All the world's religions have certain practices that are used to redirect the mind while on a spiritual path. Mary Margaret Funk has unearthed the writings of John Cassian, a fourth-century Christian monk, to help believers and seekers do such inner work. He suggests that we need to guard the heart so that we can use our thoughts, desires, and passions in service of God and neighbor.
Through prayer and practice, it is possible to be vigilant in eight thought areas treated by Cassian. The first three are about food, sex, and things. Funk reveals the importance of discernment and discretion as we deal with these thoughts. Chapters on anger and dejection are especially relevant to the present era when rage and depression eat away at so many minds. Funk's overview of acedia, vainglory, and pride shows how these are indicators of a spiritual sickness of the soul.
Funk has done a superb job in resurrecting Cassian's spiritual practices for our time. It is rewarding to see how the wisdom of one of the desert fathers can speak to contemporary interest in training our thoughts.