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

Everyone please feel free to comment below and share your experiences from the second 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:

  • In what ways have you decided to cultivate Stoic self-disciple and simplicity this week?
  • Did the practice of the evening meditation last night help with approaching any stressful or difficult daily situations today?
  • Do you have any thoughts or observations to share with others? How did you find the morning text for reflection?
  • Do you have any questions?

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

56 thoughts on Day Two of Stoic Week: How's it going?

  1. Paul Waterhouse says:

    Being an older worker comes with lots of challenging issues. I’vejust discovered this philosophy Stoicism, could be useful coping strategy I’m looking for! I do like the circle graphic.

    • Thanks Paul. Certainly there are many different challenges as we journey through life. Glad you are finding the project/information/resources interesting and helpful. The circle graphic is a great insight

    • Rebecca says:

      I’m wondering whether my children aged 11 and 13 are in my “circle of control”? If I believed they are now out of my circle of control, would I be failing them as their mother? Since I believe they are IN, I get cross when they don’t behave as I expect. I don’t suppose the Ancient Stoics have anything to say about motherhood?

      • Patrick Ussher says:

        Hello Rebecca – thanks for your question. The Stoics would say that whilst your children themselves are not in your circle of control, your relationship (i.e. how you relate to them) is, and that therein (i.e. into the relationship) you should try to place the ‘good’. Epictetus said that by doing that people could become the best dad, mother, sister, brother (etc) possible. So the act of raising children well is certainly something ‘up to us’.

      • John Sellars says:

        Well, they are outside your circle of control, as you must be all too aware of on many occasions (just like my two year old!). But they are definitely within your circle of concern, an idea that will be explained a bit more in Saturday’s theme in the Handbook.

  2. Vicky Jenkin says:

    I think this is a very impressive exercise in involving and informing the pubic in what has been seen as very abstruse discipline in the past. Much of it is pitched at the right level for the intelligent uninitiated. The translations of thoughts for meditation might
    be more effective if it wasn’t couched in rather precious nineteenth century poetic phrases but in plainer English.
    Thank you for doing this.
    Vicky Jenkin

  3. mirabelle1 says:

    Thoughts on short periods of living simply & deprivation: We did lots of tramping when I was a kid in NZ (I don’t know what you call it in the UK – bushwalking maybe?) which is multiple days of walking carrying everything you need in a pack on your back, and you have to pack light so you have dehydrated food, no luxuries, no showers but swim in rivers, walk up mountains etc. You’d get tired and covered in mud. You sleep on thin mats in tents that you have carried in. Mum always told us the deprivation and lack of luxuries like hot showers and good food was good for us – which I interpreted as we tramped to appreciate not tramping. Which pretty much worked, I feel like I do often have an appreciation for the little luxuries of life from those trips where we had some days of going without. So this theory really makes sense to me and worked for me in the past.

  4. Jonas says:

    I find the morning/evening meditations a bit hard. Probably because I think it is a little vague. Maybe I am already a stoic, but I don’t feel like there are many clear examples of situations where I can be more wise, just, brave or moderate. My life is pretty normal, so there aren’t a lot of challenging situations.
    Both when rehearsing the coming day, and evaluation the day that has passed, I cannot really find good examples of what I did right/wrong or what I can do better. It is not because I think I already am a perfect human being, but there seems to be few situations where you have the chance to be virtuous. Mostly I seem to just exist and just flow with things. I wish I could find something I could work towards.
    Also, I am not really sure what the virtue “wisdom” amounts to in this setting. How can you be wise in a situation? Does it mean that you have to think a lot before you act/react?
    I would have liked a longer list of “philosophical principles” and virtues (if there are more virtues than those four.

    • Thanks, Jonas – maybe you naturally engage in Stoic practices ? Sounds like yo might like a challenge ?Seek and you will find a challenge ? be pro active, it will be interesting if you use this week to engage in new challenges normally outside your comfort zone

    • Those are the four cardinal virtues of classical philosophy, which the Stoics adopted. Of course, you can conceptualise virtue in different ways. The main point for Stoics is that it refers to excelling in terms of your character and practical reason. They believed the person who has completed that journey is “as rare as the Ethiopian phoenix”, so quite rare! To help provide some direction they advise us to regularly contemplate the concept of perfection, the ideal Sage. Alternatively, they say we should emulate what we judge praiseworthy in other people, especially exemplary role-models like Socrates or people closer to our own time.

    • Elaine says:

      I so agree, I am really struggling with the whole thing because of the constant use of the words good, wise, virtuous. I have never believed that there is such a thing as ultimate good or evil and that those terms can only be used in conjunction with a specific goal. For example there are plenty if situations in which killing or stealing could be considered good.
      I too would find this easier with clear definitions. I’m wondering how much is due to translation from Latin.

      • Bear with it, the whole point of Stoicism is that it attempts to define these terms in a particular way, but that can take time to clarify. Rome wasn’t built in a day! 🙂
        Their central claim is that virtue is the only true good. Virtue is defined as excelling in terms of our nature as rational and social animals. Killing or stealing might, potentially, be considered good by Stoics if it were done virtuously, with wisdom and justice, for the welfare of the community of mankind. More specifically, the intention behind the act would be good or bad, rather than the act itself, or its outcome, as only our volition is truly virtuous or vicious.

  5. Toni says:

    I’m finding it hard to put another idea into practice when I am still reflecting on yesterdays idea.
    With regards to today’s reflection, I am unsure about how to decide what is wasteful. Any ideas on how you interpreted ‘wastefulness’?

  6. Angela Gilmour says:

    I have been trying to use the Rule of St Benedict as a template for my daily life following many weekends at Worth Abbey. I am a non-academic Roman Catholic and the pattern of reflection three times a day mirrors the Rule. I attended a Philosophy for Today course at a time of change in my life and first realised that the Philosopy of the Anciant Romans and the Geeta of the Lord Shri Krishna set out similar principals. I am at a cross roads in my life at 65 and am finding Stoic Week really informative and helpful. I had let these periods of reflection slip for the last two years and already in just 24hrs I feel much calmer and have shared this powerful resourse with several friends in a way that I could never have done with the Rule of St Benedict. This mornings reflection is particularly powerful for me – wasted my life or wasted my talents?

    • Thanks, Angela – this is very positive feedback – you have shared some really insightful expereinces. We often get into unhelpful habits – and it is hard work to change, but worth it as you describe

      • Angela Gilmour says:

        Lunchtime Exercise was interesting for me – since September have been following the 2+5 Fast Diet and it has had many benefits and shown me that I can be self disciplined. Again the Mystics and founders of the Church, Philosophers and great people in History like Ghandi all followed a a simple life which included fasting.

  7. sarah says:

    Started at lunchtime yesterday after hearing about this project on the Today programme. Last night’s plans for today were scuppered by events, but I consciously thought of how to be stoical about that, which was helpful as I didn’t get so upset: 40% upset instead of 80%. Will the change last? I hope you’re planning a follow-up study!

    • Thanks for the feedback, Sarah. The change will last as long as you are mindful that you want to include these new ways of thinking in your life ? Stoicism is for life, not just for Stoic Week : )

    • Once you have printed off the full 2013 Stoic Week Handbook you can repeat the lunchtime exercises, early morning meditations and the late evening reflections, week after week after week. That’s what I plan to do with the daily guides in the run up to Christmas and New Year. I’ve factored in, however, a “Time Out from Stoicism” break whenever I feel like letting my hair down. For example I’ll say “Time Out” and then go and do something silly like daydreaming about things I’ve no control over etc, etc, etc.

  8. B says:

    I’m still on day 1.
    Best I have felt in as long as I can remember. Life can only get better as I progress myself.
    Truly grateful that I have found Stoicism and this event.

  9. iggypop says:

    Yes stoicism is the way to go. Reminded now how so many ‘act as if’ therapies have roots in great stoic thinking. Also haven’t complained all day about serious hang nail condition – how tough am I eh..

  10. John Robin says:

    I have used this week to extend my existing eating plan by abstaining from food after my evening meal, we’ll see how it goes as part of the living simply approach. I am participating because the week encourages me to extend my interest in stoicism which really became serious after reading Senecas Letters on an overnight stay in hospital following chest pain. I’d picked the book up on a whim and it was all I had with me to read, I’ve been influenced by it ever since.

    • Hi John, yes, Musonious Rufus said ‘ Stoics don’t eat llunch and don’t make a fuss about it’ he advocated one meal a day ( as well as b/fast) between 3 – 5pm and nothing else apart form liquids ( he didn’t say no wine BTW) I did it last year, plus swimming x3 a week & walks and kept it going for 6 months – for health reasons………….it became a new way of being. Thanks for sharing

  11. I have come to Stoicism after moving out of New York City seven years ago with my husband of ten years and embracing the simple life. I wanted principles, philosophy that supported the way that I live now. I realized this year that due to the recession, so many material things had fallen away and we have settled into securing our basic human birthrights: food, shelter and water. And thankfully, though it is a struggle at times, once they are secured, what then? Life becomes life and the beauty of nature, our intrinsic connection is the journey and recreating the harmony that we knew eons ago is what I look for every day. I wanted a word for it and settled on stoicism because my grandmother, through all her trials, towards the end of her life, became stoic. What a surprise to find there is a whole philosophy and especially to find how the word has changed from the original teachings. I have found contentment. And I realized that I had a adopted a demeanor of basic happiness and allowing the challenges of the day roll through me but maintaining that basic happiness became my core. Very liberating. I stumbled onto Stoicism Today through Wikipedia, LOL!

    • John Sellars says:

      Many thanks for sharing this. Sometimes people get to the right place on their own but still find it helpful to have a name for the worldview they have adopted and it is always good to know that others have reached the same conclusions too.

  12. Jane says:

    I have definitely been thinking about Seneca’s exhortation to “live”, or to be able to say each night “I have lived,” from yesterday’s evening reflection. I loved this idea and I was conscious of it today too.
    Day Two’s Seneca nugget, about our wasting much of life, made me feel panicky though!

    • John Sellars says:

      The one sure way to waste the day would be to panic throughout it rather than simply enjoy it. We’ve all wasted time in the past but that’s long gone so it is simply a question of working towards another “I have lived!” at bedtime. One day at a time.

  13. AE says:

    Thank you for the thought, energy and work that went into realising Stoic Week.
    As I am experiencing quite a few personal challenges at present, I found myself leaving a bookshop with Seneca’s ‘Letters From a Stoic’ a few weeks ago…in the quiet hope that it would help steady me, maintain perspective and my head above water! It was just before I found out about your project. I had read Marcus Aurelius a year or so ago & have kept it beside my bed since to dip into every now and then. (On doing this, I was reminded of my grandmother and the bible that she kept at her bedside! It is a well of wisdom to drink from occasionally before sleeping). Seneca led me onto Cicero’s On the Art of Living & Dying (Penguin Classics edition) which I am currently reading – and so it was wonderful serendipity that Stoic Week came to my attention the just the week before last.
    Today I read a beautiful hymn to philosophy by Cicero – ‘Wisdom Across the Ages’ which resonated with my feeling too towards Stoic thinking to which I’m finding myself drawn to again. Your chosen Stoic abstracts and the exercises so far this week affirm the potential for philosophy to guide us towards virtue and ‘endow serenity’. In order to correct our..tendency to augment misfortune with fear and sadness that are within our control and to correct our vices and errors – he urges us to turn to philosophy.

    • Cicero was a semi-Stoic. He was actually a follower of the Platonic Academy but he was influenced by Stoicism, and sympathetic toward it in many respects. His friend, Cato of Utica, was the great Stoic hero of the Roman Civil War and Cicero portrays him explaining Stoic philosophy in a dialogue.

  14. Did the practice of the evening meditation last night help with approaching any stressful or difficult daily situations today?
    Yes, I had a challenging day on Monday dealing with my work colleagues. Pressure of workload was going into overload both on me and others. Heated words were exchange and more of the same was inevitable today also. I was able to put in to practice the “some things are up to me, and some things are not” mantra. It works really well if you put your mind to it and say it to yourself before acting hastily. I think I only upset 3 people today. (My boss, a pedestrian on a street corner who I got in the way off and two middle aged ladies who thought I was going to run them over in the dark. Luckily, I got off lightly by giving them all, my indifferent Stoic stare.
    How did you find the morning text for reflection?
    The Tuesday morning text for reflection seemed written for me. My job is time orientated. At one stage this morning my boss even said to me, “you have time to do it!” as he dished out another bloody consignment. I guess I could have handled my reply to him better as I think I left him sounding a tad angry on the phone. I aim to do better tomorrow as I expect another hectic day ahead. Tonight’s evening reflection will help, which I am now about to start.
    In what ways have you decided to cultivate Stoic self-disciple and simplicity this week?
    I have decided to drink only water in place of tea, coffee and all other beverages that I would normally have consumed, except maybe goats milk. I’m having only one evening meal a day. No breakfast, no lunch, no snacks but I can eat all I like within moderation when I get home from work.

  15. psandsh says:

    I am finding so many correlations with Buddhism, which focuses on meditation, mindfulness and working with the mind to see things as they really are. Buddhism also focuses on a simple lifestyle free of attachments and anger.

    • True. However, Buddhism doesn’t have a clear definition of the highest good, except perhaps nirvana, the cessation of desire and suffering, whereas for Stoics the highest good is virtue, action in accord with wisdom and justice.

      • psandsh says:

        As I see it, stoicism works at an individual level whereas Buddhism starts there and reaches out to all living beings. The core values of contentment and simplicity are the same.

  16. J says:

    After a pretty poor first day in which I got angry and irrational several times, I had a much more balanced day today. I definitely put into practice the idea of control and indifference in a potentially stressful situation. However, I did badly at the one thing very much in my control – my focus on my own work. I think I shall have definitely have to work on applying principals of self-discipline to this challenge!

  17. Cate says:

    I wrote a blog about my first two days here

  18. Sandy says:

    Well I did have a terrific day. Whether this can be attributed to the evening meditation, the review of the day – err I suffered sleep – and the very sound sleep that followed I found that I approached a couple of situations with a welcome equanimity. Very intriguing practice.

  19. sarah says:

    Today I (i) thought ahead in my morning day-planning session of all the rage I might feel later today while trying to cope with a difficult situation, and tried to visualise myself staying calm; (ii) in the situation itself, after reading about the reserve clause, I did manage to appear calm (I believe) and also to feel much less emotionally invested in the outcome. Perhaps paradoxically, I think that has made a good outcome more likely.

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