“The Daily Stoic”: A Path Toward Living Well

Last year’s The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman supports the idea that many of us are continually seeking better ways to do our lives. From the publisher:

The Daily Stoic offers a daily devotional of Stoic insights and exercises, featuring all-new translations from Emperor Marcus Aurelius, playwright Seneca, and slave-turned-philosopher Epictetus as well as lesser-known luminaries like Zeno, Cleanthes, and Musonius Rufus. Every day of the year, you’ll find one of their pithy, powerful quotations as well as historical anecdotes, provocative commentary, and a helpful glossary of Greek terms. By following these teachings over the course of a year (and, indeed, for years to come), you’ll find the serenity, self-knowledge, and resilience you need to live well.

According to Maria Popova, Brainpickings“Their selections are temporally and thematically organized across the twelve months: from clarity in January and the passions in February to acceptance in November and mortality in December.”

Holiday is also the author of the popular book The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (2014).

On the authors’ website is an article about the three basic “spiritual exercises” regularly practiced by the Stoics:

  1. Practice misfortune.
  2. Train perception to avoid good and bad.
  3. Remember—it’s all ephemeral.

Quotes offered by them that typify these concepts are as follows, in the same order as above:

  • It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself for difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favors on it is then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs. Seneca
  • Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been. Marcus Aurelius
  • Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both. Marcus Aurelius

Other quotes from The Daily Stoic, retrieved from Popova’s article as well as from Goodreads:

  • All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way. Marcus Aurelius
  • If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters — don’t wish to seem knowledgeable. And if some regard you as important, distrust yourself. Epictetus
  • There is no more stupefying thing than anger, nothing more bent on its own strength. If successful, none more arrogant, if foiled, none more insane — since it’s not driven back by weariness even in defeat, when fortune removes its adversary it turns its teeth on itself. Seneca
  • When children stick their hand down a narrow goody jar they can’t get their full fist out and start crying. Drop a few treats and you will get it out! Curb your desire — don’t set your heart on so many things and you will get what you need. Epictetus
  • Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe. For in a sense, all things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other — for one thing follows after another according to their tension of movement, their sympathetic stirrings, and the unity of all substance. Marcus Aurelius

In addition to the Stoic philosophers cited above are such followers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Jefferson, and Winston Churchill. Moreover, Stoicism is seemingly experiencing a contemporary revival of sorts linked to psychology and therapy. (See my previous post.)

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