I first encountered the word acedia (accidie in English) a few years ago. The definition: spiritual sloth, apathy, indifference. It gave me pause. I recognized it in myself. To me, it’s a feeling of ‘not quite right.’ Yet nothing is actually wrong either; no major catastrophe, no problem to solve, no daily issue. Just not quite right. I find the feeling a bit suffocating. And yet I know that by pushing it away, it will likely stay longer. ‘What we resist, persists,’ ya know? Here’s a little story from Richard Rohr, the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Daily Meditations:
The wisdom of the desert tempers our instinct to avoid boredom and discomfort:
Amma Syncletica’s (one of the desert mothers) bird metaphor speaks directly to one of the dilemmas of the spiritual life—that of coming to terms with the plain old ordinariness of spiritual practice and the life of prayer, of the whole of life becoming prayer…. We are enticed by a variety of means to leave our “eggs” and simply move continually from one interest to another. The result is that we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to bring forth new life. The “eggs” die because they are not tended. We miss the deeper life of the Spirit because we are constantly moving from one interest to another rather than focusing on one thing.
Our ancient mothers knew that when boredom threatened, it could very well be the outward and visible sign of God’s secret, hidden, inner work within the human heart and soul. Consequently, they emphasized staying in the cell, in the little room of daily living, and letting that cell be their teacher….
Staying in the cell, or “sitting on the eggs,” means noticing our appetite for overstimulation. The cell teaches us to slow down, … to notice what is right in front of us. The wisdom the desert mothers offer us is that by staying with ourselves, with our inner ups and downs, with our hurts and our fears, we will bring forth the new life that God is creating within us.The Desert Mystics: Bringing Forth New Life
For me, just knowing it exists and recognizing it in myself is the first step of working with it, which I’m doing actively. To my knowledge, no ‘cure’ exists, but there are spiritual tools that help, one being discipline. I’ll continue to dive in and write more as life unfolds.
Questions for Reflections:
- Do you recognize these feelings within yourself? How do you describe them?
- What awareness arises in you, knowing accidie exists and that it’s an age old spiritual battle?
- How might Western society contribute to the problem?
(Photo by Juli Kosolapova on Unsplash)