Acedia is a Greek word, literally meaning caringfree. In The Roman Catholic Church,
acedia is one of the seven deadly sins, and is defined as spiritual laziness, putting off what God asks you to do,
or not doing it at all. Acedia implies the attitude of the people that go from fury to laziness in a second.
Acedia is a
weariness of the soul and is an affliction that is lodged in the soul. This affliction comes to a serious seeker of
the spiritual life who has actually developed a certain amount of spiritual discipline. Often it comes in mid-life.
In time acedia produces a profound weariness for everything and a deep distaste for spiritual things. Acedia moves from a
mild uneasiness with spiritual things to a desire to not think about spiritual matters at all. Ultimately it results
in a person's rejection of a life with God.
Cassian teaches that acedia is a thought within a thought because
it is a thought about a thought. For example, "Why should I do all this hard work on the spiritual journey." He
also teaches us that acedia is a sickness of the soul. The soul is weary of doing good; it is weary of doing anything.
Often acedia tries to persuade a monk or a person to flee from their present life and disciplines.
Cassian advised that when a monk was plagued by acedia, a good way for the monk to start to move out of this
affliction was to rededicate them. Cassian tells monks to work with their hands and to be present to their work instead
of dissolving into memories and thinking and daydreaming. Cassian tells monks to expel the desire for excessive
sleeping and avoid running away from ordinary routines because of pious excuses. It is important to create a rhythm
for ordinary work and ordinary prayer and spiritual practices and to stick to it.
The best way out of acedia is to
reverse all the tendencies that come to us from our acedia. This means doing exactly what we don't want to do while
we are afflicted by acedia. In summary stay awake, get to work and pray. In time it will pass but it will not
pass on its own. We need to work ourselves out of this affliction. Often before battling acedia we think of the "return"
we get on our spiritual practices. Facing acedia helps us purify these types of motivations from our spiritual
life. Battling acedia teaches us to pay attention to our mind and our thinking. We learn that our thoughts come and
go and we don't need to let them ensnarl us. Ceaseless prayer arises from a silent and peaceful mind.