After years of exploring philosophy and coming from a dogmatic religious background, I have decided to follow stoicism for my own reasons. Started with “Letters of a Stoic” by Seneca. Anything I should expect on my journey? Anything you wish someone would’ve told you?
Seneca is a great place to start, as is Marcus Aurelius. Here are a few tips.
- Do the practices. Practice as often as possible. There are a number of routines to choose from. This is a good summary of what’s available to you.
- Seek discomfort. When it comes to how you practice, don’t just do the easy things. Make yourself uncomfortable. Where you hesitate to go is exactly where you should aim.
- Identify your role models. It is easy to deceive yourself, so you should regularly compare your behavior with that of your role models.
- Question every impulse, every emotion, and assumption. Things are often not what they seem to be. It is your task to determine good from bad, vice from virtue.
- Be your own cheerleader. Don’t expect anyone else to understand or care about your progress. As Seneca says in “On the Healing Power of the Mind”: “Be your own spectator; seek your own applause.”
- Identify your vices and get to work immediately. Some will be easier than others to curb. What is it about yourself that you know to be destructive? Start on the simple ones – food is, for example, a good place to start – and work your way up.
- Be prepared for setbacks. You will fail often. If you recognize your failures, however, you are doing it right.
- Remain steadfast in your wish to be free. At times you will become disillusioned with the practice, thinking it a waste of time. In truth, no pursuit is more worthy of your time than freeing yourself from the slavery of stupidity and vice.
- Do not proselytize. You are doing this first for yourself. Do not engage in “spiritual materialism,” as Chogyam Trungpa put it. Virtue is not another possession for you to parade around. By proselytizing, you can easily slip into self-aggrandizing behavior.
- Rid yourself of toxic people. Their behavior is contagious.