Re: Any advice on how to actually become a stoic?
- Hello John and Tricia,
Welcome to you both.
There certainly has been plenty of good advice!
Here's my short list:
1) Know and accept where I am. Introspection and self honesty is required.
2) Know what I want. Spend time to be clear about my purpose.
3) Consider ALL options to get from 1) to 2). Do my research and carefully
and calmly deliberate; no rush to judgement.
4) Start. May require courage.
5) Check in with myself: have I done all that I can?
a) Yes. No reason to worry about whether I got the outcome I wanted or not.
Go to 1).
b) No. Go to 3).
All the above is best done relaxed and with patience. If the busy life
does not allow room for any patience something in the busy life has got to go.
Some of you may have seen a version of this before in the Commons.
- Wow Steve........ that progressive formula sounds perfect for the stoic
actor approaching a role.
Mind if I steal it?
Texas Tech University Theatre Department
If it is outside my control,
then it is nothing to me.
The Stoic Actor:
Stoic Philosophy Influencing Actor Training
Fax: (781) 723-4671
- Dear Fellow Stoics
John Fleming wrote asking advice about how to put Stoicism into practice.
These notions may help.
First, consider trying meditation. You might learn about it from your
quasi-Buddhist friend. You might prefer a quasi-scientific book, *The
Relaxation Response*, which tries to explain the effect from a secular
point of view. Meditation is not a panacea, but it does quiet the mind and
help dissolve stress. Marcus Aurelius speaks of "withdrawing into oneself"
at one point; while not manifestly an exhortation to meditate, it is close
enough that I am confident he would have approved of the practice, had he
known of it.
Second, try regular physical activity. Seneca advised long walks; your own
bike ride sounds ideal. I have found that the more powerful the anger, the
more strenuous the exercise required to dispel it. (Personally, I should
say that exercise is very effective against anger, but impotent against
grief. Let me know if you find something that works.)
Third, try reminding yourself, when you suffer some form of adversity, that
the whole point of view from which your loss or injury appears important is
itself incorrect. You can then sometimes feel an internal shift, as your
perspective comes round, leaving you calm and untroubled.
Fourth, as Seneca says, when you awake, remind yourself that you will
encounter rude, uncultivated, and boorish people during the day. Thus
forewarned, you may be better able to keep your equipoise.
Finally, adjust your expectations. Jan Garrett is right when he says
becoming a sage ain't easy. If you are committed to living your life as a
Stoic, then you are a Stoic. Just as few Christians are Saints, it is fair
to say that few (if any) Stoics are Sages. Remember how Seneca reassures
his friend Lucilius, when the latter complains of occasional backsliding,
that he is actually doing better than he thinks he is--the same is probably
true of us all. We are all just making progress toward virtue.
The Old Stoics would say that just as a man ten feet under water is no
better able to breathe than a man one hundred feet under water, so too a
man who is less than perfectly virtuous is just as sinful as a man who is
drowned in vice. The Middle Stoa, however, acknowledged that the man ten
feet under water is at least closer to the surface--an important position
indeed. The idea is that each of us is merely a *proficiens*, someone on
the path to wisdom. Do not discount the importance of being on the right
Good luck. I hope your interest in practice will stimulate more discussion
of specific techniques among our little group.
Anekhou, apekhou--Bear and forbear.
- Try to be more 'self-observant'. Maybe even keep a journal (I think Seneca
recommends this, but I can't locate the reference).
If we really do believe that the only good is virtuous action and the only
bad vicious action, and that whatever befalls our projects and our bodies
cannot really be bad for us, we had best watch out that we live our lives
moment by moment putting this belief into practice.
One thing we must do is guard against the passions. Should someone annoy me,
should I spot myself actually becoming annoyed, so that rather than just
observing the situation with the view to making the best decisions moment by
moment but instead start to *feel* anger or annoyance or frustration, I must
be ready to remind myself that I have suffered no harm. Certainly, my
project may have suffered a set back, but what is that to me? All that can
do it give me more work to sort it out. More work is what Stoics thrive on.
Our overall life project of exercising the virtues would be in sorry state
indeed if nothing needed fixing, if there were no problems to sort out, no
annoying people to test our resolve!
Try watching yourself as if you were a Stoic examiner testing a pupil! At
the day's end, write up a report in your journal pointing out where you did
well, and where you failed. Then next day, try to do better.
Guard against being satisfied or elated by what ordinary people regard as
successes. Whether a Stoic succeeds in some project is of almost no
importance. Obtaining those things that are appropriate for us (obvious
things such as food and companionship) is important, but the emphasis must
always be along the lines of 'Have I acted virtuously?' Getting what we seek
at the expense of behaving justly, say, is just as bad for us as failing to
get what we seek because we succumbed to fear (that is, if we failed to
exercise the virtue of courage successfully).
What is important is how we act, not what we gain thru our actions. If we
can keep a conscious grasp on this we will have a better chance of really
Lastly, I consider myself to have been blessed by the greatest of fortune to
have discovered Stoic philosophy. As Marcus Aurelius says, the vast chain of
past causes have delivered me into the situation I now experience, and
whether or not there is a conscious force at the back of it all (Zeus) I owe
it to these forces, and to myself when I realise what sort of a creature I
am -- a sheep cannot owe anything to itself, it is the wrong sort of
creature -- to become the very best sort of creature that is possible for
Live with honour,