There are souls active, fertile and abounding in considerations. There are souls who readily double and bend back on themselves, who love to feel what they are doing, who wish to see and scrutinize what passes in them, turning their view ever on themselves to discover the progress they make. And there are yet others who are not content to be content unless they feel, see, and relish their contentment; these are like to persons who being well protected against the cold would not believe it if they knew not how many garments they had on, or who, seeing their cabinets full of money, would not esteem themselves rich unless they knew the number of their coins.
Now all these spirits are ordinarily subject to be troubled in prayer, for if God deign them the sacred repose of his presence, they voluntarily forsake it to note their own behaviour therein, and to examine whether they are really in content, disquieting themselves to discern whether their tranquillity is really tranquil, and their quietude quiet: so that instead of sweetly occupying their will in tasting the sweets of the divine presence, they employ their understanding in reasoning upon the feelings they have; as a bride who should keep her attention on her wedding-ring without looking upon the bridegroom who gave it her. There is a great difference, Theotimus, between being occupied with God who gives us the contentment, and being busied with the contentment which God gives us.
The soul, then, to whom God gives holy, loving quiet in prayer, must abstain as far as she is able from looking upon herself or her repose, which to be preserved must not be curiously observed; for he who loves it too much loses it, and the right rule of loving it properly is not to love it too anxiously. And as a child who, to see where his feet are, has taken his head from his mother's breast, immediately returns to it, because he dearly loves it; so if we perceive ourselves distracted, through a curiosity to know what we are doing in prayer, we must replace our hearts in the sweet and peaceable attention to God's presence from whence we strayed. Yet we are not to apprehend any danger of losing this sacred repose by actions of body or mind which are not done from lightness or indiscretion. For, as the Blessed Mother (S.) Teresa says, it were a superstition to be so jealous of this repose as not to cough, spit or breathe, for fear of losing it, since God who gives this peace does not withdraw it for such necessary movements, nor yet for those distractions and wanderings of the mind which are not voluntary: and the will having once tasted the divine presence does not cease to relish the sweetness thereof, though the understanding or memory should make an escape and slip away after foreign and useless thoughts.
It is true the repose of the soul is not then so great as when the understanding and memory conspire with the will, yet is it a true spiritual tranquillity, since it continues to reign in the will, which is the mistress of all the other faculties. Indeed we have seen a soul most strongly fixed and united to her God, who yet had her understanding and memory so free from all interior occupation, that she understood very distinctly all that was said around her, and perfectly remembered it, though she could not answer, or loose herself from God, to whom she was fastened by the application of her will. And so attached, I tell you, that she could not be withdrawn from this sweet entertainment without experiencing a great grief, which provoked her to sighs: these indeed she gave in the very deepest of her consolation and quiet; as we see young children murmur and make little plaints when they have ardently desired the milk, and begin to suck; or as Jacob did, who, in kissing the fair and chaste Rachel, lifting up his voice wept, through the vehemence of the consolation and tenderness which he felt. This soul, then, whom I speak of, having only her will engaged, but her understanding, memory, hearing and imagination free, resembled, I think, the little child who, while sucking, might see and hear and even move his arms, without quitting the dear breast.
However, the peace of the soul would be much greater and sweeter if there were no noise around her, nor occasion given of stirring herself either in body or mind, for she would greatly wish to be solely occupied in the sweetness of this divine presence; however, being sometimes unable to hinder distractions in her other faculties, she preserves peace in the will at least, which is the faculty whereby she receives the enjoyment of good. And note, that then the will being retained in quiet by the pleasure which it takes in the divine presence, does not move itself to bring back the other powers which are straying; because by undertaking this she would lose her repose, separating herself from her dearly beloved; and she would lose her labour if she ran hither and thither to catch these volatile powers, which also can never be better brought to their duty than by the perseverance of the will in holy quiet: for little by little all the faculties are attracted by the pleasure which the will receives, and of which she gives them a certain perception like perfumes which excite them to draw near her, to participate in the good which she enjoys.