Contrary to popular belief, the term “stoicism” does not refer to a cold, emotionless acceptance of adversity. So what exactly is stoicism? What everyday applications of stoicism are there? Not only is stoicism a philosophy.
It involves experiential learning. It can be viewed as a way to live a fulfilling and joyful life that is governed by values and virtues and intended to improve the world.
In this essay, we will define stoicism for those who are unfamiliar with it and make an effort to offer helpful advice on how to begin practicing stoicism for those who want to advance their stoic practices.
What is stoicism?
Stoicism is philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno in the 3rd century BC. Stoicism explores the question, how to live? We are all born without knowing for why, for what purpose. These kinds of existential questions are answered in stoic philosophy.
It is manual booklet for a better living, to become a better human being. Let’s see different stoic ways to manage stress in our daily life.
When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.Marcus Aurelius
1. Understanding the Uncontrollable Nature of Things
Stoics believe that there are things that we can control and things that we can’t control.
Things under our control includes controlling our anger, our feelings, our use of social media, reducing the speed of our vehicle, spending our time properly, educating ourselves, proper disposal of wastes etc.
Uncontrollable things include pandemic, financial instability like global market crash, certain relationship crisis, death, disease, accidents etc.
But when we try to focus on things that we can control and let go of the things that are not in our control, it’s is a liberating practice.
Stoic philosopher Epictetus says “Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside of our control, the less control we have.
2. Realizing the Illusion of Our Thoughts
One of the early Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca in his Moral letters to Lucilius says “We suffer more often in imagination than reality”.
Major portion of our life we are living in mental world than in the real world of objects. We invest in unnecessary emotional dramas and believe and fool ourselves in those mental images.
What are thoughts actually? They are a bundle of words and images.
It’s a sort of simulation. So, it is futile to worry about such thing which has no reality.
By realizing this illusion of thoughts and coming back to our natural state of inner peace is great stress relief.
3. Take refuge in The Now
Humans are extremely obsessed with the past and future events and forget to live in the now or the present moment.
Past and future are nothing but the regrets and anxieties.
We think about past events and think, if it could have happened in this way I will be this and that or thinking about the future like anxieties about death, disease, financial insecurities, work pressure, unemployment etc.
These mental movements towards past and future spoils our inner peace.
In the book of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius says “The present is the same for everyone, it loses its same for everyone; and it should be clear that a brief instant is all that is lost.
For you can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?”
4. Understanding the Impermanence of Existence
Everything is temporary. Our well-nourished health, long term investments, real estates, relationships all can shredded into pieces.
A pandemic can abrupt the lives of millions even a civilization.
Market crash can make us bankrupt, extremist groups can overthrow governments. Simply life is impermanent.
With this understanding of the temporary nature of things, we will not be overexcited with the instant gratifications. Like increase of followers in Instagram or viewers in YouTube.
We know as they say, “this too shall pass.” Similarly, we will not go into deep depression if relationships fall or with financial insecurities.
In spite of these crisis, we can still feel, behave and act in a calm state of mind.
Sometimes mind drives us crazy, the extreme anger, feeling of jealousy, guilt, shame, regret, revenge, anxiety, depression, traumas can take control rather than we being the controller.
Suppose we felt angry at someone and we are driven by anger.
We lost our control of our mind to control the anger and we end up being the slave of our mind. This can create various problems in relationships.
This results in the damage of a nice relationship. But when we become the master of our mind, we are in charge of ourselves.
Billions of thoughts come and go in minute, and we will not be stimulated by any of these. We can be a watcher of our thoughts and feeling and act appropriately.
This is called self-control. Seneca says “He is most powerful who has power over himself”.
6. Letting Go
7. Concept of Preferred Indifference
The philosophy of Stoicism doesn’t mean we should not desire for material processions. Here comes the concept of preferred indifference.
There are things that we prefer like money, wealth, delicious meal, relationships etc. These are required to have a great life but it doesn’t mean that absence of these meant the end of the world.
Our life will be more flowery by processing material objects but without these processions also we can live a contented life.
This is known as preferred indifference. More than a philosophy Stoicism is a way of life.
The philosophy of Stoicism can be implemented in our daily life. The more we use it the more we take our mind to adapt with diverse life situations.