Stoic Joy. Part Two

As an unexpected bonus, we now know that it is the act of worrying itself that causes many of a modern person’s mental and physical problems. So by eliminating worry and taking action, we are providing ourselves with a double boost. Moving from the mental to the physical, Stoics actually enjoy experimenting with voluntary discomfort. As a contemporary Stoic, we might make a point of seeing how long we can leave the air conditioning off on a summer day, or try hiking in bare feet instead of in shoes, occasionally to feel the land and force our feet to adapt to tougher conditions than a moisture merino wool hiking sock.  It sounds absurd by modern standards, until we realize that by doing this, we are actually broadening our comfort zone, even while we eliminate our fear of discomfort. Thanks to the practice above, we are now able to enjoy ourselves in a much broader range of temperatures, and appreciate the comfort of shoes when we do have them on our feet. Meanwhile, a person with the extreme opposite philosophy might become irritated if the person ever has to travel in less than a first-class airplane seat or stay in less than a five star hotel or drink the best of the best bottle of wine. By experimenting with voluntary discomfort, we  learn to experience and appreciate far more of our life, and we can be content with a much simpler and more wholesome lifestyle. The more pleasures a man captures, the more masters he will have to serve” Nature itself told the Stoics what conditions they should learn to appreciate as humans since they realized they are all in fact an integral part of mother nature. In the terminology which I use, all of these thoughts relating to adapting our comfort level to embrace nature are collectively referred to as necessity. But there is much more to the philosophy than sitting around trying to be happy with what we already have. Stoics believe that the main purpose of our productive energy is to fulfill all of our life’s obligations to our best ability, and to help our fellow humans to do the same thing. So a stoic is actually a hard-working person who enjoys the feeling of hard work and even extremely hard work, as it just falls into the so called voluntary discomfort category which has been mentioned. Rewarding social interactions are a specialty of the Stoic. Stoics believe that humans are social animals at the core, and thus we must exercise this part of our personality to maintain a balanced happiness. But at the same time, it is not rational to have any interest in fame or social status, since these are fleeting indulgences rather than sources of true happiness. When we encounter insults from other people, we must deal with them with the reason rather than with anger. Either the insult is true, in which case we should be grateful for the insulting person for pointing out this area in which we could improve, or it is false, in which case we should feel pity the insulting person for his lack of accurate perception. Either way, an insult is nothing to get upset about. In the case of a true insult when someone not only insults us, but manages to commit major injustices toward us, the best revenge is simply to live an even better life while refusing to be like that scummy person. Actually, I have been through a major encounter with one of these interactions, and while my initial anger took over a three months to subside, I am happy to state that I am now exacting my so called revenge more thoroughly each day. The core of all of these tricks and techniques is to let reason triumph over our reflexive emotions. By understanding human emotions and motivations as thoroughly as possible, Stoics are able to bend our evolutionary programming and use it for the purpose of attaining a ridiculous amount of happiness, rather than its original purpose, which is to survive and reproduce successfully. For example, our insatiable desire for more of everything is not a moral failing on the part of us humans. It is a natural evolutionary program, just as simple as the programming that makes even us raise an eyebrow when we see something very appealing to us… Ancestors of ours who were insatiable, and always wanted more mates, more children, more food, more social standing, and more security against predators and enemies were quite simply the ones who got to produce the largest number of surviving children. But while insatiability did historically lead to more children, it did not lead to more happiness in a modern life. For happiness, we have to trick ourselves into being happy with the things we already have. Last in my own miniature summary of Stoicism, I would like to point out the difference between what i understand as pleasure and and what I understand as happiness. An alternative philosophy called hedonism suggests that to have the best life, we simply maximize pleasure. But Stoics reject that, since pleasure is just one dimension of true happiness. Eating tasty food is pleasurable, as is sex, sleeping in, drinking high quality drink, and watching something really interesting on TV. Higher level pleasures might be driving a fancy car for the first few times, receiving compliments from important people or having millions of people asking us for our autograph. But each pleasure very rapidly wears out if overused, and the hedonist is left scrambling desperately to get higher up the pyramid of earthly pleasures until he runs out either money or health. Meanwhile, by focusing on happiness  which is the underlying signal delivered by pleasure, the Stoic can make it much more a consistent and tranquil companion in his life. In our society as well as those which had been thousands of years ago, the Stoics are truly the one who have it going on.

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Stoic Joy.

Do you know what is stoicism? Neither did I know. While looking through the books at our local city library I found a book “A Guide to the Good Life, The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy”. From reading the book, I learned that stoicism was actually a shockingly advanced old philosophy that found many followers in ancient Rome. Although it has fallen widely out of favor in modern life, people in today’s society would probably identify the central ideas as hardcore of simple living. Stoicism, in short, is a series of mental techniques and ways of life that allow us to decrease and then virtually eliminate all negative emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, and dissatisfaction, while simultaneously building up a tide of pure joy inside us that eventually starts to make us jump around and dance at unexpected moments, and feel happy and joyful when the joy overflows. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Over the past five years, this is exactly the transformation that has been happening to me. As I learned from the book, every good stoic is a work in progress, and I still have much to learn and I am not free from all negative emotions. But compared to a normal person, things are getting pretty unusually joyful for me. So let us see what it is all about. The core of the philosophy seems to be this: To have a good and meaningful life, you need to overcome your insatiability. Most people, at best, spend their lives in a long pursuit of happiness. So today’s a successful person writes out a list of desires, then starts chasing them down and satisfying the desires. The problem is that each desire, when satisfied, tends to be replaced by a new desire. So the person continues to chase. Yet after a long time of pursuit, the person ends up no more satisfied than he was at the beginning. Thus, he may end up wasting his life. The solution, the Stoics realized, is to learn to want the things you already have, rather than wanting other things. The most interesting technique that will help us achieve this is negative visualization. Let us look at some examples. So, let us suppose that we currently have a good working set of eyes. Imagine carefully what it would be like to live life as a blind person. We would have to work very hard to rearrange our life to remain functional — learn braille, take special precautions when walking around town and when cooking at home, and so on.  In the end, we could surely survive and even become happy again if we God forbid were blind. But now we open our eyes. We have this bonus of sight. We were already doing just fine in our blind life, but now we have working eyes too. What an incredible life – we are truly blessed with more than we even need. It turns out that if we practice negative visualization on a regular basis, we learn to both appreciate our current life much more, and to be mentally prepared in the event of any changes in life as well – loss of health, fortune, and so on. We have replaced negative emotions with satisfaction and even joy. The next great trick is the one that allows us to eliminate anxiety about the present and the future. That can be done by separating our worries into things we can control, and things we cannot control. Some people worry endlessly about politics and world events – so much that it affects their ability to lead a happy life, even when in reality, world politics barely even affect their lives in any way here where we live. The Stoic solution to this is to realize that politics and the actions of other countries are completely outside of our circle of influence – so we can breathe easily and completely drop all worry about them. There is a smaller subset of these events that we can influence – who we vote for, and possibly where we donate our money or time. To eliminate the rest of our worry, we make the votes and take the local actions which affect our life, and we are worry free. Similarly, instead of worrying about our health as many people do, we simply work to the best of our ability to optimize the body we have been given, and the matter is completely closed. Now we know that it is the act of worrying itself that causes many of a modern person’s mental and physical problems, so by eliminating worry and taking action, we are provide ourselves with a double boost.

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Superself.

There is You in side of you that you have not discovered or experienced yet. Or may be you did, but not on a continuous basis. It is the You which is able to achieve much much more than you ever imagined. It is the You who are able to make any plan, and follow it with no praise from anyone – just the satisfaction of knowing that once you think of something you want, you can do it. You have all the talent and all the power you may need. It is the You who welcomes all the challenges  with the zest instead of fear; who deals with inevitable loss of a job or money problems. It is You in control of your life instead of being controlled by circumstances, events or plain old fear. That You is someone you already are, and someone you can begin to experience immediately with any delay or some excuse, when you develop a number of personal abilities that very few know about , and even fewer apply. That You is your Superself that you can bring out to apply on a daily basis. You can design your life so that is full of rewarding, joyful accomplishments and positive emotions, with a minimum of frustration, boredom, loneliness, or any other negative emotions that can deprive you of excitement and desire to strive more and more. You can have it all when you learn to bring out the one you already are – your Superself. As there are financial strategies which enable you to win with your money, there are strategies which enable you to win in every aspect of life. monetary wealth is only one piece of the puzzle of life. Real wealth is determined by the level of your ability live out your dreams and achieve your goals, regardless whether others consider them practical or outrageous. Real wealth is measured by the ability of joy in every moment of the experience of accomplishing those dreams and goals.

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Subconscious Mind.

When we can learn how to use our own subconscious mind, we will have a strong ally at all the time at our side, regardless of what life brings us. But before that we have to understand what the subconscious mind is and appreciate what it is capable of. Deep down below the level of our thoughts lies the powerful component of our mind that we call subconscious. Our subconscious mind is the storehouse of our memory. It also holds the impressions of our entire life. Nothing can approach the powerful capabilities of the subconscious mind. But when we want it to be successful in any aspect of our life, we must make greater use of the subconscious mind. Unfortunately, most of us go through life without realizing at any time, how to use this fountain of power. Only a very small number of people who discover the importance of the subconscious mind, understand how it works and learn how to guide its hidden powers to achieve success and prosperity. When we know how to use the hidden power of our subconscious mind, we can attain anything beyond our wildest dreams. Our subconscious mind can activate our imagination and inspire us with new thoughts and ideas. We can use this power even to gain financial prosperity that will offer us a new level of freedom to be where we want and to do what we want. Our  subconscious mind can help us find our true purpose in life and eventually lead us to satisfaction and happiness. We use our subconscious mind to rid us of anger, frustration, resentment and free ourselves from fear, anxiety and worry.  With its help we solve our most pressing problems and make the right decision. Our subconscious mind lies below the consciousness, and waits to be placed in action. It is unlimited, infinite and inexhaustible; it never rests and keeps working every moment of our life. It needs to be activated and its unique powers must be put to work. We  must give our subconscious mind a goal to reach and  an objective to achieve before it will go into action. We have to realize that our goals can be achieved. This is the mental state that intensifies thoughts and causes our subconscious mind to function at its best. we have to know exactly what we want to accomplish, be specific about the goal we want to reach, and the objective we want to attain. We have to believe in our heart that our subconscious mind will deliver the answer we want or we need. We  have to separate facts from opinions and feed these facts into our subconscious mind with the request for an answer. Then we watch and wait for the right answer or the appropriate solution. When the answer arrives we have to take immediate action. If we fail to act, our subconscious mind will reach the conclusion that we are not serious about our request for help. Innovative ideas for original accomplishment are born within the subconscious mind. It bring into being the excitement when we are confronted with a new idea or possibility.

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See It. Believe It.

When we get ready to take the first step into the unknown, we have to visualize ourselves succeeding. This very thought will help us to build momentum. The truth is that our bodies go where our thoughts go. When we can visualize victory in our mind, we can achieve it. Our body will follow our mind, and together they will lead us to success. The reasoning behind this is very simple. When we visualize ourselves succeeding and we think positively, we unite our conscious and unconscious energies into an exceptional mission. The visualized courage has an emotional quality, and it feels like a surge of energy which is moving through our body the energy that empowers us and gives us the strength to pursue our goal. A successful person is the one who has not only seen this goal, but the person is blessed with the vision to make it happen. When our mind can conceive something and our heart can believe it, our body can achieve it. When we believe something, our body accepts it as truth. Our brain produces the chemicals that are needed to keep us enthusiastic, energetic and focused. We have a vision and the intent is to make sure it becomes a reality. What we can see is what we are going to get. When we think positively, think like a winner, and dream big – we are well equipped to the script of success. On the other hand when we are overcome by negative thoughts, everything falls apart. We have to remember that negative visualization is not instantaneous. It simmers quietly over time and may take months and years to develop and grow. It is a silent killer which drains us of energy, and takes away the will to succeed. The subconscious mind speaks to us without being aware of its words. This chat continues and becomes our self-talk. We begin to believe what we are, and that we are not capable of doing and achieving. When we accept negative fear, we nurture it. The more time and attention we give to these negative thoughts, the more they grow and become real for us. The time we postpone to deal with these thoughts is the time we allow them to root into our mind. Even a tiny fear can grow into the one that can cripple us completely, and the feeling of incompetency can become a monster within us. We have always to be alert to negative thoughts, words and images and keep them away as far as we can. When we feel a new negative stereotype attacks our mind, we go after it, expose it and find out what gave rise to it. After that we have to replace it with the most positive and successful thought we can find.

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Finding Our Path.

It is easy to blame others. In fact, it has become a norm to criticize, complain and blame others. People seem to enjoy whining, saying “It is not fair. I am a victim.” That is not the way to achieve success. We have to take responsibility for our thoughts and our actions. We have to create a new approach to the reality, and realize that a better future lies within us. I am sure that now is the best time, and there are more opportunities for ordinary people to have an impact on the world and create change in it. The newest technologies and wonderful inventions which have been made recently, empower every individual. We need innovative ideas and personal vision. To succeed in today’s world we need imagination and courage in addition to innovative ideas and personal vision, and the strength to own up to what we are willing to do. We need our willpower and our mind. It is only when we agree to something – that something becomes our reality. I am not saying that to change attitude is simple. It is much easier to let the power of mediocrity hold us back, and develop our personalities to expect something for nothing. This attitude encourages weakness and takes away the power of individual. This kind of thinking adds up to unwillingness to take the responsibility for one’s own life. When we fall short, instead of saying , “I was wrong!” we point at someone making them scapegoats for our inability and weakness, and so becoming masters in the blame game. The concept of failing several times, persevere and finally succeed should become charming and sweet. When we have an idea, we have to put total effort to make it happen. Nothing can justify that we are not giving ourselves fully to this idea. People who have become successful in life and very successful financially, have learned to take responsibility for themselves and do it immediately. This is our life whatever it may be at the present moment. We have to accept all parts of it as our creation. And when we accept the responsibility for the whole, we can change any part of it. Here are the steps how we arrive at the state of responsibility for oneself and one’s life as a whole. We live in the present, and concentrate on what we can do today. We stop measuring ourselves and our actions by the standards of other people what they say and what they gossip. We don’t have to be like others. We are our best. The life journey is a relative experience. We have to take action. If we do nothing, nothing will change. The only way to change any of our situation is to take responsibility and do whatever we need to do different. As we travel on the road of life, we collect positive and negative. They all come as experience, incidents and meetings. We have to be very careful with negative, otherwise it can wear away our confidence. We have to take personal responsibility to what hold on, and what ignore. We have to keep our attention and our vision where we are going. Whatever we put our attention on, will become our reality. “Whatever we focus on, grows,” says the spiritual law. We are responsible for every action we make and every thought we think. We alone make the decisions and the responsibility of what happens as a result of those decisions lies with each of us. If we want to be a success, we will constantly have to remember that we are the only one who can make it happen. Life helps those who help themselves.

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Pursuing What We Want.

We all have experienced it. We get into our car, start the engine push the accelerator to back out of a driveway… And the car doesn’t move. Then we realize that we forgot to release the emergency brakes and the car glides out. Many of us go through life with the brakes on. The brakes of being scared, the brakes of procrastination, the brakes of negative thinking, and much more. Each of them prevent us from giving all that we have to give, and sharing all that we can share. We cannot live as though we have one thousand years to accomplish our goals. We are here today. But we may be gone tomorrow. It is necessary that we follow our dream today. How much we have left? We don’t know. Nobody knows. We have to develop hunger and the sense that we have to use up our time on the earth. We have to use what we have got and share whatever we brought into life. When we are discouraged, and believe it happens again and again, it takes willpower to develop the courage to try again and again and never quit. Some people are naturally willpowered, Some people show it because of the circumstances. When we are not naturally motivated, we have to find ways how to become motivated. If we don’t develop the willpower and courage to pursue what we want in life, we will lose our nerve and will give up. If we don’t have the courage to act, life will take the initiative from us  We have to make a choice: act on life or risk having life act on us. No matter what someone tells us, nothing will protect us from some nasty side of life. It will catch us on the blind side, and drop us to our knees. People will betray us. They will lie to us. Some will say, “You can count on us!” and then not show up. The most dependable hand we can rely on is our own left hand and our own  right hand. We cannot count on anyone but oneself only. Trust me, I have a really really good life experience.

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Life Demands Responsibility.

I believe we that we choose all the circumstances of our lives – our health, our physical characteristics, our geographical preference and cultural orientation before we are born, and we come into this world with some very low level but knowledge that we have as human beings to use the circumstances for our inner growth. I know that when I see my life as my responsibility, I can make the necessary changes to create what I want and feel happy no matter what other say or do. If I look from the position that someone else or some supreme power will take care of everything, I am stuck for unlimited time in circumstances about which I do not feel happy, and I have no power to change them. I have learned that when there is something in my life that does not work or does not show certain and clear results which I expect and I wait for someone else to fix it, I had better not be holding my breath. I have to take full responsibility for my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual kingdoms. The shell that I must take care to live is my physical body. it houses everything I do. I do not want to harm it, so I try and do only good to it. I have my routine: when I wake up, how much I exercise, what I eat, when I go to bed and how much I sleep. Emotionally I surrounded myself with positive people, who inspire me, and I learned to be positive. I avoid people who can bring me down and who drain my energy. And the less I engage with these people, the less effect they have on me. I cannot change anyone no matter how much I try, but I can change myself only. So, when I see these people, I say hello and smile nicely, but no engagement. I keep my mental and spiritual bodies highly protected. Our human mind is the creator of our success or failure, happiness or unhappiness, stress or relaxation, pleasure or pain, good or bad. And by understanding myself I understand my mind, and how to create what benefits me and abstains the unconscious creation of what brings pain and hurts. Meditation is one of the most powerful tools we have for self-expression and inner growth. Through meditation I can reach levels of mental clarity that cannot be achieved through any other means. Meditation is a major pathway to the soul.

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Creating Joy.

In our life we all have special moments. We experience them every day in one degree or another. They may be in a smile of someone we love or in the smile of someone we even don’t know. These special moments are in a hug of a child, in the presence of a close friend, or in the touch of a loved one. We can think about the times when we have been overcome with joy. Those were moments that we were in love with ourselves and in love with everyone else. Those were the moments that we believed we could conquer the world. From that belief and that love we can create our lives. We think about the things that bring us joy, then connect with as many of these things as possible and as often as possible. We dive into the moments of joy again and again and absorb them into our present moment. The speed of life on the fast track spreads through every area of our life. Hurrying becomes a habit. Even after we simplify many of our daily routines everything around us continues moving fast. We have to find ways to slow down our morning routine. One of them is to get up earlier, so that we don’t have to rush out of the door, will make a big difference in the pace of our entire day. When we sit down for the morning meal, we eat the food in a leisurely manner, so we can fest on each bite. Eliminating all the distractions and simply enjoying eating. We leave the house early enough, so that we don’t arrive at the office panting at the beginning of the work day. I have found out over and over that rushing through any work or project I was doing, meant getting it wrong and losing time by having to do it again, either partially or completely. We have to take our time and do it right in the first place, enjoying the process as we go along. Our life is a journey as well as a destination – to be with the moment and enjoy everything that it brings. When we have simplified a lot of our daily, weekly and monthly routines, we will not only have more time, but gain more pleasure from each thing we do.

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Bow Out And Move On.

We humans for the most part maintain our herd instincts. It is comforting for each of us to be one of the pack, and to have family, friends and loved ones nearby to help us grow. At least when we start our journey. But it often happens that the people with whom we are closest, do not really support us. The lack of support can be ingenious. We can be with someone we love and think of the person as a friend before we begin to realize that the relationship is not really helping us, but in fact has been holding us back. It is easy to be deceived by the comfort a long time relationship appears to offer us. There is certain ease that comes with familiarity and from knowing each other history, and from the history the two people built together, even when it has been uproarious. But there comes the time when we have to ask some hard questions: “Do these people really love us or they hang on to us because of their own lack or their needs? They may say that they love us, but do they make us feel loved? Are they really with us in our successes, or do they manage to put us in the wrong? Do they love us enough to let us go on to bigger and better things, even if means that they get left behind?” Non-acceptance and subtle put downs can be powerful deterrents to our growth. If we are not getting love and support we need from the relationship in our life, it will much harder for us to achieve joy and inner happiness.If we want to move on, sometimes there is no choice but to leave behind those who may not be ready to move on with us. often we simply have to retreat with a smile, and resolutely reduce their presence in our life. We have to realize that all the family ties and friendships we have in our life are there for a purpose, they are not necessarily meant to last forever. It takes grace to recognize when the time for ending the relationship has come, even if the person does not recognize it. Then we will have time and energy to concentrate o loving and supportive relationships.

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