Stoicon 2017: Modern Stoicism Conference

Program for Stoicon 2017 Modern Stoicism conference in Toronto.

Stoicon is an annual international conference on applying Stoic philosophy to modern life, organized by Modern Stoicism. ¬†It‚Äôs now in its fourth year. ¬†Stoicon 2017 is scheduled for Saturday 14th October, and will take place in Toronto, Canada. ¬†The annual Stoic Week online course will begin the following Monday, running from 16th ‚Äď 22nd October. ¬†If you‚Äôre interested in Stoic philosophy, whatever your background or occupation, this conference is meant for you. ¬†Modern Stoicism’s aim is to make Stoic philosophy accessible to everyone by highlighting its practical relevance to the everyday challenges people face in different aspects¬†of modern life.

Stoicon 2017

It opens this year with a brief introduction to Stoic philosophy followed by a series of talks by leading authors in the field of modern Stoicism.  In the afternoon, you will be able to choose between attending different parallel sessions, including an introductory workshop for newcomers to applied Stoicism.  The day concludes with the keynote presentation on Stoicism and Emotion by one of the leading experts in this area, Margaret Graver, Professor of Classical Studies at Dartmouth College.

Theme: Stoicism at Work

Date/Time: Saturday 14th October 2017

Location: Toronto.  Holiday Inn, Yorkdale.

Contact: Email Modern Stoicism

Booking: Tickets can be booked online via EventBrite.

Stoic Sunday in Toronto events to be scheduled…

Full Schedule

8 ‚Äď 9am Registration and coffee

Plenary Sessions

  • 9am Introduction: What is Stoicism?
    Donald Robertson, author of Teach Yourself Stoicism
  • 9.30am How to be a Stoic: Conversations with Epictetus
    Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, author of How to be a Stoic
  • 10am¬†The Stoic Minimalist: Practicing Stoicism, Avoiding Controversies
    Dr. Chuck Chakrapani, author of Unshakable Freedom: Ancient Stoic Secrets Applied to Modern Life

10.30am Morning break (30 min.)

  • 11am Stoicism, Buddhism, and Judaism
    Dr. Ronald Pies, author of Everything has Two Handles
  • 11.30am¬†TBC
  • 12pm Stoicism and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)
    Dr. Walter Matweychuk, author of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: A Newcomer’s Guide
  • 12.30pm¬†Stoicism and Sport
    Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations

1 ‚Äď 2.30pm Lunch break

2.30 ‚Äď 4pm Parallel Talks & Workshops

  • Stoicism and Values Clarification (Workshop)
    Prof. Christopher Gill, author of The Structured Self in Hellenistic and Roman Thought
    Tim LeBon, author of Wise Therapy
  • Stoicism and Creativity (Talk)
    Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is the Way
  • Stoic Perspectives on Leisure, Work, Duty, Discipline, and Vocation (Talk)
    Stephen Hanselman, author of The Daily Stoic
  • Stoicism and Military Resilience (Workshop)
    Col. Thomas Jarrett, developer of Warrior Resilience Training
  • Dealing with Difficult People At Work ‚Äď Stoic Strategies (Workshop)
    Dr. Greg Sadler & Andi Sciacca, of ReasonIO
  • Introduction to Stoic Psychological Skills (Workshop)
    Donald Robertson, author of The Philosophy of CBT: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy

4 ‚Äď 4.30pm Afternoon break

4.30 ‚Äď 5.15pm Keynote: Stoicism & Emotion
Prof. Margaret Graver, author of Stoicism and Emotion

5.15 ‚Äď 5.30pm Closing

5.30 ‚Äď 7pm Reception

For more information subscribe to this blog, follow Modern Stoicism on Twitter, or Facebook.

Check for discounts and book your ticket online now via EventBrite.

Please note that details of this event may be subject to change.

Beginners Guide to Stoicism

“Where do I begin if I want to learn more about Stoicism?” Read this blog post and find out the answer…

One of the most frequently asked questions on my Facebook group for Stoicism, and elsewhere, is “Where is the best place to begin if I want to learn about Stoicism?” ¬†People often want recommendations for reading, in particular. ¬†So I’ve written this post to summarize the advice I normally give. ¬†The answer is actually quite simple.

General Information

At the risk of stating the obvious, you can do a lot worse than start by looking at the excellent Wikipedia article on Stoicism.  The Stoicism Subreddit (see below) also has a superb FAQ page on Stoicism.  Read my blog article A Simpified Modern Approach to Stoicism, if you want an outline of a simple daily practice.

I’ve also created a free online course called Crash Course in Stoicism, which takes less than ten minutes to complete and provides a lightning guide to Stoicism.


At a rough estimate, less than 1% of the many ancient writings on Stoicism actually survive today. ¬†We have no complete texts by the Greek founders of Stoicism, only fragments. ¬†Most of our knowledge of it comes from three Roman Stoics: Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. ¬†They lived in¬†the first and second¬†centuries AD, three hundreds years after Zeno of Citium had founded the Stoic school. ¬†By their time, the Athenian school of Stoicism no longer existed, and¬†the Stoic school had no formal head (“scholarch”) to guide it. ¬†Nevertheless, we learn a great deal about Stoicism from their writings. ¬†We also learn a great deal about Stoicism from many comments made by non-Stoics, most notably the Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero, who was a Platonist himself but nevertheless very sympathetic toward Stoic ideas. ¬†We do also have about a book’s worth of fragmentary sayings and passages attributed to the early Greek Stoics, although these tend to be of slightly more interest to academics than to newcomers.

You may also want to join my newsletter for updates and information about Stoicism articles, events, and courses, etc.

Gregory Hayes, The MeditationsThe Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

The first text on Stoicism that most people read is The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. ¬†It’s very small book, written in a beautiful aphoristic style. ¬†There are many translations available, and it’s easy to obtain older (out of copyright) editions free online. ¬†The only real limitation of this book is that it’s not a systematic account of Stoic philosophy. ¬†Having read it, people often still lack a basic understanding of the basic doctrines of Stoicism, at least in an explicit form. ¬†Nevertheless, it’s where I recommend beginning. ¬†The translation I recommend for modern readers is by Gregory Hayes.

The Handbook of Epictetus

The second book that I would recommend reading is the famous Handbook or Encheiridion of Stoic Philosophy, written by Arrian, a student of Epictetus, based on his teacher’s lectures. ¬†Marcus was greatly influenced by Epictetus, and probably thought of himself as a follower of this particular sect of Stoicism. ¬†The Handbook is very short and also written aphoristically, although in more confrontational style than The Meditations.

The Discourses of Epictetus

If you like Epictetus then it would be natural to follow reading his Handbook by reading¬†the¬†Discourses on which they’re based, also noted down by his student Arrian. ¬† ¬†(There are also a few fragmentary sayings of Epictetus worth reading.) ¬†If not, skip to the writings of Seneca below.

There were originally eight¬†volumes of the Discourses but only four¬†have survived to the present day. ¬†Marcus Aurelius appears to say that he was given a copy by his Stoic friend and mentor Junius Rusticus so it’s possible he had read all eight¬†volumes. ¬†(It may even be that some passages from The Meditations are actually quotes or paraphrases from the lost Discourses of Epictetus as Marcus cites the known¬†volumes¬†several times.)

The Lectures and Sayings of Musonius Rufus

If you enjoyed the Handbook and Discourses then you should read the less well-known Lectures and Sayings of Epictetus’ own teacher, Gaius Musonius Rufus. ¬†Musonius’ surviving writings¬†are relatively¬†few and short. ¬†They’re written in a strikingly similar style to Epictetus’ Discourses.

The Letters of Seneca to Lucilius

This is where many people begin, so if you’re not drawn to Marcus or Epictetus, you might choose to start with Seneca. ¬†Seneca wrote in Latin whereas Marcus and Epictetus, though Roman, wrote in Greek. ¬†Marcus and Epictetus never mention Seneca, although he lived before them. ¬†His style of Stoicism is slightly different, and perhaps owes more to the “Middle Stoa” of Posidonius. ¬†His Letters to Lucilius go by different names but you’ll usually find them referred to as the main collection of moral letters (or epistles) by Seneca. ¬†These constitute a series of very well-written letters or essays addressed to a novice Stoic and they’re often read from start to finish, although they cover different themes.

The Essays and Dialogues of Seneca

If you liked Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius then we have many more surviving writings by him concerning Stoicism, which you should read. ¬†Either get a copy of his complete writings or look for abridged collections of his various essays (often other, longer letters) and dialogues.

The Writings of Cicero

Cicero was a Platonist, not a Stoic. ¬†However, his writings provide one of our major surviving sources for information on Stoicism. ¬†He also wrote in Latin. ¬†He lived before the Stoics mentioned above and was very well-read in Stoic philosophy, which he travelled to ¬†Athens to study. ¬†Cicero’s form of Platonism was quite eclectic and he was happy to engage with Stoic ideas and integrate them. ¬†He has many writings which provide important accounts of Stoicism. ¬†Most notably, though, his De Finibus (“On Moral Ends”) consists of a series of dialogues in which philosophers representing Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Platonism take turns criticising each other’s philosophy and describing their own. ¬†The account of Stoicism in this book was put into the mouth of Seneca’s friend and rival the great Roman Stoic hero Cato of Utica, who had recently died opposing Julius Caesar. ¬†It draws upon early Greek Stoic thought and provides an much more systematic account of Stoic Ethics than you find in Marcus Aurelius or Seneca.

Other Stoic Writings

There are many other lesser known Stoic writings and other non-Stoic ancient sources that are of importance to the study of Stoicism. ¬†I can’t provide a full list here but I would particularly recommend the Philosophical Regimen of the Earl of Shaftesbury, if you liked Marcus Aurelius. ¬†Shaftesbury was an English philosopher and scholar of ancient Greek and wrote his own Stoic journal in the style of The Meditations. ¬†It can also be read as an insightful commentary on Marcus and Epictetus by a man who was trying to adopt a similar Stoic way of life, albeit in the early modern era. ¬†Likewise, special mention should go to US Navy Vice Admiral James Stockdale’s Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot. ¬†Stockdale was taken prisoner in the Vietnam War and used his knowledge of Epictetus’ Stoicism to cope with the ordeal.

Modern Commentaries

There are many superb modern books on Stoicism. ¬†I can’t cite them all here, but I’ll mention in particular William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life, which is perhaps the bestselling popular book on Stoicism. ¬†Irvine’s book is seen by some readers (myself included) as occasionally portraying Stoicism in a way that more resembles its rival school, Epicureanism. ¬†Nevertheless, it’s undoubtedly one of the best introductions to the subject.

I should mention my own book Teach Yourself Stoicism, which was written as a self-help guide based on Stoicism. ¬†I’m also the author of The Philosophy of CBT, a book about the history of science and philosophy that tries to provide a detailed analysis of the relationship between Stoic psychological practices and modern cognitive therapy. ¬†(My book, Build your Resilience, is also a self-help text, which combines elements of Stoicism with third-wave cognitive-behavioural therapy.)

Goodreads List

If you want even more, take a look at this list of suggestions maintained by different members of Goodreads: Popular Books on Stoicism.


There are many excellent online discussion forums for Stoicism.  Here are just a few suggestions:

Stoic Week

Every Autumn since 2012, the Stoicism Today team has organised a free, international, online event called Stoic Week.  Stoicism Today is a multi-disciplinary (non-profit) team of classicists, philosophers, psychologists, and therapists, with a special interest in Stoicism.  Several of the team are authors of books on Stoicism and related subjects.

You can find more out about Stoicism Today on our blog, currently hosted by Exeter University. ¬†You can find out more about Stoic Week on the official website. ¬†Stoic Week challenges you to “live like a Stoic” for seven days, by following a structured daily routine consisting of readings, recordings, and psychological exercises. ¬†In 2015, we had over 3,000 participants from all over the world. ¬†It’s a great way to begin learning about applying Stoicism to modern living.


Notes from Stoicon Talk and Workshop

Notes from my talk and workshop at Stoicon 2015 in London.

Courtesy of Alejandro ed Valcarcel.Notes from Talk in Morning

  1. What I‚Äôm actually supposed to be talking about is ‚ÄúCognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Stoicism‚ÄĚ ‚Äď So first of all: they‚Äôre two different things. ¬†I said this last year: Weirdly, one of the most common criticisms people seem to make is that modern Stoics say they‚Äôre the same thing but I‚Äôve never actually met anyone who does say that: so it‚Äôs a straw man.
  2. The clue’s in the name anyway: Stoic philosophy is a philosophy; cognitive-behavioural therapy is a therapy.
  3. My first book on Stoicism ‚Äď The Philosophy of CBT ‚Äď was all about the relationship between Stoicism and CBT. ¬†In it, I said that philosophy is bigger and deeper than just therapy. ¬†However, Stoic philosophy contains many therapeutic concepts and techniques. ¬†(I listed lots of them in that book, which I‚Äôll be giving an overview of in my workshop.) ¬†All the schools of Hellenistic philosophy incorporated therapeutic elements, but Stoicism more so than the others.
  4. In modern times, Aaron T. Beck and Albert Ellis the two main founders of CBT both claimed that their therapy had its philosophical origins in ancient Stoic philosophy.  
  5. Ellis in particular drew very heavily on Stoic concepts and techniques.  Sometimes mentioning the Stoic heritage, sometimes not.  Ellis was originally a psychoanalyst who became disillusioned with Freud and decided in the 1950s to develop a more rational or philosophical approach to therapy.  He’d read Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus years earlier and saw them as an obvious inspiration.
  6. (Incidentally, in the first half of the twentieth century, decades earlier, there was a rival to psychoanalysis called rational persuasion therapy, which was even more explicitly influenced by Stoicism, and it was a major precursor to Ellis, and subsequent CBT, although it’s largely forgotten now.)
  7. Anyway, many other psychotherapy authors, especially the CBT ones, have arrived at similar ideas, perhaps independently of the Stoics.   (Once you accept that cognitions are the key to emotions, you’re likely to invent similar therapy strategies for dealing with those cognitions.)
  8. I think the best example of this is what Beck called cognitive distancing, sometimes called ‚Äúverbal defusion‚ÄĚ by behaviourists. ¬†So I want to say a little about that… ¬†Cognitive distancing the ability to view one‚Äôs own thoughts in a somewhat detached manner, as transient mental events. ¬†It‚Äôs the difference between ‚ÄúThis guy‚Äôs an idiot!‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúI notice I‚Äôm having the thought right now that this guy is an idiot!‚ÄĚ ¬†It‚Äôs the opposite of being absorbed in thoughts or swept along by them, like happens in worry or rumination. ¬†We suspend worry and rumination when we meditate and view our own thoughts more objectively. ¬†Separating the map from the terrain, or separating thoughts from reality, as opposed to fusing them together.
  9. Beck‚Äôs original idea (1976) was that when people put their thoughts into words and write them down on paper or on a blackboard that can help them gain distance and view them as events, and he talks about several other ways of achieving this sense of detachment, although surprisingly he didn‚Äôt originally mention meditation. ¬†(For instance, I might say ‚ÄúDonald is having the thought that‚Ķ‚ÄĚ, draw it inside a speech bubble, view it as a mere hypothesis as if I were a scientist who might test it out, and so on…)
  10. It wasn‚Äôt long before clients and therapists who were into Buddhism or yoga, etc., said: ‚ÄúHang on a minute: this is basically what happens during meditation.‚ÄĚ
  11. This has become the focus since the mid-1990s of what’s called the third-wave of CBT: behaviour therapy (first wave), cognitive therapy (second wave), and now mindfulness and acceptance-based therapy (third wave).
  12. However, ironically, this was the part of Stoicism most neglected by Beck and Ellis.  And later CBT authors don’t turn to Stoicism but to Buddhism for their inspiration with regard to mindfulness and distancing.  They could have found it in Stoicism, though.  (Pierre Hadot called it Stoic prosoche, attention to oneself, to your thoughts and value-judgements, in particular.)  
  13. Epictetus taught his students: When you experience a troubling thought (impression), you should train yourself to say to it: ‚ÄúYou are just an impression and not at all the thing you claim to represent.‚ÄĚ ¬†That‚Äôs unmistakable: it‚Äôs a cognitive distancing strategy. ¬†There are many similar strategies in Epictetus and in the other Stoic literature. ¬†In about half a dozen places, Epictetus refers to being ‚Äúswept along‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúcarried away‚ÄĚ by thoughts (he uses the same Greek expression each time), and he tells his students to be mindful of this, and to step back rather than going along with these runaway thoughts. ¬†That‚Äôs cognitive distancing again.
  14. Albert Ellis actually taught most of his clients a famous quotation from Epictetus: ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not things that upset us but our judgements about things.‚ÄĚ ¬†For many CBTers that forms part of what‚Äôs called the ‚Äúsocialisation‚ÄĚ phase of treatment: where clients are taught their role in the process of therapy. ¬†It‚Äôs not a method of disputing thoughts, questioning their evidence, but something that precedes that. ¬†It‚Äôs also a cognitive distancing strategy.
  15. To be clear: we don‚Äôt mean ‚Äúdistancing‚ÄĚ as in getting really far away from thoughts but rather we mean separating our thoughts from events, and viewing them more objectively. ¬†That‚Äôs the kind of detachment we sometimes have when contemplating another person‚Äôs beliefs: when we say ‚Äúit‚Äôs just his opinion.‚ÄĚ ¬†It‚Äôs the difference between looking at the world through rose-tinted spectacles and taking the spectacles off and looking at them: looking at our thoughts, or our value-judgements, rather than looking at events through them.
  16. The Stoics also refer to this as withholding ‚Äúassent‚ÄĚ from our automatic flow of impressions: not just going along with them, and not struggling against them either, but pausing to consider them in a more detached and contemplative way.¬†
  17. Now, cognitive distancing is a subtle concept.  It’s tricky to define and it takes a while for some people to get the idea.  That’s why we use a technical term, there’s no word for it in ordinary language.  Most cognitive therapists would be familiar with this idea but classicists and philosophers wouldn’t normally be, so it’s been somewhat neglected in modern commentaries on Stoicism.  (People kind of missed it.)
  18. Earlier I mentioned ‚Äúmindfulness‚ÄĚ… ¬†I would say ‚Äúmindfulness‚ÄĚ is a slightly broader concept that consists of roughly three things: cognitive distance, focus on the here and now, and a degree of self-awareness. ¬†These are all themes that run throughout all the Stoic literature: (1) we should view our impressions objectively, (2) we should focus on the present moment, (3) we should continually pay attention to our ruling faculty, the seat of all our value-judgements and source of the passions. ¬†We should not allow ourselves to be swept along by troublesome impressions into worry, into irrational, unhealthy, and excessive trains of thought, rumination about fears and desires.
  19. ‚ÄúMindfulness‚ÄĚ, incidentally, is, in a sense, a modern concept: it‚Äôs actually a bit of a buzzword. ¬†The English word wasn‚Äôt in widespread use until the 1960s. ¬†Scholars are undecided to what extent it actually corresponds with concepts found in the earliest Buddhist scriptures. ¬†Although ‚Äúmindfulness‚ÄĚ has become associated with Buddhism, in some ways, what we‚Äôve come to mean by that word may actually have as much, or more in common, with what the ancient Stoics were talking about.
  20. So for me, IMHO, Stoicism is very much a mindfulness-based philosophy of life, and it contains many mindfulness-based psychological techniques: it contains a mindfulness-based therapy of the passions.  
  21. Stoicism is essentially an ethical world-view that says virtue ‚Äď or excellence of character ‚Äď is the only true good. ¬†We should love and cherish virtue. ¬†That implies that we should continually be paying attention to our own character and actions, the seat of virtue. ¬†(If you want any good, look inside yourself: said Epictetus.)
  22. However, only our voluntary judgements and actions can be virtuous, so Epictetus advised his students to continually maintain a careful distinction between their own actions and everything else, everything external to their volition or involuntary.
  23. It seems to me that‚Äôs the most important practical component of Stoicism. ¬†That‚Äôs why it‚Äôs spelled out in the opening paragraphs of Epictetus‚Äô Stoic Handbook. ¬†We have two types of thought: thoughts that we think on purpose and thoughts that just pop into our minds automatically. ¬†(Like when you try not to think about donkeys.) ¬†Psychologists call those ‚Äúautomatic‚ÄĚ versus ‚Äústrategic‚ÄĚ thinking processes. ¬†And this distinction has become central to third-wave or mindfulness-based CBT.
  24. It seems to me that separating those two things ‚Äď what‚Äôs under our control about our thinking and what isn‚Äôt ‚Äď requires a kind of cognitive distancing. ¬†I think that‚Äôs what‚Äôs most distinctive, though, about what I‚Äôd call ‚ÄúStoic mindfulness‚ÄĚ. ¬†That dichotomy of control ‚Äď which I sometimes like call the ‚ÄúStoic fork‚ÄĚ ‚Äď that‚Äôs what‚Äôs most Stoic, about Stoic mindfulness. ¬†
  25. It‚Äôs no coincidence that it constitutes the very beginning of Epictetus‚Äô Handbook, because it‚Äôs the psychological foundation of Epictetus‚Äô Handbook. ¬†Some things are ‚Äúup to us‚ÄĚ and others are not. ¬†In a word, our own actions (or rather our decisions, our ruling faculty‚Äôs judgements) are up to us and everything else is indifferent, at least with regard to our attaining eudaimonia, or fulfilment, the goal of life.
  26. So anyway, I‚Äôd like to leave you with this quote from Marcus Aurelius, as that‚Äôs our theme: ‚ÄúAlways bear in mind what Heraclitus said: [‚Ķ] ‚Äėwe must not act and speak like men asleep.‚Äô‚ÄĚ (Meditations, 4.46)

Workshop on Stoicism and Mental Imagery

Part I

Overview of Stoic psychological strategies…

  1. Premeditation of Adversity (cf. ‚ÄúNegative Visualisation‚ÄĚ).
  2. View from Above / Cosmology (Olympian versus Cosmic)
  3. Contemplation of Death (and transience of material things)
  4. Contemplation of the Sage (Model, Observer)
  5. Contemplation of Gods and Heroes (Zeus, Hercules, Socrates, Diogenes, etc.)
  6. Contemplating the Virtues of Others (Marcus Book 1, Zeno on Antisthenes)
  7. Memorisation of Maxims (Paraphrasing) – Fist clenching
  8. Writing a Journal to Oneself (The Meditations)
  9. Writing Letters for Others (Seneca’s Letters and Consolations, possibly unsent)
  10. Socratic Philosophical Discourse (Epictetus’ Discourses, Seneca’s Dialogues)
  11. Contemplation of the Present Moment
  12. Morning Meditation, cosmos, anticipate adversity (Marcus, Epictetus)
  13. Evening Meditation/Review (Pythagoras, Seneca, Epictetus)
  14. Distancing (‚ÄúYou are just an impression‚Ķ‚ÄĚ)
  15. Postponement of Response, until Passions have naturally abated (Seneca on Anger, Epictetus)
  16. Distinguishing what is ‚Äúup to us‚ÄĚ from what is not.
  17. Voluntary hardship (camp bed, philosopher’s cloak, vegetarian diet, endurance of heat and cold, physical exercise)
  18. Attention to Faculty of Judgement (Stoic Mindfulness)
  19. Action with the Reserve Clause
  20. Amor Fati (Stoic Acceptance)
  21. The Goal of Life as Virtue (Unity of Purpose)
  22. Contemplation of Metaphors (Life as Festival, Life as Ballgame)
  23. Self-Monitoring (Epictetus, count times you become angry)
  24. Contemplating the Unity of the Cosmos (men as limbs)
  25. The Circles of Hierocles (calling friends ‚Äúbrother‚ÄĚ)
  26. Natural Philosophy (scientific mindset) / ‚ÄúObjective Representation‚ÄĚ (Phantasia Kataleptike)
  27. Plus others (we haven’t spotted, or that I’ve forgotten)

Part II: View from Above Script

‚ÄúPlato has a fine saying, that he who would discourse of man should survey, as from some high watchtower, the things of earth.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

Take a moment to settle into your posture and make yourself comfortable… Close your eyes and relax… [Pause.] Be aware of your breathing… Notice the rhythm and pattern of the breath… Do nothing for while, just be content to contemplate your breathing more deeply… [Pause.] Now, begin by paying attention to the whole of your body as one… From the top of your head, all the way down into your fingers and down into your toes… Be aware of your body as one… every nerve, muscle and fibre… Don’t try to change anything. Don’t try to stop anything from changing… Some things can change just by being observed…

Just be content to notice whatever you notice, and feel whatever you feel… Be a passive, detached observer… As you continue to relax, turn your attention deeper within, and become more aware of your body… until you can almost imagine how you look right now… Begin to picture yourself as if seen from the outside… Now just imagine that you are taking a step back and looking at yourself. It really doesn’t matter how vividly you can picture yourself, it’s just the intention, just idea that matters. Imagine your body posture… your facial expression… the colour and style of your clothing…

Now keep looking at the image of yourself resting there, and imagine your own feet are gently leaving the ground. You begin floating serenely upwards, slowly and continuously, rising upwards. All the while your gaze keeps returning to your own body, now seated there below you as you rise above it. Keep looking down toward your body as you float higher and higher…. The roof and ceiling disappear, allowing you to float freely upward. Gazing down you see yourself seated comfortably below in the building, looking contented and contemplative. You see all the rooms, and any other people around.

As you continue to float gently higher and higher, your perspective widens more and more until you see the whole surrounding area. You see all the buildings nearby from above. You see the people in buildings and in the streets and roads. You observe people far below working, or walking along the pavement, people cycling or driving their cars, and those travelling on buses and trains. You begin to contemplate the whole network of human lives and how people everywhere are interacting with each other, influencing each other, encountering each other in different ways…

Floating higher, people become as small as ants below. Rising up into the clouds, you see the whole of the surrounding region beneath you. You see both towns and countryside, and gradually the coastline comes into view as your perspective becomes more and more expansive… You float gently up above the clouds, above the weather, and through the upper atmosphere of the planet Earth… So high that you eventually rise beyond the sphere of the planet itself, and into outer space… You look toward planet Earth and see it suspended in space before you, silently turning… resplendent in all its majesty and beauty…

You see the whole of your home planet… the blue of the great oceans… and the brown and green of the continental land masses… You see the white of the polar ice caps, north and south… You see the grey wisps of cloud that pass silently across the surface of the Earth… Though you can no longer see yourself from so far above, you know and feel that you are down there on Earth below, and that your life is important, and what you make of your life is important. Your change in perspective changes your view of things, your values and priorities…

You contemplate all the countless living beings upon the Earth. The population of the planet is over six billion people… You realise that your life is one among many, one person among the total population of the Earth… You think of the rich diversity of human life on Earth. The many languages spoken by people of different races, in different countries… people of all different ages… newborn infants, elderly people, people in the prime of life… You think of the enormous variety of human experiences… some people right now are unhappy, some people are happy… and you realise how richly varied the tapestry of human life before you seems.

And yet as you gaze upon the planet Earth you are also aware of its position within the rest of the universe… a tiny speck of stardust, adrift in the immeasurable vastness of cosmic space… This world of ours is merely a single planet, a tiny grain of sand by comparison with the endless tracts of cosmic space… a tiny rock in space, revolving around our Sun… the Sun itself just one of countless billions of stars which punctuate the velvet blackness of our galaxy…

You think about the present moment on Earth and see it within the broader context of your life as a whole. You think of your lifespan as a whole, in its totality… You think of your own life as one moment in the enormous lifespan of mankind… Hundreds of generations have lived and died before you… many more will live and die in the future, long after you yourself are gone… Civilisations too have a lifespan; you think of the many great cities which have arisen and been destroyed throughout the ages… and your own civilisation as one in a series… perhaps in the future to be followed by new cities, peoples, languages, cultures, and ways of life…

You think of the lifespan of humanity itself… Just one of countless billions of species living upon the planet… Mankind arose as a race roughly two hundred thousand years ago… animal life itself first appeared on Earth over four billion years ago… Contemplate time as follows… Realise that if the history of life on Earth filled an encyclopaedia a thousand pages long… the life of the entire human race could be represented by a single sentence somewhere in that book… just one sentence…

And yet you think of the lifespan of the planet itself… Countless billions of years old… the life of the planet Earth too has a beginning, middle, and end… Formed from the debris of an exploding star, unimaginably long ago… one day in the distant future its destiny is to be swallowed up and consumed by the fires of our own Sun… You think of the great lifespan of the universe itself… the almost incomprehensible vastness of universal time… starting with a cosmic explosion, a big bang they say, immeasurable ages ago in the past… Perhaps one day, at the end of time, this whole universe will implode upon itself and disappear once again… Who can imagine what, if anything, might follow, at the end of time, in the wake of our own universe’s demise…

Contemplating the vast lifespan of the universe, remember that the present moment is but the briefest of instants‚Ķ the mere blink of an eye‚Ķ the turn of a screw‚Ķ a fleeting second in the mighty river of cosmic time‚Ķ Yet the ‚Äúhere and now‚ÄĚ is important‚Ķ standing as the centre point of all human experience‚Ķ Here and now you find yourself at the centre of living time‚Ķ Though your body may be small in the grand scheme of things, your imagination, the human imagination, is as big as the universe‚Ķ bigger than the universe‚Ķ enveloping everything that can be conceived‚Ķ From the cosmic point of view, your body seems small, but your imagination seems utterly vast‚Ķ

You contemplate all things, past, present and future‚Ķ You see your life within the bigger picture‚Ķ the total context of cosmic time and space‚Ķ The totality is absolute reality‚Ķ You see yourself as an integral part of something much bigger, something truly vast, the ‚ÄúAll‚ÄĚ itself‚Ķ Just as the cells of your own body work together to form a greater unity, a living being, so your body as a whole is like a single cell in the organism of the universe‚Ķ Along with every atom in the universe you necessarily contribute your role to the unfolding of its grand design‚Ķ

As your consciousness expands, and your mind stretches out to reach and touch the vastness of eternity… Things change greatly in perspective… and shifts occur in their relative importance… Trivial things seem trivial to you… Indifferent things seem indifferent… The significance of your own attitude toward life becomes more apparent… you realise that life is what you make of it… You learn to put things in perspective, and focus on your true values and priorities in life… One stage at a time, you develop the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference… You follow nature… your own true nature as a rational, truth-seeking human being… and the one great nature of the universe as a whole…

Now in a moment you are beginning to sink back down to Earth, toward your place in the here and now… Part of you can remain aware of the view from above, and always return to and remember that sense of serenity and perspective.

Now you begin your descent back down to Earth, to face the future with renewed strength and serenity… You sink back down through the sky… down… down… down… toward the local area… down… down… down… into this building… down… down… down… You sink back gently into your body… all the way now… as your feet slowly come to rest upon the floor once again…

Now think about the room around you… Think about action… movement… think about looking around and getting your orientation… raising your head a little… Begin to breathe a little bit more deeply… a little bit more energetically… let your body feel more alive and ready for action… breathe energy and vitality into your body… breathe a little deeper and deeper again… until you’re ready to take a deep breath, open your eyes, and emerge from meditation… taking your mindfulness and self-awareness forward into life… beginning now… take a deep breath… and open your eyes now… when you’re ready… entering the here and now with deep calm and serenity…

Download the Stoic Week 2015 Handbook

The Stoic Week 2015 Handbook is now available, via the links on this blog post.

Stoic Week 2015 Handbook CoverThe Stoic Week 2015 Handbook is now available!

Before you download or read the Handbook, it’s very important that, if possible, you complete the following preliminary questionnaires:

Online Questionnaires

We’d also like you, if possible, to enrol on our e-learning site as this helps us track the number of participants and their level of involvement. ¬†You’ll have access to the forums here, which are an important part of the course:

Enroll on the Stoic Week Course at Modern Stoicism

However, we appreciate that some people may be unable or prefer not to complete the questionnaires or register online.  The Handbook is also available for download, in a range of formats that can be accessed offline.  You can access EPUB, MOBI (Kindle) and plain text (MarkDown) versions of the Handbook from the Modern Stoicism website, via the link above.  You may also download the PDF version of the Handbook by clicking on the link below:

Stoic Week 2015 Handbook (PDF)

Starting Stoic Week 2015

This blog post contains information on starting Stoic Week 2015.

Stoic Week Handbook 2015Welcome to Stoic Week 2015: Modern-day Meditations Inspired by Marcus Aurelius!

Do not act as if you were going to live for a thousand years… while you are alive, while it is still possible, become a good person.

We’d like to keep track of the number of participants so please take a moment to enrol on the Modern Stoicism e-learning site if possible. ¬†(If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to create an account on the site.)

Modern Stoicism

The e-learning site, managed¬†by Donald Robertson, has many other resources to help you get the most out of Stoic Week 2015. ¬†It also hosts the discussion forums where you can meet other participants and share your Stoic journal entries for the week, if you wish. ¬†Take a moment to introduce yourself! ¬†At the time of writing, over 2,400 people have already enrolled in advance to take part and we look set to exceed last year’s total of 2,650 participants.

Once you’ve registered (or if you choose not to) you can complete the preliminary questionnaires for Stoic Week 2015 prepared by Tim LeBon:

Preliminary Questionnaires

Collecting data like this is of tremendous importance to the future continuation of Stoic Week. ¬†(We’re interested in the mean scores rather than your individual responses but you can choose to skip this step if you really want to.) ¬† It allows us to measure to what extent Stoic Week has an effect and to gather basic demographic information on the type of people who take part. ¬†In previous years, participants have enjoyed completing these forms because they found them insightful, especially the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (SABS) developed by our own¬†Stoicism Today team.

The Stoic Week 2015 Handbook will be available¬†on Modern Stoicism in HTML format, and also for download in EPUB, MOBI (Kindle), PDF, and plain text (MarkDown) formats. ¬†That means you can read it on a mobile device, even if you’re offline, on a train for instance. ¬†If you’re completing the questionnaires it’s essential that you do so before downloading or reading the Handbook, or starting the Stoic Week exercises.

The Handbook will be available a day or two before Monday 2nd November,¬†the official start of Stoic Week, to give people time to read the initial sections before they begin putting it into practice. ¬†We’ll announce via social networks, our blogs, and Modern Stoicism, when it’s¬†ready for download. ¬†If you register at Modern Stoicism, though, you’ll receive an email notification.

The Stoic Week 2015 Handbook

How to get the Stoic Week 2015 Handbook.

Stoic Week 2015The Stoic Week 2015 Handbook will be available in the next few days, in HTML, PDF, and EPUB formats.

Register to participate in¬†Stoic Week on the Modern Stoicism website to receive your copy. ¬†You’ll be able to read it online and also download it to mobile devices and read offline. ¬†It contains the following sections:

Stoic Week 2015 Handbook

Modern-day Meditations Insprired by Marcus Aurelius

mondayMonday: LifeStoic Week 2015 Handbook Cover
Life as a Project and Learning from Other People


tuesdayTuesday: Control
What is in our Control and Wishing with Reservation


wednesdayWednesday: Mindfulness
Stoic Mindfulness and Examining your Impressions


thursdayThursday: Virtue
Virtue and Values-clarification


fridayFriday: Relationships
Relationships with Other People and Society


saturdaySaturday: Resilience
Resilience and Preparation for Adversity


sundaySunday: Nature
Nature and the View from Above


Stoic Week 2015: Modern-day Meditations Inspired by Marcus Aurelius

Memes for Stoic Week 2015.

Do not act as if you were going to live for a thousand years… while you are alive, while it is still possible, become a good person.

Visit Modern Stoicism today to register for Stoic Week 2015!

Courtesy of Alejandro ed Valcarcel.

Courtesy of Alejandro ed Valcarcel.