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Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life Paperback – December 1, 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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 As Funk states: "To renounce one's thoughts may seem out-of-date to a casual observer--harsh, foreboding, even unrelenting.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."

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum; 1 edition (December 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826411649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826411648
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Elizabeth G. Melillo VINE VOICE on June 28, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Based on the classic ascetic practises of the patristic era, and on their application in the Rule of Benedict, this book sets forth clear, solid, far-reaching insights which would enrich the life of anyone seeking to grow in the spiritual life.
Sister Mary Margaret expresses the principles simply yet with great depth, and, in a style enormously refreshing for the "self-esteem" era (her comments on that concept are very telling), does so with great honesty. She does not qualify the wisdom of two millennia in an attempt to be unwisely "relevant" to the reader. She has no qualms about showing that the Christian ascetic vocation is an endless period of growth, though her expressing how practising discipline of thoughts leads to results unaware will undoubtedly be strengthening during times of struggle.
The only aspect which those new to the topic must keep in mind is that this volume, short though it is, is not meant to be skimmed nor read hurriedly. It is the stuff of the lectio divina to which the early chapters refer - intended for quiet, reflective, prayerful reading. Much of the best material (for example, the sections regarding sex and vainglory) can be missed if one is reading only "key words," without attention to the overall picture which places it into focus.
I have had a deep interest in ascetic theology for thirty years, and am well acquainted with many great writings in that area. I can honestly say that this book is one of the best of contemporary treatments of the subject.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This plainly written book can help you overcome the daily struggles that prevent you from developing a strong relationship with God.
First the author identifies the eight objects of self-centered thought we must learn to control: food, sex, things, anger, dejection, acedia (spiritual dryness), vainglory, and pride. She then describes how these thoughts, when uncontrolled, progressively undermine our spiritual awareness to the point of becoming soul-deadening obsessions. Finally, she explains how we can overcome these distracting thoughts and instead center on thoughts in harmony with God's will. By doing so, we are able to experience the joys of hope and freedom, no longer enslaved by our appetites.
Funk does an excellent job of translating some complex spiritual concepts into plain English. And, to illustrate good and bad thought patterns, she cites examples that will sound (uncomfortably) familiar to people of all ages and vocations. It's hard to imagine people reading this book and not wanting to seriously reevaluate their attitudes toward toward their own thoughts.
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Format: Paperback
Thoughts Matter challenges the serious reader to examine the nature of the thoughts that are constantly playing through the mind - like a non-stop tape recording! While we can't always control the thoughts that pop up in our heads, we can certainly decide which ones we want to spend time with and which ones can only do harm to ourselves and others. I would love to read what Sr. Mary has to say about renouncing our thoughts about God.
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Format: Hardcover
This is to let you know that I read your book, "Thoughts Matter" very carefully and meditatively, one chapter at a time, and that I enjoyed it very much. You found a nice was of presenting in a simple way a deep teaching that is not so easily accessible in the original, because it is over couched in a disconcerting language. You also present a traditional monastic doctrine in a manner that is accessible to any serious spiritual seeker,wheteher monastic or not. I also appreciated upir leem semse paradox: writing a whole book to show that "thoughts matter" and ending it by saying that "If we let God be God in our innermost life, then thoughts don't matter after all". Thanks for alowing me to drink from that wisdom: John Cassian's and yours. Armand Veilleux, Abbot of Scourmont BELGIUM
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Format: Paperback
This book brings to the modern vocabulary ideas and experiences originally posited by the Desert Fathers out of their experience. It has benefitted me greatly. The author asks in her own comments if people would like a book on the third renunciation - renouncing our thoughts of God. My response is YES!! YES!! I am personally at the edge of this country and would much appreciate some guidance, though I'm not sure I can wait till a book gets written and published!
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Somewhere C. S Lewis says that we too often blame the body for our inordinate passions, when in fact it is the thoughts that we entertain and cultivate that lead "brother ass" down the wrong road. While I am not an expert on the spiritual/psychological life, I am someone who has been attempting to be human for some time and this book is always a great resource to cut to the heart of the matter, which almost always comes back to thoughts.
The book is blunt and to the point, all the time. Although every chapter will not be something that you struggle with, and perhaps only one will apply to you, that one will help you clarify your situation and strengthen your resolve to acquire the mind of Christ. Yet I still find that life is a juggling act, with things always in motion, in and out of balance, and totally interrelated. So in this sense all of the passions are connected. They don't reside in nice little compartments with locks on the doors and peep holes that we can look into as we please. They have a way of overwhelming, overflowing and generally seeking to be dominant. And where one goes so do the others. So this book helps me not keep things in check (that white-knuckling it never works long term) but rather to cultivate the joy of a balanced life in Christ where His grace and will come to be my will. It's the actual meaning of the prayer, "Lord, give to me the desires of my heart", meaning, put your own desires within me. Well, a work in progress anyway and this book helps a great deal.

While not exactly the same style, these books have been useful to me in this regard:
...Read more ›
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