SLRP: XXXII. On Progress

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Seneca,

“I pray that you may get such control over yourself that your mind, now shaken by wandering thoughts, may at last come to rest and be steadfast, that it may be content with itself and, having attained an understanding of what things are truly good, – and they are in our possession as soon as we have this knowledge, – that it may have no need of added years.”

Progress in our school seems to be a funny thing.  In talking with others, there seems to be a stalling out point.  After a year and a half or two, the pace seems to change.  Of course, I suspect the great teachers with the past would tell me not to be concerned about such apparent stalling, but rather work continuously, diligently, nonetheless.

I can recall  a few moments in which I realized that things which previously would have agitated or disturbed me simply did not.  It didn’t require any squelching or bottling up.  It just didn’t have the effect that it once would have.

Those moments, however, now seem fewer and farther between.  It’s in this weird sort of limbo where it’s easy to fall back into an academic study, or let the practice slide.

Neither is good, of course.

The seeming three-tier structure of “the foolish > the prokopton > the sage” is tidy, but it lacks certain helpful benchmarks.  I’ve been trying to study some other forms of meditation to help in my practice, and those schools have thins like “The 16 Stages of Insight Knowledge” and based on that, there are some categories of progress to note.

That sort of thing would be reassuring.  I get the feeling that Epictetus would call me “Slave,” take a swing at me with his stick, and ask if I really need some fancy title and a numbered stage of progress.

I guess that answer is no… but sometimes gold star stickers are nice.

Farewell.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

2 thoughts on “SLRP: XXXII. On Progress

  1. An important topic but I think different cultures are a big factor. You’ll never read that someone studied with a teacher for a year. Aristotle studied with Plato for 20 years, Zeno studies at the Lyceum for 10 years. In the East it is common for a person to go on private meditation retreats for 10 or 15 years. The pace of our culture is so much faster that even therapy is supposed to be quick e.g. a CBT course of therapy might last anywhere from 3 months to a year.Is it in the nature of the philosophical cure to take a long time? Is it necessary to have a personal encounter with a teacher or guru to assess your progress?

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