How To Handle Times of Trial

In time of trial do not leave your monastery but stand up courageously against the thoughts that surge over you, especially those of irritation and listlessness.

-St. Maximos The Confessor

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As I reflect on these words from the Philokalia, I immediately think of my centering prayer practice.

When I sit in silence, I often think upon those things that irritate me.  Sometimes things do not go the way I want them to go.  I work on a task and for some reason or another, it does not go well.   I encounter challenges and issues.  What I thought would be an easy task to complete has tuned into a much larger challenge than I had anticipated.  This will irritate me. 

During centering prayer, I need to let go of these irritating thoughts and emotions.  I need to stand up courageously against these thoughts and emotions and then let them go.


As I sit in silence, I might characterize my mood as one of listlessness.  I have a lack of interest.  I am tired.  I am indifferent to what is going on.  My spirits are low.  I no longer have enthusiasm for life.  Perhaps I just did not have a good day.  I have forced myself to sit in silence but I don’t even want to do that.

During centering prayer, I need to let go of these thoughts of listlessness.  Again, I need to courageously stand up to them and then let them go too.

When I arise from my sit, I am a new person.  God has refreshed my soul.  God has purged my irritating and listless thoughts from my soul.  I no longer feel listless.  I am alert.  I feel alive.  I am excited to see what I will encounter the rest of this day.  I also notice that I am no longer irritated.  I am calm.  I feel encouraged by what the day may bring.  I feel very comfortable in my own skin.

My centering prayer practice teaches me how to live.  It teaches me how to cope with life and the many challenges that I will face each day.  Even during my non silent portions of the day, I do not need to leave my monastery. I no longer need to fear these irritating and listless thoughts.  They cannot win.   My monastery is always available.  It is my constant companion.  It is my mobile hermitage.  



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