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book coverThoughts Matter
by Mary Margaret Funk

In Thoughts Matter, Sister Mary Margaret Funk explains the theory and practice of dealing with mindless thoughts developed by the great fourth-century monk John Cassian, and she interprets them in a contemporary way suitable not only for nuns and monks but for all lay persons who are serious about the spiritual life. What are the thoughts that matter? According to John Cassian's classic list, they are thoughts about food, sex, things, anger, dejection, acedia or weariness of soul, vainglory, and pride. The book devotes a chapter to each of these "thoughts" and shows how, with prayer and practice, we can discipline our thoughts and achieve a "mind at peace, stilled, available for conscious thinking-at-will."

From Library Journal.  The desert tradition of Christianity (250-450 C.E.) is remembered for its ascetic rigor, but its purpose is often forgotten. Renouncing a former way of life to dwell in the wilderness meant renouncing the thinking that formed old habits and hence moving beyond all preconceived ideas to experience fully the divine reality. Funk, a Benedictine nun, discusses this spiritual practice of watching and training thoughts, largely based on the eight classic thoughts outlined by John Cassian, a fourth-century monk. Interesting parallels exist between this early Christian spiritual practice and Buddhism and Hinduism, as Funk points out. This book might be of interest to students of Eastern asceticism as well as those wanting a good introduction to the literature of the Christian desert communities, but even more broadly, it is an excellent, clearly written companion for spiritual seekers drawn to the path of mental discipline.

From Publisher's Weekly.  Benedictine nun and former prioress Funk translates the vocabulary of fourth-century Christian mysticism into accessible prose for 20th-century spiritual seekers. Using primarily the writings of the early desert father John Cassian (b. A.D. 356), other Christian mystics and an occasional Eastern religious mystic, Funk, the executive director of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, explores Cassian's premise that serious knowledge of God involves three renunciations: of one's former way of life, of the thoughts belonging to that former way of life and of one's very idea of God. Most of her text deals with renouncing the thoughts belonging to one's former way of life. Her eight chapters focus on different "thoughts" food, sex, anger, dejection, acedia (profound weariness of the soul), vainglory (taking credit for good actions) and pride. In each chapter, she shows how such thoughts can interfere with one's knowledge of God. As Funk states: "To renounce one's thoughts may seem out-of-date to a casual observer, harsh, foreboding, even unrelenting. A mind at peace, stilled, available for conscious thinking at will is of major value for those of us who confront chaos, confusion, noise, and numbness as we move into the third millennium."

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