I will tell you a story from patericon. One person visited St. Anthony the Great, asking for advice for a proper spiritual life. The saint advises him: “Try to pray for … hours.” He replies: “I can’t do this.” – “You can’t? Okay, I’ll find something else for you. Read the New Testament little by little”. – “I can’t”. – “Then do two or three bows to the ground”. – “It’s very tiring, my back hurts”. – “Give some alms”. – “But I do not have money”. – And St. Anthony says to the monk who was next to him: “You know what? Cook some porridge for him, cook some oats, the person got sick”.
You can’t this, you can’t that, what do you can then? Are you sick? I tell you one thing, it seems difficult to you. I tell you the other, it seems unbearable to you. I do not demand from you to become an ascetic. I haven’t told you to go to the Holy Mountain and stay there for a couple of weeks or months. On Athos they do not taste oil for a huge number of days a year, abstain from food for three whole days, make many bows to the ground, double bows during Great Lent. And what do you do?
Do you go to church? I told you to do a little simple thing.Do something small yourself. Nobody will scold you for not doing something big and difficult. May the Lord see your good aspiration and desire, your diligence, what St. Paisios speaks of: “a little bit of diligence, my child.”Do not look for excuses all the time: “I can’t, I don’t have time.” Well, today you do not have time. When will you have it? Tomorrow? “Ah, I don’t know, maybe” You see, you don’t want to force yourself to do something.If you do not force yourself, you will begin to suffer.You will become your personal nightmare. Your “self” will be your eyesore. To find God, you must first get rid of your “self”. Put yourself in the hands of God. I found such words of St. Paisios of Mount Athos: “If you get rid of your ‟self”, then you will find it in God’s embrace”.
Over time, your life will change. Do not worry about your “self” all the time. You think all the time about how not to get tired, not to lose something, not to do something difficult. But wait!Everything you do, all your deeds, is like stretching out your hands to receive God’s innumerable gifts.
Some have already begun to work on themselves a little, others are just beginning. Remember: you must pray constantly and for those who do not do it. Think about the humility behind this: to be awake in prayer and to pray so that those who have insomnia could asleep.And do not envy those who sleep, but say: “Lord, I am awake for Your sake. I pray to you, but give a calm and quiet sleep to all those who want to sleep at this time, but cannot. ”
This is a healthy exercise: to do ascetic work, but at the same time to show love for everyone, so that your exercise contains love and joy, so that you feel unity with all other people, not a narcissistic feeling, like “I am independent, I’m different, I’m more bold, maybe I’m a little bit saint”.