STOICISM – 10 MINUTE GUIDED MEDITATION FOR PERSPECTIVE

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Method One: A view from above

‘You can rid yourself of many useless things among those that disturb you, for they lie entirely in your imagination; and you will then gain for yourself ample space by comprehending the whole universe in your mind, and by contemplating the eternity of time, and observing the rapid change of every part of everything, how short is the time from birth to dissolution, and the illimitable time before birth as well as the equally boundless time after dissolution’

– Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius advises us to perform an exercise called ‘view from above’. This exercise involves us envisioning ourselves from the third person. In this vision, we zoom out while keeping ourselves in the centre. We continue zooming out and contemplating the scale of the universe. For instance, your first zoom might encompass a view of you from above the roof of your house. Increase the magnitude and you might see a view of your street, increase the magnitude and you might see a view of your country. Keep going until you can picture a view of Earth from the stars.

With this scale, we can gain a better perspective on the insignificance of our problems. When compared to the universe whatever problems we might appear incredibly trivial. For instance, if you were feeling down because a girl flaked on you or someone insulted you, try this exercise. It is far easier to overcome the emotional hurdles we experience when we put things into perspective.

Method Two: Negative visualization

‘Remember that all we have is “on loan” from Fortune, which can reclaim it without our permission—indeed, without even advance notice. Thus, we should love all our dear ones, but always with the thought that we have no promise that we may keep them forever—nay, no promise even that we may keep them for long.’

– Seneca
Negative visualization despite the name is an exercise that will increase your default level of happiness if practised consistently.The exercise consists of you envisioning what it would feel like if you lost certain things from your life. Some of the things that you could consider during the exercise are:

• How it would feel to not have a roof over your head.

• How it would feel to lose social status.

• How it would feel to live in a third world country.

• How it would feel to have a physical disability.

• How it would feel to lose a loved one.

This exercise is not meant to be dark or morbid, it’s meant to put things into perspective. Allowing you to see how lucky you truly are. It also prepares you for the worst case scenarios in which one of these things does happen. You are not meant to fixate on these thoughts, but consider them from time to time.

This is a very practical way for you to practice gratitude, naturally, when you consider things being removed from your life, you start to gain a sense of gratitude. Now gratitude is important because of a thing called ‘hedonic adaptation’, basically, it’s a term that defines the tendency for humans to always go back to their default level of happiness.

If you won the lotto and became a millionaire, your base level of happiness will increase for a while. However, when you become accustomed to the lifestyle, despite all the new toys, you will return to your base level. Gratitude breaks this pattern, allowing you to enjoy each step on the ladder. You can be grateful when you own a box, and you can be grateful when you own a Lamborghini Avendator.

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