Practical Stoicism
Practical Stoicism

Episode 9 · 7 months ago

Habituate the practice of minding your mind


This week we'll be working through the 8th meditation from book 2 of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

"Ignoring what goes on in other people’s souls — no one ever came to grief that way. But if you won’t keep track of what your own soul is doing, how can you not be unhappy?"

Meditations: A New Translation (the book I read these meditations from) --> [link]

Hey, they're welcome back. I hope you're doing well. Before I start today, I wanted to share a review I just received on the stoicism podcom website that I think everyone would do well to hear. It's from a listener whose name is Michelle, and they say. I'm new to the concept of stoicism and wish I wasn't. At Age seventy four. I am repeating episodes and learning to really listen and to not be distracted. I just listen to the episode on death. Oh, my husband will be seventy nine next month. Reality Sucks, but I am determined to clear my mind of chaos and to take control. Thank you for the clarity. Thank you for the review and the thoughts, Michelle. I appreciate it. The reason I wanted to share this was to point out that it is never too late to get control of your own mind. And if you're feeling bad for putting it off for this long and thinking what's the point now, whether you're seventy four, like...

Michelle, or thirty four or forty four or fifty four, please understand that developing peace of mind and control over the feral nature of your own inner thoughts is never impossible until you're dead and never without an incredible amount of reward while you are alive. If you were only going to live another year, tell me it wouldn't be nice to have it be your best year yet. Don't look at your past and say, well, that's how it's been, so I guess that's how the future is going to be. Instead, look at your future and remember that it is not yet written and that you are its author. Don't let what has happened so far become the runaway narrator of your future. So we are up to meditation number eight out of the seventeen in this first book, and here it is ignoring what goes on in other people's souls. No one ever came to grief that way. But if you won't keep track of what your own soul is doing, how can you not be...

...unhappy? Meditation number seven and number six both lead up to this idea, and that is if you spend time minding the business of others and if you spend time being distracted by the actions of others, you have less time, perhaps no time, to focus your mind on your own personal development. You're out there trying to tame the world, to bring it into alignment with how you think it ought to be, and so you are not at home to do the work of taming yourself. What does this wind up looking like? Well, it looks like a world full of judges, but one which is very sparse and truly virtuous people, people who imply their virtue through their words or their voiced concerns, but whom, in the privacy of their own minds and own personal actions, are no more virtuous than a stone, and this leads to a far worse fate. And all borrow Aristotle's words here vote.

We must take as a sign of states of character the pleasure or pain that ensues on acts. For the man or woman who abstains from bodily pleasures and delights in this very fact is temperate, while the man who is annoyed at it is self indulgent, and he or she who stands his or her ground against things that are terrible and delights in this, or at least is not pained, is brave, while the man or woman who is pained is a coward, for moral excellence is concerned with the pleasures and pains. It is on account of the pleasure that we do bad things and on account of the pain, that we abstain from, noble ones and quote, in other words, to modernize that quote a bit, if you become habitually unvirtuous, which most of us truly are, and we can't help but have become that way because we don't prioritize things like what we're talking about in these meditations in the rearing of our children, and our parents probably didn't prioritize them in the rearing...

...of us. But if you become habitually unvirtuous, virtue becomes painful, while Vice, on the other hand, becomes pleasant, and you probably know this feeling. I know that I am constantly making analogies to food, for whatever reason, and physical health, but, as an example, how much harder is it to order a salad than it is to order a delicious Bacon cheeseburger with waffle fries and a side of Mozzarellisticks and a shake for dessert? And how frequently, when you have made that good decision, when you've made the decision to choose something healthier, have you sat down to eat it only to feel like a child who has been asked to take their medicine? The longer this sort of behavior goes on, the harder it is to break out of and so the longer we avoid paying attention to it, focusing our attention on it, the harder it is to stop doing it. And this is perhaps the strongest case for not putting it off. It is important work. The...

...beginning of this brief meditation started with ignoring what goes on in other people's souls. No one ever came to grief that way. Here it might be easy to misconstrue this as you shouldn't care about other people, but that is not at all what's being said. Nowhere in any text of stoicism that I have ever read, and that's quite a few of them, have I ever seen anyone suggest that another person's problems are strictly their own or that we should live as hermits in our own little worlds and say Levy case Orra Sara, whatever happens happens, and just not care about what's happening to the people around us. In fact, stoicism, as we'll see in future meditations, suggest the exact opposite, that it is our duty as members of a society to benefit that society and to do our human work within it. What Marcus is suggesting here is not to spend your time focusing on what others are thinking, worrying about or judging within their own minds. You cannot know you cannot know what...

...they are thinking and you cannot control what they are thinking. So your time is much better spent on the thinking, worrying and judging going on in your own mind, because that is something you can do something about, and in fact, doing something about it is the only way to avoid becoming the sort of person who is only superficially virtuous. I'd like to thank you for listening today. If you'd like to leave a review of this podcast, for this podcast, you can do so on apple podcast, spotify, podcast where podchasercom. You can also leave one at Stoicism podcom, as Michelle did. Thank you again for listening. I hope you have a great rest of your day and until next time, take care.

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