As a result of my quest for peace – and here I’m talking about constant, inner peace – an even mind so to speak, or equanimity, I have made quite some changes to my life. I have described them here before but I shall repeat for those who are perhaps reading this blog for the first time.
After a long journey of reading, contemplating, and practicing that of what I read (the Art of War, The 48 laws of Power, buddhistic passages, stoic literature to name a few), my life took an even more “radical turn” when I decided to live more clean and ethical. I have since cut out alcohol, coffee, meat and as much as I can, sugar.
Further, I changed my routines, waking up earlier and earlier and as a result going to bed no later than 10.30 pm. Right now I am usually up by 6.30 am, although I am going to push this to 6 am for weekdays and 7.45 for weekends.
My idea is to start off the day with stoic meditation followed by a 40 min workout whilst listening to different podcasts on philosophy. It takes time and commitment and perhaps more so the 4 cardinal virtues of stoicism: courage, equanimity, self-control and wisdom.
And so I started today, with my stoic meditation. I turned on the fire, wrapped a blanket around myself as a chilly draft swept past me from the aging windows. I made myself a cup of tea and I began.
At first I went though my usual morning exercise, the morning ritual of Marcus Aurelius
“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”
Then I began thinking of the challenges I may have to face during the day and which of the 4 cardinal virtues (once again, courage, temperance, justice and wisdom) I’d be called to employ.
After this, I engaged in an exercise called Hierocles Circles, which is a stoic form of cosmopolitanism, through the use of concentric circles. Hierocles describes individuals as consisting of a series of circles: the first circle is the human mind, next comes the immediate family, followed by the extended family, and then the local community. Next comes the community of neighbouring towns, followed by your country, and finally, the entire human race. Our task, according to Hierocles was to draw the circles in towards the centre, transferring people from the outer circles to the inner circles, making all human beings part of our concern.
Then I passed to “premeditatio malorum”, a technique of contemplating potential misfortunes in advance. I imagined minor and major “catastrophes” (one being going without sleep for days). I focused on that fundamentally, it would not change myself and my self-worth (although cosmically, I don’t prescribe to the idea I would hold any intrinsic value).
After this exercise, which lasted a good half an hour as I am a novice to the game, I read the writings of Epictetus.
I am sure, as with everything, it will take time, to apply and re-apply and get back on it, if or when I fall off the bandwagon (the emphasis being on when here).
But for now, I am happy and pleased I have taken yet another step towards total freedom of disturbance.
Stoic meditation by the fireplace