St peter of damaskos discusses a number of important practices in the philokalia. A lot of them have to do with denying yourself things that we find enjoyable, such as food, sex, entertainment, relaxing, wealth, fame, etc. He also notes that simply avoiding these things will not have any effect. So why avoid them? The point of avoiding them is not because they are bad but because in our ignorance we believe they will deliver something that they will not. Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses, but really it is the false belief that our attachments will bring fulfillment. The training to abstain for them is so that we gain the ability to stop indulging and obsessing over them long enough to have contemplative experiences. There is nothing wrong with having a cookie and enjoying the taste, but choosing to cope with problems and emotions with cookies is a bad choice when compared with contemplation and other spiritual methods. However, ironically, if you develop mindfulness you will have a much greater enjoyment of cookies and movies and sex and other things.
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