I’ve been practising aspects of Stoicism for a few years now, although I feel that for a long time I was just scraping the surface and I’m sure that in years to come I’ll look back on my current practice as a pretty “lightweight” effort. I’m a cognitive-behavioural therapist and I feel it’s important for me to try to put into practice as many of the things I use with clients as possible. However, CBT is largely designed for use with people who have specific mental health problems, clinically severe anxiety or depression, etc. It helps people with certain problems but it has no clearly-defined goal for us to pursue in relation to life in general. I felt that I needed a broader philosophical framework, therefore, in order to apply these therapeutic strategies to my own personal development. (I wrote my book on the subject partly to help me reconcile the techniques I liked from modern therapy with the kind of philosophical system I liked: Stoicism.)
I wanted to share some personal reflections, for a change. Hopefully this will encourage other students of Stoicism to talk about their experiences during Stoic Week and beyond. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Stoic way of life but maybe some of these comments will inspire thoughts from others and help fuel a bit of discussion.
Anyone completely new to Stoicism who is going to follow the Stoic Week may want to read some ancient Stoic texts but not know where to begin. For the purposes of this project I would recommend two texts: The Handbook of Epictetus (cited a number of times in the booklet) and Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life. Both of these texts are short, accessible, and to the point. Reading them and reflecting on their ideas would itself form a productive exercise during the week. I have made copies of both available online, and they should display reasonably well on mobile devices.
You are all, wherever you are around the world, warmly invited to take part in our Stoic week!
Above is the link to the thirty-page booklet, a joint effort by academics and psychotherapists who have studied Stoicism, a booklet which you can use during our Stoic week [November 26th – December 3rd]. It contains all that you need for the week, including important (yet practical) background theory, specific advice (including bringing Stoicism to work), as well as a host of Stoic exercises (‘askeseis’) which you can practise. Take your time to read and reflect on the booklet this weekend, and be ready to live the Stoic life come this Monday, joining people from all over the world, in living the wisdom of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, et al.!
Our first Stoic week will be from Monday 26th November – 3rd December. This will include following key Stoic principles, and the practice of specific askeseis (spiritual exercises) on a daily basis. A booklet is currently being put together by academics and psychotherapists which will be uploaded by this coming Friday (23rd November) at the latest. Check back later in the week to download a copy. You are invited to join in this experiment!