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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jamison, C. (2009). Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life. New York: Phoenix 

The contemplation of the good and the beautiful is platonic happiness, the first complete picture of how happiness can be achieved not by luck but by design. 17

Happiness for Aristotle is the activity of the soul expressing virtue. So in essence where Plato sees happiness as contemplation, aristotle sees happiness as living virtuously. 20

Put together we have monks as people who find joy in contemplation and delight in virtue. 21

Central concern for first Christian monks was purity of heart, which we might describe as freedom of spirit. 38

Purity of heart is a hard won quality of somebody focused on leaving behind negative thoughts and embracing only the good. When we have achieved this focus as a permanent state of mind, then we have achieved purity of heart. 39

The desert fathers compared purity of heart to the target that a javelin thrower aimed at in the ancient games; a small target may be difficult to hit but it can be done and the effort required draws out the best from the thrower. So purity of heart describes the condition of human beings at their best, when the human capacity for love finds complete expression devoid of any selfish thought. To arrive at this state of being is demanding because human beings are continually tempted to behave selfishly 40

The eight thoughts have the potential to damage our well-being, they throw us off balance and lead us away from happiness. They come from within us and yet sometimes they seem to be bigger than we are and they are described as attacking us from without. That is why the desert fathers and mothers also called them demons. 42

Cassian constant awareness of the interior life was the royal road to purity of heart; but the demons constantly distract us from this state of mind. 44

Acedia - loss of enthusiasm for the spiritual life itself. While the word has disappeared, the reality of spiritual carelessness is strongly present in our culture 53

We have suffered a catastrophic loss of understanding of the need for self awareness leading to widespread acedia. Until the modern era religious orders provided a constant reminder to ordinary people of their need to examine their conscience every day and to reflect deeply on their way of life. 56

Body, heart and soul must all be in tune with each other. To arrive at this degree of awareness is a lifetime's work. ... If not working together then freedom is lost and unhappiness is the result. For example, pride in the soul can cause sexual licence in the body, gluttony in the body can cause sadness in the heart and anger in the heart can cause illness in the body. If the body is in tune with heart and soul, then our eating opens up our hearts to other people, our sexuality is an expression of live and our possessions are gifts to share. 120

Allowing my self to get upset at other people's faults has three bad effects. Firstly, I become impatient with other people and can become overwhelmed with despair at their faults. Then this leads me away from the one sadness that might rationally help me, namely, sadness at my own faults. Finally, it affects my prayer and while it does not destroy the monk's ability to pray, it nevertheless removed the efficacy of prayer. In other words , the effect of prayer should be to foster in the one praying the fruits of the spirit such as love, joy, and patience, but sadness directed towards others' faults destroys these qualities. 153
Having experienced sadness at our sins, we will be motivated to make amends and to avoid wrongdoing in the future. This
Purity of heart, true interior happiness, where a sense of guilt does not burden us but sets us free for the future 156

Cassian conference on perfection - offers an image with three stages of achieving purity of heart described as three reasons for being virtuous. First stage we want to be virtuous out of fear of doing wrong. Second stage we want to be virtuous out of hope of some reward. Final stage is to be virtuous out of love, love of doing the right thing, love of other people and ultimately love of god.

1 like the virtue of a slave who obeys a master.
2 like employee who wants wages
3 child who willingly responds to a parent. 191

To find happiness we need to broaden our definition so that feeling good is put into the wider context of doing good and knowing good. 193


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