Conquering Fears

Conquering Fears, philosophy

Why And How To Focus On The Present Moment


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“I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” ― Abraham Lincoln

If you want to focus on the present moment, first you have to understand why you want to do it and what’s in it for you. Once you understand why you want to do it, you’ll be able to do it easily and without the hassle of having to force yourself to do it by using maybe your breath as an anchor or forced concentration to the point that it becomes a struggle, it needs to be easy and effortless for it to be sustainable in the long term. 

Let’s talk about why. 

Suppose I invite you to climb Kilimanjaro. We begin to plan the trip with 6-month anticipation. You haven’t been to the gym for a while, but you’re going to need it so you run and swim every day for 6 months, man you are ripped and ready to go. You need to buy gear as well, so you buy a badass rain-jacket, boots, trekking poles, ice-ax, satellite watch, and lots of packaged food. It’s going to be exciting, the thrill of our lives. 6-month preparation, awesome. 

We get on the plane and land on Tanzania, hot air on our faces and we get to see the mighty mountain in the distance, challenging us, saying: “come and try if you dare”. The next day we arrive with the guides we booked and they tell us that they are not doing hiking anymore because the helicopter can get us to the top, and plus that, it’s cheaper, so it’s not necessary. WE ARE PISSED. Why the hell won’t they want to hike it?! 

What’s the bloody point of this then? 

Luckily we find another company that guides us hiking it. We suffer from the altitude, you eat something bad on the way up and you have to push yourself harder because you are puking every 100 meters. I lost my water so I had to go for the last couple of miles without water. We make it to the top, we take our glory picture and we get back. IT WAS AWESOME. 

Now, what was the fun part of the trip? Wasn’t it everything? Absolutely. From the 6-months training to the puking in the mountain, that’s a story we will never forget. 

Now, why do you want to live in the present moment? 

Because your life is that mountain. Sure, I lost my water and you puked like crazy, we suffered a lot, but we had a great time, I wouldn’t change it for anything. 

Can you imagine if we had gotten to the helicopter and flown to the top just like that? BORING. It was everything, the training, the hike, the top, the trip, each moment was the end of why we did it. 

Today, when we think about life, we think a lot about ‘goals’. That’s not a bad thing obviously, it is perfectly fine to have goals. But when our life becomes a constant “preparation”, that’s the problem. And almost everyone lives this way, “When I become a doctor or more successful and I get my house and I get married or when I get to know my children, then I’ll be super happy” (just like getting to the top with the helicopter). And then, before you know it, you are in point B(death), wondering why you lived your whole life like that. Yes, it’s stupid.

Dance, walk, smile, wrestle, write, suffer, enjoy

Life is like a journey, sure, you want to get somewhere, that could be the mountain top or getting a Master’s degree, but why would you want to get there are soon as possible? 

Ok, we’ve got the why, what about the how? 

Better illustrated, life is like dancing. When you are dancing, there is no wondering where you are going, you are just dancing. Dancing is its own end. It’s the same with everything else. Dance your way into the present moment, whether you are writing or working, dance the dance of life. 

What about when life really sucks? 

That’s a good question. 

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Life is not always shiny and beautiful, there’s no doubt about it. In those times, when all is not as rosy, there is no need not to be at the present moment either, running away is never good. 

Those times are good for wrestling. In wrestling, you have to be attentive, focused. And bear in mind that wrestling is fun as well in a different way. There’s a world of difference whether you see setbacks as calamities or challenges to be overcome. 

Focusing on the present moment requires you to realize that life is like dancing, a journey, or wrestling. It’s not about getting from birth to death as soon as you can, but to enjoy, to suffer, to be happy, to be sad and to look back at the end and smile, knowing that you really lived. 

a great complement to this read: The Hard to Get, at First, Good Life

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

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I’m Ricardo Guaderrama by the way and I’m always open to suggestions and happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com

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Conquering Fears

How To Forgive Anyone


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“People don’t do “evil” on purpose, they do it out of “ignorance.” Socrates

For you to be able to forgive anyone, first you need to realize that the ‘wrong’ that has been made, whether from your side or the other side, was done out of stupidity (ignorance). Once you realize this and truly understand that it was not “pure evil” or a person being inherently bad, you will be able to put yourself on a mindset based on reason which will enable you to comprehend and understand. Once this is done, you will be better equipped to act properly and reasonably about the issue and with time, you will become able to forgive as well. But there are no shortcuts, understanding is needed first.

Let me elaborate further.

Your mind is a truth machine. It is constantly working to differentiate truth from falsehood. It tells you whether you are living in the day or in the night, whether you are having a cake or an apple. But, when you don’t have enough information, your mind still needs to act and make decisions, so what happens is that your brain acts and decides with whatever it thinks is the best course of action given the information it possesses.

This is the same for every person on the planet, the process of defining a course of action or belief from the limited information we have is called heuristics. Everyone functions with it, if we didn’t, it would be impossible to live as we have to act from moment to moment with the limited information we possess. This great capability is also the source of many of our problems, as acting on limited information will always leave us prone to error and is also the reason why we make such paramount stupid decisions. Because we are ignorant.

“What is the reason that we assent to a thing? Because it seems to us that it is so. It is impossible that we shall assent to that which seems not to be. Why? Because this is the nature of the mind — to agree to what is true, and disagree with what is false, and withhold judgment on what is doubtful.” Epictetus

So, could we say that a person is “bad” just for the sake of being “bad/evil”?

The answer is no. No one does evil out of pure evil, bad things are done because there is some apparent benefit behind them. If people would know that which is truly good, such as a virtuous life, what is ultimately beneficial, we wouldn’t find ourselves doing the “evil”, we just wouldn’t need to. There is always a ‘reason’ behind people’s actions.

The Banality Of Evil

When Adolf Eichmann, Nazi Colonel that executed Hitler’s “Final Solution” during the Holocaust, was caught and sent to Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt was appointed by the New Yorker to report on the trial and the man himself. She came up with the term: The Banality Of Evil. I’ll let her explain.

During the war, Ernst Jünger came across some peasants, and a farmer had taken in Russian prisoners of war straight from the camps, and naturally they were completely starving — you know how Russian prisoners of war were treated here. And [the farmer] says to Jünger, “Well, they’re subhuman, just like cattle — look how they devour food like cattle.” Jünger comments on this story, “It’s sometimes as if the German people were being possessed by the Devil.” And he didn’t mean anything “demonic” by that. You see, there’s something outrageously stupid [ dumm = ignorant, unwise] about this story. I mean the story is stupid, so to speak. The man doesn’t see that this is just what starving people do, right? And anyone would behave like that. But there’s something really outrageous [ empörend = shocking, revolting] about this stupidity.… Eichmann was perfectly intelligent, but in this respect he had this sort of stupidity [ Dummheit = irrationality, senselessness]. It was this stupidity that was so outrageous. And that was what I actually meant by banality. There’s nothing deep about it [the ignorance] — nothing demonic! There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing, correct? Arendt

In his mind, Eichmann was just doing his job, in his mind, he was right in doing so. But, it never crossed his mind to think about the people that he killed, and as he almost never saw them directly, it was easy to justify his actions as “good”. He was willfully ignorant.

“ There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing, correct?” Arendt

If evil does not exist, just stupidity. Then reason is our way out. Understanding will give you peace that can then turn into forgiveness. But when we are mad and hurt is hard to understand why someone does something, it’s as if we are blind. It’s easy to see things from your own perspective.

The way out, Understanding

But if you put yourself in the other person shoes, as much as you might hate him, you might as well understand him. Once you understand you can begin to figure out a proper resolution. The act of forgiveness begins once you understand. Once you know that he is not evil, he is just ignorant, or maybe you were the ignorant. Bear in mind that during this whole process you have to look at yourself as well and where you are being ignorant and ‘evil in the eyes of the other person’.

When Epictetus talks about people doing terrible things, he says that instead of becoming angry, you should instead pity them. Like Eichmann, thinking that he was doing right his job when in reality he was committing one of the worst atrocities humanity has ever done. He does so out of ignorance, so in a sense he is lame. Just like Epictetus was lame himself not being able to walk. Ignorance is to be pitied.

“As we pity the blind and the lame, so should we pity those who are blinded and lamed in their most sovereign faculties.” Epictetus

Understanding will give you context and with this context, you will become able to make better decisions. Now that you are working with the truth and not with ignorance. You are not blind anymore you have a light to act, whereas before you were in the dark thinking that ‘evil’ exists in reality, there’s a reason behind every action.

Every error implies conflict; for since he who errs does not wish to go wrong but to go right, plainly he is not doing what he wishes. For what does the thief wish to do? What is to his interest. If then thieving is against his interest, he is not doing what he wishes. But every rational soul by nature dislikes conflict; and so, as long as a man does not understand that he is in conflict, there is nothing to prevent him from doing conflicting acts, but, whenever he understands, strong necessity makes him abandon the conflict and avoid it. Epictetus

Understand first, truly understand. Forgiveness will come on its own, let yourself receive it once it does.

I highly recommend to read How To Be A Stoic from Massimo Pigliucci, this article was based on the book.

a great complement to this read: The Pathway to psychological freedom

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

Subscribe here

Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.

I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com