Tag Archives: Exercises

Stoic Serenity 5.9: Thought Experiment 1

Cicero, Cicero, CICERO! (sing to the tune of “The Barber of Seville,” anyone?)

After learning about the Stoic principles for living in society, today we get to test ourselves in a thought experiment!

The Roman philosopher, politician, and wearer of many more hats, Marcus Tullius Cicero, (106-43 BC; placing him somewhere on the timeline between founder Zeno of Citium and good ol’ Seneca; read about Cicero here), wrote a book called On DutiesIn it, Cicero pointed out that sometimes cases arise in which humans weigh convenience against honor. Thus here is his thought experiment: Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 5.8: Philosophy’s Noble Purpose

Finally, a breath of fresh, living air! Seneca’s Letter 48 today, “On Quibbling as Unworthy of the Philosopher,” resonates beautifully. The first three paragraphs were a bit of a roller coaster, but hang in there. It’s worth it: Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 5.7: Fair-weather Friends

Just a notice: Now’s your last chance to enroll in the Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training, a month-long course offered by the Stoicism Today team. It’s a chance to have some guided, in-depth practice of specific Stoic techniques for dealing with everyday trials. The course starts on Sunday, May 17! So sign up now if you’re interested: http://modernstoicism.com

Today’s lesson is Seneca’s Letter 9, “On Philosophy and Friendship” Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 5.6: True & False Friendship

Today we’re heading back to good ol’ Seneca. Over the next couple of posts, we’ll be exploring what Seneca had to say regarding friendship. We begin with Letter 3, “On True and False Friendship.”

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Stoic Serenity 5.3.2: Love Your Neighbor / Stoic Forgiveness Exercise

If you didn’t read the previous post (short) about why we should love those who wrong us, you absolutely must.

If you want to read the Christian application, then you need to start with the
previous post, then read through this one.

If you don't want to read the Christian application, then you need to start with
the previous post and then skip down to the section in this post titled

Today’s lesson in Stoic Serenity about accepting others who wrong us struck something in me. I was cooking lunch and thinking how Marcus gave such a simple but compelling reason about why we should love those who wrong us: because they simply don’t know any betterGoodness, if I think of it this way, then it really seems much easier to let go of the troubles caused by even my “worst enemies.” Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 4.5: “Woe is Me” Exercise

Over the course of chapter 4 of Stoic Serenity, we’ve examined the Stoic concepts of matter, God, and Fate. An (extremely) quick review:

matter – that which comprises the Universe. The Stoics were monists, believing that only one type of matter existed in the Universe. (God, Fate, myself, are all part of this matter that pervades the Universe).

God – the single matter, intelligence, reason that pervades the entire Universe. Individual people’s minds are simply “fragments of God.” Evident in everything from reason to nature itself.

Fate – one in the same with God, and therefore, with matter. Everything in the Universe is bound up and interrelated. Seen as a complex web that has been in the process of being spun since eternity, resulting in the current moment of who I am and what my life is like. “Prescribed” for me individually by the Universe.

Runaway Slaves

These are pretty abstract ideas, but hopefully you’ve gotten a grasp of what the ancient Stoics believed in. Before we finish chapter 4, we have a couple of exercises to complete regarding the nature of the Universe. Today we read Letter 107 from Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic. In it, Lucilius’ slaves have apparently run away, and Lucilius is throwing himself a big pity party. Seneca writes him some words of advice, hopefully to knock some sense back into him. Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 4.2: God in Nature

If you are persisting in your efforts to understand, even as you are writing me, then you are doing an excellent thing for yourself. You must persist with effort, however. It is foolish to pray for this when you can acquire it from yourself. There’s no need to lift our hands toward the sky, or to beg the temple priest to let us approach the idol’s ear. As if doing these things will make our prayers more likely to be heard! God is near you, he is with you, he is within you. This is what I mean, Lucilius: a divine spirit lives within us. It marks our good and bad deeds; it is our guardian. This spirit treats us in the same manner that we treat it. Indeed, no person can be good without the help of God. Can anyone rise above Fortune unless God helps him to rise? It is God who gives noble and honorable advice. In each good person

5827299179_1785a8e014_o          “a god dwells, but what kind of god, we do not know.”

Have you ever come across a forest of ancient trees, grown to unusual height, shutting out the view of the sky by a veil of intertwining branches? The loftiness of the forest, the seclusion of the place, and your marvel at the thick unbroken shade will prove to you that there must be a god. Or have you come across a cave, built by crumbling rocks, holding up a mountain? Such a place was not built by human hands, but it was hollowed out by natural causes. Such a manifestation of the existence of God would deeply move your soul to believe. We worship the sources of mighty rivers; we build altars where great streams burst from hidden sources; we adore hot springs as divine, and we consecrate certain pools because of their unusually dark waters or their immeasurable depth. If you see a person who is fearless and remains calm in the face of danger, who is untouched by desire, who is happy in adversity and peaceful during the storm, who looks down upon people from a higher plane and views the gods on a footing of equality, will you not succumb to a feeling of reverence for this person? Will you not say, “This quality is too great and too lofty to be considered as resembling the petty body in which it dwells. A divine power has descended upon this person.” When a soul rises above other souls, when it is under control, when it endures every experience as if it were a small ordeal, when it smiles at our fears and at our prayers, it must be stirred by a force from heaven. Something like this cannot exist unless it is the work of the divine. Therefore, an even greater part of it abides in the place from where it came down to earth. Just as the sun’s rays do indeed touch the earth but still abide at the source from which they are sent, so does the great and hallowed soul cling to its origin, although it does indeed associate with us and has come down in order that we might have a better knowledge of divinity. For that great and hallowed soul depends on its source. It keeps its gaze on the source, and it is there that it strives to go. It concerns itself with our doings only as being superior to ourselves.

(Seneca, Letters from a Stoic Letter 41 “On the God Within Us” [first half])

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Stoic Serenity 3.6: Mice, Tarzan, & Seneca—Debriefing of Letter 90

After tackling Seneca’s extremely-intriguing Letter 90, we use today’s post to debrief. We’ll cover:

  • A Trip to the Zoo
  • Themes from Seneca’s Letter 90
  • Is Seneca advocating socialism?
  • The Expansion of Luxury
  • Slaves Under Marble & Gold
  • Increase of technological advancement = decrease of wisdom?
  • So what’s the point?
  • Assignment!

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Stoic Serenity 3.4: Self-examination

For a rational creature, to act according to Nature and to act according to reason is one and the same.

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.11)

Consider every word and action that is in line with Reason to be the one you should take. Do not be distracted by the criticism and gossip that may result. If it is the right thing to say or do, then it is the right action for you to take. The rest of the people have their own guiding center; they follow their own impulses. Don’t waste your energy worrying about their opinions. Keep your focus directly on your course; guide yourself with your own nature and follow the Universal Nature, for the two of these share the same path.

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.3)

We’re finishing chapter 3 of Stoic Serenity (we will begin the related exercises next) and what it means to “live according to Nature.” Let’s review: Read more of this post

Stoic Serenity 2.7: The Philosopher’s Seclusion Exercise

Crowds generate within us an impulse to follow the majority. It can be difficult to protect the fruits of our efforts in such a situation.

Today is the last day of chapter 2. Finally! We’ll simply be taking a look at two of Seneca’s Letters and writing a response to them.


You can read Letter 7, “On Crowds” here. I’ve paraphrased below. Read more of this post

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