind and sun, the rain and clouds. 

The campfires, stars and moon and night's sounds.

The coarse fabric of clothes and the children.

You can hear and see it all if you're there.

The mind must be brought under the control of the Mystery, in submission to it. The mind is either friend and helper or our worst enemy.  The uncontrolled mind can destroy us! For the most part all the senses have been under the control of the mind since the beginning of Adam and Eve's failure.  The mind can and does create a false self that is other than God's making.  This is what the "Tree of Knowledge" was/is about - they wanted to be like God with their minds, this is always idolatrous.  The only mind that is safe is God's mind in you! (Col. 1:27; Phil. 2:5; 1Cor. 2:16; 3:18-19; 2 Cor. 10: 3-5).  Any mind other than God's is irrepressible in its urges to be intolerant and its tormenting of the heart. Useless quarrels and petty self-serving conclusions are of this mind other than God's.  To the degree that our mind is under the control of God's it is to that degree it is useful. (Phil. 4:8) To be “in the Name” is to be in God and the heart is where the divine Name resides (Rev. 3:20). It is a spiritual residential of “all thy heart and mind” (Mt. 22:37-40; Mk. 12:29-31; Lk. 10:37).  To live this Prayer of the Heart one must needs have the heart pierced open, “Rend your heart” (Joel 2:13).  This gift of prayer therefore, is usually preceded by the piercing open of the heart through some special suffering and upheaval of the soul with which the Spirit leads the mind “carrying” the Name down  to the heart. (note: contrary to some of the desert father’s advice, which could be due to mistranslation, the attention is not to be on the heart beat but on the heart.  If one were to smash their finger, the attention would be on the finger, likewise when the heart is pierced, the attention is there).

Through the discipline of invoking the Name, the mind is trained to become the vehicle that carries the Name down to the top of the heart that has been pierced to receive the Name (Joel 2:13; Rev. 3:20).  Contrary to some teaching, the mind does not enter the heart, but stays just above, guarding it and when for one reason or another the Prayer “drops” out of the heart, the mind has been trained to know how to lead it back.  When the Prayer is on the lips, the lips pray the Prayer, when the Prayer is on the mind, the mind prays the Prayer, when the Prayer is in the heart, the heart prays the Prayer “and the heart is deep” (Ps 64:6).  When we read “God searcheth the hearts” (Rom. 8:27), He is searching for Himself because He and His Name are One. Is it any wonder Proverbs says: “My son give me thine heart” (23:26)? Therefore let us “Keep our hearts with all diligence” (Prov. 4:23). 

“We shall fill our hearts to the brim with the Name and thought of Jesus, holding it carefully, like a precious vessel, and defending it against all alien tampering and admixture.  This is a severe asceticism.  It requires a forgetfulness of self, a dying to self, as the Holy Name grows in our souls: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (Jn. 3:30) - “On The Invocation of the Name o Jesus” (#20) - Lev Gillet 

Hence I write:

"Dear Mind,
If you can let go of yourself to render to remembrance the Mystery, to offer, to submit yourself to service, to execute in devotional offering then simply offer yourself to remembrance of He who re-members. Offer yourself, Dear Mind, to the Mystery of Jesus' life.  Bottom line, you have the potential to be immersed in spirituality, in religion.  But for the most part you are always distracting me with useless thoughts. Why won't you pay attention to the Mystery, to the Name?" the mind is like an unruly dog that I have to keep calling back, "Here boy, Here boy, come on, come on"  Ultimately, I hope to get the mind's voluntary cooperation.

"Dear Mind, don't you find this Prayer Rope intriguing, captivating, allow this Prayer Rope to be your leash so you won't be chasing after every rabbit and cat that comes your way.  Wouldn't you like to practice the three strands of the Way of Jesus, the Name of Jesus and the Life of Jesus? Why not do as I and accept Jesus, His mother and the saints to be your teachers, in fact you can become their disciple. Why not cooperate as your place in the Prayer Rope is very important.  All these Mysteries and practices can be ours if you will kindly do as I am advising you."

We must do our part as well if I can expect the mind to behave.  We must watch over it, rejecting the candy that its sweet tooth so desires such as frivolous and mundane talk, conflicts, violence and the media in general.  Ultimately we have a responsibility to help the mind move beyond its base instincts of the need for control, manipulation, ill judgements and endless obsessing over hurts.

"Mind, you and I must cooperate in the Mystery, in the practice of the Three-stranded Prayer Rope.  This is not just for you but me as well.  May we "cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2Cor. 10:5) ever remembering "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (vs.4). We know Dear Mind, how to do this.  Let's try with every strand of the Prayer Rope,  you and I together with each bead told with each Mystery pondered and prayed.  And when we fail, may we try and try again."

In addition to training and coaxing the mind deliberately notice all possible sources of distraction around us (especially noises) and also any physical sensations of aches and pains, etc., accepting them as there and letting them go quietly and peacefully.  Acceptance relieves the tension of resentment and resistance which so often makes distractions almost obsessive.  May we find the orientation of our being in the mystery within us (Col. 1:27) "In whom we live and move and have our being" (Acts. 17:28). Here is found a new freedom which affects one's whole way of being.   -Seraphim

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is Liberty"
2Cor 3:17