Asceticism and Spiritual Resilience

An element of spiritual resilience is the practice of asceticism.  A quick definition: the abstinence from worldly pleasures or natural inclinations of the nature for the pursuit of spiritual growth. Those asceticisms most often involve some sort of restraint with respect to the mind, emotions, senses or body.  Asceticism has a very long history in the Church and in Jewish practices, the practice of self-disciplines or denials to gain mastery over the weaknesses of the flesh. Fasting has always been the most prominent form of ascetic practice, and in broad terms, one can fast with respect to any of the previously listed areas of restraint.

With regard to resilience, the practice of asceticism involves learning to deny ourselves the natural reactions that accompany adversity. A much larger discussion of the practice of asceticism in the development of the spiritual life of a Christian is needed but suffice it to say that any Christian serious about developing an active spiritual life should be practicing some form of asceticism on an ongoing basis in their daily life.  It is critical to the development of spiritual muscle so that saying no to yourself and your desires, as normal and natural as they are, becomes ingrained and can be exercised in times of temptation.

One more aspect of asceticism: when you deny yourself a normal and natural response or pleasure, it opens a place, or better, a space for God if you make the choice to replace the space with Him. When practiced in an ongoing form, like some small fast of some type, we make a continuous place for Him in our very nature, our flesh as it were.

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