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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life is like an Onion

WHEN you have shut your doors, and darkened your room, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not; but God is within, and your genius is within; and what need have they of light to see what you are doing? To this God you likewise ought to swear such an oath as the soldiers do unto Caesar. For do they, in order to receive their pay, swear to prefer before all things the safety of Caesar; and will you not swear, who have received so many and so great favours, or if you have sworn, will you not stand to it? And what must you swear? Never to disobey, nor accuse, nor murmur at any of the things appointed by him, nor unwillingly to do or suffer anything necessary. Is this oath like the former? In the first, persons swear not to honour any other beyond Caesar; in the last, beyond all, to honour themselves. - EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §14. ¶1.

The quote above is today's Words of the Ancient Wise reading  ( for this morning.

"beyond all, to honour themselves"... Wow that is a huge principle to live up to. We often find it so much easier to live to an external set of rules or ideals. Stoicism takes it internal and makes us step up to the plate and live worthy of ourselves, worthy of that potential that lives inside of all of us, the Sage.

In our modern age we can just join a religion or group that will set out guidelines that we can live by.  We can adopt a lifestyle that is set on a predefined set of rules that will help us set goals and standards that we must live by, once adopted.  I have tried to find a "source" for a lifestyle many times in my life.  Each time it has been an experience that has left me feeling out of sync, a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.  This morning it hit me, by reading this passage, just what was wrong with all of those belief or lifestyle systems...  They were not able to go deep enough.  They did not bring me closer to a knowledge of Myself.  For me, these systems allowed me to put on a uniform of rules that made "ME" fit in, some even allowed "ME" to hide behind a mask.  These systems allowed me to hide and cloak myself in the guise of the perfect X (insert label here) so that I could focus on doing all of the prescribed actions that would show the outside world what I was.

In living the Stoic principles on a daily basis, actually actively practicing Stoicism as a living process, I am uncovering more of the inner "ME" rather than adding layers to the masks I have worn in the past.  In forcing myself to live up to the standard of authenticity; practicing mindfulness, reservation and hesitation, I am like an archaeologist or analyst digging past the layers to find the hidden ME, my best self and full potential.  This is the goal of the Sage, the work of the Stoic practitioner - to constantly be discovering themselves, to go deeper and further in to find a life of true contentment and joy.

I have set off on a journey full of wonder and enlightenment with many companions beside me.  Let's keep traveling together, encouraging one another and holding each other accountable when necessary.  Let's be to life like a bridegroom to his bride, full of joy and wonder.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tyranny of the Urgent

O MORTALS, whither are you hurrying? What are you about? Why do you tumble up and down, wretches, like blind men? You are going a wrong way, and have forsaken the right. You seek prosperity and happiness in a wrong place, where it is not; nor do you give credit to another who shows you where it is. Why do you seek it without? It is not in body: if you do not believe me, look upon Myro, look upon Ofellius. It is not in wealth: if you do not believe me, look upon Croesus, look upon the rich of the present age, how full of lamentation their life is. It is not in power; for, otherwise, they who have been twice and thrice consuls must be happy, but they are not. - EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §22. ¶3
 In my Stoic reading this morning we studied the above noted passage from Epictetus.  My Facebook comment was the following:
"The Tyranny of the urgent... our world moves at such a rapid pace. We fill our days in the pursuit of so many things that have no intrinsic value in the grand scheme of our lives. How many of us are ill from a lack of time spent in healthy pursuits? How many of us now reap the crop of the seeds that we planted in our past? Let us be ever mindful of our actions and the consequences that come from those actions. Let's take the time to care for our bodies, and to nurture our souls to the best of our abilities. To pursue those pursuits that are the "big rocks" in our lives and not to get bogged down by the daily minutiae. To live in the present without regret from the past or fear of the future. To live a flourishing life, filled with joy and steadfastness."
If you are not familiar with the parable of the "Pebbles, Sand and a Jar"  here is is, accredited appropriately to its author, philosopher and speaker Celia S. Hecht
 As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, business owner, friend, all of the various roles that I have in this life, what are my big rocks?  The largest rock in my life would be my amazing husband, Michel Daw, my rock of Gibraltar.  My first rock is him to continue to nurture our relationship.  My next rock would be my children, to be able to make time to continue to see them and spend quality time together even though they are grownup with their own households and careers.  
The next big rock is my relationship with my mother who has been ill lately and is coming to the end of her life.  A huge priority in my life right now is to spend as much time as possible with her while she is still able to have conversations, to let her know, as always, that she is loved and has so much value to me.  To let her know that, no matter what adventure may await us after death, she will continue on in my memories of her.  I am focusing on enjoying sitting with her in quiet moments, looking at photographs, talking of the past, nesting with her in her illness.  Trying to squeeze as much juice out of the fruit of her life while she is still with us.
In focusing on spending time with my Mum, I then come to the big rock of my sisters.  They are the ones who are bearing the weight of caring for an aging parent.  I am the one who lives four hours away from my mother while they are all within a fifteen minute drive, one actually lives in the same home.  They are the ones who are struggling with the daily requirements while trying to balance their own big rocks of marriage, family and health.  It is important for me to take the time now to try to relieve some of their burdens, to continue to nurture my relationship with them.  To keep the lines of communication open so that they have someone to talk to when the darkness of illness begins to envelop their own lights.  To be an ear to vent to when everything just feels like it is too much to bear.
My next big rocks are smaller in size but are still big enough to need to go into the jar next.  My business and my friends. Working from home there is often the challenge of time bleeding away with the tyranny of the urgent.  I am starting to enforce the practice of setting "business hours" so that I can be more productive with my time and more focused when I am working.  My friends are the rock that is very hard to fit into the jar at the moment with the increased need to travel and visit my mother.  Many of our friends are also involved in the Stoic workshop sessions that we hold in our home on a monthly basis.  This means that they are wrapped into the bedrock in my life, Stoicism.  Stoicism is what my jar is made of, it is not glass, but made of fired obsidian, strong and having weight to it.
What does Stoicism bring to my life as a practice and what are the details that are encapsulated in that philosophy as my personal life philosophy?    
  • living consciously  (planning with reservation, knowing that things can change with a moments notice) 
  • stewardship  (my body is the only one that I get, my home, etc.)
  • mindful of our planet (trying to live with as small a footprint as possible, conscious of our place in the universe)
  • virtues (trying to live with the virtues as my guidepost, doing the right thing because it is the right thing)
  • letting go (knowing what is in my control and what is not)
  • relationship (my place in the world and the importance of those around me)
Now that my big rocks are covered I know that I have very little time for the minutiae that comes into my life.  I have lately found that some pursuits that I find less than fruitful have been pushing for prominence in my life at the expense of others.  Maybe this has been a coping mechanism for my mind to process the news of my mother's ill health and imminent passing?  I have not been living as consciously as I would like.  
What are some of the pursuits that I would like to minimize in my life?
  • Facebook (while valuable for keeping up relationships with distant family/friends and fellow Stoic students, it needs to be kept to a minimum)
  • Television (our television is already relegated to the basement, but, this has become much too prominent lately)
I am going to continue to work on achieving balance in my life, ensuring that my big rocks do not get crowded out by the facebook and the television sand.  To ensure that authenticity continues to be the main goal of my stay while visiting this planet.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fine tuning the Signal

RECEIVE temporal blessings without ostentation, when they are sent; and thou shalt be able to part with them with all readiness and facility when they are taken from thee again.

I am in the process of fine tuning my life. As I wrote yesterday in my blog, determining the Big Rocks, and crafting my life to make sure that those rocks get the majority of my attention. It is so much easier when you realize that "things" are borrowed and not possessed. They are on a temporary loan and once they have served their purpose they can be let go without pain or regret if we hold them as temporal and do not find our "value" in the possession of them.
The Fall and Winter are shaping up to be busy times. We have at least three Stoic Workshops a month, possibly four depending on the number of applicants for the Introduction session, and we have the seasonal celebrations and various other activities to support the community.  Included on that calendar must be visits with family, etc.  My work also must take a good portion of that calendar in order to meet my clients' requirements and do my part in paying the bills and keeping the household afloat.
I think going through the re-evaluation process in August is crucial to me remaining focused and productive through the Fall/Winter period.  I am going to go through my home one room at a time, determine it's function/purpose and declutter and ensure that what is in that room helps the room to function, etc.  I will blog each room as I go through this purpose.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

No Pockets In A Shroud...

One of today's readings in our "Words of the Ancient Wise" blog was the following:

"THOSE things that are his own, and in his own power, he himself takes order for that they be good : and as for those that happen unto him, he believes them to be so. MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book iii. 4"

My comment based on this reading was:  " Instead of looking to the future, the acquisition of more, etc. let us look to that which we have now. Let's ensure that we are taking care of those things that are in our charge, i.e. our bodies, our family, our home, etc. We have enough in our lives to be stewards of without wishing for more and actively pursuing the acquisition of more. The one with the most toys at the end of the day most certainly is not the winner. I think the one with the ordered life, with well cared for loved ones, body and home is the absolute winner."

An ordered life, this is the proof of a Stoic's success.  Having honest relationships with family, closeness with spouses and children, friends like family, an ordered home in good repair, etc.    An ordered life....   As illustrated in Steven Covey's famous analogy of the jar of rocks, we need to constantly be assessing our lives to be sure our "big rocks" are put into our life jar first.  We often get distracted and the big rocks can get left out in order to fit more of the gravel and sand in.  Let's take a step back and do some reassessing, ensuring that none of our big rocks are left out of our jar.  What things are the most important to us?  What time do we need to devote to these things?  What time do we have left, if any, to fit in the smaller rocks, gravel and sand?  Do we have the room to add water as well?  

Our society tends to emphasize the pursuit of wealth and the trappings of wealth, toys, that this lifestyle can bring.  Anyone who has spent anytime pursuing these things knows that the emotional high that comes from these things is brief and extremely fleeting.  Often we are left with the toys as a reminder of how not to live our lives.  My father had a favourite saying when giving to charity or to people in need...  There are no pockets in a shroud... In other words when we leave this world we will take nothing with us... no money, no "toys", etc.  The only thing that we will leave behind is a legacy of love and memories and friendship.  These are the things that we should actively pursue and we often need to take the time to make some course corrections.  Like a sailing ship on a route, we often need to reassess and back track a little to ensure that the winds of life have not knocked us off of our course.  Our course is filled with the big rocks and yet we get bogged down in the sand bars amongst the gravel and minutiae of  living.

We tend to, especially in our modern day, lose sight of the big to medium rocks from time to time.  Our time becomes filled with social obligations, technology and busyness.  When we neglect the big rocks we begin to feel lost and empty.  Let's all of us take some time this August to do a personal inventory and ensure that we reorder our lives to allow for our big rocks first!

My big rocks are Self, Spouse, Children, Family and Close Friends.  The teaching of Stoic philosophy is also a big rock for me.  My home is a big rock as well.  Already this seems like a tall order and an insurmountable task.  I have found that time management programs and household management programs help me to ensure that I have the time to get the big rocks of my life taken care of.  If any of my readers are looking for tools to help them I would recommend the Getting Things Done system by David Allen and the FlyLady system ( as effective tools to use on a daily basis.  

I am going to schedule time with my husband, Michel, to ensure that we have adjusted our routines and priorities to focus on our big rocks moving forward into the busyness of fall/winter.  Please feel free to message me if you are looking for any further info on tools, etc.  :)


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Can I Have a "Do Over"?

So today is a rough day.  More car problems after having it break down while visiting my convalescing mother over the weekend.  We were delayed by a day, Michel missing a day of work, until we were able to get the car fixed.  Driving home last night, Michel saw the "check engine" light come on and stay on again. We were going to Oshawa this weekend but that has had to be cancelled due to the car "issues". 

On one hand it will be good to stay home and get some much needed work done around the house (lawns, organizing, etc.), on the other it is hard to let people down and also not get the opportunity to see my Mum this weekend.  Oh well, as we say "it is what it is".

Honestly, some times it feels like we need to do a "do over" or "rewrite" of our life in order to be able to accomplish what is important to us.  Oh well, time to get back to paid work for the day.  Catch you for my next post.

Addendum due to the need to clarify my post above:

When I talk about a "Do Over" I mean take a step back and do a reassessment of the road I am headed on right now... home owner, Empty-Nester, reduced income, health issues etc. Seems like my life today is totally different to last year at this time. Yet, I am still plodding on as if life is the same... just want to make sure that I consider all of my options and possibilities and don't feel that I am lock-stepped into just one way of living on a daily basis.   We have priorities that we want to accomplish and I just want to make sure that we are living in such a way as our priorities don't have to take a back seat to day to day demands due to our "lifestyle" etc.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hiding under a bushel

The stoic reading for this morning was a passage from Epictetus where he quotes another teacher.  The gist of the passage, (click here to read it), was that we should not tell people we identify as a Stoic or follow Stoic philosophy.  The reasoning behind this was that when we mess up, as humans often do, the effectiveness of the philosophy will not be put into a bad light by our failure.

Honestly, I wonder if this "policy" was the reason that this incredible way of living became unknown and fell into disuse, except for the parts of the philosophy that became part of the early Christian teachings and tradition?  Michel and I decided about two years ago that we would use the label of Stoic in the community.  People would ask us what we believed, what we used as a guidepost on the hazardous roadways of life and we began to answer Stoicism.

I, personally, believe that Stoicism has something for everyone.  Whether they choose to wear the label of a Stoic, or just take some of its teachings/practices into their own personal practice, people need to know that there is a rational alternative that can work with their own personal thoughts around belief and divinity.

Of course, in allowing ourselves to be known as teachers, Michel and I have opened our lives up for scrutiny and recrimination.  We continue to identify ourselves as students though, as we are students of Stoicism, and share the knowledge that we have learned with others.  We will always be students as the Stoic Sage is a goal that consists of an ever moving target as we continually strive to perfect and craft the life that we are living.

We are crafting a life together, artists continually striving to sing the perfect aria, or create that perfect sculpture.  Our craft is the art of living and living well.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Back to Reality with a Bump

Hard to believe that it has been almost a month since my last post, written almost on the eve of my daughter's wedding.  Well the wedding was beautiful and everyone celebrated  a "love that even time will lie down and be still for."  Here are some pictures from the blessed event -

At the wedding my normally vibrant mother was in a wheelchair.  She had been suffering with incredible pain in her right leg for a few weeks and had gone for blood tests, xrays, etc.  The weekend after the wedding her pain was so debilitating that she headed to emergency to find out some answers or at least get some relief for her pain.  Well after receiving bone scan results we discovered that she was suffering from the effects of Paget's Disease, a chronic bone disease.  The disease had effected her hip and she is now on complete bed rest for six weeks to see if that will help her hip heal.  If this is not effective in arresting the disease she will need to have her hip replaced.  Paget's is actually a fairly rare bone disease that seems to be genetically passed on.  We all have to get tested, my sisters and I especially, as we seem to be experiencing some symptoms of the disease in our own bodies.

Well for the past few days I had been feeling somewhat down, quite blue in fact.  Yesterday seemed to be the culmination of my blue feelings.  I felt like the weight of the world had landed on my chest and could just not shake my feelings.  I tried to figure out what particularly was bothering me...  I am a blessed person.  I have the most amazing husband and family that anyone could ask for.  I had a wonderful childhood and have sisters that I am blessed to be able to say are best friends.  I have amazing friends that I know would seriously contemplate giving up their life for me if the situation warranted it.  What could possibly be bothering me?  My mother is getting care that she needs and is slowly recuperating.  Even the looming Paget's diagnosis for myself was not seen as a bad thing as it would finally give me an answer to all of my various aches and loss of mobility in various bones, muscles, etc.  So just what was "wrong" with me?

On our way out to visit a friend for his birthday celebration, I opened up to my husband, Michel.  I told him just how down I was feeling, etc.  I then proceeded to have a good cry.  I felt like a terrible Stoic, breaking down under the weight that I was feeling.  I then proceeded to think of things that I would like to change in my life...   My weight, lack of motivation, opportunities for musical expression, etc. and realized that I can certainly make my best efforts to mitigate the circumstances.  Even then all of the things that are important to me, most of these things are NOT in my control.

It is the societal pressure of success that was the underlying factor to my depression.  Success as society sees it is the Career (note the capital C) and the Lifestyle.  I am not successful in society's terms as I have no Career and cannot sustain the kind of Lifestyle that we are supposed to want in today's society.  I am a woman, aspiring Stoic, wife, mother, lover, friend, mentor to some, spiritual adviser to others.  All of these roles are WHO I am.

I am living my life as a voyage, a voyage to wonder.  Like a sailboat there will need to be course corrections from time to time when the winds of society threaten to take me off of my course.  Yesterday was a day of course evaluations and now to get back to some corrections to keep me steady as the wind blows.  Destination:  The second star to the right and straight on until morning!

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Broken down at the side of the road"

I am feeling rather worn down lately, experiencing a lot of pain in my bones and joints and somewhat emotionally fragile.  My mother is going through a health crisis which has her in a hospital and unsure of what the prognosis is going to be.  At the moment she is unable to put any weight on her legs without being in excruciating pain.  We are hopeful that she will be able to gain her mobility back but it is by no means a certain thing.  There are implications due to her diagnosis that have impacted my health outlook and that of my immediate family members, sisters and children.  It appears that more than one of us might also be suffering the effects of this genetic illness, myself included.

After 9 hours of travel over a 36 hour period, sleeping in a "strange" bed and a lot of walking through hospital hallways, I am feeling very tired and achy today.  Hopefully today will be the day that we get a better idea of what the prognosis is for my mother and whether she will fully recuperate or whether the disease has done too much damage and that life needs to adjust accordingly.  In this circumstance I must be patient with the cloud of unknowing...  unable to plan or act due to a lack of the details.  This is out of my control...  I must bow to the fact that I am not in control of this situation and must let it go until we have enough information to act upon.

The implications to my own life from this information is not yet apparent.  I have to get tested and will then have to rationalize how the results of those tests impact our life, my husband and mine, moving forward.  Once again, determining what is in our control and what is not, and taking appropriate action based on those conclusions.

At the moment I feel like a car that is broken down at the side of the road, out of gas and in need of repair.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be a little bit better.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Horizons ahead...

and now there are Six of us

Well the wedding went off without a hitch, well one small mixup on the seating plans, but nothing that was even noticed by the majority of those in attendance.  Such a lovely wedding filled with poetry and a reading from Musonius Rufus on Marriage.  Rooms filled with family and friends who came to witness the beginning of a relationship and the expansion of our family unit.

Now the crafting process begins again...  What do we wish our life to look like, what is priority, what matters?  All questions that we need to continue to answer as we craft a life together.  All the while focusing on virtue and fine tuning what matters.  We are now a couple living alone.  No echoes of children or teenagers sound through the house.  The birds have all flown from the nest.  What is our next adventure, what treasures lie just around the river bend?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On Weddings and Celebrations

Today I am deeply involved in last minute preparations for my daughter's upcoming wedding.  Her wedding is going to be held at one of our local Unitarian Universalist congregations, filled with poetry, devotion, music and reason.  A decidedly spiritual service with a naturalistic humanist outlook.  I was sent the text of the service yesterday in order to facilitate the creation of wedding programs and I was struck with the beauty, sincerity and genuine spirituality that was found in the words of the bridal couples vows, readings and ceremonies.

I was overcome with a sense of awe at the unique and spiritual person my daughter has become since her early days of sitting on my knee.  She is a beautiful and vibrant woman who lights up a room whenever it is graced with her presence.  I am also blessed to say that she is one of my closest friends, a confidant and someone I can count on to cheer me when days seem bleak.

From the start this wedding was meant to be something that expressed the bride and groom's loves and their sense of family and purpose.  Although we are working on a budget, an even smaller one than originally planned due to the unexpected lay off of my husband last October, we have paid attention to small details that should make the difference in making unity and family the focus of the upcoming nuptials.

I am proud to be sending such an amazing woman off into the world to spread her wings!  All of my children are amazing individuals that I am happy to count as three of my best friends, the best being my husband, Michel.  How blessed am I in this life to have such wonderful people in it.  :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Today's Stoic reading was a passage from Epictetus...  "
HE is free who lives as he likes; who is not subject either to compulsion, to restraint, or to violence; whose pursuits are unhindered, his desires successful, his aversions unincurred. Who, then, would wish to lead a wrong course of life? — "No one." Who would live deceived, prone to mistake, unjust, dissolute, discontented, dejected? — "No one." No wicked man, then, lives as he likes; therefore neither is he free. And who would live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity; with disappointed desires, and incurred aversions? — "No one." Do we then find any of the wicked exempt from sorrow, fear, disappointed desires, incurred aversions?—"Not one." Consequently, then, not free. -
 My response to this passage was "To live purposefully and with gratitude for all that we have in life. Therein lies the path to true freedom."

Freedom, such an interesting word which can mean so many different things to different people.  Freedom to worship in whatever manner we see fit and whatever deities we revere.  Freedom to get an education.  Freedom to live a purposeful life.  In our western industrial world we have so many freedoms that others in the world can only dream of having.  Not many of us are falsely imprisoned or held in abject poverty with no chance of escape through self-improvement, education or just good old fashioned hard work.  We live in a country that is full of possibilities if we are willing to take chances, step out of our comfort zones and work hard for a dream.  We are the lucky ones as the only things that hold us back from achieving our dreams are our decisions or lack of them.  We enslave ourselves with our inability to strive for more.  We enslave ourselves when we become chained down by debt or responsibilities that we did not think about the consequences of incurring at the moment that we signed the bottom line.

We can be free if we can reach forward towards our dreams.  We can be free if we practice the principle of gratitude on a daily basis.  We may not live in a dream condo or a mansion in Rockcliffe Park but we have a roof over our head, a lawn to mow and  a comfortable bed to sleep in at night.  Gratitude for all the blessings that we have, that is the way to contentment.  To live each day with a purpose instead of aimlessly drifting through one moment to the next.  To walk forward with gratitude and purpose in every step.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In my Stoic readings this morning I was struck with a passage from Epictetus' writings...  "THE man who is unrestrained, who hath all things in his power as he wills, is free; but he who may be restrained, or compelled, or hindered, or thrown into any condition against his will, is a slave. "And who is unrestrained?" — He that desires none of those things that belong to others. "And what are those things which belong to others?" — Those which are not in our own power, either to have or not to have. - EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶14."

In my response to this passage I wrote...  "When I set my sights on my "neighbour's stuff" I actually voluntarily give away my freedom. I am now constrained by my desire to have the thing that my neighbour has or to work towards acquiring an equivalent to what they have. I enslave myself to the need to devote resources, time, ambition, etc. in the acquisition of said "prize".

If I can be content with what I have and what the universe gives me, I can acquire freedom from the constant need to acquire new and better things, the plague of Affluenza that is infesting our planet on a daily basis.

To be content with what I have, be thankful and mindful of the blessings in my life, to practice gratitude and be at peace, that should be my goal in this life. This goal is ever present and I need to be ever vigilant in my pursuit of this goal.

Whether it be the pursuit of things or of someone else's "vision", "path" or "purpose", we lose sight of our own purpose when we try to conform our individual life to the shape of someone's lifestyle. We lose our own light when we attempt to live in another's shadow."

My last sentence struck me as exactly what happens in so many lives and in my own as well.  We dim our own individual lights, the gift that we are to the Universe, when we live in other people's shadows.  I think this process probably starts at an extremely young age.  The first time we see a sibling or relative that has a talent for something, or owns something, and we set our sights on having it.  We begin to warp our own identities, our own special individuality, into something that can "have" that quality or item that we have set our sights on desiring.  This continues through school and into high-school where the "peer pressure" becomes an almost palpable thing.  A festering monster that stalks the hallways of high-schools around the globe with its siren call to conformity and the "good life".  

The monster of conformity and comparison continues to plague us through our early adult life, the post secondary school choices, the career choices, the debt choices (often incurred to fuel our need for what others have), the purchases at the behest of the advertising machine.  We are slowly remade and warped into an image of what we desire.  We are plagued and beset by our desires in our lifestyle choices, often overworked, in debt and a prisoner to the Affluenza that infests our planet.

People throughout the centuries have fought to combat conformity and this overwhelming grasping desire to have what others have and live the lives that others live.  These people have been a dim light in an otherwise dark world of whatifs and wants.  The small house movement, the minimalist movement, the 4 hour work week, etc. are all examples of modern day attempts to break away from the shadow of society.  These are movements that encourage living outside of the box of normality, to be modern day Thoreaus and retreat to our own personal Walden of debt-free, "stuff" free living.

I know that I am going to personally examine my life to see what I am holding on to.  What in my life, whether it be ideals, "stuff" or the need to belong/conform, is causing my own Light to be extinguished... to find the purpose that I was born for.  To become a fully self-actualized ME and to let my light shine out like a lighthouse on a hill breaking forth through the darkness of society.  A beacon of hope for others who also seek to find a higher wattage for their own personal lights.  

I will not allow myself to continue to extinguish my own light while living in the shadows of someonelse's idea of the "ideal life".   Perhaps by my own venturing forth I can be an example of how to shed some of the layers of darkness.  When I break forth and shine I can be an example of "how" to accomplish this for my fellow travelers in this life.   Stay tuned to this channel for more blogging and thoughts from a Stoic woman in pursuit of her own personal Light.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Be Strong and Courageous

It has been quite awhile since I have written in this blog.  My apologies to anyone who may have been reading...

Life has been slow lately.  We have been in a holding pattern almost waiting for life to move forward again.  Late afternoon Thursday, we found out that a move forward scheduled for next week is once again temporarily on hold.  I have been wrestling with how to handle this news.  Trying to be supportive to the person who is directly affected by this news and yet reeling from the effect that it has on my own life.  Even if I am only in the periphery of the effects.  I guess my challenge is to try to manage the unknown and the unsure landscape.  It is a real exercise in trust...  Trust in a Universe that seems so large and impersonal at times.  Can it be small enough to hear me?  That is the ageless endless question.

I am reminded of a beautiful soul-searching song written by an LDS (latterday Saint) singer, Mindy Gledhill, "Small Enough".  Here are the words (caveat:  written from a very Christian point of view):

"Oh, Great God, be small enough to hear me now.
There were times when I was crying from the dark of Daniel's den;
And I have asked you once or twice if You would part the sea again.
But tonight I do not need a fiery pillar in the sky.
Just want to know you're gonna hold me if I start to cry.
Oh great God, be small enough to hear me now.

Oh great God, be close enough to feel You now.
There have been moments when I could not face Goliath on my own.
And how could I forget we've march around our share of Jerichos.
But I will not be setting out a fleece for You tonight.
Just want to know that everything will be alright.
Oh, great God, be close enough to feel You now.

All praise and all the honor be;
To the God of ancient mysteries.
Whose every sign and wonder turn the pages of our history.
But tonight my heart is heavy,
And I cannot keep from whispering this prayer.
Are You there?

And I know You could leave writing on the wall that's just for me.
Or send wisdom while I'm sleeping, like in Solomon's sweet dreams.
But I don't need the strength of Samson or a chariot in the end...
Just Want to know that You still know how many hairs are on my head.
Oh, great God, be small enough to hear me now"

In this  vast cosmos is there hope for the hopeless, rest for the restless?  I once thought I knew the answers to these questions.  I guess it is time to start asking again, time to find my answers again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trials and Tribulations

Today I am writing a "free form" blog post as it isn't based on our Stoic reading for the day.  A close friend of mine has been dealing with a chronic illness that she was diagnosed with last year.  She has become a voice for the chronically ill, writing a blog to help make people aware and to make people aware of symptoms and complications of the disease.  In taking on her role as "a voice of the chronically ill" some people see her as whining on Facebook, being a depressing read, etc.  Unfortunately, she has lost friends because of it.  People that she thought were close and good friends.  They don't want to hear about her struggles, challenges or illness on a daily basis.  It makes them uncomfortable and they don't want to be reminded that life is not always comfortable.

I responded to her blog and wrote a somewhat naked response, talking about my own health issues and thanking her for speaking out and making it "okay" to not be "normal", making it okay to let people know what we are really struggling with.

As a Stoic how does that effect how I deal with my "disability"?  *I was born with a congenital malformation of my right side.  It is a genetic defect which means I have no inner ear, canal, etc. and have only a bone piece and an ear lobe where my ear should be.  This has also caused my jaw to be malformed, etc. causing severe TMJ and painful headaches.  I am hearing impaired due to this deformity which I barely acknowledged until I hit my 30s.*  Being a Stoic has allowed me to acknowledge my challenges, allow myself my idiosyncrasies, realize that sometimes my hearing loss causes me to react differently, sometimes I read lips and body language to fill in the gaps of my understanding, a lot of the time this "filling in the gaps" causes misunderstandings and hurt feelings on my part.  Studying Stoicism has allowed me to recognize my universe is the way it is.  If I cannot hear someone I need to let them know, ask them to repeat themselves, rather than filling in the blanks and opening the door to the possibility of misunderstandings and injury.  It is okay that I want to craft a life with as little stress as possible.  To live according to nature is the primary Stoic principle and my nature is part of that principle.  To avoid loud, noisy environments, to ask people to repeat what I have not heard, to craft my life into a life that is beautiful for me.

We all need to face our reality and craft a life in which we flourish.  A life in which we put our individual gifts in the sunlight, out from the shadows of what we feel society wishes, and face the light of day with strength and courage.  Our "normal" doesn't have to be everyone else's "normal", to accept ourselves for who we are and allow ourselves to grow and shine.  LOVE ourselves, truly and deeply, as the gift to the Universe that we all are. 

In accepting ourselves fully we also need to accept others fully.  Nurture others and help them become the unique individual gifts to the Universe that we all are.  Nurture a community in which people can be themselves, giving them opportunities to grow in ways that are appropriate to their challenges in this life, a place of discipline with love and understanding.  I hope to create an Intentional Community in a world that is increasingly isolationist; ostracizing those who do not conform to the definition of "normal" that society at large has decided.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Little is Needed

Always remember that very little is needed for living a happy life.
Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, book vii, sec. 67

I read this quote this morning and was humbled.  My daughter is getting married early June and only yesterday I was figuring out all the things I want changed in my home before the visiting for the wedding begins.  I was going off the rails ready to make lists and sink down into madness and a scurry of activity for this one weekend.  Wow, this reminder above has put the brakes on that craziness.  Yes I have things that need to be done in our 1960's raised ranch bungalow but I can use discretion and weigh what is necessary against the need to impress others.  

My kitchen needs some reorganization and repairs to make it function well.  The floor needs updating and the paint needs refreshing .  Our downstairs bathroom does need gutting due to some water damage but we can do that within budget and have a modest functioning bathroom.  Our bathroom upstairs need painting and new towel bars... trim needs to be finished in the living room from installing the laminate flooring and the laminate needs to be finished in the entry way closet.

None of this list includes knocking down walls or remodeling the world in order to impress for one day.

More importantly I want to order seeds for the spring and plan my garden so that I will be harvesting our food and living closer to nature this summer.  It really is all about focus and priorities, realizing that enough is good enough.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crafting our Future

Today's "Words of the Ancient Wise" post was from Epictetus...

This is education, to learn to wish that things should happen as they do. - Epictetus' Discourses, book i, chap, xii, sec. 15

My personal response to this was:  "If we can learn to be content with what we have, to realize that life is what it must be, we will live a peaceful life. Every decision we have made has contributed to the present life that we are living. Rather than wishing to change the past and the present lets be conscious of our choices so that we craft our future."

I want to craft my future... what a wonderful turn of phrase I have stumbled upon.  I am not just living, surviving the day to day...  I am crafting my future.  It fills me with a sense of wonder, awe and gleeful anticipation of what the future holds.  I am like Pocahontas, peeking with hope around the next river bend, seeking a glimpse into the near future to what treasures lie waiting for me to discover.  The present is a perfect result of my past and my decisions.  I need to rest peacefully with my present and look with anticipation at the future, crafting it with conscious choices and "right" living.  Sowing seeds that will mature into the type of crop I want in my life and yet leaving the results to the Universe knowing that I have sown with forethought and the best of intentions.

What do I want for my future?  I want simple things...  I am going to sow simple seeds of love, thoughtfulness, kindness, self-control, healthy eating, moderation and look forward with anticipation for the simple yet beautiful flowers of my life that will unfurl from my mindful planting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Teach and Lead By Example

This morning's stoic reading on our blog Words of the Ancient Wise was from Seneca. 
It is better to look at common customs and vices calmly, without either laughing or weeping, since the former is a cruel pleasure, and the latter an endless grief.

My response that I posted was this...  "If we observe behaviour in the world that we find abhorrent we need to look for ways to help change that behaviour rather than to judge and berate but do nothing to help. It is better to teach correct behaviour by example and sound teaching than to just scorn others for their lack of refinement."

While I was in the process of actively raising my children I really tried to instill the principles of kindness, gentleness and self-control.  Whenever behaviour didn't follow these guidelines we would often say is that following the "Family Rule"?  This reminder would allow the perpetrator to reflect on whether their actions had been kind, gentle, or if they were exhibiting self-control...  This allowed my children to learn to self-correct from a fairly early age.  If, on the rare occasion, they needed to be further disciplined at least they knew why they were being disciplined and how they had fallen short of the ideal for behaviour. 

We raised our children to be citizens of the world, the family being their first "circle" that they were related to.  When they got older they realized that the circles continued into their friends, school, community, country and the planet that we live on.  We have a "family circle", one of the mexican candle rings that has five figures (one for each family member) that we light as a symbol of our family.  When behaviour was not at the best it was illustrated that such behaviour could break apart the family circle, etc.  Relationships are fragile, like the ceramic candle holder, and need to be nurtured with kindness, gentleness and self-control.

Raising my children with a sense of their citizenship in the world around them has, in my opinion, created reasonable, responsible and exemplary adults.  Each one a unique gift to the world around them.  

When we see behaviour in the world around us that is not gentle, kind or people are acting selfish or viciously, we need to seek out ways that we can change that behaviour rather than despise the people and walk away.  We can lead by example, be the proverbial "light shining on the hill" to encourage people to change their lives,  to be able to embrace the virtues as axioms for behaviour on a daily basis, to leave the world a better place for our having been here.  To live a life that can be an example to others and let this be our Legacy.