Stoic Meditations

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10 Feb 2018 08:11 #315170 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 10th
Anger Is Bad Fuel

"There is no more stupefying thing than anger, nothing more bent on its own strength. If successful, none more arrogant, if foiled, nothing more insane - since it's not driven back by weariness even in defeat, when fortune removes its adversary it turns its teeth on itself."
Seneca, On Anger, 3.1.5


As the Stoics have said many times, getting angry almost never solves anything. Usually, it makes things worse. We get upset, then the other person gets upset - now everyone is upset, and the problem is no closer to getting solved.

Many successful people will try to tell you that anger is a powerful fuel in their lives. The desire to "prove them all wrong" or "shove it in their faces" has made many a millionaire. The anger at being called fat or stupid has created fine physical specimens and brilliant minds. The anger at being rejected has motivated many to carve out their own path.

But that's shortsighted. Such stories ignore the pollution produced as a side effect and wear and tear it put on the engine. It ignores what happens when that initial anger runs out - and how now more and more must be generated to keep the machine going (until, eventually, the only source left is anger at oneself). "Hate is too great a burden to bear," Martin Luther King Jr. warned his fellow civil rights leaders in 1967, even though they had every reason to respond to hate with hate.

The same is true for anger - in fact, it's true for most extreme emotions. They are toxic fuel. There's plenty of it out in the world, no question, but not worth the costs that come along with it.

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
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11 Feb 2018 03:53 #315245 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 11th
Hero Or Nero?

"Our soul is sometimes a king, and sometimes a tyrant. A king, by attending to what is honorable, protects the good health of the body in its care, and gives it no base or sordid command. But an uncontrolled, desire-fueled, over-indulged soul is turned from a king into that most feared and detested thing - a tyrant."
Seneca, Moral Letters, 114.24

There is that saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely. At first glance, that's true. Seneca's pupil Nero and his litany of crimes and murders is a perfect example. Another emperor, Domitian, arbitrarily banished all philosophers from Rome (Epictetus was forced to flee as a result). Many of Rome's emperors were tyrants. Yet, not many years later, Epictetus would become a close friend of another emperor, Hadrian, who would help Marcus Aurelius to the throne, one of the truest examples of a wise philosopher king.

So it's not so clear that power always corrupts, In fact, it looks like it comes down, in many ways, to the inner strength and self-awareness of individuals - what they value, what desires they keep in check, whether their understanding of fairness and justice can counteract the temptations of unlimited wealth and deference.

The same is true for you. Both personally and professionally. Tyrant or king? Hero or Nero? Which will you decide to be?

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
The following user(s) said Thank You: Akkarin, Alexandre Orion, Serenity, SamThift, Twigga, Manami

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12 Feb 2018 02:20 #315302 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 12th
Protect Your Peace Of Mind

"Keep constant guard over your perceptions, for it is no small thing you are protecting, but your respect, trustworthiness and steadiness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word your freedom. For what would you sell these things?"
Epictetus, Discourses, 4.3.6b-8

The dysfunctional job that stresses you out, a contentious relationship, life in the spotlight. Stoicism, because it helps us manage and think through our emotional reactions, can make these kinds of situations easier to bear. It can help you manage and mitigate the triggers that seem to be so constantly tripped.

But here's a question: Why are you subjecting yourself to this? Is this really the environment you were made for? To be provoked by nasty emails and an endless parade of workplace problems? Our adrenal glands can handle only so much before they become exhausted. Shouldn't you preserve them for life-and-death situations?

So yes, use Stoicism to manage these difficulties. But don't forget to ask: Is this really the life I want? Every time you get upset, a little bit of life leaves the body. Are these really the things on which you want to spend that priceless resource? Don't be afraid to make a change - a big one.

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
The following user(s) said Thank You: Akkarin, Karn, Alexandre Orion, SamThift, Twigga, Manami

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13 Feb 2018 18:02 #315522 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 13th
Pleasure Can Become Punishment

"Whenever you get an impression of some pleasure, as with any impression, guard yourself from being carried away by it, let it await your action, give yourself a pause. After that, bring to mind both times, first when you have enjoyed the pleasure and later when you will regret it and hate yourself. Then compare to those the joy and satisfaction for abstaining or moderating. However, if a seeming appropriate time arises to act on it, don't be overcome by its comfort, pleasantness, and allure - but against all of this, how much better the consciousness of conquering it."
Epictetus, Enchiridion, 34

Self-control is a difficult thing, no question. Which is why a popular trick from dieting might be helpful. Some diets allow a "cheat day" - one day per week in which dieters can eat anything and everything they want. Indeed, they're encouraged to write a list during the week of all the foods they craved so they can enjoy them all at once as a treat (the thinking being that if you're eating healthy six out of seven days, you're still ahead).

At first, this sounds like a dream, but anyone who has actually done this knows the truth: each cheat day you eat yourself sick and hate yourself afterward. Soon enough, you're willingly abstaining from cheating at all. Because you don't need it, and you definitely don't want it. It's not unlike a parent catching her child with cigarettes and forcing him to smoke the whole pack.

It's important to connect the so-called temptation with its actual effects. Once you understand that indulging might actually be worse than resisting, the urge begins to lose its appeal. In this way, self-control becomes the real pleasure, and temptation becomes the regret.

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
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15 Feb 2018 17:49 #315694 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 14th
Think Before You Act

"For to be wise is only one thing - to fix our attention on our intelligence, which guides all things everywhere."
Heraclitus, quoted in Diogenes Laertus, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, 9.1

Why did I do that? you've probably asked yourself. We all have. How could I have been so stupid? What was I thinking? You weren't. That's the problem. Within that head of yours is all the reason and intelligence you need. It's making sure that it's deferred to and utilized that's the tough part. It's making sure that your mind is in charge, not your emotions, not your immediate physical sensations, not your surging hormones.

Fix your attention on your intelligence. Let it do its thing.

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
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15 Feb 2018 17:56 #315695 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 15th
Only Bad Dreams

"Clear your mind and get a hold on yourself and, as when awakened from sleep and realizing it was only a bad dream upsetting you, wake up and see that what's there is just like those dreams."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.31

The author Raymond Chandler was describing most of us when he wrote in a letter to his publisher, " I never looked back, although I had many uneasy periods looking forward." Thomas Jefferson once joked in a letter to Hon Adams, "How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!" And Seneca would put it best: "There is nothing so certain in our fears that's not yet more certain in the fact that most of what we dread comes to nothing."

Many of the things that upset us, the Stoics believed, are a product of the imaginations, not reality. Like dreams, they are vivid and realistic at the time but preposterous once we come out of it. In a dream, we never stop to think and say: "Does this make any sense?" No, we go along with it. The same goes with our flights of anger or fear or other extreme emotions.

Getting upset is like continuing the dream while you're awake. The thing that provoked you wasn't real - but your reaction was. And so from the fake comes real consequences. Which is why you need to wake up right now instead of creating a nightmare.

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
The following user(s) said Thank You: Akkarin, Karn, Serenity, SamThift, Twigga

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17 Feb 2018 14:15 #315859 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 17th
The Enemy Of Happiness

"It is quite impossible to unite happiness with a yearning for what we don't have. Happiness has all that it wants, and resembling the well-fed, there shouldn't be hunger or thirst."
Epictetus, Discourses, 3.24.17

I'll be happy when I graduate, we all tell ourselves. I'll be happy when I get this promotion, when this diet pays off, when I have the money that my parents never had. Conditional happiness, is what psychologists call this kind of thinking. Like the horizon, you can walk for miles and miles and never reach it. You won't even get any closer.

Eagerly anticipating some future event, passionately imagining something you desire, looking forward to some happy scenario - as pleasurable as these activities might seem, they imperil your chance at happiness here and now. Locate that yearning for more, someday, if only and see it for what it is: the enemy of your personal contentment. Always strive for better, but do not allow your happiness to be contingent upon external events. Choose this yearning or your happiness. As Epictetus says, in the end, the two are not compatible.

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
The following user(s) said Thank You: Akkarin, Karn, Serenity, Twigga

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19 Feb 2018 15:00 #316029 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 18th
Prepare For The Storm

"This is the true athlete - the person in rigorous training against false impressions. Remain firm, you who suffer, don't be kidnapped by your impressions! The struggle is great, the task divine, - to gain mastery, freedom, happiness, and tranquility."
Epictetus, Discourses, 2.18.27-28

Epictetus also used the metaphor of a storm, saying that our impressions are not unlike extreme weather that can catch us and whirl us about. When we get worked up or passionate about an issue, we can relate.

But let's think about the role of weather in modern times. Today, we have forecasters and experts who can fairly accurately predict storm patterns. Today, we're defenseless against a hurricane only if we refuse to prepare or heed the warnings.

If we don't have a plan, if we never learned how to put up the storm windows, we will be at the mercy of these external - and internal - elements. We're still puny human beings compared with one-hundred-mile-per-hour winds, but we have the advantage of being able to prepare - being able to struggle against them in a new way.

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
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19 Feb 2018 15:12 #316030 by Reacher
Reacher replied the topic: Stoic Meditations
February 19th
The Banquet Of Life

"Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don't stop it. It hasn't yet come? Don't burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth - one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods."
Epictetus, Enchiridion, 15

The next time you see something you want, remember Epictetus's metaphor of life's banquet. As you find yourself getting excited, ready to do anything and everything to get it - the equivalent of reaching across the table and grabbing a dish our of someone's hands - just remind yourself: that's bad manners and unnecessary. Then wait patiently for your turn.

This metaphor has other interpretations too. For instance, we might reflect that we're lucky to have been invited to such a wonderful feast (gratitude). Or that we should take our time and savor the taste of what's on offer (enjoying the present moment) but has that to stuff ourselves sick with food and drink serves no one, least of all our health (temperance). That at the end of the meal, it's rude not to help the host clean up and do the dishes (selflessness). And finally, that next time, it's our turn to host and treat others just as we had been treated.

Enjoy the meal!

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"
The following user(s) said Thank You: Akkarin, Karn, Alexandre Orion, Serenity

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