Here’s to the Helpers

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.

“Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in…

Letter 74. LXXIV. On Virtue as a Refuge from Worldly Distractions


While undergoing hardships, why do some of us develop our resolve while others of us fall into despair? Then there are some of us who are happy, even while we are poor, while others of us are poor, even while we are rich.

To find peace in our lives, we must forgo externals that are out of our control. We can be happy with what is honorable instead. Virtuous choices are in our control. …

· Our lives are generally not as short as we believe them to be. We just waste a lot of our quality time, distracting ourselves with what is trivial and pointless and inessential. Then we regret the time that we have lost when it is too late.

· We often tell ourselves that after years of hard work, we will finally relax into our retirement and do what we want in our old age. But why should we live authentically when we are about to die, when we could have lived before then? …

Our sadness, fear, despair, anger, and so on, all begin as seeds in our store consciousness. When they are watered, they become mental formations. There they gain in energy.

When a painful feeling arises, we can first return to our mindful breathing. We can say to ourselves, “Breathing in, I am aware of the despair in me. Breathing out, I hold my despair with kindness.”

We do not try to hide or run away from our painful feelings. There is no need to blame ourselves or act out against others for feeling in a certain way. We are simply aware…

When someone speaks negatively about you, you usually feel that you need to retaliate. Every time you react, you create certain neural-pathways in your brain. The more you react, the more you strengthen those same pathways, while weakening others.

Overtime you build the habit of always reacting in a particular way whenever someone is negative toward you. These habitual reactions then lead you into more anger, fear, and hatred. Your need to punish whoever is causing you suffering, so you can find some sense of relief, only makes you suffer more.

In Zen Buddhism, when you walk, you are walking. When you sit, you are sitting. When you are going to the bathroom, you are going to the bathroom. Whatever you are doing — whether you’re sweeping the floor, listening to a song on the radio, or biting into an apple — you are fully aware of what is happening. You are caring for each moment like you’re cradling a baby in your arms. When you’re fully engaged in your life, you’re not separate from what is outside of yourself. …

Full text here

Even if you disagree with Peter Singer’s conclusions, his argument, if taken seriously, will make you question a few things about your own life:

1.) How much am I actually doing to prevent the suffering of the world?

2.) If I have the means to prevent the suffering of others, but I am choosing to eat out at a fancy restaurant every week instead of helping a baby who is dying of malnutrition, am I truly being moral?

3.) Am I doing all that I can to help others, or am I only doing a fraction of…

Epictetus (50–135 CE) was born as a slave in Hierapolis, Phrygia. After Emperor Nero’s death, he eventually gained his freedom and taught Stoic philosophy in Rome for close to 25 years. Emperor Domitian, who feared the dissenting influence of philosophers, banished Epictetus from his home. He traveled to Nicopolis in the northwest of Greece and developed his own school, teaching in exile until his death. His ideas impacted historical figures such as Emperor Hadrian and Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Although Epictetus never wrote down his teachings, his disciple Arrian, who was a famous historian, recorded what he had said.

Epictetus’s main…

Bremer Acosta

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