I'm currently reading an excellent book by Kathleen Norris titled, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life. It's, at times, like looking into a mirror. And while I've always thought I'm susceptible to depression - a classic melancholy - I think acedia is the demon that I struggle with in my life: a spiritual deadness or sloth or uncaring rather than a physical malady. (Not that it's necessarily either-or.) A blogger friend, Penni, turned me on to Norris by sending me a little book of hers called The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work," which I highly recommend. It deals at some length with the idea of acedia as well and has been a tremendous help as I daily struggle with my own "women's work." She infuses day-to-day work - laundry, dishes, cleaning, and diapers - with her Benedictine sensibility and discovers the sacred rhythm, the liturgy, of such work.
Something I've discovered, and seems confirmed by Norris, is that discipline is discipline, regardless if it's spiritual or physical or mental. In many disciplines, you begin in a garden, but eventually all find you in the desert. And that is the "noonday demon" of acedia. Perhaps the prayers you say seem less meaningful or the exercise you're doing is showing fewer results, acedia wishes to kill the peace and good in your life and to strip away this discipline that is so necessary for you. You begin to wonder whether it's really worth it or if you're simply wasting your time, or a fool. What was as sweet as honey has become a mouthful of sand. This is the time when it is needful to continue. Salvation lies forward, on the other side, not backward. This is the time to pray and sing through the aridity, even when each word seems empty and every note sounds flat. This is the time for waiting; eventually the desert will bloom.
(My one minor criticism of Acedia & Me is that Norris sometimes indulges in her love of etymology. Of course, I'm a sucker for words and their uses and origins as well, but I wonder if some of these purposeful divergences into the meanings of words and the application thereof could have been done in a manner that is less interruptive.)