Continuing on in the book "Thoughts Matter" the second specific area of concern addressed by the Desert Fathers is thoughts about sex.
My own journey along this path has taken a number of different turns over the years.... through superheated teenage years, searching twenties, settling thirties, and life defining forties. My most recent stage began about 4 years ago when I read a definition of chastity on a website. It described chastity as "the use and control of sexual desire by faith and right reason." That definition struck me as odd at the time.
I realized for the first time that chastity is not some mental belt of negation which I put on because I am a Christian. Instead, that definition alllowed me to begin seeing chastity as a positive good, based on and flowing out of specific virtues of the Christian life. I went from just saying 'no" to sex to saying "yes" to a much larger framework of virtuous desires and patterns, all based on the intense desire for God.
A second awakening occured as a result of attending a conference on John Paul II's "Theology of the Body." I heard Christopher West talk about the concepts of chastity in marriage and in the vocation to religous life. It took a while for me to internalize my acceptance of that concept. But once I began to experience the spiritual power of chastity for myself, it became much more clear to me and infinitely more attractive.
Which leads me to Meg Funk, and the Desert Fathers.... They described this harnassing of sexual energy in much the same way as I have experienced it... a no to the lesser in order to say yes to the Greater. Along wth that decision comes great energy and freedom.
Here Cassian's ideas proves helpful. The state of no sex, he says (according to Meg Funk), has all the benefits of sex and more. "The mind attains a subtle purity and will experience an increase of devotion that is difficult to describe or narrate." He's right, and I won't attempt to describe it further here. Go read Meg Funk or Cassian himself to find out more
I will say, though, that if you haven't yet discovered the joy of this gift yet, I'd urge you to try it. I started the pursuit of chastity three years ago as a Lenten project. And it's been a continuing and growing journey ever since, a journey I have yet to regret setting out on.