An integral part of contemplative decision making is learning to see and reject those attachments and disorders which prevent our full flourishing in Christ. In the thinking of the Eastern Christian Monasticism, cultivating stillness meant possessing a vigilant watchfulness in which the believer would employ strategies to observes, process, and reject the provocations of the devil as those arose.
With that in mind, these are three patterns of our interior life which prevent us from making better decisions:
1) Strong, Disordered Patterns of Thinking, Feeling, and Desiring
This is kind of the foundation of all else that follows. Often, we get ourselves into trouble when our decisions flow from fear, anxiety, and other emotions which derive from a heightened, stressed-out place of living. As our interior chaos leads us farther and farther from interior stillness and recollection, the more haphazard our decisions become. According to the Desert Fathers, our first step in trying to discern what course of action we must take is to allow such patterns to take their course and to gently rebuke them with the name of Jesus.
2) Painful Memories and Lies that Form Around Them
In contemporary literature, there is a lot of great insights that can be gleamed around the topic of healing of memories. The theory that many spiritual writers propose is that much of our disordered actions have their roots in patterns of thinking which is the direct result of traumatic and painful memories. Around these memories form aspects of our personality that may seem permanent and an integral part of “who we are,” but in truth they actually prevent our full flourishing in Christ. Allowing Christ into these moments helps bring healing and liberation, and this in turn allows us to discover our true identity in Christ.
3) Nostalgia for “How Things Used to Be”
We all recognize the harm that can be caused by uncomfortable and painful aspects of our interior life, but we must also take into account that strong attachments exist around things that may have been originally quite enjoyable. To put it bluntly, sometimes our past sins still have a secrete sweetness that we continue to savor despite being committed to Jesus Christ. In this way, we have to develop and cultivate a real hatred for sin in which we learn to rise above the apparent pleasures that the demons propose.
Such a hatred for sin does not come from an exaggerated sense of having bad-self esteem or by a persistent state of feeling guilty, but rather through what the Eastern Christian authors call spiritual knowledge of the causes of sin. In this way, we must learn to see behind the strong attachments to discover the insidious lie of the devil. As we learn to see the real ugliness that illicit pleasures have, we learn to forgo momentary pleasure for a greater good. Thus, we no longer become slaves to carnal impulses, but possess the self-mastery to carefully discern what aspects of created nature we should fulfill.
Today, let us practice spiritual knowledge whereby we learn to recognize and conquer those aspects of our interior life which keep us from cultivating a receptivity to the Holy Spirit.