In one of my blog entries a few days ago, I referred to being a stoic. I never knew that about myself until I stumbled across the definition. It's not really something I've deliberately chosen. It's more of an outgrowth of who I am, if that makes sense. I've asked one or two atheists here how they came to atheism, and I got pretty much that answer for one or two of them - it was not so much a deliberate decision, but a result of them being them. So for me, stoicism is more of a character trait than a belief system I adhere to. I'm not sure if you appreciate the difference. I can see how stoicism could be difficult if it's not natural to who you are.
I was just going over websites about stoicism so I could give you an independent definition, and I ran across this. I'll leave a link here, and below I'll go through some of the 9 points it makes. I was astonished just now at how many of these are a part of who I am, and have been a part of who I am since I was a teenager.
I particularly like one bit:
' Stoicism differs from most existing schools in one important sense: its purpose is practical application. It is not a purely intellectual enterprise.'
1. Practice misfortune: every once in a while, put on your worst clothes, ditch your tech, and basically 'live the nightmare'. Bring yourself face to face with the want and need you are afraid of experiencing. Confront your fears.
2. Train perception to avoid good and bad: Marcus Aurelius has a great quote that has been an expression of my way of thought for decades- 'Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact; everything we see is perspective, not the truth.' Challenge your notions of 'good' and 'bad'. When you encounter something painful or frustrating, use it to learn about yourself and look at how you can improve yourself.
3. Remember, it's all ephemeral: Kansas has a great song about this topic that has always brought me a lot of peace- 'Dust in the Wind'; Look up the lyrics - I can't pick out just one verse, it's all great, and it's all directly related to this thought. This will all pass away, and what we are so afraid of or passionate about will not last. Stay in the now, do the right thing right now.
4. Take the view from above: remember that everyone has their own life that is just as real to them as yours is to you - they also have fears and struggles. Remember how insignificant we are as individuals in the larger universe.
5. Memento Mori: Meditate on your own mortality: This one tends to come naturally with depression; looking the Grim Reaper in the face can be fear inducing for some - for others, it is a reminder that 'this too shall pass'. The stoic view of this is to live life to the fullest, but I tend to miss that part; I tend to view life as a punishment I must endure.
6. Is this within my control: Know what you do and do not have control over - release what you do not control, do not let it overtake you.
7. Journal: blog, diary entries - expressing your thoughts will be hard at first, but make it a habit and it will help to have that time of expression, and help you see weak spots and places where you have grown.
8. Practice negative visualization: come to terms with your fears; don't let them be nebulous and take up energy - let your mind go to the worst scenario and accept that and figure out how you will deal with it.
9. Amor Fati: Love everything that happens: embrace each moment, each experience, even the painful ones. The painful ones teach you the most, though they are admittedly the hardest lessons. Like anyone, I often struggle with this, but it is inimical to who I am to struggle to embrace all the experiences of my life. Instead of rejecting the pain, ask what it has to teach me; many times this is the only way I can find to move forward.