When we experience hardship, we are encouraged to read the Stoics and to start journaling.
But while we go all the way back to the ancient Stoic texts and read from there, our understanding of how to journal is much more contemporary.
Our method of journaling is mostly informed by the pioneering work of James Pennebaker who, in around the 80s, taught a method called expressive writing a kind of free form journaling as a way of thinking through an issue, identifying emotional reactions to an issue, making sense of it and finding a way forward. …
Towards a more Stoic kind of journaling.
I presented this talk at Stoicon-X in Athens, Greece on Sunday, October 6 2019.
On Sunday 6 October 2019, I presented a half-hour session what I call “Meditations on ‘Meditation’” or “MoM” at the Stoicon-X Conference held on the day after Stoicon at Cotsen Hall, Athens Greece.
Here’s what I said about Meditations on “Meditations” (MoM).
The Pythagoreans thought the number ten a perfect number. And, so might we. After all, the #Stoics were greatly influenced by Pythagorean thought and contemplative practice.
Which is why I’m compiling a list of 10 reasons to create your own “Encheiridion” or Handbook for Life.
I started with one big reason. I was travelling and faced an unpleasant situation. I found a quiet corner and tried to focus and meditate on the journaling I’d done that morning. I’d been reading Marcus Aurelius as a prompt to work through some “issues.” But, my mind was completely blank. …
In a recent tweet, Nigel Warburton stated “In British politics, this is no time for Stoicism. We all need to be very angry. And to show it.”
In a recent blog post, I too considered Stoicism and anger as a political tool and came to a different conclusion. My focus is on the #metoo movement, not #Brexit, but the argument might still apply.
After a particularly difficult interaction with a key person in my life (a few years back now), I packed a notebook and my favourite Lamy fountain pen and took myself to a nearby museum. I sat in a comfy armchair in front of a large canvas over which was painted a peaceful, rustic scene. I pulled out my notebook and began to write.
I must have sat there for two hours. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I’ve since thrown those pages out. Their purpose was mostly for short-term relief from emotional pain, but also with some hope of longer-term instruction; an intellectual understanding, some ordering of my thoughts about what had occurred, what my role in it all was, and how I might improve myself in similar interactions going forward. …
I am quite convinced, my dear Stoic souls, that I am not just improving, but transforming. There are still many parts of me that need changing, of course, correcting even, and yet, this, even this fact that I am now writing to you to say this, even the fact that I am aware of it, of myself, isn’t that already proof that my spirit has lifted, that my thoughts and behaviours have altered, and that I have become better?
It’s been two months since I last wrote to you and in that time I have made so much progress every day, you can’t imagine. This is one of the reasons I’m writing now because I’d like to share this metamorphosis of mine with you. It’s really important that I do this, share this learning, this knowledge, because this is the sort of thing that transforms friends into friendships. …
After a very early morning start and an event in Glasgow, we finally headed back down towards home and stopped at Dalrymple for a late lunch. After we’d settled in, chatted, ordered a starter, and were well onto the main, I had my first moment of contemplation. My eyes wandered for a few moments. There on the wall, just beyond our table, a pencil sketch. A ruin and a cemetery.
I’m not one to celebrate the coming of a weekend as a welcome relief after a week of work grind. But today, I find I am relieved that it is a Saturday and I can hide behind weekend conventions — break, day off, sleep in, snooze, hibernate — and not reply to work-related emails of which there have been far too many this week!
I wrote this in my journal this morning and paused and frowned. I am not the type of person to live for the weekend. I have a fairly flexible weekday life and can often turn any weekday into a weekend. …
The true disciple of philosophy pursues death and dying. Said Socrates, according to Phaedo. And, of course, Plato.
I have spent the better part of the last two hours pursuing death and dying. No, I’m not actively pursuing dying — there’s no suicide attempt in the works — but I am reflecting on death in some daydreamy, abstract way.
And that is, kind of, all I’m doing. Actually, it is all I’m doing.
According to the Stoics, a daily dose of death contemplation should quite promptly stimulate us into activity and clarify what is important and good and essential so that we can do just what we ought to do. …
4:46 am. I wake up early, as usual. I’m in the kitchen with coffee and computer. I’ve set my mind to think about death before I do anything else. I do that. Marcus Aurelius thinks about death and dying over 100 times in Meditations. But it gets a bit boring and soon, without thinking even, I’ve forgotten all about my death and death in general and I’m on Facebook, checking in to our Stoic Writing Scene when I see a request from a friend to help with writing a business bio blurb, another request from a friend for help sourcing an image for a project, an interesting challenge invitation so I sign-up, a post from my mum which, of course, I have to “love.” I’ve committed to a social media reduce-and-replace challenge in April and I’m already defeated. And, no, it’s no joke. …