Saturday, February 6, 2016

Expressions of Gratitude

This morning I was reading "No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline" by Brian Tracy, and came to a part where he was asking the reader to paint a picture of what their perfect family life would be like.  And I realized something - my family life is exactly the way that I want it to be.

Tracy (my wife, not Brian) and I have developed the most loving relationship I've ever been a part of.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.  She's sleeping right now, and when I look over at her I'm flooded with feelings of gratitude for who she is, and the fact that she has chosen to spend her life with me.

Our dog is curled up next to her, also sleeping, pressed up against her legs like he likes to do.  And again... massive feelings of gratitude for him, and the fact that I get to have him in my life.

Tracy (Brian, not my wife) also asked about the reader's physical situation.  I realized that I live in, for all intents and purposes, a material paradise.  All of my physical needs are easily met, from having enough food, to shelter from the elements, to medications that help out where my body and brain don't work quite right on their own.  And that barely scratches the surface.  I'm so grateful for all of the material wealth in my life it isn't even funny.

Yes, I do have material goals.  I'd like to get out of debt and have a little more freedom financially.  But think about that for a minute - just the fact that I live in a society where I can be in debt, and yet live the fantastic (yes, FANTASTIC) life that I'm living is amazing.  I'm current on everything (I sure haven't always been able to say that), and even if I wasn't, I wouldn't be thrown in jail.  I'd have the opportunity to make things right.

Even if you are struggling right now (I still do more times than I often care to admit), look around you, and find the amazingness in your life.  I really like how Tony Robbins puts is in his Daily Magic audio: "Even if you don't feel grateful, what *could* you feel grateful for if you really wanted to."  If you are reading this, you are a part of a technological revolution that has ushered in a new age of information sharing that would seem like a miracle only 100 years ago.  Can you feel grateful for that?

As a species, we do have a lot of progress to make in order to catch up with the material in the realm of the social and the emotional, especially since everyone out there doesn't have the opportunities and advantages that many have.  There's a lot of work to be done.  Even there, don't let anyone fool you - the world is a much more peaceful, much more prosperous place than it ever has been.  We can do so much better, but it isn't the hell for most that some would make it out to be.

Try to remember to look for the things in your life to be grateful for today.  And when you find them, take a moment to really appreciate them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Daily Magic (and a little Negativity) with my Miracle Morning

Today I completed Day 2 of the Miracle Morning.  Even though it's a day that I didn't have to get up, I did have something to get up for - my own life.

Because I'm not going to be buffeted about by obligations and crises anymore.  They will always be there, but in order for my life to be what I want it, I have to do the designing.  No one else will do it for me.

Correction - there are plenty of people who are more than willing to do it for me - my boss, the government, corporations (OK, I'm starting to sound a little like a conspiracy theorist here!), advertisers, and all kinds of entities who would just love for me to do what they want, when they want, no matter how it affects me or the people that I love.

But I'm the one who is doing the designing now.

Speaking of designing for myself, I've combined the Miracle Morning exercise (the E in S.A.V.E.R.S.) with Tony Robbins' "Daily Magic" audio, as well as adding in some Stoic "negative visualization" with the V part.

First, about the negative visualization - it may not all very upbeat, but it's one part of Stoicism that has helped me immensely - as long as I don't start ruminating about negative stuff.

One thing about reality - it's never, ever negative.  Life is life, it is what it is.  Including some brief thoughts about stuff that could go "wrong" (nothing ever goes wrong) during the day, as well as how I can handle them, and the realization that I probably won't die because of any of them, helps more than I can express.

As I've written before, in Tony Robbins' "Daily Magic", he takes the listener through breath walking, gratitude, visualization, and incantations as the listener is walking and exercising.  Which is a slam dunk combo with Miracle Morning - I end up with a twofer on the affirmations/incantations and visualization.  Plus some real focus on gratitude.

I'm really grateful that Hal stressed that our Miracle Mornings are up to us.  He put together the basic idea, but really stresses in the book that we must do what is best for ourselves.  There's a template, but we can mess with it as much as we like.

Not a bad deal, in my opinion.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Morning Ritual Is Back!

So today I was poking around on Goodreads, looking for my next book, and I noticed that Michel Daw was reading a book called The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod.

"Hmmm," I think to myself.  "Sounds a bit like a morning ritual type book?"  So I checked it out, and it was.

So I bought it on Amazon, downloaded it to my Kindle, and just finished reading it.  I can't remember the last time I finished a book that quickly - or read one that spoke to me like this one did.

And because of that, the morning ritual is back!  I'll be starting up a 30 days challenge again at 4am tomorrow, using the template provided by the book: S.A.V.E.R.S.:

  1. Silence (meditation for me)
  2. Affirmations
  3. Visualization
  4. Exercise
  5. Reading
  6. Scribing (journaling)
No, I didn't complete the last 30 day challenge.  So what's different this time?  A community of people and a virtual coach to help me to stick with it.

I *am* looking for an accountability partner.  If you'd like to join me on this journey, check out, pick up some sample chapters, and hit me up in the comments here, or on Twitter, or on Facebook.

For the first time in a couple of weeks, I'm looking forward to 4 am!

The Epictetus Club by Jeff Traylor

I just finished reading The Epictetus Club by Jeff Traylor, and gave it five stars on Goodreads.

In the future, I plan on writing more on it, but for now I want to let people know about some excerpts from it that are on the Stoicism Today blog:

I first came across the when I read one of the above excerpts in the Stoicism Today: Selected Writings (Volume One) ebook.

If you enjoy the excerpts, there's a special offer at the end of each of them that I highly recommend you take advantage of.  I'm not going to tell you what it is, though... you've gotta go look!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fear and Hope

"The mind at times fashions for itself false shapes of evil when there are no signs that point to any evil; it twists into the worst construction some word of doubtful meaning; or it fancies some personal grudge to be more serious than it really is, considering not how angry the enemy is, but to what lengths he may go if he is angry. But life is not worth living, and there is no limit to our sorrows, if we indulge our fears to the greatest possible extent; in this matter, let prudence help you, and condemn with a resolute spirit even when it is in plain sight. If you cannot do this, counter one weakness with another, and temper your fear with hope. There is nothing so certain among these objects of fear that it is not more certain still that things we dread sink into nothing and that things we hope for mock us." -- Seneca, Letter XIII, On Groundless Fears
This passage stuck out for me because of the line "counter one weakness with another, and temper your fear with hope."  Hope isn't generally considered a "weakness."  Many would consider it a strength, but I can see where Seneca is coming from.
Some rights reserved by Mike "Dakinewavamon" Kline

Hope assumes that we are unhappy with our current situation, but as practicing Stoics, our goal is to experience Eudaimonia regardless of externals.  Whatever our situation in life is, it's our job to use it to practice virtue - Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Temperance, which is what will lead to Eudaimonia no matter what is happening on the outside.

But it does make sense that if hope is what we've got, then it's what we've got.  An example of this is something that I learned from Abraham-Hicks a long time ago when I was a follower of theirs.  During one of my struggles with a major depressive episode, I heard about their Emotional Guidance Scale.  (Yes, I know I'm going even further off the reservation than Seneca does when he quotes Epicurus, but bear with me.) Long story short, I learned to move from depression to anger, and be ok with the anger, because it was better than depression.  Just moving a small amount on this emotional scale ("reaching for a better feeling emotion") provided some relief from depression, and allowed me to continue moving up.

You've got to start where you are.  So if you need to hope, go ahead and hope.  Just don't get stuck there.  Move on to the realization that there is nothing to hope for - only work that needs to be done on your own perceptions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Downed In Body, Not In Spirit

"This is the touchstone of such a spirit; no prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue; the only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the man who has seen his own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent's fist, who has been tripped and felt the full force of his adversary's charge, who has been downed in body but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever." -- Seneca, On Groundless Fears

Been there, done that, got all of the t-shirts, as one of my old AA sponsors used to say.  I've seen my own blood, both metaphorically and literally, after being knocked down, both metaphorically and literally, more times than I can count.  But here I am, still going, still pushing forward, regardless of the groundless fears that Seneca talks about in this letter.

There have been a few times when I've been "downed in spirit" as well.  But even then, after some time of healing and with help from others, I've been able to get back up, get in the ring, and start fighting again.  This blog and the Seneca Letters Reading Program are evidence of that.  Writing here, and participating in the program to the best of my ability, are both examples of me jumping back in the ring after saying "I'm out."

All of the groundless fears are there - fear of criticism, fear of looking the fool because of my mediocre (sometimes worse) writing, fear of quitting again.  But as Seneca says, I've risen again with greater defiance than ever.

I know that I'll be knocked down again.  But that's one thing that I'm not afraid of happening - because I know that I can always just get back up.  I'll have to die before I stay down for good.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Makes a Stoic?

"And I shall continue to heap quotations from Epicurus upon you, so that all persons who swear by the words of another, and put a value upon the speaker and not upon the thing spoken, may understand that the best ideas are common property." - Seneca, On Old Age
For whatever reason, I think that if I'm living a year as a Stoic, I have to jettison all of those ideas that are not sourced from the original Stoic writings.  But as we see above, even one of the Stoic Masters took ideas from a rival (THE rival) school when it served his needs.

That's probably one of the things that I have to learn as I live this year as a Stoic.  I don't have to jettison mindfulness meditation just because the ancient stoics didn't do it.  I don't have to be ashamed of taking my psychiatric medications just because they weren't available to Marcus.  I don't suddenly have to believe in free will just because the Stoics were compatibilists.  The ancient Stoics argued among themselves, and so do modern ones.  There are Theist Stoics, Deist Stoics, Atheist Stoics.  Although Epictetus saw evidence for God everywhere, I just don't see it, and I think that there are better explanations.

Does that make me any less of a Stoic?  Does this mean that I have to find another label for this year?  When I add in the mindfulness meditation, should I start labeling myself a Secular Buddhist Stoic?

No, I'm not going to do that.  I'm a Stoic, but I disagree with much of their physics.  And that's OK.  The spirit of "What's under my control and what isn't" as a core, the idea of developing my Wisdom, Justice, Temperance, and Courage as a key, and the recognition that as a human being, I have a social obligation to my fellow human beings is extremely important.

If I can master those things, I'd say I'm having a pretty good year as a Stoic.