Day Three of Stoic Week: How's it going?

Everyone please feel free to comment below and share your experiences from the third day of Stoic Week!

Please post on anything to do with your practice of Stoicism today. Some questions you might consider to help with this:

  • What difference did it make to accept events which happened today?
  • What was it like to act with the ‘reserve clause’?
  • How did you find the morning and evening texts for reflection?
  • Do you have any thoughts or observations to share with others?
  • Have you used the guided video meditation for the early morning reflection? How was it?

If you are blogging about the week, or if you are doing a video diary, please also feel free to post links to those below.

30 thoughts on “Day Three of Stoic Week: How's it going?”

  1. Stoic Week 2013. Day Three. Wednesday’s Lunchtime Exercise – “Stoic Acceptance & Stoic Action”. I’m using an event that happened this morning as my study for today’s Stoic Lunchtime Exercise. Stoics desire only to change what is in their power while graciously accepting external events, even when they go against our plans or preferences. I’m calling today’s exercise, “The Analogy of the Shoe Changing Man”.

    In this video,

    , it’s Wednesday, around 8 o’ clock in the morning and I’m waiting at an ordinary street corner in Edinburgh. “Nothing unusual in that!” you might say, except that about this time every weekday morning, a young man comes walking around this corner, he stops, pulls out a carrier bag from his black holdall bag and takes out a pair of black shoes. He then places the shoes on the ground, slips out of the shoes that he is wearing and then steps into the new shoes. He puts his old shoes back into the carrier bag and places them in the holdall. Then he walks off down the road. Every time I’m sitting near this corner of the street, that is exactly what happens. Yesterday, at 8 0’clock in the morning, I stood on that corner and waited. I wanted to ask the young man why on earth he always stopped at this particular spot every morning to change his shoes. When the young man came around the corner, as expected, he was already drawing out the carrier bag from his holdall containing the new shoes.
    He was startled to see his shoe changing area was already occupied by another person, namely me. I said, “Good Morning!” but the young man never spoke, instead he hurriedly made an about turn and walked down the road, looking back over his shoulder in my direction as he went. He changed his shoes about 50 metres further down the road and with a second glance back, he took off never to be seen again. In this video, I’m now waiting to see if he returns today.

    The Analogy of the Shoe Change Man story is like all of us here on Stoic Week. We’re taking off our old shoes and trying on some new ones. Perhaps they’ll fit, perhaps they won’t and perhaps some things will get in our way.

    After I made the video blog, I discussed it with a colleague called Stewart who was already clued up on the story.
    Stewart, “Well, how did it go?” he said.
    George, “Oh! you mean Shoe Change man, He never turned up.”
    Stewart, “You must have been disappointed. You probably freaked him out yesterday.” he laughs.
    George, “All I said was Good Morning, but I see what you mean.”
    Stewart, ” Maybe I could change my shoes over there. We could get others to join us. We could put up a sign, EDINBURGH SHOE CHANGING AREA, Imagine if the Shoe Changing Man came round the corner one day and we were all there changing our shoes. That would be really funny! He’d really be freaked out then. You see office workers every day on their way to work in their suits but wearing trainers. It looks really stupid but they change into their work shoes in the office. What would it be like if they all came round here to this corner to change their shoes? We could start a craze. Film it.”
    George, “Good idea! Let’s go to work.”
    The End.

  2. Stoic Week 2013. Day Three. Wednesday’s Lunchtime Exercise – “Stoic Acceptance & Stoic Action”. I’m using an event that happened this morning as my study for today’s Stoic Lunchtime Exercise. “Stoics desire only to change what is in their power while graciously accepting external events, even when they go against our plans or preferences”. I’m calling today’s exercise,
    “The Analogy of the Shoe Changing Man”.

    In this video,

    , it’s Wednesday, around 8 o’ clock in the morning and I’m waiting at an ordinary street corner in Edinburgh. “Nothing unusual in that!” you might say, except that about this time every weekday morning, a young man comes walking around this corner, he stops, pulls out a carrier bag from his black holdall bag and takes out a pair of black shoes. He then places the shoes on the ground, slips out of the shoes that he is wearing and then steps into the new shoes. He puts his old shoes back into the carrier bag and places them in the holdall. Then he walks off down the road. Every time I’m sitting near this corner of the street, that is exactly what happens. Yesterday, at 8 0’clock in the morning, I stood on that corner of the street and waited. I wanted to ask the young man why on earth he always stopped at this particular spot every morning to change his shoes. When the young man came around the corner, as expected, he was already drawing out the carrier bag from his holdall containing the new shoes.
    He was startled to see his shoe changing area was already occupied by another person, namely me. I said, “Good Morning!” but the young man never spoke, instead he hurriedly made an about turn and walked down the road, looking back over his shoulder in my direction as he went. He changed his shoes about 50 metres further down the road and with a second glance back over his shoulder, he took off, never to be seen again. In this short video blog, I’m now waiting to see if he returns today. I’ll be disappointed if I’ve managed, by default, to change the habit of a lifetime of Mr Shoe Change Man.

    The analogy of Shoe Change Man to Stoic Week is that, here we all are, trying out something new. Casting off our old shoes and trying on some new ones. Perhaps they won’t fit. Perhaps some things or some one, will get in our way. Either we can’t make the time or we can’t stay the course but as today’s Lunchtime Exercise explains, “Put simply, it’s like qualifying every intention by saying, I will do such-and-such, if nothing prevents me or fate permitting. Stoics aim to take every action with this in mind. They may begin each day by mentally rehearsing the many ways in which people and events could thwart their plans and preferences, while training themselves in serene acceptance, whether they meet with success or failure”.

    After I made the video blog, I discussed what happened with a colleague who was already clued up about the Shoe Change Man story from the day before. His name is Stewart and he too was intrigued by what was happening on that corner street.
    Stewart, “Well, How did it go?”
    George, “Oh!, you mean the Shoe Change man! Well, he didn’t show up today”.
    Stewart, Oh! you must have been disappointed. You probably freaked him out yesterday!” he laughs.
    George, “All I said was Good Morning, anyway I’ll try again tomorrow, I’d like to find out more”
    Stewart, “Maybe I could go over there and change my shoes, maybe we could get others to join us, (laughs) we can put up a sign saying, EDINBURGH SHOE CHANGING AREA. Imagine if the Shoe Changing Man arrives one day and we’re all there on the corner changing our shoes? He’d really be freaked out then! You see lots of female office workers in town on their way to work, dressed in their suits but wearing trainers instead of shoes. It looks really daft but they’ll have their proper shoes with them and change when they get in the office, but doing it outside on a street corner, it’s unheard off. Maybe we could start a craze and office workers from all around Edinburgh would come round here, just to change their shoes on that street corner?”
    George, “Good idea!, we’d better go to work.”

    The End.

  3. I found the the morning reading from Marcus Aurelius to be helpful. First, recognizing that people act out of ignorance and not evil. Second because they act out of ignorance, we should try to avoid getting angry with them. Third, humanity is not a collection of random unrelated individuals, but a collection of integrated parts designed to work together. So, we should try to work with others whenever possible.

    I found this reflection useful to me not to get upset at adverse people, and to be more willing to work together with others more often.

    I read this passage out loud 4 times in the morning. After reading the passage each time, I thought about what the passage’s essential messages were.

    I have also found visualizing the sun rising among the stars a beautiful way to start the day. It is often cloudy here in Michigan, so the sunrise is often covered with clouds. So, the visualization was special for me.

    Thanks.

  4. Fun little experience this morning, thanks to not trying to control things I really can’t.

    While helping the little dude get his shoes on this morning, he set his coat on the floor next to him. One of the cats started to sniff it. He points his finger and says, “No No … Baby coat!!”

    I have been working with him to let the cats sniff around just like he likes to explore new things. Also, he tends to push the cats if they don’t listen when he wants them to get away from things.

    Shoes on, I still just watch as he gets up. “Baby’s coat, no no kitty!” with an increasingly wagging finger. He moves towards the cat, I’m just about ready to say, “No little dude, give the cat a break” and following it with “Cat, away from the coat.” But I decide to pause.

    Little Dude politely grabs his coat bends over and pets the cat saying, “Bye Bye, gotta go and need coat”.

    Lunchtime exercise complete.

  5. I still do not have a very positive experience in regards to this project. It is not really negative either, just kind of neutral. There seems to be a lot of focus on removing negative emotions, but not a lot of focus on creating good ones. I guess my life (at least this week) is pretty uncomplicated, so there are not a lot of instances where I would feel negative emotions anyway. My stoic self monitoring sheet only have five instances, and they were not really problematic..

    What can a stoic do when there is a lack of challenges? Normally, I would probably be fine with this, but since I am dedicating a week to this project I kind of want an opportunity to practice. I could probably try to “excell”, but I don’t really know how to do that…

    1. The focus on bad emotions (in this project) reflects the fact that these are often the things that get in the way of people living well in daily life. The Stoics do also talk of good emotions, but suggest that these really come right at the very end. Do you have a sense of joy simply in being alive? Do you feel connected with the rest of Nature and the rest of humankind? Do you treat everyone else you meet as a brother or sister rather than an anonymous stranger? Are you truly indifferent to material possessions and happy to lose any of them without complaint? Can you hold these attitudes not just when things are fairly calm and going well but also when life is more challenging (as it inevitably will be from time to time)? What things in your current life bring you pleasure and could you imagine your life without them? These are all exercises you might explore if, thankfully, there is nothing more immediate troubling you! Best of luck.

      1. The thing is that I do not feel those things you describe. It is more like I am just “neutral”. It is not really bad, but it is not very joyful either. I would like to increase my sense of joy of simply being alive and feel connected to the rest of nature and humankind, but I do not really know how to do that.

        I do think the exercises we have been introduced to can be nice when life is hard, but I think I need some exercises for when life isn’t really hard (but not very joyful either).

        I guess I could focus on the virtues and becoming more virtuous, but I find them very vague, and have a hard time translating them into practice.

        1. I have found the morning and evening Reflectios really useful as a theme for the day. The video guide for the morning reflection was helpful. I have to confess to having to read the instructions on these exercises each day. The theme for today I have defined as trying to look for the best in other people or as the bible says ‘loving my neighbour as myself’ it is easier to practice with strangers than with relatives where maybe I need to look at that person as if I met them for the first time. The concepts of Stoicism are not knew to me but how enriching to discover them afresh and put them into practice.

        2. Then ask yourself what it means to be joyful or cheerful, in accord with wisdom and virtue.

          What kind of joy would you find most praiseworthy and admirable and worth emulating in others? What are the attitudes and types of behaviour involved? Could you take a step in that direction at various points throughout your day? At night, review your progress toward a healthy and rational sense of joy, if you want to view it that way, and consider how you could progress further the following day. Can you think of a role-model? Who has the kind of happiness or contentment in life that you’d like to emulate?

          1. They do say that you don’t find happiness by looking for it. I wonder whether it is sometimes better to look outside yourself than inwards, and just to “be”. Even if you don’t have time to go for a walk with the specific idea of finding something to appreciate, you might see something by accident, such as sunlight shining through a cloud, which you can appreciate, or a child smiling at its mother, or a happy dog. It doesn’t have to be big or special, but you can still find pleasure in thinking about it, if you allow yourself to think small. Hope that doesn’t sound smug – I don’t mean it to.

        3. I feel like I do have a pretty good sense of joy of simply being alive – I’m not sure how I do it exactly. Perhaps by trying to remember that I am going to die eventually and this life is all there is, and being thankful that I do have this day and its potential. I kind of grab onto each day and I often think of all the things that are positive about my life – eg. that I’m healthy, have good friends and family, a job I enjoy that gives me enough money to pay for all the necessities and a few luxuries like the occasional glass of wine, good steak, trip around the country to see friends etc. I compare it to people who are sick or living in chronic pain (like a friend of mine) or blind or deaf or starving in 3rd world countries etc. and just feel really grateful for all I have. Perhaps you could try writing down a list of good things in your life? I don’t know. Just some ideas.

  6. Fascinated by the similarities between your approach and that of various traditional religions – viz. early morning, midday and evening ‘prayer’ reflection or meditation. A few random thoughts. 1) This is easier to achieve if your live-in partner also follows the same discipline of life (I couldn’t make the time for last evening’s reading/reflection because we had plans to discuss, practice to do for tonight’s charity quiz, etc., after which I was too tired). Yes, and I know that was not very stoical of me, but the spirit was not willing and the flesh as always rather weak. 2) Where do the pleasures of life – e.g. a really good reunion party with old friends where everyone gets a little mellow on their favourite tipple – fit in to the Stoic discipline of ‘contemptuous’ analysis (deconstruction? of material things and events? 3) (Connected with the latter) I had a shock to open a recent journal I subscribe to and find that an old university friend whom I’d hoped to see again next year had died – younger than I am too – I tried to balance my emotional reaction stoically – but failed badly. My body was telling me to grieve, and my mind was too weak to win the battle. So 4) Putting 2 and 3 together, was it not better to enjoy those moments in life offered by 2) as compensation for the bereavement of 3) – since at least no opportunity had been lost when it was available? If I were a pure Stoic I might have avoided those moments of 2) and therefore avoided the bad feelings of grief in 3) – but at what cost? Perhaps Epicurus had the better way? Or maybe I have not yet understood Stoicism correctly…..I always thought as a student that the Romans – clever as they were – had overcomplicated Stoicism (at least for the everyday person ‘in the street’). Maybe I still labour under a delusion that Stoicism is too dour for me.

    1. One of the many themes in Stoicism is living in and enjoying the present moment. Many were not fans of alcohol as it cloud’s one’s judgement, but apart from that there is no reason not to enjoy what life has to offer. Seneca’s essay ‘On the Shortness of Life’ might be a good read.

  7. Today was ‘Think like a Stoic’ Day at Jerudong International School, Brunei. There’s a definite irony in how hard it is to remain stoic when organising a whole school event on Stoicism. The stresses of organisation were an excellent tool for testing out the ideas themselves! Acceptance was a real challenge when a key member of the organising committee was off sick, for example!
    The students took to the various Stoic-themed activities around school really well, and at the very least, they have had an experience of a very different world view than they might normally get. A very successful day.

  8. Well, I just found out about it, and I think it would’ve helped me with my disappointment about that (isn’t that part of the aim?) if the starter survey questionnaires were left open until the end.

    I’m likely too discouraged to start now- as there is no point. If this were truly about self-improvement, it wouldn’t be so group/team-oriented and restrictive time-wise.

    If I’m totally missing the point, let me know. If I can still (and of course theoretically I can) join at anytime (or is this the case “officially”?) taking the rating scales down has basically taken away the little motivation I could gather to do it on my own.

    Is there any real harm in putting them back up? If so, what is it? Honest question- no snark.

    1. Hello Katie,

      Sorry about the disappointment. You see for the sake of doing the pilot study properly, we had to have a cut-off point – I’m sure you can understand that. However, the end of week questionnaires have the same questions – so you could take them, and calculate your scores to yourself both now and at the end of the week. That might help with motivation? Please do still follow the week if you can! Very best, Patrick.

    2. The time restriction is just for the sake of the experiment. Anyone can follow the guidance at any time starting any day, completely for free. So in that sense it is very much about self-improvement. Start now! Forget the forms and see if following the guidance helps you in your daily life. And of course there is no need to stop at the end of the week; just repeat for the next week, and so on. Best of luck.

    3. I wasn’t able to submit all the questionnaires because it meant filling in questions I couldn’t answer, so I guess I’m not registered. It doesn’t mean you can’t do the week though.

  9. The handbook has been a great philosophical guidance! It requires read and re-read to remind me what should be followed. It calms the mind.
    I particularly like the quote “seek not for events to happen as you wish, but rather wish for events to happen as they do, and you life will go smoothly”
    Too many time we have “wanted” things to happen instead of being a part of the giant machine of nature.
    Still, it is easier said than done!

  10. How’s it going, you ask? Well yesterday felt like a total failure. Such a disappointment after feeling inspired on Monday. The prospect of self-discipline and endurance seemed over-whelming. Am trying to get back on track today. Have read the morning meditation and it does make a lot of sense. Will continue to follow the handbook as much as possible.

    1. Hello Liz. Vis a vis yesterday’s theme perhaps focus on only little, if concrete things (as the Handbook suggested) for the week. It needs to be something you feel you can do, which is manageable, and in an area of your life in which self-discipline would be helpful. It need not be too much. Could be as simple as cutting out a certain treat for the week, or sticking to a manageable exercise regimen. Small steps. Hope that helps.

    2. I sympathise completely, having been woken at 3am by my granddaughter, which I accepted in stoic fashion as an event outside my control, but then ruined it all by shouting at my husband for his non-assistance in manoeuvring buggy and shopping through the front door! Needless to say, I missed the morning meditation. Hope I can catch up later.

      1. Being able to acknowledge these things as our own slips rather than problems with the outside world is itself a sign of making progress, even if we might not always respond as well as we’d like!

        1. We are fallible human beings ( REBT) reflect on what you have learnt, accept that sometimes our behaviours are not what we would prefer but that’ s okay – accept & move on. ps My Grandson & grandaughter woke us at 3.00 am , just got baby to sleep then found grandaughter sitting in my bed ‘ I’ve saved you a place, Nanni ‘

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