Month: June 2019

Conquering Fears, Modern problems, philosophy

Where Are You Putting Your Attention ?

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“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” 
― Marcus Aurelius

There is nothing, absolutely nothing you can experience outside the realm of your consciousness. Everything you are capable of thinking and feeling happens inside your mind. Due to this, human experience is entirely subjective, it will inevitably vary depending on who you ask, not two humans will experience the same things.

If you cannot experience anything other than through the lenses of your mind. Logically, we can infer that every experience will be tainted by your subjectivity, that is, tainted by your persona, by your feelings, your past stories, and the opinions and prejudices that give structure to your sense of reality.

Whenever you experience discomfort about a something, it is not that something is uncomfortable in the ultimate instance, but rather, by your subjective estimate of it, your mind decides if it is comfortable or uncomfortable, of benefit or of harm.

Meaning is not found in what happens, because what happens has no meaning in itself, it’s just phenomena happening in the universe. Meaning is only formed in relationship with a person, but meaning is not attributed from phenomena to persons, meaning is attributed from persons to phenomena. It is not what happens to you, but how you see it and what actions you decide are best what determines the quality or lack of it in your experience of reality.

This is interesting.

Think about two persons losing their jobs. The first one, let’s call him Bob, is terrified. He does not know how he will manage to survive without income. Plus, he has a family and he needs to pay his little kid’s tuition next month, as well as rent and food. He hasn’t been able to save a lot because the job didn’t pay well. Bob is going out of his mind, but can you blame him, wouldn’t you be going crazy as well? Stressful situations aren’t pretty, we all know that.

The other guy, Karl, lost his job as well as Bob, but Karl has a smile in his face. He looks as if he’s just given a promotion instead of getting fired. But Karl just finished reading The Communist Manifesto (pun intended) and now that he is without a job he feels free, emancipated from the dictatorial, time-sucking job he was in. He is now thinking about all the new possibilities that have just opened in his life, later in the afternoon he is gleefully searching for the communal communities he read about in an article where he can go and live another life.

The same thing happened to bought people, but their estimate of it makes all the difference.

The video I’m going to show you next is hard as it feels like a big slap in the face, it does explain the point brilliantly though.

Consciousness and data

Let’s dig deeper.

Your experience is directly determined by the focus of your attention. Attention, your ability to direct focus and process the infinite types of information you encounter day to day. A human attribute that happens to be as well, under your control.

We are not omnipotent, you cannot know everything there is to know in the infinite of the universe. Your attention is limited, obviously, and can only process a certain amount of data at a time.

We now know how much data can be processed by the mind and the logic that follows is pretty interesting.

The amount of data a human being can process is 126 bits of information per second, or 7,560 per minute, or almost half a million per hour. Over a lifetime of seventy years, and counting sixteen hours of waking time each day, this amounts to about 185 billion bits of information.

The question that arises is: where are you locating your attention, and therefore, how many of those bits are being used appropriately?

Everything you will ever experience will be determined by the allocation of your attention. In the end, you will possess, theoretically speaking, a movie in your mind that could be downloaded, however, that movie will show the contents of where you located your attention throughout your life.

The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your experiences, the quality of your experiences is determined by the focus of your attention, and this my friend is under your direct control.

Where are you directing your attention day to day? Are you even in control, honestly?

If you stumble into a problem, the problem is not something outside, but something inside yourself, it is real, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the thing itself that is a problem, the problem is your estimation of the situation. 

“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems” 
― Epictetus

The problem, I repeat, is never outside of yourself. Outside, things just are, it is within the realm of your mind and subjectivity that a problem becomes a problem. Now, you can either let your attention slide to the usual focus on the problem and its consequences or you can direct it consciously towards a more beneficial state of mind in which you are under control. How you see it and what you will do about it. That remains under your full control. 

Reclaim your most basic, powerful and divine power, the power over your mind. It’s yours.

A great complement to this read: Choices

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Conquering Fears, Modern problems, philosophy, Reflections

The Hard to Get, at First, Good Life

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“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” 
― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

Think about a philosopher, what comes to mind?

When you think about Seneca or Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus? About Plato or Thoreau?

Books! Knowledge! Education! Wisdom!

And of course. A person that embarks himself on the journey of an examined life is naturally prone to grab the writings of the great masters that came before him and wonder in amazement of their mighty, courageous and truly worthy lives. Not one person that reads a few passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson or Seneca can pass inadvertently the tremendously cunning remarks about life and humanity they so accurately write. As such:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire” 
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

When one thinks of philosophy and philosophers, there is a common misconception that needs to be addressed.

The misconception is thinking that Seneca or Emerson “possessed” knowledge and therefore, due to this “possessing”, they were considered philosophers. So, then, a philosopher is the bearer of knowledge, you could say?

Knowledge is one part of the equation, but not everything, and certainly not the most important part. What is the most important part then? What makes a philosopher, a philosopher?

To begin, Marcus and Seneca not only possessed knowledge, they practiced it. Philosophy is not a possession, it is a practice, a constant, unending, practice. An endless strive for a never fully attainable perfection.

Like playing a musical instrument.

Philosophy is not a nice table or a beautiful painting you can hang among the corridors of your conscience. Philosophy is the instrument with which you live your life, it is the strum of your fingers in the guitar strings. And just so, you can play either beautifully or horribly.

First, you read, then, you reflect and then, more importantly, you live and put to the test your reflections, only to reflect again and continue the cycle. Simple, but not easy of course.

To be a Stoic is to be a practitioner. A person who lives philosophy.

It gets harder before it gets easier

Like all great things, a life well lived is hard to come by, it gets harder before it gets easier. The great filter, the “Worthy Filter” you could call it.

Learning to play the violin, master the mind as a Yogi does, learning the trades of a business consultant or mastering the financial markets require great amounts of time, attention, energy, and will. Anyone can do it, but not everyone will do it, just so with an examined life.

In this context, wondering if it’s worth it to live a life of philosophy is blatantly out of question. There is no point of comparison between and examined life and a life of quiet desperation as Thoreau would describe.A life of philosophy is a life of true amazement and deep appreciation, a life of meaning.

When you begin to do anything, you will suck at it or at least, supposing you have unnatural talent for whatever it is you are doing, you will not be great at it at least. You need to practice.

Eventually, things get easier, a musician, when practiced, does not have to worry about simple chords anymore. He develops his mastery to a point in which he thinks instead about emotions and the meaning he intends to portray instead of basic, beginner, music theory.

An examined life, a life of philosophy, is just the same.

This is the same reason why Marcus Aurelius wrote daily in his diary that we now read with amazement and appraisal. He did not thought the same of himself though, he writes often in his meditations about how he had not yet was accomplished in becoming a full man of philosophy.

Perfection, as I’m sure you know, will always be around the corner. Marcus Aurelius was not perfect, but you cannot deny that he was great. And this is what we want, not perfection, but betterment, constant betterment (you cannot keep playing a game if you end it!).

Unknowingly, little by little, you to can become as great in your own life and make it easier after a while.

Little acts matter, practice matter. Suddenly, living a life led by stoic values will feel like walking, you’ll just do it, but you have to read, reflect and most importantly, live.

A great complement to this read: START

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.

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