Attaining Peace From Mind Through Unlearning

Imagine a beautiful and serene island that you are living on where you have everything that you need to be comfortable and able to survive, yet you know that your time living here is coming to an end soon. 

Now imagine that instead of appreciating the little time you have remaining on the island, you’re distracted, anxious and frustrated, too consumed by past memories and anticipation of the future. Where you never get the chance to truly exist during the final precious moments that you have left on this slice of tropical paradise.

That made up scenario draws many parallels to our lives. 

We all live on this incredibly fascinating planet called Earth, with most of us having all of the basic essentials that are needed to survive and feel comfortable. 

Yet instead of enjoying it and existing in the present, we dwell on the past and the future, getting so caught up in identifying with our thoughts that we miss out on seeing and living on the beautiful island that is our life. 

Living in this unconscious habitual state of teetering between past and future with minimal time focused on the present is a recipe for never attaining peace from our minds. 

In order to peel back the layers of consciousness and become more aware of our thoughts and our emotional responses to them, so that we can repeatedly return to the present and live in the now, the method of unlearning is necessary. 

Unlearning Identification with Thoughts 

Just like we learned through childhood to associate specific emotional reactions to certain thoughts, we can unlearn them in adulthood and find peace from mind. 

Think about a time when someone said something about you that wasn’t entirely true and how immediately a thought popped in your head (hey, that’s not true!) and in return made you feel a certain way (anger, frustration, etc), that led to a reaction (say something rude back about them). 

As Eckhart Tolle has said, “Emotions are the body’s reaction to our minds.”

We’ve developed these mental habits throughout our lives, but through the power of awareness and careful and continuous observation of our minds, as a kind of silent watcher, we can unlearn the ones that don’t serve us. 

We can start to see the situation unfold in front of us and watch the thoughts arise from a slightly detached perspective where we are no longer viewing it from “being the thought”.

This dimension of consciousness gives us the ability to choose whether or not to identify with the thought, and subsequently leads us to preventing the feelings of emotions and reactions that would typically follow rather involuntarily from occurring right on the spot. 

The more we think additional thoughts about a situation, the more energy we feed into it. Whereas the less we think about it, the less energy is allocated towards the event, allowing us to disentangle ourselves from the web of emotions that could have risen.

Having attained this potentiality, we can be indifferent and not a slave to our incessant stream of thoughts. This wisdom allows us to learn just how inefficient and unnecessary many of our thoughts are and marks the commencing of weeding them out. 

To be clear, this technique is very different from the act of suppressing thoughts and emotions. When you suppress, you push negative emotions down into the depths of your being where they marinate, boil and eventually become destructive when they are forced to be confronted, severely impacting the quality of your life. 

Choosing to disidentify with certain thoughts so that negative emotions are minimized or don’t sprout about at all and channeling that energy elsewhere is a much healthier approach. 

Unlearning the Focusing of our Attention on the Past and Future 

Just like we learned to focus most of our waking hours on the remembrance of the past and anticipation of the future, we can unlearn this vicious cycle and bring our attention back to the now.

This is where the ultimate vacation of all vacations exists, for the present is all there is and the only place peace from mind can be attained. 

Even if we experience it for glimpses at a time, it’s the source from which joy flows through.

With practice of remembering to return to the now and disidentification with the thoughts in our minds, enlightenment can be found, which is the realization that we have all that we need in these moments, for within them the past and future are of no concern, just the essence of being in the present. 

It definitely takes persistence, focus and hard work, but isn’t it worth working on so that instead of living with constant distraction, fear, anxiety and suffering, we can live in peace, see the beauty of our lives and appreciate whatever time we have left? 

“A busy mind can often rob you of peace of mind. The peace that we seek is not peace of mind, it’s peace from mind.” – Naval Ravikant 

The Streetlight Effect: Why we look in the wrong places for what we truly want

There’s a parable that goes a little something like this…

A man is out walking the street at night and sees another man searching for something on the ground. He goes up to the person and asks him what he’s looking for. 

The man responds that he has lost his keys. 

So they both go on their hands and knees looking for the lost keys. 

After some time, the man who offered to help asks the other man, “Where exactly do you remember losing your keys?” 

The man responds, “In my house.” 

Confused, the other man asks, “Then why are you looking here for them?”

He replies, “Because the lighting is much better out here.” 

This concept is known as the streetlight effect and draws parallels with our own lives in our perpetual quest for happiness. 

We tend to look externally for what we want because it’s the easier route to attaining truth, rather than taking the more difficult road internally where truth actually exists.

Our mental wiring is flawed, as you simply cannot seek something where it doesn’t exist, despite how easy or difficult the path may be. 

The keys that the man lost inside his home will never be found outside under the streetlight just like you will never find lasting happiness, peace and/or fulfillment outside of yourself.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Most of us know viscerally that money, success and social status are not the answer to our every problem and need, so what gives?

Is it the result of self-sabotage? Fear? Stupidity? Laziness?

It certainly takes hard work and effort to explore the inner depths of our being, to learn the ways of our mind and leverage that understanding to our advantage. 

But where’s the evidence proving that we don’t have “god”, the universe, infinite cosmic intelligence or whatever you want to call it, within us, and that the multitude of us are simply too blind and fearful to put in the reps to access and tap into it? (the human brain has been evolving for millions of years, we just might have a lot more potential than we give ourselves credit for in today’s society.) 

Wouldn’t feeling just 10% of what we truly seek throughout a lifetime beat out feeling none of it at all, or just fleeting glimpses of it? 

Most of us are playing a rigged game, one that we have allowed ourselves to fall into and accept as the only option to achieve a sense of prosperity in our lives. 

Fortunately, there is a way out of this warped thinking and that’s through within. 

Once you start to focus on the inner world and become more aware, loving and kinder towards yourself, you won’t need any additional motivation or willpower to further the momentum of enhancing the quality of your life. It will happen organically and become as natural to you as walking while talking. 

Armed with this knowledge, ask yourself this question: 

How will my decision to willingly NOT pursue the internal path impact the rest of my life and all those I love and care about? 

“It is difficult to find happiness within oneself, but it is impossible to find it anywhere else.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

We are not our thoughts

Our mind constantly produces thoughts that we have little to no control over. 

Even when we sleep it continues to operate, producing what we call dreams. Most of our dreams are random and bizarre, not making much logical sense due to the fact that we are unconscious.

What’s interesting is that if you take the time to pay attention to your thoughts while conscious, you’ll notice that they also don’t make much sense most of the time and that the majority of them don’t serve us very well. 

We are naturally wired to believe our thoughts to be true. 

We fail to see the separation between the thought itself and our awareness of it, we are simply the thought, fully immersed in it. 

But in reality, we are not our thoughts. As Eckhart Tolle put it, “You are not the thought, you are the awareness.” 

This statement has profound implications. 

Rather than mindlessly subscribing to the thoughts that we produce (on average, 80% of them being negative) and constantly feeding them more fuel through our focus of attention on them (up to 95% of our thoughts are repetitive) we can build a habit of putting them under further scrutiny. 

We can analyze the whispers that persist in the background as well as the louder ones at the forefront of our minds and make a conscious decision and effort to not identify with all of them.

We can question them and become more curious as to why they exist, and over time we can start to see the truth that our thoughts aren’t always the truth.

By recognizing a thought and using reasoning to not further feed into it, the thought will inevitably weaken and subdue (this can save us from a lot of the unnecessary pain and suffering).

It’s when we let our thoughts run wild and ungoverned that they get to dictate who we are. 

The power is in our hands to choose whether a thought is serving us or hurting us, and if it’s the latter we can use our awareness to shut them down and not believe ourselves to be those thoughts as they arise. 

Our thoughts are not always accurate and fact and we aren’t required to believe in all of them. They are simply a perpetually running machine of perceptions and impressions mostly out of our control and much too powerful to limit.

What we can do is create an environment where we start to notice the separation between us and them, and the incredible ability we have to decide to not believe all of them. Within this realm, we can feed the ones that we gain positive benefit from and discard the rest to naturally leave on their own (the effort it takes to strengthen a negative thought is the same amount of exertion it takes to reinforce a positive one). 

Ultimately, this provides us with more headspace for thoughts that we can leverage to lead much happier and fulfilling lives. 

Your life is a painting and you’re the painter. You may not know what exactly the painting will end up looking like, but you can choose what colors you will use to paint the canvas with. 

Below is a little poem I wrote to recap the article.

The thoughts are ceaseless,

The identification is absolute,

Yet the choice is ours to decide the truth.

We can feed what’s right and push aside what’s wrong,

We can begin to fine tune the thought machine to the beat of our own song.

So today is the start of no longer identifying with,

All the negativity that makes our life drift.

And instead replace it with focus on the positive and good,

So that the journey is filled with beauty, love and a happy livelihood. 

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius 

Applying the method of Inversion to ensure a happy life

Most of us wander through life applying the same run down approach toward achieving happiness. We seek recognition, praise, money and more possessions in hopes that they will bring us contentment.

But even if we achieve them (all of the honor, accolades, mansions and millions of dollars in the bank account) unfortunately they still won’t provide us with the feeling of inner joy that we long for. 

It’s true that they may boost our confidence, ego and eliminate money problems, but we’ll still be the same person more or less that we are now (along with a whole new set of problems to deal with).

So what then you might ask, can one do to actually attain what we truly want?

A highly effective technique that can be applied is called inversion.

Billionaire investor Charlie Munger (business partner of Warren Buffet) once said, “It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent… Invert, always invert: Turn a situation or problem upside down. Look at it backward” 

By applying this concept, instead of thinking of how you can become happier, the inverse question would be something along the lines of how can I ensure I’ll live an unhappy life

When you take this approach you’ll be surprised at what answers you come up with, and don’t be shocked if some or even most of them are things that you currently do in your life. 

These are hard and indisputable truths that we must accept and work on eliminating or improving, and are what can lead us to the promised land.

So what exactly would guarantee one to live an unhappy life?

Off the top of my head, I’ve listed a handful below. 

Not having quality and deeply meaningful relationships.

Focusing on what other people say, do and think, feeling envious often and constantly comparing yourself to them.

Not putting time and effort into improving yourself both mentally and physically.

Not appreciating everything that you have and realizing how quickly it can all be taken away.

Not pursuing your passions/interests that will bring you fulfillment.

Always looking for more and never being content with what you already have.

Not giving yourself enough love and care, or being humble and proud of yourself for your life.

When we focus on the inversion method we view things from a new perspective, one that can enable us to see the truth and start taking actionable steps towards ensuring that we gain an unwavering and deep sense of joy before life passes us by. 

It’s by finding ways to prevent ourselves from living an unhappy existence that results in a life we can be happy, satisfied and proud of living.

“What a man is contributes much more to his happiness than what he has.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

How do you define Success?

Success is a powerful word that is open for interpretation. Many of us put it on a pedestal and only think of financial prosperity when we consider the word, or being recognized by the masses for an accomplishment.

When was the last time you asked yourself what success means to you?

Have you attained your definition of success? 

If you’re struggling to put into words what success is to you, then you simply don’t have a clear philosophy on it. 

Without a coherent understanding, you increase your chances of simply drifting through life without ever bathing in the emotions of feeling accomplished. 

Imagine a ship sailing the sea to a vague destination. Without the specific coordinates being put into the GPS, how can it expect to ever arrive at its end point? 

It can’t. It will end up going the wrong way or even worse, sailing directly into disaster. 

What’s great about this situation is that you can take time to reflect and not only decide what success means to you, but come to the realization of just how unrealistic and distorted your current version of the word is while also putting yourself on the path of achieving it. 

My definition of success can be summed up as having a philosophy of life and principles that are adhered to while always striving to further develop and improve my character so that I can embody the highest version of myself and make a positive impact on those around me. 

You’ve heard it many times before, but success is NOT a destination. 

You don’t become successful after one big event. 

A person can accumulate an extraordinary sum of money yet still not feel fulfilled, and as the great Tony Robbins says, “success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.” 

Success is rather a lifestyle, a purposeful way of living. 

If you can live your life in alignment with your deepest convictions and focus on constantly bettering yourself (and those around you) while relishing in the emotions you want to feel throughout the process, you are a living success. 

At least in my eyes you are 🙂

So ask yourself the important questions. 

Gain clarity on and define what success really means to you so that you can acquire a lifetime of it throughout your journey here on earth. 

“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” – Anne Sweeney

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Book Highlights

Achieve Limitless Success, Happiness and Gratitude

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Book 2

If you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think. 

Making sure that the power within stays safe and free from assault, superior to pleasure and pain. Making sure that it accepts what happens and what it is dealt as coming from the same place it came from. And above all, that it accepts death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed.

Book 3

Getting the most out of ourselves, calculating where our duty lies, analyzing what we hear and see, deciding whether it’s time to call it quits – all the things you need a healthy mind for, all those are gone. So we need to hurry. Not just because we move daily closer to death but also because our understanding – our grasp of the world – may be gone before we get there.

Trusting that all is for the best. For we carry our fate with us – and it carries us.

If it’s time for you to go, leave willingly – as you would to accomplish anything that can be done with grace and honor. And concentrate on this, your whole life long: for your mind to be in the right state – the state a rational, civi mind should be in.

Your ability to control your thoughts – treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions.

Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see. The span we live is small – small as the corner of the earth in which we live it. 

Nothing is so conducive to spiritual growth as this capacity for logical and accurate analysis of everything that happens to us.

Keep the spirit inside you undamaged, as if you might have to give it back at any moment – if you can embrace this without fear or expectation – you can find fulfillment in what you’re doing now – then your life will be happy. No one can prevent that.

In everything you do, even the smallest thing, remember the chain that links them.

What is unique to the good man? To welcome with affection what is sent by fate. Not to stain or disturb the spirit within him with a mess of false beliefs. Instead, to preserve it faithfully, by calmly obeying God – saying nothing untrue, doing nothing unjust. And if the others don’t acknowledge it – this life lived with simplicity, humility, cheerfulness – he doesn’t resent them for it, and isn’t deterred from following the road where it leads to the end of life. An end to be approached in purity, in serenity, in acceptance, in peaceful unity with what must be.

Book 4

Nowhere you can go is more peaceful – more free of interruptions – than your own soul.

That doing what’s right sometimes requires patience. 

That things have no hold on the soul. They stand there unmoving, outside it. Disturbance comes only from within – from our own perspectives.

That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. Think of how many changes you’ve already seen.

“The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.”

Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.

It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you – inside or out.

Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able – be good.

The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.

Not to be driven this way and that, but always to behave with justice and see things as they are.

If you seek tranquility, do less. Or do what’s essential. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?” But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.

Don’t be disturbed. Uncomplicate yourself. Somehow has done wrong…to himself. Something happens to you, good. It was meant for you by nature, woven into the pattern from the beginning.

Life is short. That’s all there is to say. Get what you can from the present – thoughtfully, justly.

Blind – one who keeps the eyes of his mind shut tight.

A key point to bear in mind: The value of attentiveness varies in proportion to its object. You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.

What should we work for? Only this: proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech. A resolve to accept whatever happens as necessary and familiar, flowing like water from that same source and spring.

The truth: that wisdom is justice.

Look into their minds, at what the wise do and what they don’t.

Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you. Then where is harm to be found? In your capacity to see it. It needs to realize that what happens to everyone – bad and good alike – is neither good nor bad. That what happens in every life – live naturally or not – is neither natural nor unnatural. 

Time is a river, a violent current of events, glimpsed once and already carried past us, and another follows and is gone. 

To pass through this brief life as nature demands. To give it up without complaints. Like an olive that ripens and falls. Praising its mother, thanking the tree it grew on.

It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it – not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all, to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.

Book 5

What happens to each of us is ordered. It furthers our destiny.

The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts. 

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone – those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us – a chasm whose depths we cannot see. So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignations, either. As if the things that irritate us lasted. 

The mind is the ruler of the soul. It should remain unstirred by agitations of the flesh – gentle and violent ones alike. Not mingling with them, but fencing itself off and keeping those feelings in their place. When they make their way into your thoughts, through the sympathetic link between mind and body, don’t try to resist the sensation. The sensation is natural. But don’t let the mind start in with judgements, calling it “good” or “bad”. 

Honor and revere the gods, treat human beings as they deserve, be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood – and nothing else is under your control.

You can lead an untroubled life provided you can grow, can think and act systematically. Two characteristics shared by gods and men (and every rational creature): i. Not to let others hold you back. ii. To locate goodness in thinking and doing the right thing, and to limit your desires to that. 

True good fortune is what you make for yourself. Good fortune: good character, good intentions, and good actions. 

Book 6

Look inward. Don’t let the true nature or value of anything elude you. 

The best revenge is not to be like that.

The mind is that which is roused and directed by itself. It makes of itself what it chooses. It makes what it chooses of its own experience. 

When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep on going back to it. 

Perceptions like that – latching onto things and piercing through them, so we see what they really are. That’s what we need to do all the time. Pride is a master of deception.

Respect your own mind – to prize it – will leave you satisfied with your own self.

Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.

If anyone can refute me – show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective – I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.

Death. The end of sense-perception, of being controlled by our emotions, of mental activity, of enslavement to our bodies. 

The only rewards of our existence here are an unstained character and unselfish acts. 

Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one.

The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patience with those who don’t.

When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them. It’s good to keep this in mind.

Why should it bother you that you have only x or y years to live and not more? You accept the limits placed on your body. Accept those placed on your time. 

You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves. 

Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.

All those people who came into the world with me and have already left it.

Book 7

I can control my thoughts as necessary; What is outside my mind means nothing to it.

Our own worth is measured by what we devote our energy to

Focus on what is said when you speak and on what results from each action. Know what the one aims at, and what the other means. 

So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone.

Forget the future. When and if it comes, you’ll have the same resources to draw on – the same logos.

Everything is interwoven, and the web is holy; none of its parts are unconnected. They are composed harmoniously, and together they compose the world. One world, made up of all things. One divinity, present in them all. One substance and one law – the logos that all rational beings share. And one truth. 

Let it happen, if it wants, to whatever it can happen to. And what’s affected can complain about it if it wants. It doesn’t hurt me unless I interpret its happening as harmful to me. I can choose not to.

To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it, if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, that they haven’t really hurt you. They haven’t diminished your ability to choose.

When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?

Treat what you don’t have as nonexistent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them. But be careful. Don’t feel such satisfaction that you start to overvalue them – that it would upset you to lose them. 

Everywhere, at each moment, you have the option: to accept this event with humility, to treat this person as he should be treated, to approach this thought with care, so that nothing irrational creeps in. 

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.

Neither unbearable nor unending, as long as you keep in mind its limits and don’t magnify them in your imagination. 

You don’t need much to live happily.

To live life in peace, immune to all compulsion.

Book 8

Not feeling anger at stupid and unpleasant people – even for caring about them.

What is this, fundamentally? What is its nature and substance, its reason for being? What is it doing in the world? How long is it here for?

Apply them constantly, to everything that happens: Physics. Ethics. Logic.

This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.

To accept it without arrogance, to let it go with indifference. 

A rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.

Stop perceiving the pain you imagine and you’ll remain completely unaffected.

Give yourself a gift: the present moment.

Nothing that can happen is unusual or unnatural, and there’s no sense in complaining. Nature does not make us endure the unendurable.

External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now. If the problem is something in your own character, who’s stopping you from setting your mind straight? And if it’s that you’re not doing something you think you should be, why not just do it?

Remember that when it withdraws into itself and finds contentment there, the mind is invulnerable. No place is more secure. Once we take refuge there we are safe forever. Not to see this is ignorance. To see it and not seek safety means misery.

What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.

Book 9

Things wait outside us, hover at the door. They keep to themselves. Ask them who they are and they don’t know, they can give no account of themselves. What accounts for them? The mind does. 

Enter their minds, and you’ll find the judges you’re so afraid of – and how judiciously they judge themselves.

How the mind can participate in the sensations of the body and yet maintain its serenity, and focus on its own well-being. 

None of the people you’re upset about has done anything that could do damage to your mind. Isn’t it yourself you should reproach – for not anticipating that they’d act this way? 

By doing them a favor and expecting something in return, instead of looking to the action itself for your reward. 

Book 10

Be satisfied with what you have, and accept the present – all of it.

You can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so.

If they’ve made a mistake, correct them gently and show them where they went wrong. If you can’t do that, then the blame lies with you. Or no one.

To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be done.

Continual awareness of all time and space, of the size and lifespan of the things around us.

Everything was born to die.

Each of us needs what nature gives us, when nature gives it.

When faced with people’s bad behavior, turn around and ask when you have acted like that. Your anger will subside as soon as you recognize that they acted under compulsion. 

If you’ve immersed yourself in the principles of truth, the briefest, most random reminder is enough to dispel all fear and pain. None of us have much time. And yet you act as if things were eternal – the way you fear and long for them.

Learn to ask of all actions, “Why are they doing that?” Starting with your own.

Book 11

It’s the pursuit of these things, and your attempts to avoid them, that leave you in such turmoil. And yet they aren’t seeking you out; you are the one seeking them. Suspend judgement about them. And at once they will lie still, and you will be freed from fleeing and pursuing. 

To live a good life: We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference. And why is it so hard when things go against you? If it’s imposed by nature, accept it gladly and stop fighting it. And if not, work out what your own nature requires, and aim at that, even if it brings you no glory.

iv. That you’ve made enough mistakes yourself. You’re just like them.

v. You have to know an awful lot before you can judge other people’s actions with real understanding. 

vi. When you lose your temper, or even feel irritated: that human life is very short. Before long all of us will be laid out side by side. 

vii. That it’s not what they do that bothers us: that’s a problem for their minds, not ours. It’s our own misperceptions. Discard them. Be willing to give up thinking of this as a catastrophe…and your anger is gone. How do you do that? By recognizing that you’ve suffered no disgrace. 

viii. How much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them. 

“If you don’t have a consistent goal in life, you can’t live it in a consistent way.” 

This advice from Epicurean writings: to think continually of one of the men of old who lived a virtuous life.

Grapes. Unripe, ripened, then raisins. Constant transitions. Not the “not” but the “not yet.”

“We need to master the art of acquiescence. We need to pay attention to our impulses, making sure they don’t go unmoderated, that they benefit others, that they’re worthy of us. We need to steer clear of desire in any form and not try to avoid what’s beyond our control.”

Socrates: What do you want, rational minds or irrational ones? -Rational ones. Healthy or sick? -Healthy. Then work to obtain them. -We already have. Then why all this squabbling?

Book 12

If you can cut free of impressions that cling to the mind, free of the future and the past, and concentrate on living what can be lived, then you can spend the time you have left in tranquility. And in kindness. And at peace with the spirit within you. 

We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.

To see things as they are. Substance, cause and purpose.

At all times, look at the thing itself – the thing behind the appearance – and unpack it by analysis: cause, substance, purpose, and the length of time it exists.

It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you.

That before long you’ll be no one, and nowhere. Like all the things you see now. All the people now living.

It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will. Serenity, total calm, safe anchorage. 

What links one human being to all humans: not blood, or birth, but mind. That an individual’s mind is God and of God. That it’s all how you choose to see things. That the present is all we have to live in. Or to lose.

And how trivial the things we want so passionately are. And how much more philosophical it would be to take what we’re given and show uprightness, self-control, obedience to God, without making a production of it. There’s nothing more insufferable than people who boast about their own humility.

The fraction of infinity, of that vast abyss of time, allotted to each of us. Absorbed in an instant into eternity. Keep all that in mind, and don’t treat anything as important except doing what your nature demands, and accepting what Nature sends you. 

How the mind conducts itself. It all depends on that. All the rest is within its power, or beyond its control. 

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How learning to want what you already have can transform your life

When you learn to want what you already have instead of focusing on attaining the things you don’t have, a sense of permanent satisfaction for your life can be obtained.

When this invaluable life skill is added to one’s arsenal, the true value of what we do have in life is clearly acknowledged, and it makes us realize with full awareness that they aren’t ours forever and can be taken away in an instant.

This knowledge enriches all of life’s experiences and the feelings that derive from recognizing each enriched experience is what we call being fulfilled. 

Ultimately, we all innately strive to live fulfilling lives. 

This leads us to the question: 

How exactly do we go about learning to want what we already have while not focusing on what we don’t have, so that we can achieve a sense of fulfillment?

Gratitude is the answer. 

By planting seeds of reminders to repeatedly focus your attention on what in your life you’re thankful for, a habit can form. 

This habit then begins to work in the background of your life, (through a network of neurons located in the brainstem called the Reticular Activating System, which filters out unnecessary information so that it can focus on bringing in more important information) unconsciously searching for references of what else can be brought into your conscious awareness to start appreciating more. 

Every time a brief conscious recognition of gratitude occurs for even the smallest thing, positive feelings are expressed from within, bringing you joy and happiness in that present moment. 

These emotions stay with you long after you knowingly realize and with consistency, they start to impact the wiring of your brain. 

This process, known as neuroplasticity, reprograms neural connections inside your brain, which in return leads to directly influencing your thoughts as well as your perceptions and how you understand things and give meaning to them.  

Through repetition over time, your subconscious will feed you new things to appreciate and different ways to be thankful for what you have, leading to a literal transformation in your brain and as a result, in your life. 

Makes you want to start practicing gratitude a bit more in your life, huh? 

Spending copious amounts of time mindlessly comparing ourselves to others and thinking about what they have that we don’t is a suckers game that provides us with no value and only brings rise to negative emotions. 

It’s when we focus our attention and thoughts toward the abundance of what we do have in this world that we begin to appreciate what’s most precious and priceless to us in the present moment. 

The garden of the soul lives in the now, where beautifully vibrant flowers of joy, peace and satisfaction are constantly springing about and flourishing. 

A sense of perpetual fulfillment in each moment is yours for the taking. 

Capture it through the practice of gratitude. 

Treat what you don’t have as non-existent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them.” – Marcus Aurelius

The Philosophy of Life Blueprint

We all innately seek out to feel certain emotions. 

Joy, gratitude, success, peace, contentment, humility, fulfillment, a sense of meaning and purpose, contribution, etc.

But how come so few of us actually succeed in attaining these feelings consistently over the long term? 

How come instead of bathing in them on a daily basis, we live our lives chasing after them and typically come up partially or completely empty handed?

It’s my belief that the reason we lack the ability to feel these emotions on command is for the simple fact that we were never taught how to do so. 

And because we never learned this skill, the majority of us mindlessly wander through life struggling to truly feel alive.

Despite age or circumstance you can acquire the competency necessary to taking more control of your life and mastering the emotions you want to feel each day.

A Philosophy of Life 

It all starts here. 

The foundation which your life is built upon. 

The detailed roadmap that paves the path for you so that you can succeed at life.

One of the main reasons we typically feel a nagging sense of discontentment is for the fact that we are deep into the game of life without having ever learned the rules to winning. 

A philosophy of life holds the key and provides you with the necessary guidelines to follow. 

So what is a philosophy of life?

It could be a religion or an actual philosophy that has different modes of thinking that if followed enables one to have certain perspectives, as well as more clarity on what is important in life. 

For example sake, and because I have a philosophy of life that I practice, we will go with the Stoicism philosophy.

Below are some of Stoicisms most important perspectives/lessons:

-Life is impermanent, which means that we can lose anything and everything in our lives at any moment. Because of this, we must cultivate gratitude and appreciation for the present moment at all times since the “now” is all we truly have.

-There are a lot more things that we cannot control in life than there are things that we can control. Instead of spending most of our time focusing on what’s out of our control, which typically leads to the arising of negative emotions, we should work on what is in our power, such as our character. 

-Focus on what you do have (your body/health, food/shelter, family/friends, etc) and not what you lack (material possessions, status, etc). 

-Take time to think about what can (and in some cases will) go wrong in life and use it to increase your capacity to appreciate, as well as better prepare yourself for when it does happen. 

The above are a few of the Stoic guiding principles that are of the utmost importance to me and absolute top priorities that I fully believe in and practice each and every day. 

You must find your philosophy of life that speaks to your soul. 

But finding it is just one thing. 

Actually implementing its principles into your life is another story. 

So how does one become more grateful.

How does one strengthen their character and become successful in life?

This is achieved through mindfulness

Mindfulness is the answer 

By practicing meditation, you can start to “awaken” to the incredible and unique human ability to closely monitor and observe your mind. 

Instead of being fully engulfed and identified through every single thought, you can take a step back in your mind and simply notice them arise and fall.

This strategy leads to becoming much more aware of your daily thoughts, emotions, impulses, opinions and beliefs. 

The benefit of this is that it allows you to not just recognize, but also slowly begin to take conscious control of the dominating forces that are incessantly churning in your head. 

With enough practice, you can stop being a servant to your mind and actually take over the reins as the master of your mind. 

Attaining this superpower helps you steer those forces into alignment with your principles. 

Asking yourself the important question

So instead of asking yourself the conventional question, “what do you want to achieve in life”?, instead ask yourself “who do you want to become”? 

What principles from your philosophy of life do you want to embody? 

Daily seeds of reminders 

With increased awareness through meditation, you’ve become more conscious of what is going on in your mind. 

Now it’s possible to begin chipping away at the old and outdated habits and beliefs, the negative thoughts and judgements and emotions that arise, etc. 

You essentially can start to optimize your mind into focusing on, thinking and feeling the way you want it to (according to your principles). 

This is done by planting tiny seeds of reminders throughout your daily routine. 

In doing so, your ideal identity begins to take sprout. 

There are a multitude of ways to remind yourself to do these rituals, so it really comes down to preference and whichever is most effective for you. 

A few examples include:

-habit stacking – adding them to a habit that you already do each day, such as when you brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, take a sip of coffee, etc, 

-adding them to your phone’s calendar for a certain time of the day so that your phone notifies you of when to do it, 

-using a habit app that sends you a push notification to remind you to perform it

For increasing gratitude

Because gratitude is a major part of the philosophy of Stoicism, I’ve made it a priority of mine to practice ways to become more grateful for my life. This focus of attention has literally rewired my brain, enabling it to consciously pick up on new things to be grateful for throughout my day to day of living that I never would’ve recognized prior. With enough consistency and time, you can train your brain to do the same! 

The most important thing you can do is begin a Gratitude Journal. Each morning I think of three new things that I’m grateful for, ponder over them, as well as write them down in my journal. 

Below are a handful of other smaller seeds that I ensure to sprinkle throughout my days. Some are quotes or tiny reminders that I simply take the time to bring into my center of attention and experience in the present:

-“Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life.”

-“You can die at any moment, let that determine what you do, say and think.”

-Take brief moments to sit back in the mind and pay attention to my thoughts

-Look at life from someone else’s perspective.

-Don’t judge anyone or anything today

-Remember yourself: Try to simply remember yourself as often as possible, so that you can become aware of the present moment, your thoughts, the way you feel, etc. (We can not control when we are conscious but we can wire our minds/thoughts to focus on and bring about consciousness by directing it to what they’d experience during being conscious. Be more aware of yourself.”)

-What are the qualities in those you love/care about that you admire most about them?

-External considering: put yourself in another person’s shoes so that you can see yourself from another’s objective perspective.

-Prospective retrospection: thinking about this moment right now from the perspective of your future/older self, reminding yourself that right now you are living a life that your future self will miss and wish they can re-experience and live back in. 

-Negative visualization: thinking about losing the things that are most important to you in your life, experiencing them in vivid detail, and then realizing how much you appreciate them in your life right now. 

Others I try to remind myself of when I am in the midst of experiencing a certain trigger of emotion or impulse:

-“Coping calmly with this inconvenience is the price I pay for my inner serenity, for freedom from perturbation; you don’t get something for nothing.”

-Recognize incoming impulses, label them, try to not let their emotions take over, try to understand why they exist, and in that moment use your clear headed reasoning to make the decision not to allow them to disrupt your tranquility. 

-What would Marcus Aurelius think or do?

-What would someone who has much more humility than me think? 

-What’s great about this situation?

-How can I use this situation to my advantage in the future? 

For becoming successful in life and the person you want to be

Because character building is a major pillar of Stoicism, being a virtuous person that lives with integrity is an ongoing life goal of mine.  

By asking yourself questions like the few below, you can begin to paint a clear picture of who you genuinely want to be and provide yourself with a blueprint to follow.

-How does the person you want to be live on a daily basis? 

-What kind of emotions do you want to feel each day?

-What states of mind do you want to experience and how do you know if/when you’re experiencing them?

To wrap things up

As you go through the process of determining your philosophy of life and the principles that are most important to you, as well as begin to meditate and plant the daily seeds of reminders into your mind, your capacity to experience all of the emotions and states of mind that you want to feel will naturally expand. 

Prior, your mind would have been filled with static, having no real awareness or control over your life and living off of your conditioned impulses and habits. But now, similar to an antenna seeking to pick up a clear signal, having achieved mastery of your mind, you’ll be perfectly tuned into this new frequency and opportunities in your life will be bountiful. 

At this stage in the game of life, what more could we possibly want? 

It’s possible that the sense of fulfillment and contentment we feel within by living according to our philosophy of life’s principles are what we all truly seek in our lives that no other accomplishment can ever come close to matching.

The only way to find out for certain is to give it a try and find out for yourself. 

Your principles have life in them. For how can they perish, unless the ideas that correspond to them are extinguished? And it is up to you to be constantly fanning them into new flame.” – Marcus Aurelius

The Magic Power of your Imagination

Our unique human ability to have an imagination is something that most of us certainly take for granted.

If you take a moment to think about it, there is definitely some magic involved in the concept of utilizing your imagination.

To start off we can gain external inspiration, whether from another person or a group of people or possibly from a situation that unfolds in front of us. 

For example, we can see the way an influential person goes about living their life. Take for example Tony Robbins who inspires millions of people to better themselves and take control of their lives, while also living himself in a manner that aligns with what he preaches. 

From there a seed of thought or an idea can be planted within our mind. 

To continue with the example, Tony Robbins’ impact can inspire us to want to better ourselves, and even more specifically, live in a way that allows us to find happiness and appreciation for our life. 

We can then harness the power of our imagination to envision in the eye of our mind what that concept would look like in tangible form.

This could include visualizing the habits we’d need to instill into our life, the steps we’d need to take in order to implement them and imagining how that new and improved person would go about living their life and how it would feel having attained the goal. 

It’s been said that imagination is the key to motivation. 

Since our brains don’t know the difference between a real experience and a vividly imagined one, we can create the reality we seek through visualization paired with tremendous emotional intensity.

By taking the time to visualize and imagine, we can build up the courage, discipline and positive stimulation to work towards taking care of and growing that seed. 

Through consistent and continuous repetition over time, we can literally create what we imagined into physical form within our reality.

Magic is defined as “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces”, and the above scenario definitely describes that to a T! 

Typically we stop using our imagination as often as we age, piling on the excuses that we don’t have the time, that we are fearful of what others would think or that we have too many other responsibilities to do so or to even entertain our imagined ideas. 

This is a sad fact in today’s society, but it doesn’t have to remain this way. 

We have the rare potential to literally envision ideas and concepts in our mind, blend them into the cocktail of our own individual references, experience, perspectives and beliefs in life, and then magically create them into our world. 

Don’t undervalue yourself and your potential. 

Don’t let your imagination muscle atrophy. 

Harness the wizardry powers of being able to imagine and take maximum advantage of it. 

“Anything real begins with the fiction of what could be. Imagination is therefore the most potent force in the universe.” – Kevin Kelly

Existence over Consumption

With worldwide news being instantly available to us on a 24/7 loop, and the vast majority of that information being bad news, it’s no wonder that a negative attitude towards many aspects of life has become a common and pervasive outlook in this modern age. 

Most of us consume and consume and consume, from the moment we wake up until the final minutes before we go to bed. 

Have you ever stopped for a second to think if there’s a better way to live? 

Wouldn’t you agree that a life with a little less consumption would do our minds and souls a lot of good? 

Imagine a life where we take a mental break from technology, even for just 30 minutes to an hour at first and expand from there, where we simply just exist and learn to recover from the unhealthy habit and addiction of needing to constantly grab our phones to check social media or the news every few minutes. 

Why not try to pursue a healthier daily routine that is filled with extended periods of complete disconnection from the rest of the world, where you spend time intentionally existing in the present moment, self reflecting and discovering who you are, just to see how it makes you feel? 

We call ourselves human beings, yet ever since smartphones and social media and push notifications came into our lives we rarely have even a split second of time to just “be”. 

We are all attracted to the idea of having peace of mind, feeling more calm and composed (especially during stressful situations) and living in periodic states of joy and contentment, yet our actions typically push us further away from attaining them. 

The solution isn’t complex. 

Stop overdosing on consumption. 

Take charge of your mind and your actions. 

Make the time each day to do what nature has prescribed for us all. 

Just exist. 

With consistency, the results will forever change your life for the better. 

“Disconnect with the world. Reconnect with yourself.”