Stoic Attitudes Script

Script for a Stoic meditation exercise, which is being recorded for the forthcoming e-learning course: Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training.

Zeno-Poster-British-Museum.jpgThis script is being recorded now, after some changes were incorporated based on feedback to the initial draft version.  Thanks to everyone who contacted me.  However, if you want to add any further suggestions for future revisions please feel free to do so.

[Feel free to post your comments or feedback below…]

Preamble

Take a moment to settle down and make yourself comfortable…  either lying down somewhere or just reclining in an armchair…  Find a position where you can be at ease and rest for a while without having to move around much…  Lie down with your legs straight and your arms by your sides, if possible, or sit with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting on your lap…  If you wear glasses, you can take them off …  Close your eyes and relax…  Allow yourself to enter a more contemplative or receptive frame of mind…

Notice the sensations in your body and any thoughts or images that pass through your mind…  Become a detached observer of these things for the time being…  If you notice any sensations in your body or hear any sounds from around the room, or outside, that’s okay…  Develop indifference toward potential distractions, rather than trying to block them from your mind…  Just acknowledge whatever enters your awareness, shrug it off, and return your attention gently to the process at hand…  If you doze off, that’s fine too… for a few minutes after awakening, just continue to imagine what it would feel like to really adopt a more profoundly Stoic attitude toward life…

By listening to this recording, you’re going to give yourself an opportunity to contemplate certain typical ideas from Stoic philosophy…  We’d like you to use it at least once per day, for a few weeks, so that you can really observe the consequences of doing so…  If these ideas are new to you, you can just begin by contemplating them patiently in a detached manner, studying their meaning…  You can always choose what to accept and what to disregard from this recording…  However, if the words you’re listening to are consistent with your own beliefs and values, you might want to try absorbing them more deeply, by mentally-rehearsing these attitudes and ways of thinking…

If you like, imagine that with every inhalation of breath, you’re absorbing Stoic values and beliefs more deeply into the core of your being… and with every exhalation you’re allowing wisdom and virtue to spread through your character and out toward the world around you, through your words and actions…  Imagine what it would be like to completely identify with the attitudes being described…  Ask yourself, what would it be like to really absorb these attitudes, take them for granted, and live in accord with them?  What sort of person would you become if you accepted Stoic ideas and made them part of your character?  What would it feel like to really think about things this way?  Keep the Stoic goal in mind: you’re listening to every word with the intention of improving your character and progressing toward wisdom and virtue…

Induction

Now let’s begin…  In a moment, I’m going to start counting from ten, all the way down to zero…  Imagine that with each number I count you’re relaxing more deeply into a comfortable posture and state of mind…  becoming more absorbed in this process and the ideas you’re now contemplating…  If you’re ready to absorb these attitudes more deeply you might want to imagine that you’re now entering a progressively more open and receptive frame of mind…  Let go of everything else for the time being… relax… and allow your attention to become totally absorbed in these words…

Now take a deep breath in… hold it… exhale slowly… relax… and let go completely…  Breathe naturally…  Now on the count of ten…  Let go and relax more deeply…  On the count of nine…  Keep letting go and relaxing…  On the count of eight…  Relaxing deeper and deeper…  On the count of seven…  More and more relaxed…  six… keep letting go…  five… half-way there…  four… relaxing deeper and deeper and deeper… three… almost completely relaxed… two… relaxing in your body and deep within your mind… one… letting go of everything else… and zero… just let go…  relax completely…  and do nothing for a while… give all of your attention to the words and ideas you’re hearing right now…  Allow yourself to relax into a positive frame of mind and to benefit from what you’re doing…

Attitudes

Now listen carefully to these words and try to imagine what it would be like to really hold some of these Stoic attitudes very deeply indeed…

Some things are under your direct control and other things are not…  You’re mindful of this distinction throughout the day, especially when faced with challenging situations…  Your priority is to do what’s up to you to the best of your ability, with wisdom, integrity, and strength of mind.  You calmly and rationally accept that external events sometimes do not turn out as you may have wished, and that some things are not under your control in life…  The most important thing in life is the quality of your own actions, that they should be wise and good, healthy and praiseworthy in your own eyes…  everything else is of secondary importance…

Peace of mind comes from abandoning fears and desires about things outside your control…  It’s not things that upset us but our judgements about things, especially irrational value-judgements… or placing too much importance on external things beyond our direct control… You can rationally prefer that things go one way or another, without demanding that they do so, and becoming upset if they do not…  You’re prepared to face either success or failure, in external events, with equal calm and serenity…  Difficult or challenging situations don’t have to make you distressed.  You remind yourself of this daily, especially when faced with challenging situations: It’s not things that upset us, but our judgement about things…  Dwelling on unhealthy feelings such as excessive anger increasingly seems pointless and unnecessary to you.  You can take a stand against things and assert yourself without becoming upset…

You love the truth…  You love wisdom, truth and understanding… and you seek to grasp your own nature and that of the world around you…  Virtue, or strength of character, is grounded in practical wisdom, and knowledge of what’s genuinely good, bad, or indifferent, in life.  Your true values are becoming clearer to you, and your actions more consistent with them…  You love virtue, excellence, and strength of character…  You admire wisdom, justice, courage and self-mastery in others… and seek, day by day, to cultivate these virtues in your own life…  You love to contemplate heroic, admirable and praiseworthy individuals…  Historical figures, fictional characters, and people you’ve encountered in your own life…  You pinpoint their good qualities, study them, and seek to emulate their virtues appropriately in your character and actions…

You view strength of character as both healthy and praiseworthy, and as the basis of true fulfilment in life…  A good person can have a good life even when facing difficult circumstances.  It’s your attitude toward life that determines whether it is good or bad, whether you flourish or not as a human being.  Other people’s opinions are far less important to you than your own sense of what’s wise or foolish, right or wrong…  Health, wealth, and reputation may sometimes be preferable in life but they’re not necessary to excel and flourish as a human being – all you truly need is virtue and strength of character.

You dare to be wise…  You dedicate each moment of the day to improving yourself, to living wisely and in accord with your own true values and the virtues you hold most dear.  You don’t allow negative feelings to hold you back but you act in accord with wisdom and your underlying values, even if it takes you outside of your comfort zone, and requires patience, courage, endurance, and self-discipline…  You take pride in your ability to face adversity calmly and rationally…

You love what’s best in yourself and others…  You feel a growing sense of affinity for your own true nature, as a rational and social being, and your place within the world…  You feel a natural affection toward the rest of mankind, and a sense of being at one with the universe as a whole…  You never lose sight of your own and other people’s capacity for wisdom and virtue…

Behaviours

You live centred in the present moment…  You’re constantly aware of the transience of material things, including human life itself.  You’re conscious of your own mortality… and make the most of each day that’s given to you, as if it were a sacred gift…  The past is gone and the future is unknown.  You focus your attention where it belongs in the “here and now” and on the quality of your voluntary thoughts and actions, as they shape your life.

You’re mindful of your thoughts, actions, and feelings…  You pay attention to your character, the type of person you’ve become, in any given situation…  When you notice the early-warning signs of distress, you respond by telling yourself that your initial thoughts and feelings are merely impressions in the mind, and not the things they claim to represent.  You take a step back from troubling thoughts and feelings…  You view them calmly and rationally, from a distance, almost as if they were the thoughts of another person.  You consider where they’re leading you and whether or not they’re  contributing to genuine happiness and fulfilment in life.  Do they serve your fundamental values?  How would someone who truly lives with wisdom respond to the same situation?  Do your initial impressions upset you by placing too much importance on external events?

You enjoy contemplating what the ideal Stoic or wise person would say or do in the face of different challenging situations.  You train your mind in emotional resilience, by facing the full range of human catastrophes in your imagination while your practice rising above them and viewing them serenely, with detached indifference.  You patiently wait for your feelings to settle down, allowing you to reflect on things calmly and rationally and to consider how best to respond in accord with your values.

You measure everything against your true goal in life…  You’re always watchful as to whether your thoughts and actions accord with your deeper values and the character strengths or virtues you wish to develop…  You’re gaining enough serenity to accept the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can, and wisdom to know the difference between them.  You flourish by living wisely and in harmony with nature…  the nature of the universe as a whole… meeting with equanimity the events that befall you and the people that you encounter in daily life… and cultivating your own true nature as a rational and social being by making progress every day toward wisdom and strength of character…

Emerging

Now, just allow those thoughts to sink in for a moment longer, and continue to imagine what it would mean to live in accord with Stoic attitudes and behaviours… imagine becoming more and more Stoic every day and making progress toward genuine wisdom and strength of character…

In a moment, I’m going to begin counting from one up to five…  As I do so, allow your attention to expand throughout your body and out into the room around you, and the wider world, as you prepare to conclude the exercise…  You’re getting ready to take some of those ideas into the real world, and your daily life…  Taking them forward in your character and actions, and the way you deal with people you meet and whatever events may befall you…

Beginning now, on the count of one…  Expanding your awareness through your whole body, into your fingers and toes…  two…  beginning to breathe a little bit more deeply… three… getting ready to move and interact with the world around you… four…  starting to blink and open your eyes… five… opening your eyes in your own time… take a deep breath and begin to move your arms and legs… rub your eyes if you want and make yourself comfortable as you start to move your body…  Continue to be mindful of your thoughts, actions, and feelings, as you gradually begin to engage once again with the world around you…

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