If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless (James 1:26)

"Spiritual Training to Achieve Serenity"

The Urgent Need Before Us

1. Accustom yourself to calmness in your comings and goings Close and open your door calmly and quietly. Once inside your room, move the various objects and pieces of furniture calmly. Walk in tranquility - do not run. Ensure that your shoes do not make a characteristic sound announcing your approach, as do others. In "The Monks' Orchard" we read: walking softly and sounding pleasantly.

2. Accustom yourself to speaking calmly Do not hasten in your speech, and strip your voice of sharpness. Do not make a habit of raising your voice or of yelling; rather, communicate in serenity. When you feel the urge of speaking harshly, control your tongue, refrain from uttering harsh words, and think first of the adverse consequences.

3. Do not be quick to send an unkind letter Leave it for a day, or two; read it again and change the language as necessary. Resist any temptation to disposition in haste. Wait until you have fully examined the contents from all perspectives.

4. Train yourself against impulsiveness and spontaneity Be aware that a lack of inner peace breeds impatience. A tranquil person is longsuffering. Once agitated, a person becomes impatient, and loses the ability to wait: he/she desires to act, speak, or decide disorderly and on the spur of the moment. If someone tells you, "I lack the virtue of patience," you should reply, "You also lack the virtue of tranquility," since they go hand-in-hand.

5. Do not exhaust your body - give it its share of rest Refrain from heated discussions when you are physically exhausted, since an exhausted person is likely to be tense which, in turn, reduces the level of tolerance, leading to angry outbursts for trivial reasons.

6. Let calmness reign during your fasts The Holy Bible says: "Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly." (Joel 2:15) In Matthew's fourth chapter, we also read that our Lord Jesus Christ fasted for forty days in serenity, in the wilderness. Our problem is that although we fast many days, we are surrounded by rowdiness, to the extent that we do not glean the intended benefits of fasting.

7. Distance yourself as far as possible from sources of excitement If you lose your calm, or if you are so tempted, find out and eliminate the root causes, which could be internal or external to you. This is especially true when dealing with others; one of our forefathers said, "Do not engage in a discussion with someone seeking to wage the enemy's war against you." Distance yourself from heated discussions, following Solomon's counsel: "Make no friendship with an angry man." (Proverbs 22:24) You should also stay away from rowdy places, and refrain from reading disruptive material, and from listening to disquieting news.

8. Do not assume perfection in everyone Do not feel upset when someone behaves inappropriately towards you; this is how people are: they are a mix of good and bad. Rather than assuming that you are always dealing with angels or saints, you should be tolerant towards the misconduct of human beings behaving normally.

9. Do not respond to someone in a moment of anger Wait until you have regained your composure - then you can resume the discussion. You should at least reason with yourself that "it is wrong for me to continue this discussion while I am agitated."

10. Do not seek serenity in narcotics Examples of such substances are sleeping pills, pain killers, tranquilizers, alcohol and illicit drugs; they all induce a stuporous state, while your problems remain unsolved. Instead, try to find an inward solution to your problems through practical and/or spiritual means. You should also be aware that narcotics become addictive, and those pursuing that avenue not only tend to increase, rather than decrease, their dependence on them, but they will also realize that their circumstances remain unchanged, once the effect wears off.

11. Likewise, serenity is not found in withdrawal or introversion Do not trick yourself into believing that escaping or withdrawing will lead you to tranquility! Rather, this is an unhealthy calm through which you will not achieve inner peace, and your problems will persist. A problem at home needs a practical solution and will not be solved by your escaping to a club, casino or cafe.

12. Do not resort to violence in any form Do not repay violence with violence; this is not the spiritual way. The Holy Bible says: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

13. When your problems become complicated..... When matters get too complicated for you to find a solution, and when your mind stands powerless before them, do not lose your calm, rather, seek help and try to consult with others. You may thus find the counsel which appeases you spiritually, and which points out an open door through which you may see a new approach to your problems.

13. The ascetic soul grants serenity In those circumstances where external pressures result in your losing your calm, and in your becoming agitated due to persisting problems, remember that an ascetic soul grants serenity. Your soul will calm down once you fully believe that this world passes away. and here is a concluding thought In order for you to retain a well-toned body during the fast, perform the following exercise:

1. Raise your hands up high while giving thanks to the Lord, because you relied on Him, and He brought you safely to the next day.
2. Bend your knees to the floor, while lowering your head and lifting up your heart.
3. Reach out with your right hand, after digging into your pocket, to all the poor, needy and orphans.
4. Spread out your feet in a quick motion leading you to church, to attend and listen to the Divine Liturgy, and to partake worthily in communion.
and the Lord your God will bless you.. in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice." (Deuteronomy 16:15)

Go, I may say to such, go, inconsistent, cruel, hard-hearted professors; go, slumber over the ruin of immortal souls; wrap yourself up in your selfish temporal interests, and say, I have no time to spare for rescuing others from everlasting burnings. Go, wear out your life in acquiring property for your children, and leave their souls to perish in the fire that never shall be quenched. Go, adorn their bodies, and banish from them, if possible, the seeds of disease; but leave in their bosoms that immortal worm, which will gnaw them forever. And when God asks, where is thy child? thy brother? thy friend? Reply, with impious Cain, I know not, I care not: am I his keeper?