The theme for day one of Stoic Week is taking stock. Monday morning’s meditation from Marcus Aurelius urges us to find a place to retreat within ourselves rather than seeking to take ourselves away from our troubles.
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills. But this is altogether un-philosophical, when it is possible for you to retreat into yourself at any time you want. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind, especially if he has within himself the kind of thoughts that let him dip into them and so at once gain complete ease of mind; and by ease of mind, I mean nothing but having one’s own mind in good order. So constantly give yourself this retreat and renew yourself. You should have to hand concise and fundamental principles, which will be enough, as soon as you encounter them, to cleanse you from all distress and send you back without resentment at the activities to which you return.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.3
I found that a physical retreat has helped me to prepare me for this mental retreat. Taking the time away as I did earlier this year to focus on my values and goals helped me to find the place within myself to retreat. I find myself often turning to the ideas that I formed on this retreat in my daily life.
Therefore, it’s the final sentence of this meditation that stands out to me.
“You should have to hand concise and fundamental principles, which will be enough, as soon as you encounter them, to cleanse you from all distress and send you back without resentment at the activities to which you return.”
This is something that I’ve explored before, prompted by Doug Neill’s post on establishing your code of ethics. It encourages us to identify a set of core values that we can live out in our everyday actions. By drawing them up as a code of ethics we can review them each morning before we begin the day.
The purpose of day 1 of this year’s stoic week has been to help us to begin finding time and space in our days for reflection. Not only for what we will do or have done on this day but also to think broadly and take stock on our whole lives. The most important point from today’s midday exercise about reflecting on aspects of our lives such as our achievements, fears and ambitions is about how we judge ourselves. It’s something I need reminding of regularly:
“Do not be too quick to pass judgement on yourself or other people; just let your mind play over [aspects of your life] calmly and frankly.”