Mindfulness: Marcus Aurelius

A Stoic and Buddhist overlap. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts (5.16). It’s not external things that trouble you but your judgement of them—and this you can erase immediately (8.47). Stick to what’s in front of you—idea,Continue reading “Mindfulness: Marcus Aurelius”

Calmer than you are

There’s a scene from The Big Lebowski where the Dude is upset, and hotheaded Walter brags, “Calmer than you are.” But we all know that Walter is faking it. What does it really mean to not worry about things that are not up to us? I just completed a cross-country move to be closer to family.Continue reading “Calmer than you are”

Stoic Buddhism? Or Buddhist Stoicism? Or neither?

Stoicism and Buddhism have many similarities, but significant differences as well. What follows is my attempt to modify Stoicism with aspects of Buddhism. I also modify aspects of Stoicism I don’t fully agree with, such as describing a spectrum rather than a dichotomy of control, and saying that things that are not up to us (externals)Continue reading “Stoic Buddhism? Or Buddhist Stoicism? Or neither?”

Stoicism & Western Buddhism

The similarity of Buddhism and Stoicism is not a new observation. But Patrick Ussher in Stoicism & Western Buddhism offers a more nuanced perspective. The similarities apply more to Western Buddhism and modern Stoicism than to the ancient versions of either. In both cases, Ussher argues, modern Westerners have revised ancient philosophies to fit currentContinue reading “Stoicism & Western Buddhism”

“A Sage wants nothing but needs many things; a fool wants everything.”

At first I found Seneca’s words from his ninth letter to Lucilius confusing. Seneca opens his letter explaining a common misconception: “Lack of feeling” in Stoicism means “a soul which rejects any sensation of evil,” not lack of emotion. That is, Sages “feel their troubles but overcome them.” A Sage has friends but also isContinue reading ““A Sage wants nothing but needs many things; a fool wants everything.””

Stoic compassion

Stoic compassion isn’t an oxymoron. Because being stoic (in common parlance) is equated with a lack of feeling, the notion that Stoicism promotes compassion may seem like a contradiction. After all, Epictetus counseled his students not to get caught up in other people’s psychodramas: When you see someone weeping in sorrow…don’t hesitate to sympathize withContinue reading “Stoic compassion”

Marcus Aurelius: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another overlap between Stoicism and Buddhism. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius External things aren’t the problem Don’t be driven this way and that, but always behave with justice and see things as they are (4.22). The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of yourContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Mindfulness”

Marcus Aurelius: Impermanence

Impermanence is usually associated with Buddhism. But it’s important in Stoicism too. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Existence is like a river Everything’s destiny is to change, to be transformed, to perish – so that new things can be born (12.21). Time is a river, a violent current of events, glimpsed once and already carried pastContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Impermanence”

Did Buddhism influence Stoicism?

Both teach nonattachment, impermanence, and interconnectedness. Both advise self-control, especially when strong emotions are involved. Both teach that how we think about things determines how we experience life. Both say that we create our own suffering by constantly yearning for more while failing to appreciate what we have. And most of all, both place a strongContinue reading “Did Buddhism influence Stoicism?”

Reflections on Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations

Meditations is a disjointed book. It’s the personal journal of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180), which he called “To Himself.” He didn’t intend for it to be published, so he didn’t bother to do much polishing. Aurelius’s journal rambles a bit. But his perspective comes down to the notion that, “All is as thinkingContinue reading “Reflections on Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations”