Stoic Style Fatalism – Letting Go Of The Past And The Present.

The Stoics recommend we take  a fatalistic attitude towards life. To go against fate is to go against nature and in particular Marcus says if we reject the decrees of fate we are likely to experience tranquility-disrupting grief, anger, or fear. To avoid this, we must learn to adapt ourselves to the environment into which fate has placed us and do our best to love the people with whom fate has surrounded us. We must learn to welcome whatever falls to our lot and persuade ourselves that whatever happens to us is for the best. According to Marcus, a good man will welcome ” every experience the loom of fate may weave for him.”

In modern times this view of fatalism may not be very popular because we like to be in charge and create our own future. Fatalism to us would be “giving up” and not striving for a better future. However, if we look at their view of fatalism closely it doesn’t advocate “giving up” on the future. Some scholars think they advocated fatalism  only with regards to the past and the present. So they are advocating we accept the events that has already come to pass, we  can’t do anything about them anyway.

How can fatalism with regards to past and present help in leading a good life? The Stoics argued that the best way to be satisfied in life is not always to work for whatever desires you may happen to have but to learn to be satisfied with your life as it is, be happy with what you have. We can spend our days wishing our life was different but this will bring us further dissatisfaction. Alternatively we can learn to want whatever we already have. This way  we won’t have to work to satisfy our desires because they would have already been fulfilled.

We only have the present moment, the past is gone and the future is to come. We can spend that moment wishing it could be different, or we can embrace that moment. If we habitually choose to wish things were different we will be in a state of dissatisfaction, but if we habitually choose to embrace the moment we will enjoy our life.

The Stoics who recommended and practiced the doctrine of fatalism, would they have been thought to enjoy a good life ? Seneca , Marcus, Musonius and Epictetus did not “give up” on life. They strived to cultivate the best possible life for themselves and for others. Indeed, they would have been considered successful men in their times and maybe for all times.

It is interesting that long before the Stoics, Lord Buddha give similar advice that we should try to live in the moment.


1. A Guide to the Good Life     by  William B. Irvine.


Determined To Be Cheerful And Happy

“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
– Martha Washington














Natural And Synthetic Happiness – Being Miserable Not An Option?

First it is important to realize that the following discussion is about psychological happiness. It is not Aristotle’s concept of “happiness”, which he called eudaimonia or ” living well”. In the recent years scientists have turn their attention to examining psychological happiness.It seems there are two kinds of happiness, the natural happiness and the synthetic happiness. According to Dan Gilbert – “Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted.” 

If we had the freedom to go anywhere and at any time for our holidays; then get to go to our chosen location and at the time of our choosing,  we will be happy; this is “natural happiness”. But if we are told where and when to go for our holidays and have no freedom to choose, our inclination is to think we will be unhappy. Dan Gilbert’s challenges this assumption. His research shows that when people are stuck and have no choice they synthesize happiness. And this synthesis happens unconsciously; further more this synthesized happiness is just as good and as long-lasting as the natural happiness. The synthesis of happiness only occurs when we are left without a choice. Any choice which is reversible is not conducive to the synthesis of happiness.

He asks the question if the synthesis of happiness will allow us to be happy under all human conditions or to put it another way, is there a reason to say one situation is preferable to an  another. He answers yes. But says that our longing and our worries are both to some degree overblown in any human experience. This leads us into trouble, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture happiness. When our longing for happiness is bounded, it leads us to work joyfully. When our longing for happiness is unbounded , it leads us to lie, to cheat, to steal, to hurt others, to sacrifice things of real value. When our worries are bounded,we’re prudent; we’re cautious; we’re thoughtful. When our worries are unbounded and overblown, we’re reckless, and we’re cowardly.

I will leave you with Dan Gilbert to explain in his own humorous style the evidence and the conclusions of his fascinating work.

Dan Gilbert- Why are we Happy.

Accept Our Vulnerability So We Can Be Healed

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
 Brene Brown

“Take any emotion—love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions—if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment’.”
― Mitch AlbomTuesdays with Morrie

“Well, any love makes us vulnerable. Whatever we love will give the gift of pain somewhere along the road. But who would live sealed in spiritual cellophane just to keep from ever being hurt? There are a few people like that. I’m sorry for them. I think they are as good as dead.”
 Gladys Bagg TaberHarvest at Stillmeadow

Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. the new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.”
― Stephen RussellBarefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior

“Because he could not afford to fail, he could not afford to trust.”
― Joseph EllisHis Excellency: George Washington

“Real dishes break. That’s how you know they’re real.”
― Marty Rubin

“Sometimes we must yield control to others and accept our vulnerability so we can be healed.”
― Kathy MagliatoHealing Hearts: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon
“The loner who looks fabulous is one of the most vulnerable loners of all.”
― Anneli RufusParty of One: The Loners’ Manifesto
There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.
M. Scott Peck

Vulnerability Is A Birthplace Of Joy, Creativity, Belonging And Love.

In my previous posts I talked about how important fellowship is for living a good life. Have you ever wondered how we make connections with others; why some connections are so strong and close, while others are loose, untrustworthy and unreliable. And how those close connections with others gives us richness, purpose and meaning to our lives. While those not so close connections leaves us feeling little uneasy.

It seems our vulnerability plays a crucial role in making these connections. When we normally think of vulnerability it is in a sense of being unprotected. What are we usually protecting ? It is some aspect of ourselves  which we are fearful of revealing because it causes us to feel shame. When we are busy hiding our fear and shame it is hard to be our authentic self. But it is only when we are our authentic self that we are likely to make a close and lasting connection with someone; and maybe resulting in a life long friendship.If we are unable to be authentic it is unlikely our connection will be strong and long-lasting – because there will be a sense of distrust in this connection until what is hidden is revealed. The revealing is hard, being authentic is hard, so we reinforce our fear and shame by telling ourselves we are not worthy of these close connections or true friendship. We continue to hold on to our fear and shame. We continue to be without close friends.

In order to connect and have close friendships we need to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is to have enough courage to say I am not afraid to be as I am with all my imperfections. It is to say I am worthy of love and belonging as I am. It is to say I am beautiful when I am my authentic self . It is to say I embrace my vulnerability.

While vulnerability is a space where we struggle with shame, fear and issues of worthiness; it can also be the birthplace of joy , creativity, belonging and love. This happens when we fully embrace our vulnerability, we no longer need to give energy to our fears, we are our authentic selves, people around us sense we are not fearful or hiding anything, we are at ease. This frees us to be joyful, to be creative, to belong and to love. We are able to say” I love you” first. We are able to invest in a relationship that may not work out. We can do things without guarantee that they will work out.

It is important to recognize that we cannot selectively numb vulnerability. When we numb vulnerability we are also numbing  gratitude and happiness. We numb vulnerability in variety of ways – by moving from uncertainty to certainty e.g. from religion being faith and mystery to wanting certainty ; by blaming, it allows one to discharge pain and discomfort ; by pretending what we do doesn’t have impact on others people; by trying to be perfect. When we get into these kinds of behaviour patterns we are not only suppressing or numbing the vulnerability but also numbing to be in gratitude and being happy.

Alternative way of being could be to allow ourselves be seen as we are, love with our whole heart without expectation or guarantees, practice gratitude and joy. Accept ourselves as being enough.


The Power Of Vulnerability

Knowledge And Spirit World

The slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things. – Thomas Aquinas

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.  – Confucius

When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge.  – Confucius

A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get. – L.Frank Baum

I’m aware that people I have loved and have died and are in the spirit world looking after me. – Princess Diana

Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be…Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.  – Erich Fromm

Without the spiritual world the material world is a disheartening enigma.  – Joubert Joseph

Shamanic Journeying

There are numerous healing modalities that are lumped under alternative medicine or complimentary medicine,separate from main stream medicine, because they lack scientific evidence in a controlled setting. There is now a movement call integrative medicine which attempts to incorporate these healing modalities if they show any scientific proof of some benefit. Some of these modalities have been practiced for more than 10, 000 years, one would think for the practice to survive that long it must have conferred some benefit to the communities in which it has been practiced to this day. It is possible the benefits prove difficult to measure with scientific method which has its own built-in biases. It is possible that the scientific method is good at measuring certain kind of data, that which has been simplified or unravelled by reductive method; but has difficulty measuring holistic changes people experience. This kind of reasoning is not acceptable to the scientific community , they are looking for hard facts and figures before a practice gets included in mainstream medicine.

Over the weekend I came across people who practice Shamanic Journeying. I had never heard or come across it before. I was impressed that the practice was deeply spiritual. What fascinated me even more was the way the participants come to profound insights to their own questions and problems. It was not through an  analytical process but by just ‘being’ and relaxing, allowing the heart and the body with all its senses receive the teachings. I will say more about this later.

Shamanism is the earliest spiritual practice known to humankind, dating back tens of thousands of years. The fact that it survived this long should suggest that the community benefitted from the practice in some way. Sandra Ingerman in her book ” Shamanic Journeying – a Beginners Guide “ writes:

“Shamanism teaches us that everything that exists is alive and has a spirit, and we are joined with the earth and all of life via our spiritual interconnectedness. Just as quantum physics describes a field of energy that connects all of life, shamans also speak of a web of life that connects everything.In modern culture, many of us feel a deep longing to experience our unity with this web of life and to heal our sense of isolation. When we travel to non- ordinary reality on our shamanic journey, we learn how to communicate with the spirit of the trees, plants, animals, insects,birds, fish, reptiles, and rocks, as well as the spirits of the elements of earth, air, water, and fire. We directly experience the web of life.”

Just like the idea of being in the flow of the dao, shamanism also cautions us that because we are part of the nature we needs to reconnect with natures cycles and rhythms.  If we get disconnected from the cycles and rhythms of the moon and the seasons it would be like walking against the flow of the river. It is exhausting. With journeying the helping spirits ( which I will explain later) can restore balance and harmony into our lives by reconnecting with natures cycles and by living in unity with the natural world, thus allowing increased sense of well-being.

The shamanic view holds that there is an invisible reality beyond the physical world that is accessible through shamanic journeying. The unseen reality is divided into the lower world, the upper world, and the middle world. In these worlds there are helping spirits that one consults and work with during the journey. There are mainly two types of helping spirits , the power animals or the guardian spirits, and the teachers in human forms.In the shamanic culture , it is believed that when we are born, the spirit of at least one animal  volunteers itself to protect and guide us throughout life this is our power animal.

The journey begins with first giving thanks to the spirits and the four directions. The drumming and rattling usually accompany. Then you lay down, take deep breaths and relax. Clarify you intentions about the purpose of the journey. The drumming starts and you imagine going to the under world through a portal, you may decide what that may be. Once you reach the underworld you meet your power guide and ask your question. You maybe  in altered state of consciousness .The guide gives you whatever message you need at that time. The drumming changes rhythm and you come back to the present reality. At all time you are in control, you decide what question you want answered, who you want to speak to in the upper or the under world. Sandra Ingerman gives example of shamanic journey healing:

” As with power animals, teachers are a source of healing and wisdom in our lives. For instance, Nancy, one of my students, had a very profound healing through ongoing work with her teacher. She had experienced abuse as a child and suffered from depression, for which she was taking medication. When she began journeying, she met her teacher, who was King James IV of Scotland. Since Nancy was a schoolteacher, she decided to do some research to learn about the life of King james. She found many books about his life, and through her research she discovered that King James had been abused as a child by his father. She learned that he had healed himself and overcome his early traumas, and she realized she could also be healed. Through reading his story and journeying to him, Nancy  finally put her past behind her  and has been depression free and off antidepressants for years.”



Sandra Ingerman  ” Shamanic Journeying – a Beginners Guide “ 



Inspirational Video On Love

Sandra sent me this beautiful inspirational video on love . It is always good to be reminded of love and its  awesome power; but especially on the long family weekend. Here is the link:- ENJOY.

Power Of Love

Sandra also sent me a link to visualization meditation event coming up (free) with The Chopra Centre.

Meditation Registration

Have a great family day weekend. May you all be blessed with love ,kindness, compassion, caring, hope, joy , patience, peace and good health.

Seneca On Anger

The single most destructive emotion is anger. The great stoic Seneca said it is a ” brief insanity”. In his essay “On Anger” he says ,” No plague has cost the human race more.We see all around us people being killed, poisoned, and sued; we see cities and nations ruined. And besides destroying cities and nations, anger can destroy us individually. We live in a world, after all, in which there is much to be angry about.” He suggest unless we can learn to control anger, we will be perpetually angry.He says being angry is a waste of precious time.”

Some may suggest that anger has its uses, that it gets them motivated. Seneca rejects this claim. He says its true that sometimes anger is useful but it doesn’t follow that we should welcome anger in our lives. Sometimes people benefit from being in a shipwreck and yet who in their right mind would increase their chances of being shipwrecked. Seneca was not keen on employing any impulses over which the reason did not have authority.

Seneca is not suggesting that a person who sees his father killed and his mother raped that he should not feel angry. He says he should punish the wrongdoers and protect his parents but to the extent possible he should remain calm as he does so. He is more likely to do better job of protecting and punishing if he avoids getting angry.

More generally Seneca suggest when someone wrongs us they should be corrected ” by admonition and also by force , gently and also roughly.” Such corrections should not be made in anger; since we are not punishing them as retribution for what they have done but for their own good, so they do not do it again. He is suggesting the punishment should be ” an expression not of anger but caution.”

Seneca offers advice on how to avoid getting angry. He says do not believe the worst about others and their motivations; just because things did not turn out the way we expected then to does not mean others did us injustice. In some cases the person who we are angry at may have helped us, in which case we are angry because he did not do more to help us. He advise against becoming overly sensitive by coddling ourselves. If we corrupt ourselves with pleasure nothing will seem bearable and the reason things will seem unbearable is not because they are hard but because we are soft. Seneca therefore recommends that we never get too comfortable. If we harden ourselves we are less likely to be disturbed and get angry. He says we should also keep in mind that the things that angers us generally don’t do us any real harm; they are instead mere annoyances. By allowing ourselves to get angry over little things, we take what might have been a barely noticeable disruption of our day and transform it into tranquility shattering state of agitation. Furthermore, as Seneca observes, ‘ our anger invariably lasts longer than the damage done to us.”  What fools we are, therefore, when we allow our tranquility to be disrupted by minor things.Seneca also says we should remind ourselves that our behaviour also anger other people: ‘We are bad men living among bad men, and only one thing can calm us – we must agree to go easy on one another.” He also suggests that when we are angry we should force ourselves to relax our face, soften our voice, and slow our pace of walking. If we do this, our internal state will soon come to resemble our external state, and our anger ,says Seneca, will have dissipated.

If we are unable to control our anger and lash out at someone then we should apologize. This will instantly repair the social damage our outburst may have caused. It will have calming effect on us and it can help us become a better person; by admitting our mistakes, we lessen the chance that we will make the same mistake again in the future.

Everyone occasionally gets angry, but there are some people who are angry pretty much all the time. They are easily provoked to anger with minor or no provocation. Such cases Seneca would tell us are tragic. Not only do they not realize that life is too short to be angry all the time but they torment those around them.  Why not instead, Seneca asks, ” makes yourself a person to be loved by all while you live and missed when you have made your departure?” Why experience anti-joy when you have the power to experience joy?


A Guide to the Good Life  by William B. Irvine

Let Fellowship Be Our Purpose, Compassion Our Guide and Tranquility Our Reward.

May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic Torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.

Pierre de Coubertin

Remember and help America remember that the fellowship of human beings is more important than the fellowship of race and class and gender in a democratic society.
Marian Wright Edelman

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
Dalai Lama

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
Dalai Lama

I realized a while back that I have an innate ability to be compassionate, and I saw that the strength of compassion is something that healers have and healers use.’
Ricky Williams

Great tranquility of heart is his who cares for neither praise not blame.
Thomas Kempis

The real spiritual progress of the aspirant is measured by the extent to which he achieves inner tranquility.
Swami Sivananda






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