I've been reading quite a bit about self reflection, and our counter-cultural place in the world. In my thinking I have begun thinking about saints, such as St. Francis. How do they do it? Why do they do it? Why/how do these men and women physically torment, and spiritually test themselves? In my studying, I come closer to relating to this idea (on a WAAAAY smaller level-- for sure!). The lives of these saints are made from their own humility, prayer, fasting, and the imitation of Christ. When completely centering themselves fully on this, they begin to see things differently and to live differently. Their lives get turned upside down.
I can personally see how this happens. The more you pray, and the more you put yourself in TRUE meditation of Christ, the more you begin to think and see things like God, and how utterly dependent we are upon Him for everything. That vision eventually sets them free and allows them to live in an entirely new way. The more we "buy" into this, the more we just keep "going", until (the strong) make it where the saints were. We open up a "channel" per-say, with God, that (I believe) is always there; we just need to pray, and concentrate both our physical and spiritual selves in such a manner to open this.
In doing so, we also get the bad side. When we open up this "channel", Satan sees this, and will attack with all of his might. He always will go after those closest to God. That's why there are countless stories of saints that have (literally) spiritual battles with the devil. One can see how saints live in such torment; they see all of the good in the deep meditation, but along with that comes evil. The real test is our strength to keep our eyes fixed on God.