Stoic Week 2015

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Today begins the third the iteration of Stoic Week.  Stoic Week has become a feature in most modern Stoics’ practice from what I’ve seen.

Stoic Week 2015 Handbook, PDF.
Online Questionnaires.
Audio Recordings and Guides.

If you’ve leafed through a few pages of Marcus and Epictetus, and then thought, “Okay, now what?”  Stoic Week can provide one interpretation for getting your burgeoning theory into practice.

I’ll be updating this post throughout the week.
There will also be an unofficial Google Hangout with some other Stoic bloggers and Podcasters on Thursday, which I’ll update as we get closer to it.


Monday (Life):

Morning:  Today, I have a few tasks at work which are not my favorite.  Despite my car accident this weekend, and the periodic pain I’m in, I intend to set to those tasks cheerfully, and work diligently, Fate permitting.  The context of the work isn’t “up to me,” but the motivation, desire, and intent surely is.

Evening:  Well,  got the diligent and focused done today, if not the cheerful.


Tuesday (Control):

Morning:  I actually find the admonition that one has “the work of a human being to be about” to be a helpful impetus.  The other creatures do their appointed works in their appointed times.  Sometimes it’s fervent and intense, other times laid back and easy.  Yet each one rises to do its appointed tasks.  I am not different than these.  Up and at ’em!

Lunch:  I was thinking yesterday about virtue as the only good in Stoicism, and all the rest being indifferent.  First things first, our happiness should be something which is “up to us.”  It would be a silly premise to require something which is not within your sphere of control to be happy, something which all philosophers of the period were in agreement with as being the goal, eudaimonia.  Virtue, as an internal intention, is 100% up to us.  The contexts, environments, other agents, results, etc. are all necessarily external to us, outside of our realm of control.  Virtue being the only good is an Axiom of Stoic thought, but when you sit down and think about the reasons for that axiom, it does fall into line.

Evening:


Wednesday (Mindfulness):

Morning:  Today’s passage calls us back to Marcus’ “Inner Citadel” that retreat from the world which we carry with us everywhere.  We do not need to retire to the mountains or the seaside in search of solitude and peace.  In our own Inner Citadel, we carry that retreat with is everywhere.  In the original Koine, the word which is most commonly translated by “mindfulness” or “attention” is προσοχή (prosoche).  We have lots of Koine words that mean training, meditation, and mindfulness in the Stoic Lexicon, however the specifics have not all come down to us.  It’s a great shame that we have to recreate or borrow so much from other traditions.  What specific spiritual exercises were the students of the Stoa using to hone their πνεῦμα ψυχικόν (pneuma psychikon)?

Lunch:  

Evening:


thursday (Virtue):

Morning:  Virtue being the only good in Stoicism is an axiom.  You can’t prove it.  You either believe it (or choose to use it as rule and guide) or not.  It’s a sticky point, because it’s either there or not.  Marcus says, if you find something better, then go after it with a full heart, which is a pretty serious endorsement.   It seems he groks something there that I don’t.

Lunch:  The Handbook focuses on values, but that’s more of a CBT thing, than a traditional, Stoic thing.  Traditionally, we break down virtue into four sub-virtues:

  • Practical Wisdom (φρόνησις, phronēsis),
  • Justice (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē),
  • Temperance (σωφροσύνη, sōphrosynē) and
  • Courage (ἀνδρεία, andreia)

However, if you read the classical sources (and other modern works like this one), you’ll come to see that this is not  closed-class system.  This ability to divide into sub-virtues is a descriptive one only.  Virtue is a single, unitary whole.  There is no constituent part.  When we label something as wisdom, justice, self-control, or courage; we’re applying a general principle (Virtue) to a specific circumstance (sub-virtue).  While the Four Cardinal Virtues are probably a good model for identifying virtue when you see it, it shouldn’t be seen as the end-all, be-all.

Evening:


 

Friday (Relationships):

Morning:

Lunch:  

Evening:

Stoic Week Redux

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Follow along here:  Modern Stoicicm’s Stoic Week Redux.


Introduction:

I’ll be keeping all of the entries for this Stoic Week Redux in one post here.  Any activities or reflections will go here, as well as general thoughts and feedback.


Monday- Day 1:

Morning Text for Reflection:

Some things are under our control, while others are not under our control. Under our control are conception [the way we define things], intention [the voluntary impulse to act], desire [to get something], aversion [the desire to avoid something], and, in a word, everything that is our own doing; not under our control are our body, our property, reputation, position [or office] in society, and, in a word, everything that is not our own doing. (Epictetus, Handbook 1)

Lunchtime Exercise:  What is in our Power?

  1. What’s the situation?
    Several supervisors at work are enforcing their personal whims in place of policy, selectively and seemingly targeting certain individuals, myself included.
  2. How much control do you have over the situation as a whole (0—100%)?
    40%
  3. Why isn’t it 100%? What aspects don’t you have direct control over?
    I don’t have control over other people’s actions, nor their thoughts.
  4. Why isn’t it 0%? What aspects do you have direct control over?
    There is no policy for these issues, so I can push for there to be a documented policy, I can also control my own reactions to the misplaced attention of these people.
  5. What would happen if you made a conscious effort to adopt a more Stoic attitude towards this situation by completely accepting things beyond your control, and taking full responsibility for things under your control?|

    I would likely be less angry, feel less persecuted, and more focused on my internal state than on external indifferents.

 

Evening Text for Reflection:

Let us go to our sleep with joy and gladness; let us say ‘I have lived; the course which Fortune set for me is finished.’ And if God is pleased to add another day, we should welcome it with glad hearts. That man is happiest, and is secure in his own possession of himself, who can await the morrow without apprehension. When a man has said: ‘I have lived!’, every morning he arises he receives a bonus. (Seneca, Letters 12.9)


 

Tuesday- Day 2:

Morning Text for Reflection:

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is-the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so life is amply long for the one who orders it properly. (Seneca, On the Shortness of Life, 1)

Lunchtime Exercise:  On things indifferent.

 In accord with the exercise, yesterday I got back on to my diet, and I’m simplifying my foods significantly.  While being healthier and losing some extra weight is not wholly within my power, making these preferred choices is.  There’s virtue and value in them.

Evening Text for Reflection:

This was the character and this the unswerving creed
of austere Cato: to observe moderation, to hold to the goal,
to follow nature, to devote his life to his country,
to believe that he was born not for himself but for all the world.
In his eyes to conquer hunger was a feast, to ward off winter
with a roof was a mighty palace, and to draw across
his limbs the rough toga in the manner of the Roman citizen of old
was a precious robe, and the greatest value of Venus
was offspring… (Lucan, The Civil War)


 

Wednesday- Day 3:

Morning Text for Reflection:

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I might meet with people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous, malicious and unsocial. All this has afflicted them through their ignorance of true good and evil. But I have seen that the nature of good is what is right, and the nature of evil what is wrong; and I have reflected that the nature of the offender himself is akin to my own – not a kinship of blood or seed, but a sharing in the same mind, the same fragment of divinity. Therefore I cannot be harmed by any of them, as none will infect me with their wrong. Not can I be angry with my fellow human being or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work in opposition to one another is against nature: and anger or rejection is opposition. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.1)

Lunchtime Exercise:  Stoic Acceptance & Stoic Action

 Making use of the reserve clause.  Additionally, I left my cellphone at home today, and used some Stoic techniques to not let that ruin my morning.

Evening Text for Reflection:

Every habit and faculty is formed or strengthened by the corresponding act – walking makes you walk better, running makes you a better runner. If you want to be literate, read, if you want to be a painter, paint. Go a month without reading, occupied with something else, and you’ll see what the result is. And if you’re laid up a mere ten days, when you get up and try to talk any distance, you’ll find your legs barely able to support you. So if you like doing something, do it regularly; if you don’t like doing something, make a habit of doing something different. The same goes for the affairs of the mind…So if you don’t want to be hot-tempered, don’t feed your temper, or multiply incidents of anger. Suppress the first impulse to be angry, then begin to count the days on which you don’t get angry. ‘I used to be angry every day, then only every other day, then every third….’ If you resist it a whole month, offer God a sacrifice, because the vice begins to weaken from day one, until it is wiped out altogether. ‘I didn’t lose my temper this day, or the next, and not for two, then three months in succession.’ If you can say that, you are now in excellent health, believe me. (Epictetus, Discourses, 2.18)



Thursday- Day 4:

Morning Text for Reflection:

Train yourself to think only those thoughts such that in answer to the sudden question ‘What is in your mind now?’ you could say with immediate frankness whatever it is, this or that: and so your answer can give direct evidence that all your thoughts are straightforward and kindly, the thoughts of a social being who has no regard for the fancies of pleasure or indulgence, for rivalry, malice, suspicion, or anything else that one would blush to admit was in one’s mind. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.4)

Lunchtime Exercise:  The Practice of Stoic Mindfulness.

“It is not the things themselves that disturb people but their judgements about those things” (Handbook, 5). 

Evening Text for Reflection:

There is one type of person who, whenever he has done a good deed to another, expects and calculates to have the favour repaid. There is a second type of person who does not calculate in such a way but who, nevertheless, deep within himself regards the other person as someone who owes him something and he remembers that he has done the other a good deed. But there is a third type of person who, in some sense, does not even remember the good deed he has done but who, instead, is like a vine producing its grape, seeking nothing more than having brought forth its own fruit, just like a horse when it has run, a dog when it has followed its scent and a bee when it has made honey. This man, having done one good deed well, does not shout it about but simply turns his attention to the next good deed, just like the vine turns once again to produce its grape in the right season. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.6)


Friday- Day 5:

Morning Text for Reflection:

Be like the rocky headland on which the waves constantly break. It stands firm, and round it the seething waters are laid to rest. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.49)

Lunchtime Exercise:  Controlling Emotions.

  1. Situation. What is the upsetting situation that you’re imagining?
  2. Emotions. How does it make you feel when you picture it as if it’s happening right now? How strong is the feeling (0—100%)?
  3. Duration. How long (in minutes) did you manage to “sit with it” and patiently expose yourself to the event in your imagination?
  4. Consequence. How strong was the upsetting feeling at the end (0—100%)? What else did you feel or experience by the end?
  5. Analysis. Has your perspective changed on the upsetting event? Is it really as “awful” as you imagined? How could you potentially cope if it did happen? What’s under your control in this situation and what isn’t?

Evening Text for Reflection:

At every hour devote yourself in a resolute spirit, as befits a Roman and a man, to fulfilling the task in hand with a scrupulous and unaffected dignity, and with love for others, and independence, and justice; and grant yourself a respite from all other preoccupations. And this you will achieve if you perform every action as though it were your last, freed from all lack of purpose and wilful deviation from the rule of reason, and free from duplicity, self-love, and dissatisfaction with what is allotted to you. You see how few are the things that a person needs to master if he is to live a tranquil and divine life; for the gods themselves will demand nothing more from one who observes these principles. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.5)


 

Saturday- Day 6:

Morning Text for Reflection:

At break of day, when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind: ‘I am getting up for a human being’s work. Do I still then resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for, the purpose for which I was brought into the world? Or was I created to wrap myself in blankets and keep warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant.’ Were you born for pleasure — all for feeling and not for action? Can you not see plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world? And then do you not want to do the work of a human being, do you not hurry to the demands of your own nature? (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1)

Lunchtime Exercise:  Philanthropy

Evening Text for Reflection:

If what philosophers say about the kinship of God and man is true, then the only logical step is to do as Socrates did, never replying to the question of where he was from with, ‘I am Athenian’ or “I am a Corinthian”, but always “I am a citizen of the universe.” (Epictetus, Discourses, 1.9)



Sunday- Day 7:

Morning Text for Reflection:

The works of the gods are full of providence. The works of Fortune are not independent of Nature or the spinning and weaving together of the threads governed by Providence. All things flow from that world: and further factors are necessity and the benefit of the whole universe, of which you are a part. Now every part of nature benefits from that which is brought by the nature of the Whole and all which preserves that nature: and the order of the universe is preserved equally by the changes in the elements and changes in their compounds. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.3)

Lunchtime Exercise:  The View from Above.

Audio: The View from Above

Evening Text for Reflection:

 travel along Nature’s Way until the day arrives for me to fall down and take my rest, yielding my last breath to the air from which I draw daily, falling onto that earth which gave my father his seed, my mother her blood…the earth which for so many years has fed and watered me day by day; the earth which bears me as I tread it under foot and which I make use of in a thousand ways. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.4)


 

 

New projects

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I’m still reading Robertson’s book, I’ve been digesting it slowly.  Donald has a new project up at http://modernstoicism.com, which looks to be interesting.  I’m really looking for more hands-on practice with Stoic methods.  Additionally, we’re doing any informal reboot of Stoic Week, so I’ll be participating in that again.

Trundle on over to http://modernstoicism.com and register if you’d like to participate!

SW2013 End-Questionnaires

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For Stoic Week 2013, there are several questionnaires designed to be taken before and after the project.
These surveys were actually closed by the time I got to the last of them, since I did the project out of step with the intended timeframe.  C’est la vie, n’est pas?

Thoughts:

So, instead I will take this time to discuss my thoughts on the Stoic Week.  I think it was a good exercise, and I can see how valuable it would be to someone very new to Stoic thought.  There was something in the manner that I did not quite prefer, something a little “touchy feely” in the tone.  This did not detract from the value of the experiment however.

While I was doing this project, I also began working with the New Stoa group, and entered their SES course, which seems to be more academically orientated than is Stoic Week.  This is good for two reasons: my skills and mindset bend towards the academic, but my desires for Stoicism lean to the practical.  I think this produced in me a more balanced approached.

I hope that Stoic Week does a 2014 iteration in the fall, and I look forward to participating more fully then.

SW2013 Day 7: Sunday

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The View from Above.

“A fine reflection from Plato. One who would converse about human beings should look on all things earthly as though from some point far above, upon herds, armies, and agriculture, marriages and divorces, births and deaths, the clamour of law courts, deserted wastes, alien peoples of every kind, festivals, lamentations, and markets, this intermixture of everything and ordered combination of opposites.”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.48

The exercise can be downloaded and followed here [LINK].

SW2013 Day 5: Friday

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Today’s exercise is on the praemeditatio futurorum malorum, or premeditation of future evils.

1. Situation. Not being able to find or get a new job when I’m ready to move on from current one.
2. Emotions. Produces a strong sense of helplessness, of being stuck.  Ineritial.  (85%)
(0-100%)?
3. Duration. Not too long, about 2 and a half minutes.
4. Consequence. It was reduced, probably to 40%.
5. Analysis. I thought about it, and it’s not really that awful.  I’m not up against a hard deadline, and this job affords me lots of time to do things (like this) which are important to me.