“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength” – Marcus Aurelius
Throughout many points in history, great thinkers and philosophers have touched on very similar themes in search of truth and understanding. Whilst bathed in different names, languages and rituals, the core of these beliefs hold the idea of an interconnected universe, where everything is made from the same substance. This view point is very clear in Eastern philosophy, where belief systems such as Daoism, Sufism, and Sikhism hold at their cores this very idea. Stoicism, which had its roots in ancient Greece, touches on the above mentioned themes and in essence puts the idea of practicality to the forefront of its teachings.
A key theme in Stoicism is the logical idea that the only thing you have any real control over is your mind. All other things are external factors and these cannot be controlled as the number of influences over them is too great to maintain any control of. Therefore if you are able to exercise detachment from emotion and make decisions based purely on reason, you will ultimately find contentment and satisfaction, seeking serenity through self discipline. On reflection this may seem a very impractical step, moving toward indifference and apathy, but the idea is a drill for the mind. The endless highs and lows of emotions can be conquered by mastering goal setting and becoming better placed in the present moment to make rational decisions that would work in the long term; not allowing emotional reasoning to affect any choices. To emphasise again, this is an active mental process, continually exercising control over one’s mind and logic.
To build upon the idea of gaining control over your emotional state, an idea that again is reflected through eastern thought is the contemplation of your own mortality, accepting that one day you will meet death. In western culture today, this idea is seen as very taboo and is moved to the farthest chasms of our minds, when if thought about logical, an acceptance of this very idea can be both liberating and can cause an honest shift in our perspective of the world. In practical terms, a true acceptance of this idea can help us appreciate the time that we have left in this world, thus forcing us to take action and commit our goals to reality. On a spiritual level, the eradication of the fear of death and the acceptance of it allows us to view ourselves as part of the eco system that is the earth and not beings that are separate from it.
The idea that things happen to us for a reason is also paramount in Stoic thought. This is the acceptance of the external order. Seneca the Younger once said: “Things do not just happen, but arrive by appointment. Everything that happens is connected to something else. Everything that exists is connected to the logos”. According to Stoic doctrine the logos is also referred to as God, Zeus, Nature and Cosmic Meaning, it is a force that reigns over the universe. The idea of the logos is similar to The Dao, that which is everything and resides everywhere. In a practical sense, the disciplined and logical person can be happy under any and all conditions, because he has resigned himself to fact that events are neither good or bad, they just are.
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