Report on my first day of Stoic Week 2014

Last year, I heard about the first Stoic Week, Stoic Week 2013, but did not participate because I was distracted at the time and did not feel like focusing. This week, I decided it was time to sign up for Stoic Week 2014, and I did.

Why my interest in Stoicism?

I’ve mentioned Stoicism only briefly in my blog: once in 2012 when thinking about Thanksgiving and once earlier this year after rewatching an old TV episode. As I mentioned, it was in 2011, upon reading a book on Stoicism, that I made some major changes in my life.

It turns out that a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make major changes in my life again, but not while thinking about Stoicism.

Over a year ago, my meditation practice fell apart, and I never really regained it. As a result, my thoughts and habits have become disordered, I have felt. For example, I stopped writing regularly for my blog. I spent too much time on Facebook and Twitter instead, being distracted, annoyed, and worse, behaving in ways that I later came to feel counterproductive. I did “quit” Facebook in July, and also “quit” Twitter some weeks ago (part of the big life changes I set in motion), but still, I have felt ungrounded. I decided Stoic Week 2014 would be a good opportunity for me to return to the contemplative life that Buddhism and Stoicism in their different ways aspire to and that I had forgotten.

What I did the first day of Stoic Week 2014

Today, as I started the first day of Stoic Week 2014, I began by meditating ten minutes, Zen style. This was my first meditation session in weeks.

Then I read the assigned text for today in the Stoic Week handbook, on “What is in our power?” A basic principle of Stoicism is that we should know what is under our control and what is not, and summarily refuse to dwell on or resent what is not under our control, and focus on making good decisions about what is under our control. A very simple but powerful concept, especially in a world in which it is easy to get annoyed or angry about many things we hear about in the news or encounter in our daily lives.

My exercise habit has been very spotty for months now. Well, today I reflected that, what the hell, it is completely under my control whether I choose to exercise or not, so why am I wasting this precious freedom? Some people don’t have this freedom. Others, including prisoners in jail, have little freedom but make use of what they have, and they exercise! It happened to be warm outside today, so I really had no excuse. I went for a run in Frick Park. It was short, less than three miles long, but I went. This was my first run in weeks.

It was my turn to cook today at home, so I made a substantial beef casserole dish. Abby has (rightfully) complained in the past when I didn’t completely clean up after cooking. Well, today I thought to myself that it is completely within my control whether I choose to attend to the details of cleanup as much as I attend to the details of using our skillets and baking pans. So I cleaned up as well as I could.

I have not been feeling very well physically for weeks now since an incident involving emergency dental work that somehow resulted in complications. I am still in recovery. OK, so it is not under my control that I am not in good health right now. But what is under my control? After lunch I took a nap, because I felt like I needed it. I have been skimping on naps, but this is stupid, because I know that sleep is the best restorative practice when ill. It is under my control whether I choose to set aside time to sleep as needed.

At work, a colleague just came back from his first trip in Asia. He gave me samples of some odd snacks: chips, cookies, and candy. In recent months, I would have opened them up and eaten them on the spot. Indeed, I have been having problems with eating too many snacks for no rational reason. Today, I decided that it is up to me whether I choose to give in to random cravings or temptations, and so I chose to put the snacks aside for later.

After work, I went to a Pittsburgh Code and Supply Build Night, where food was served. Apart from a Thanksgiving dinner (!), some kind of cake lurked around. I took one glance, and chose not to even look at it again until leaving (when it was already all eaten).

Leaving Build Night, I found myself annoyed that it was taking forever for the pedestrian light to change, but caught myself and observed that, first of all, the cycle is as it is, beyond my control; and second, I had mistakenly assumed that someone had pressed the button, so it was my fault I had to wait so long. I pressed the button and eventually got to cross. Next, while driving home, I made the mistake of driving behind a bus, which kept stopping. I got annoyed, not by the bus, but by myself, for mistakenly driving on the wrong street rather than the other one that does not have this problem; I got annoyed that I was too lazy to make a U-turn on the street I was parked on in order to get to that other street. But I stopped myself when I realized that what was done was done, and I simply had to endure the rest of the drive home behind the bus because it was not going to save any more time if I detoured around it late in the game: the best I can do is to be more careful in the future when making choices while driving.


I felt I improved my life today by keeping in mind the fundamental Stoic principle of observing what is not under my control and what is under my control. I look forward to continuing to adopt this outlook for the rest of the week, and beyond that.

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