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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oasis of Calm

IN short, then, remember this, that whatever external to your own choice you esteem, you destroy that choice. And not only power is external to it, but the being out of power too; not only business, but leisure too. — "Then, must I live in this tumult now?" — What do you call a tumult? — "A multitude of people." — And where is the hardship? Suppose it is the Olympic games. Think it a public assembly. There, too, some bawl out one thing, some do another; some push the rest. The baths are crowded. Yet who of us is not pleased with these assemblies, and doth not grieve to leave them? Do not be hard to please, and squeamish at what happens. "Vinegar is disagreeable (says one), for it is sour. Honey is disagreeable (says a second), for it disorders my constitution. I do not like vegetables, says a third. Thus, too (say others), I do not like retirement; it is a desert: I do not like a crowd; it is a tumult." — Why, if things are so disposed that you are to live alone, or with few, call this condition a repose, and make use of it as you ought. - EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶3
This passage was the reading on Words of the Ancient Wise for yesterday, January 16th.  As I was reading through it I was struck with how many times I am discontented and churlish because some aspect of the situation I am currently in "displeases" me.  I really can be a petty, hard minded individual at times.  I was reminded, upon reading the above passage, that I need to continue to strive to find contentment within myself.  To strive to not be buffeted by the winds of circumstance or the storms of change around me.  
In cultivating mindfulness within myself, I am creating a refuge and a safe harbour to offset the ravages of circumstance and the cacophony of sound that can often erupt around me.   This allows me to be present in the moment but not perturbed by the specific circumstances that might normally upset me and cause me to react in an immoral or vicious manner.  The Stoic practices of analysis (What is in my control versus what is not), hesitation (to take a momentary pause before reacting) and deliberation are the tools that I can use to help build a refuge, an oasis of calm within myself.