You wouldn’t necessarily think that advice from almost 2000 years ago would resonate with how we live today, but here’s a quote from Seneca, a Roman philosopher
‘Here I am with a babel of noise going on all about me, I have lodgings right over a public bathhouse. Now imagine to yourself every kind of sound that can make one weary of one’s years.‘
The fact is, people are dealing with the same problems. When your attention is dispersed and distracted by your relationships and surroundings it’s hard to keep your mind clear and rational.
Keeping your mind clear and rational is achieved through stillness, which many people recognise as stoicism. The core concept is that when you learn to remove your ego from your thinking, you can gain clarity and insight.
Ryan’s book ‘Stillness is the Key’ explores the concept that your reaction to a situation has more impact in your life than the situation itself. He uses historical events, from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius to John F Kennedy reacting to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Through these anecdotes Ryan draws out a common theme: that you can train yourself to step away from your first, instinctual reaction to a situation, to bring out more positive actions, and reactions.
In essence, a stoic is able to face adversity by understanding that they can choose how to react to it. If you have to work in a noisy environment, learn to let the sounds wash over you, rather than letting each new one draw your attention away, or make you angry.
A lot of the same themes come out of a mindfulness practice, but you can achieve stillness in other ways. The easiest way is often by doing a physical activity you can do on auto-pilot, like running or swimming. Try in these states to think about your life’s problems not in how they effect you, but how you can change it, or change how you feel about it.
You can read more about Ryan’s excellent book ‘Stillness is Key’ here. Any purchase made through this link helps support the blog.
Thanks for reading!