It is in thy power to live free from all compulsion in the greatest tranquillity of mind, even if all the world cry out against thee as much as they choose, and even if wild beasts tear in pieces the members of this kneaded matter which has grown around thee. For what hinders the mind in the midst of all this from maintaining itself in tranquillity and in a just judgment of all surrounding things and in a ready use of the objects which are presented to it, so that the judgment may say to the thing which falls under its observation: This thou art in substance [reality], though in men’s opinion thou mayest appear to be of a different kind; and the use shall say to that which falls under the hand: Thou art the thing that I was seeking; for to me that which presents itself is always a material for virtue both rational and political, and in a word, for the exercise of art, which belongs to man or God. For everything which happens has a relationship either to God or man, and is neither new nor difficult to handle, but usual and apt matter to work on. Meditations, Marcus Aurelius 7.68
Many people in life are seeking happiness. But happiness can be fleeting. It may only be temporary. We can be unhappy as much as we can be happy.
Instead of seeking happiness why not seek tranquility? Tranquility is a state of mind that lasts and can even be a constant mindset. It can also help to deal with challenges in life.
To find tranquility it is necessary to understand what affects us that causes us grief and pain. Understanding what affects us is the first step to piece of mind. Five main ones are rejection, loneliness, humiliation, injustice, and betrayal. Lets explore each of these.
Rejection. People who experience this seek to belong. To deal with this it is necessary to confront and accept what is happening and embrace the outcome.
The Coronavirus has caused millions worldwide to lose work and income. It seems unfair for this to happen with something out of the individuals control. But it must be accepted and faced in order for feelings of rejection to worsen.
Loneliness. With this people seek attention as we are social creatures. The solution for this is to become autonomous and independent. You have to discover your abilities deep inside to live with this.
Think of the lockdown and quarantine scenarios due to the Coronavirus. The ability to interact with others has been taken away. Mental heath and well-being has affected many with feelings of isolation.
Humiliation. People need freedom and independence. For many the way to deal with this is to improve self-esteem and identifying the greatness in each of us.
This can be difficult with others who have different opinions and outlooks in life. Take for example political landscape in the United States. It is polarized more than ever before and disagreements can turn into contention when conflict erupts.
Injustice. Qualities uniquely human include freedom, intuition, emotion, and being yourself. The solution to healing feelings of injustice is flexibility in respecting others and working together to fight injustice.
Racial tensions in many parts of the world have erupted in the past few weeks at the time of this writing. But thousands have come together to protest and assert these issues that have been festering for years.
Betrayal. Let’s face it everyone wants to be self-confident and free. We all face betrayal in some form or another. The solution to the betrayal is to learn to let go. Examine your perceptions in relation to any betrayal. Accept where you are, respect who you are, and learn to listen to yourself.
Know that every human being has experienced these feelings and experiences. in life. There are ways to use Stoic practice to find peace.
Step 1: Finding tranquility means a personal commitment of you with yourself. If there are constraints and obligations, it will not work. Put your ego aside and accept what is happening to you. It is completely normal and human to have negative thoughts and emotions either conscious or unconscious. Look into yourself and open up to acceptance and change.
Whenever you are obliged by circumstances to be in a way troubled, quickly return to yourself, and do not, more than you are obliged, fall out of step; for you will be more master of the measure by continually returning to it. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.11
Step 2: Take a few minutes to reflect on what is happening to you. Listen to your emotions, your feelings, and your reactions. Your thoughts will help you in this knowing what is right and good. Look at the concept of indifferents as your shield. Do not let externals affect you. It is not what happens but your perception of what happens that bring causes distress.
There is but one way to serenity (keep this thought ready for use at dawn, and by day, and at night), and that is to yield up all claim to the things that lie outside the sphere of the moral purpose, to regard nothing as your own possession; to surrender everything to the Deity, to Fortune; to yield everything to the supervision of those persons whom even Zeus has made supervisors; and to devote yourself to one thing only, that which is your own, that which is free from hindrance, and to read referring your reading to this end, and so to write and so to listen. Epictetus, Discourses 4.4.39-40
Step 3: Accept what is beyond your control. Work with what is in your control. Forgive and accept that you had experiences that brought harm and distress. To move forward and evolve, be grateful for the present Take responsibility and chose to let go of your role as a victim.
Moreover, we ought to cultivate an easy temper, and not become over fond of the lot which fate has assigned to us, but transfer ourselves to whatever other condition chance may lead us to, and fear no alteration, either in our purposes or our position in life, provided that we do not become subject to caprice, which of all vices is the most hostile to repose: for obstinacy, from which Fortune often wrings some concession, must needs be anxious and unhappy, but caprice, which can never restrain itself, must be more so. Both of these qualities, both that of altering nothing, and that of being dissatisfied with everything, are enemies to repose. The mind ought in all cases to be called away from the contemplation of external things to that of itself: let it confide in itself, rejoice in itself, admire its own works; avoid as far as may be those of others, and devote itself to itself; let it not feel losses, and put a good construction even upon misfortunes. Zeno, the chief of our school, when he heard the news of a shipwreck, in which all his property had been lost, remarked, “Fortune bids me follow philosophy in lighter marching order.” Seneca. On Tranquility Of Mind, XIV
Step 4: Chose to move away from judging your past and all the negative or traumatic situations you’ve experienced. Chose to learn from those lessons. Take actions that reflect you as a person of integrity and moral character.
Attend to the matter which is before thee, whether it is an opinion or an act or a word. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.22