1.) The very moment the body’s will leans toward some sensual desire, curb it, deny it, avoid it and remove yourself from the surrounding of it. Just as the body would use a stray thought or desire to distract your prayerful moments, do the same. When the body’s senses try to lean toward a desire, distract it with something other than the desire. Confuse it. For in these few moments of confusion will the body’s heat, brought on by the desire, fade. Just as a small child will cry for the cookie it sees, remove the cookie from sight, then distract the child with something else for it to hold. This tactic is rudimentary for sure, but is an excellent start for the beginner. The purpose of this tip is to get you started in the practice of bodily denial. For only through this denial can you strengthen your prayful mind in Godly ways. But he who is steeped in the will of the body will never attain such lofty spiritual growth.
2.) As you mature in this training of the body’s will you can incorporate another tactic – complete aversion. Train yourself to be repulsed by what the body yearns for. If it sees a member of the opposite sex and starts to be aroused by the sight, straight away put in your mind the nails going through the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Hear His cries of shear pain as the rusty nails drive through His flesh. Or, in the midst of your fast, your nose catches the smell of savory meat causing your mouth to water. Right away picture this same meat filled with worms. For in truth these same worms will be making a meal of your body soon enough. After practicing this tactic, you will begin to make it a habit. Soon any attempt by the body to take control through desire will be met with swift opposition.
3.) At every stage of this training, be sure to invite your greatest ally in your daily struggles – Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Entreat Him to guide you in these battles. Graft your strength to the enduring might of His sturdy vine. For if we only rely on ourselves, we will fail – not maybe, but surely. For in every battle, the soldier that fights alone is eventually overtaken. But the soldier that fights as part of an army serves up greater chances for success. Remember you are never alone in this struggle. He merely awaits your call to Him.
4.) Apply honest humility. Honest to yourself. For we are all sinners and as such will forever fall, will forever fail until the time comes that we give up the use of this body. The Lord God does not ever expect those who return to Him to be sinless. But only those who want to return will return. Look to the story of the Prodigal Son. Despite all the son had done to insult his father and family, he swallowed his pride and went home to beg for mercy. And in his return, he prepared himself to accept the lowest position in the house as merely a servant, no longer an heir. But upon his return his father adorned him with honor. A single soldier is not expected to win the war, but the valor he displays in battle is what causes awards, metals of honor, and honors of bravery. So enter into this training with the full knowledge that you are fighting an uphill battle, against a foe that has far more strength than you do. Because in truth, the body is doing what comes natural – you are doing what is unnatural.
But you, the reader, have one power the body does not have. The power to avoid the temptation. The body has no power to avoid the temptation. Left to its own desire, the body, inconjuction with a weak mind, will devise unbelievable horrors to celebrate the senses of the flesh. Like an ox, the body is powerful and mighty in its movements, but weak in control. But the trained mind is not moved nor swayed by the body’s yearnings.
But do not think of your body as an enemy. No more than a parent would think a child as a fool. Yes they do foolish things, but so do we all. It is true of your body. Though it is the first to betray you, it can be a powerful ally in your endeavors with a well-trained mind. For the fasting man sees his body as a temple. For the believing man receives the divine mysteries of communion with God through the body. So do not see it as an enemy – merely your weaker self. And do not be surprised when it fails you. Be swift in your reaction to counter the weakness, but do not torture your body. For the parent who disciplines their child too severely runs the risk of losing that child’s love and eventually loosing the child. The body was given to you to care for. For in training the body, we are also training ourselves. Any teacher will tell you, the teacher learns with the student as the student learns from the teacher.
The body provides an opportunity to strengthen our resolve. It provides the only possible way to partake of the Holy Eurchrist. It provides us with many opportunities to teach, to train and to learn. To the well-trained mind, for the Godward focused soul, and for the one who continually prays. Distract, detach and direct.
Distract the body’s focus away from the object of its current desire. Detach your mind from being drawn into the pleasure of the body’s desire. And direct your body to the will of God. Have it participate in the spiritual activities; such as prayer, fasting, and hard work.
As I review this, it occurs how silly it must seem to the untrained, to speak about my own body in the third person. As if to separate myself from my body. As if talking to another entity. But my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that is exactly what we are trying to force ourselves to understand. For the trinity of our existence is made up of three very distinct and separate entities: the soul, the mind and the body. It is not the body that is reading this, though the eyes are seeing the words, it is the mind that is digesting these teachings. For the body has no understanding of higher thinking. And the soul is our spirit on loan to us from God. So you see, when you examine yourself in such a manner, you begin to see how each part of your existence plays a part in your struggles. Keep the mind detached from the wantings of the body and eventually the body will respect the Godfull mind. And like a child following a parent, the body will do as you want.
And be wary of the body’s desire to seek for comfort, for true Christian the pleasure is in the struggle not the accomplishment. The devil will whisper to you, “Take a rest from your hard work. Ease yourself a bit for you have struggled very long and deserve a rest.” The body will agree, but train your mind to avoid this trickery. For in the comfort of your rest will the body begin to gain strength in its desires. For though you may have mastered control over your body, the natural desires and yearnings of the body will never go away. Just as in war, the enemy will wait for you to have your guard down and then they will attack. Be vigilant of the body’s natural inclination to comfort. For the sword that sits without use becomes dull over time. And a dull blade wins no battles at all.
2 thoughts on “Tips On Training Your Natural Will!”
I feel unhappy with the great St Nicodemus’ suggestion that we curb lustful thoughts by some trick of the imagination (amongst other, more sensible things). Thinking of food filled with maggots doesn’t work for me! Also, if we see an object of lust who is a member of the opposite sex, it is sometimes helpful to praise the Lord who made them so attractive and then move away.
I guess the beauty of Christianity is that there is many ways to go about achieving the Goal.
I dont think St Nicodemus intended these to be gospel. In my humble opinion, he is most propably sharing his own methodolgy of overcoming the will of the body.
There is no right and wrong with these things! As long as we live the life of constant struggle over sin, we can be assured of the grace of God.