In this I believe that Marcus Aurelius is reminding us of our connection to nature, but also identifying a possibility for us to not be over attached to perspectives and actions outside of our own.
As indicated in previous posts, we have a lot that we can learn from our partners, friends, and colleagues. We can also learn from nature and our environment. The challenge is that we need to focus on our own goals and direction in life while striving for a life filled with virtue.
To remain focused on events in your locus of control, the following activity known as "the view from above" is recommended. This is a guided meditation that is aimed at focusing on the bigger picture in life and understanding your role in the world.
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Today's reflection comes from Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 3.6:
If you find anything in human life better than justice, truthfulness, self-control, courage... turn to it with all your heart and enjoy the supreme good that you have found...but if you find all other things to be trivial and value less in comparison with virtue give no room to anything else, since once you turn towards that and divert from your proper path, you will no longer be able without inner conflict to give the highest honour to that which is properly good. It is not right to set up as a rival to the rational and social good [virtue] anything alien its nature, such as the praise of the many or positions of power, wealth or enjoyment of pleasures.
In this he is suggesting that philosophy, or the love of wisdom, primarily centers on the core virtues of wisdom, justice, moderation, and courage. We should value these virtues in our own behaviors and those of others.
We only need to focus on these aspects to have a good life, and experience genuine fulfillment. In short, to have a good life, be a good person.
You might ask yourself about the other things we use to measure how good and happy we are. What about health, family, personal wealth, and property? Surely the new phone, or a shiny car will improve my quality of life.
The stoics believe that the four virtues are a complimentary set that allow us to live well, deal with others, manage emotions and desires. These four virtues are:
These four virtues are an ideal and something we should strive for each day. If you have focus on these four in your interactions throughout the day, and your life, everything else will work itself out.
2 min read
In my previous post, I discussed guidance from Epictetus on what we can effectively "control" in our own lives and actions.
I find it relatively easy, and a bit simplistic, to follow the gudiance from Epictetus in our daily actions. It's a good reminder that we can only control your own controllables throughout the day.
The challenge in this is sometimes life gets in the way, and we hope to extend this locus of control. For these situations, Marcus Aurelius provides a bit of guidance, that I believe acts as a corollary to the guidance from Epictetus.
In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius presents the following:
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
In this, Marcus is indicating that in every action and situation, there is an opporunity to practice a virtue. When we have a problem, we know exactly what to work on. When we are stuck and have no idea where to start, we begin working on the obstacle in our path.
Paired with the earlier gudiance from Epictetus, this indicates an opportunity to focus on elements that are solely within your control.
Specifically, you might ask yourself these two questions when you encounter problems, choices, or obstacles:
If the answer is no, then this is outside of your locus of control. It is nothing to you.
Meditation is a valuable part of my morning ritual. I find that it is helpful to quiet the mind as I reboot and start each day. Each morning I start by meditating for 20 minutes using the Headspace app. This is followed by a journaling period as I have a cup of coffee and something to eat.
Even with these rituals, there are some times when self-doubt, expectations, and unfinished business still plague me.
For these instances I'm saving a copy of a recent guided meditation from Tony Robbins. The audio clip is under 10 minutes (7:59). I recommend using a pair of headphones and sitting in a somewhat private setting.
The debate about attention and the pelthora of online and digital media ranges on as these Internet technologies become even more ubiquitous in our lives.
With this there is a concern that this level of attention is making our thinking process function at a more superficial level. This argument takes many forms...from the "Google is making us dumber" discussion, to the "all kids will have/get ADHD when they're adults" framing.
I think there is a possible balance in these perspectives, and an opportunity to think about the natural state of the mind. Furthermore, I don't believe that there is anything substantially new or different from the texts and tools and the adoption we've had in the past.
In examining this argument, the bookmarked site came across my newsfeed. Several quotes jumped out to me.
We can’t truly think about or attend to all these things at once, so our brains flit from one to the other, each time with a neurobiological cost. Once on a task, our brains function best if we stick to it. To pay attention to one thing means that we don’t pay attention to something else. Attention is a limited-capacity resource.
This sense of attention provides opportunities to think, debrief, and focus on one element at a time. Attention is a valuable commodity in pedagogy. Whether the classroom is online or face-to-face, there is a need to focus on the learner, motivation, and garnered attention.
This daydreaming mode constitutes a distinctive and special brain state of great creativity. It exerts a pull on consciousness; it eagerly shifts the brain into mind-wandering when you’re not engaged in a task, and it hijacks your consciousness if the task you’re doing gets boring.
As I get busier, and busier, I've lost the time needed for just daydreaming, or goofing off. I found the pleasure for this recently as I was drawing illustrations for a block post on blockchain. These opportunities to let the brain rest, and regain creativity may come in these new opportunities to rest, and let the brain regain stasis. The brain needs to wander.
Daydreaming or mind-wandering, we now know, is a natural state of the brain. This accounts for why we feel so refreshed after it, and why vacations and naps can be so restorative. The tendency for this system to take over is so powerful that its called the default mode. This mode is a resting brain state, when your brain is not engaged in a purposeful task, when you’re sitting on a sandy beach or relaxing in your easy chair with a single malt Scotch (Glenfarclas, neat, please), and your mind wanders fluidly from topic to topic. It’s not just that you can’t hold on to any one thought from the rolling stream, it’s that no single thought is demanding a response.
As I stated earlier, there is a need to focus on attention as a commodity, and allow the brain to wander. In this we're possibly identifying opportunities to bring the brain back to stasis. There are opportunities in surfing the web, listening to music. Build and creating in digital spaces. I'm recently finding opportunities for this in daily meditation.