Another method the ancients used to test a thought is based on the conviction that the thought to avoid comes from without and is usually accepted either because it has a certain sensory and emotional fascination on the one who considers it a priority, or because it presents itself with such vehemence and insistence that, because of the pressure caused by haste, it is chosen because it is more urgent. The ancient monks advised posing this type of questioning to the thought: "Where do you come from? Do you come from my own heart, where the Lord dwells, and are thus my own, or do you come from without and someone else has brought you? Who has brought you? What do you want?" Already by asking these questions one perceives a reaction.
Other questions are also recommended: "Why such urgency? I don't have time for you now." Or "You are forcing me to rush, to undertake this step immediately, but the saints have said that the Holy Spirit as well as the devil want me to be holy; only the devil wants this to happen immediately." To the disciple who asked what sin is, a spiritual master answered: haste.
...It is precisely with this inner attention, and with a certain disinterest for whatever assails one, that one begins to become aware of the times when a thought does not come from within, when its origins are foreign and its suggestions seem objectifying and moralistic: "you must," "it isn't right," "it's necessary to react," "you must defend," etc.
It is the powerful way in which such thoughts impose themselves, disguised with spiritual, religious, moral, and ethical labels, that contribute immensely to making us forget we are free. Thoughts of this type rob us of our freedom, blinding us to relationships, to the faces of others. They terrorize us with their sense of duty, of urgency, even to the point of disengaging us from love and making us forgetful of our free choice to surrender. The thoughts that impede us from freely surrendering and maintaining a living awareness of ourselves in relationships are thoughts introduced from outside ourselves, not from within. The Holy Spirit does not use the imperative "you must." In the Gospel passage that presents in all its absoluteness the most "programmatic" speech--the Sermon on the Mount--Christ speaks of those who are "blessed." The Gospel is a revelation, not a demand; blessed is the one who follows it. Even the Mother of God, at the moment of the Annunciation, did not respond, "Yes, I have to be the Mother of God, otherwise the world will not be saved."
When I do not pay attention to a thought, if the thought is born from the Holy Spirit, it will return because the Lord is humble, and he waits at my door and knocks...It is not necessary to be rushed into responding.