In the bustling world we live in, it is easy to get lost in the chaos and let stress take over. Stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy, teaches us the key to a fulfilling life lies in understanding that we can't control external events, but we can control our reactions to them. Specifically, just because you have a thought, doesn’t make you the owner of the thought. Did you provide the thought? Or, did it simply arise? It’s important to tease out useful thoughts and throw away negative thoughts.
Stoicism aims to help you control your mind, or as modern stoic William Irvine states, “Your mental roommate.” Stoics are not people with no emotions. Stoics are people who aim to limit negative emotions.
Stoic meditations help us cultivate inner peace, resilience, and self-awareness. In this blog post, we will explore four essential Stoic meditations that can help you navigate the challenges of life with grace and tranquility.
Last Time Meditation
This meditation encourages you to reflect on the impermanence of life and the preciousness of each moment. To practice this meditation, think about the various activities you engage in each day and imagine that you're experiencing them for the last time.
For instance, the last time reading. The last time walking. The last time eating. The last time seeing. The last time breathing. How would your perspective change if this were truly the case? Would you not be eternally grateful for the current moment? Considering life is impermanent, this technically is the last time you’re living this exact moment! Can you cherish this moment?
Figure 1. Imagine it is the last time you are performing your activity. Can you be grateful for this moment?
For a variation, you could also do a first time meditation and approach an activity as if it were the first time you were doing it. And, if you’re feeling extra frisky, imagine it is both the first and last time you are doing an activity. Thus is the present.
By doing this meditation, you'll cultivate gratitude and a deeper appreciation for the present moment, which will ultimately make your life richer and more meaningful. Try practicing the last time meditation three more times throughout your day.
Negative visualization is a powerful exercise that helps you prepare for adversity and develop resilience. To practice this meditation, visualize a situation in which you lose something you value, such as your job, your health, or a loved one. Do not linger on the idea for long—only for a brief moment.
By mentally rehearsing the loss, you train your mind to handle setbacks more gracefully and appreciate what you have while you still have it. This exercise isn't meant to make you pessimistic, but rather to help you cultivate a sense of realism and preparedness.
Instead of wanting the life you don’t have, like living on a yacht, want the life you do have, like living in your current house. Play with these thoughts a couple times throughout your day.
Figure 2. For an instant, imagine something terrible is happening to you. Can you be grateful for this event not actually happening?
Bed Time Meditation
The bed time meditation is a nightly reflection on the events of the day. It allows you to evaluate your actions and thoughts, and identify areas for improvement. To practice this, it is usually best to write down what you did throughout your day in chronological order. Feel free to include as much as detail as you want, such as "rise", "dress", "drive", "make tea", etc.
Figure 3. Tonight, before bed, write down and reflect on everything you did today. What did you do well? Where can you improve?
Consider how you reacted to various situations and whether your actions aligned with your values. Make sure to focus on both the positive and negative experiences as this allows for a well-rounded and balanced perspective on your actions and reactions. By acknowledging your successes and areas of growth, you can develop a deeper understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, which will ultimately help you progress on your personal journey towards self-improvement and inner calm. Strengths include any activities that make you feel re-energized afterwards, while weaknesses are any activities that drain your energy.
This self-assessment helps you learn from your experiences and grow as a person. If there is something you enjoyed doing, then what can you do tomorrow to continue riding the momentum? If there is an area where you were dissatisfied, then what would you do differently if the situation were to arise again?
Tonight, before you go to bed, take 10 minutes to perform this activity. Remember to approach the activity with compassion and to not be so hard on yourself.
Rewatching the Movie of Your Life
In this meditation, imagine yourself as an impartial observer, rewatching the movie of your life. By stepping back and observing your life from a distance, you gain valuable perspective and can better recognize patterns, triumphs, and areas for growth.
To practice this meditation, find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably and close your eyes. Envision your life as a film, starting from your earliest memory and playing through to the present moment. Observe the highs and lows, the successes and failures, and the moments that have shaped you.
As you continue this meditation, imagine attending your own funeral. Visualize the people who have gathered to remember you, and listen carefully to their conversations. What are they saying about you? What are the memories and stories they share? What kind of impact did you have on their lives?
This part of the meditation helps you reflect on the legacy you want to leave behind and the person you aspire to become. Use this visualization as an opportunity to assess whether your current actions and choices align with your values and long-term goals. Consider what changes, if any, you might want to make in order to create a life that reflects your true purpose and desires.
As you conclude the meditation, gently bring your awareness back to the present moment. Carry the insights and perspective gained from this exercise into your daily life, using them as a compass to guide you towards a more authentic and fulfilling existence.
Figure 4. As you rewatch the movie of your life, identify what stories and values are you imparting on the world around you. Who do you want to be?
In the quiet corners of our hearts, amid the tumult of our lives, Stoic meditations whisper ancient wisdom. A gentle reminder to cherish each fleeting moment, to embrace the ebb and flow of fortune, and to contemplate the legacy we leave behind. These meditations guide us towards gratitude, resilience, and self-awareness, steadying our course as we navigate the vast and ever-changing seas of existence. May the practice of these four meditations illuminate your path, and may your journey be one of grace, inner peace, and tranquility. For in the end, it is the strength of our minds and the depth of our hearts that define the richness of our lives.