Stoic Practice During the Coronavirus
“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions. The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.”
― Epictetus, Enchiridion and Selections from the Discourses
Our expectations for life is not life itself. We often want for things to be as we wish and avoid things that are not as we wish. Then when things happen against what we desire, we suffer, instead of looking directly at what is.
We must look directly at life.
Then we can act wisely with what we can control.
People will grow old, become sick, die, and lose their material possessions eventually.
Nothing is entirely our own, not even our lives. We are temporary travelers in this universe and will return to the universe after enough time has passed.
Meditate on this everyday.
We shouldn’t hide from facts that are uncomfortable, uncertain, and painful.
We shouldn’t speculate about what we don’t know, anxiously hoping for what exists only in our imaginations, dwelling with regrets about the past.
Let’s be present and learn what we can do.
We shouldn’t reduce ourselves to our judgements. While others gossip, we can remain silent. While opinions are let loose, we can stick to factual information. While people are angry and blame, we can stay patient and look within. While groups hate and form divisions, our hearts can open to the world.
Our attitudes are in our control, even when dealing with the tragedies that befall us.
We become what we regularly consume. If we surround ourselves with fearful people and sensationalized news reports, these sources will impress upon our minds and emotionally weigh us down.
While it’s crucial to be informed, we must care for our wellbeing, and should, when possible, avoid what causes suffering to ourselves and others.
When we must endure negative things, let us do so with dignity and honor, not falling into laziness, hatred, jealousy, anger, and greed.
We must look at what is within our control.