I get surprised by the sheer size of individual ego when we presume that our fears and our journeys are unique. All of us believe that we are some unique snowflake with unique problems, unique traits and unique life stories. Let me break it for you — You are wrong!
In fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth, there are only so many variables in an average individual life and we share most of our experience with countless others which is why the 90’s meme you Double Tapped last night for being “so relatable” was liked by 20,000 others.
Whatever you are going through right now has been experienced by many and some of those folks were smart enough to pen their thoughts and share their struggles and their learning instead of posting cryptic passive-aggressive messages on Stories of Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Facebook.
Zeno of Citium and Siddhārtha Gautama are two smartypants I really like mainly because their teachings are pretty straight forward and easily applicable in daily life. Both Stoicism and Buddhism are two remarkably similar philosophies created independently thousands of miles apart.
Buddhism was founded in India around 500 B.C and Stoicism began in Athens, Greece around 300 B.C. They both advocate seeking happiness from an internal source, so that the ups and downs of life will not be your masters.
In Stoicism and Buddhism , there is a great focus on the power to control mind —
“Bad feeling is a commotion of the mind repugnant to reason, and against nature” — Zeno of Citium, Founder of Stoicism
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him” — Siddhārtha Gautama, Founder of Buddhism
Today whenever we feel distressed we believe it be cause by external factors but that is as wrong as it can be. The pain is never due to the thing or person, but to your estimate of it.
These days everyone seems to be obsessed with motivation and productivity and self-help websites are churning quick fixes for everything. How to make your life; your work perfect? Just salute the sunrise and achieve zero inbox through GTD and what not.
While all this modern talk to GTD routines and plans is OK, what it fails to take into account is that the kind of lemons life keep throwing at us. No matter how much focus we put on making our lives perfect through whatever “hacks”, as long as we neglect our minds nothing will change.
While we are so protective of our pretty little trinkets such as our shiny iPhones and Galaxy S and try to protect them from any harm by putting protective glass and other things; we let just about anyone to damage our inner peace.
This is where Stoicism comes in. This is an additional layer of protection to safeguard the most precious resource that you have. Remember, no one can hamper your inner peace without your permission.
You are the ultimate overlord of your mind and you can control what gets in and what doesn’t. This is the key to surviving the modern world, gaining autonomy over your own mind is essential.
This letter is not a guide to stoicism but more of an invitation to study Stoicism. I am also a beginner and have a very little understanding of it. I’d also like you to give it a shot, read some books, skim through a few blog posts like this one and try to figure out how it can help in your life.
For a primer, I recommend reading On the Shortness of Life by Seneca. If, like me, you are a neurotic millennial with a chequered past and uncertain future, then I cannot recommend adopting a stoic mindset highly enough.
Remember that the original founders of Stoicism were regular folks like us. They figured it out and, with a little more philosophy, we all can too.
Finally, I would like to end this piece with this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche
No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!”