A lesson learned from suffering

A wise man or woman knows through experience the value of silence. I have always been a good listener, but there are times when I’ve been compelled to blurt out some hurtful or vulgar statement. As I have become more mature (older), the value of silence has become more clear for me.

Why are we so quick to speak instead of listening to others?

  • Is it our ego? Let me show you how smart I am by babbling on about something.
  • Is it my emotions? Fueled by anger I say hurtful and stupid things, often to people I really care about.
  • Is it to fill a gap in the conversation? I’m uncomfortable with silence and feel a need to say something, almost anything.

Well besides ego, emotion, and anxiety there may be a number of reasons why we feel compelled to talk. Seneca knew that the value of silence had to be learned from experience.

I think today I will heed this lesson, and embrace the solitude and awareness of being silent.

Namaste

The cure for the self

I really like this quote from Seneca as he unequivocally prescribes philosophy as the cure for the self. I probably wouldn’t have agreed with him a year ago, countering with religion, meditation, or some other more spiritual practice such as Buddhism.

However today as I have started studying philosophy and stoicism in particular, I begin to wonder if Seneca might be right. Maybe all we really need is a philosophical framework based on reason, logic, and a belief in the goodness of men and women to guide us.

Namaste

Try the opposite

I consider myself the owner of a number of good and bad habits. Some of these bad habits are so engrained in my psyche that I fear they can never be overcome. Still there is always hope, and Epictetus offers a seemingly simple solution.

If you ever watched the Seinfeld show, you may remember the episode where Jerry advises George to just do the opposite of whatever he would normally do. His life starts to improve as he is now just doing the opposite of everything he would normally think or do. The premise here was that his original thoughts and inclinations were always wrong, thus the opposite would be right.

Now I wouldn’t advocate this for anyone, because no one is as flawed as George was portrayed. However this simple approach could be selectively applied to those bad habits you seek to overcome. Here are couple examples:

  • I normally get angry at other drivers, so my new strategy is to smile at them.
  • I normally drink to excess on Friday nights and instead I workout and meditate, or go out to a new restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol.
  • I normally find something critical to say about my work or employer, but instead I make a point to discuss all the things I like about my job.

In each case I employ the theory of taking a negative habit and doing a positive thing that is the opposite. What the hell if it’s good enough for Epictetus, then it’s worth a try. What have you got to lose?

Namaste

Who then is invincible?

A good question. If you can let it all go, and be only concerned about the choices you make in life you will be invincible. Most of us live an existence being swept about by the circumstances we find ourselves in day after day. We are like a boat lost at sea without a sail, drifting along in any direction that the waves of life occur.

You by choice will not be so easily cast about when you start owning your choices. Is this acceptance or is a conscious decision? Maybe it’s a little of both.

Namaste

Outside of our control

All those sleepless nights, agonizing over tomorrow. What is gained by this form of self torture? You have in life things you can control and things outside of your control. Worrying about those things outside of your control, only drains your energy, and causes anxiety.

While I am a big believer in getting shit done, I am also aware that much of life is outside of my control. One thing I’ve noticed over the years has been that my anxiety over future events is almost always unwarranted. Yet we continue to worry about those things I have to do tomorrow, even though we know better.

If you suffer from anxiety that is keeping you up at night then maybe a nighttime ritual may be the cure. Try yoga, meditation, journaling, or taking a walk. Anything that calms the mind and body.

Namaste