10 Days of Journaling with the Ancient Stoic Seneca

Seneca The Younger, or Seneca, as he is known popularly, is one of the most prominent people at the centre of the stoic philosophical movement. Stoic philosophy had already become established in the late Stoa period around the 1st and 2nd century AD. The first stoics had come and gone, and what they taught was now being led everywhere by many people. Seneca came before Epictetus, before Marcus Aurelius, and set the theme of journaling as an integral part of stoicism.

BlogFaith & Spirituality 10 Days of Journaling with the Ancient Stoic Seneca

Seneca The Younger, or Seneca, as he is known popularly, is one of the most prominent people at the center of the stoic philosophical movement. Stoic philosophy had already become established in the late Stoa period around the 1st and 2nd century AD. The first stoics had come and gone, and what they taught was now being led everywhere by many people. Seneca came before Epictetus, before Marcus Aurelius, and set the theme of journaling as an integral part of stoicism. 

Stoicism remained a constant in Seneca's life throughout those trying times. Attalus, a Stoic philosopher who was Seneca's early instructor, introduced Seneca to philosophy. Cato, the mortal enemy of Julius Ceasar and whose name frequently appears in Seneca's writings, was also a favorite of Seneca. Nonetheless, Seneca did not limit himself to stoicism; he drew heavily from other systems, evidenced by his numerous references to the works of philosophers.

Seneca The Journaler 

"When the light has been removed, and my wife has fallen silent, aware of this habit that's now mine, I examine my entire day and go back over what I've done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by." - Seneca.

Seneca used to write in his journal late at night. When everything was quiet, he had the opportunity to reflect on his day's events. He believed it's challenging to pay attention to the processes that occur within our bodies and minds, and he followed through with his act of journaling. Because the brain is the sole organ that allows us to think, we have no idea what is inside it. To enable the mind to see what is inside it, we must provide it with a mirror. We may write down every thought within the complex organ, allowing it to examine and analyse how it reacts and responds. Tracking your views and giving them the attention they deserve can help you control them to benefit your health and reaction to your surroundings. 

10 Days of Stoic Journaling 

Whether Stoic or not, many people have fallen in love with journaling in the centuries afterward. They have dedicated themselves to morning or evening journaling. And there's a reason for that: it works. It clears the mind, allows for peaceful, private thinking, and keeps track of one's thoughts throughout their life.

However, the skill of journaling in stoicism is more than just a regular diary. The philosophy is this journaling itself. Whether it's getting ready for the day ahead or pondering the day's events, journaling can help you regain control over your life. Reminding oneself of the lessons we've learned from our teachers, books, and life experiences. It is not enough to merely hear these lessons once; instead, one must practice them again, mull them over in their minds, and, most importantly, write them down while feeling them flow through their fingers. Journaling is stoicism in this sense. Having one without the other is nearly impossible.

To aid you in your journaling journey, we have a ten-day journaling challenge comprised of lessons from the great stoic philosopher himself: Seneca. Each day, you'll go through a lesson and answer a question in your journal. This is not just a ten-day exercise. This challenge is only to get you started in your journaling journey and your practice towards becoming a stoic. 

Step 1:

"It's not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It's because we dare not venture that they are difficult." 

This remark attempts to distinguish between things we are frightened to accomplish because they are difficult and something we are afraid of because they are difficult. Because our minds tend to exaggerate the risk, both in severity and likelihood, the things we don't know become problematic. Dread can be substantially reduced, and the act can be carried out if we can have a handle on that fear and recognize the risk.

It is not wise to attempt something without first understanding the challenges or risks involved. However, life marches forward, and people learn by understanding the obstacles or hazards, developing a strategy, and then daring to do the thing.

Isn't it true that if we never dared and worried about the difficulty of things, we'd get very little done? Self-esteem and confidence grow as a result of accomplishment. We suffer from a terrible lack of self-esteem and confidence due to not daring and accomplishing nothing.

We build ourselves up by accomplishing things, daring to undertake them despite some risk and difficulty. We develop the necessary abilities for the job and our ability to learn from our mistakes and our character. In my opinion, any one of these reasons would be sufficient to make this a worthwhile effort. Getting all three is almost a requirement. Where can you obtain exactly what you need to overcome your fears and ready yourself to venture and act? Include these thoughts while you answer the question. Examine the list of things you find difficult and ask yourself if these tasks appear to be as challenging as before you began today.

Answer this: What do I find difficult to do in life? How can I overcome these fears?

Step 2: 

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

Preparation and hard effort will place you in the best possible position when an opportunity arises. Close enough to strike. While preparedness does not ensure success, your chances of succeeding are limited to none if you do not prepare. The phrase is essentially a rallying cry. Don't just sit back and wait for opportunities to come your way, no matter how good you think they are. Pursue them tirelessly, fine-tune and develop your game, grow and learn from your mistakes, and pursue them even harder.

There are certain aspects you need to understand about this lesson. Firstly, accept the notion that luck will always play a role. Keep an open mind, relax, and be patient. Secondly, get ready. Always. Elevate yourself, and you'll be in the greatest possible position to take advantage of luck (or, if you prefer, opportunity) when it comes your way. Thirdly, acknowledge and accept failures. Even the most thorough preparation will not always ensure success when the chance arises. Many a man has prepared only to choke in the face of an opportunity. That does not imply that the world has come to an end. Learn from your mistakes, try again, and improve next time.

Answer this: Am I prepared to fight for the opportunities I want? Should I come to face them?

Step 3:

"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." 

Overthinking and being concerned about forthcoming events is normal; everyone does it. However, those events occur more in our heads than in reality, and they rarely happen. Consider that moment when you were starting a new career, going to a new school, or trying a new sport. A million thoughts race through your mind, a million "what ifs," and then you realize things aren't that awful, and you think to yourself, "Huh, what was all the fuss about?"

It's perfectly natural to be concerned and consider what might happen. It's your brain's way of anticipating all possibilities. Our brains are fantastic machines that are more powerful than you can imagine, yet they can also make things more difficult than they need to be. In some ways, I feel it is linked to our bodies' 'Fight or Flight response. On the other hand, our brains can sometimes go into overdrive, causing us to overthink things. It will feel easier if you train yourself to quiet such thoughts. Someone wise once said that if you worry about things before they happen, you'll have to worry twice.

Ask yourself: What usually triggers me to overthink situations that haven't happened yet?

Step 4:

"Associate with people who are likely to improve you." 

This lesson is about self-improvement and the best ways to go about it. It begins by separating yourself from those who would load your mind with noise or useless knowledge. It states that you should seek out and spend time with those who can assist you. That could be your spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental side, but whatever it is, find it and spend time with it. 

All progress is a process of self-improvement. Yes, you can be motivated by prizes or punishments, but you are the only one who can change yourself. No one else will be able to help you. That doesn't imply you'll appreciate everything you have to do to better yourself, but it won't be simple until you realize you're the one who has to do it.

Have you ever seen someone in a class who sat there and challenged the teacher to improve them, to make them learn? How did the stubborn learner fare with that strategy? Have they progressed? Things change when you understand you're the one who has to do the job. And in a good way. This isn't to say you should abandon your friends, but it might be a good idea to spend less time gossiping or talking about things unrelated to the aspect of your life you want to improve.

Write about this: How does my present company help me grow as a person?

Step 5: 

"Hang on to your youthful enthusiasms – you'll be able to use them better when you're older." 

Allow yourself to avoid being a victim of "grumpy aging." Please keep track of what is good and interesting to you, and don't lose sight of them. You'll retain your passion and wisdom, which comes with age and experience for knowledge, virtuosity, etc.

We often let the bad things that have happened to us influence how we see the world. If bad things happen, we become bitter; we lose sight of something that once brought us joy. Having bad memories attached to things or people you love can hinder you. You might not want to do those things anymore. 

However, Seneca teaches us to carry on with our youthful expression. It does not mean that we remain childlike or immature. It means we protect the things we love to do from aging, the world, and people who have otherwise to say. 

Ask yourself: What don't I do anymore because I had a bad experience with them in the past?

Step 6: 

"If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable." 

The idiom refers to your final destination. If you don't have one, no amount of wind will be able to carry you there. You must have a clear notion of where you want to go and what your aim or target is. You are adrift without it. Without it, the wind is meaningless. While it is true that life is more about the journey than the goal, none of us wants to be a feather in the wind, tossed around aimlessly. Even if it's just for our vanity, most of us desire to do something in our lives. Many of us also wish to leave an indelible mark on the world so that future generations will benefit from our efforts somehow.

How can these things be accomplished without a goal or a destination? Yes, you can happen across something wonderful, but that isn't a plan, an aim, or a destination. Most of us have some concept of what we'd like to do, and having that idea allows us to take advantage of favorable winds.

These events would occur whether or not there was a goal in mind. Knowing your aim, however, you may understand how these events could assist you in finishing a task or otherwise fulfill your purpose to arrive at your destination.

Question: What do I want to accomplish in the next five years? 

Step 7:

"He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary." 

How often have you worried yourself sick about something to have the scenario you were so concerned about never occur? When you worry about something and allow your mind to go wild, you suffer for a long time before you ever get to the event that may occur. Worrying about something creates difficulties that may never happen unless you know the future. And that kind of anguish is something we could all do without.

And the Stoics recognized that humans have boundless imaginations and can conjure almost any scenario that could go awry.

While this might be advantageous in some situations, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, we must be careful not to become attached to the outcome when we imagine the worst. We have limited control over the product because of the role of chance and randomness in our life, which can impact the outcome of most things. However, we have power over ourselves, and our thoughts are under our control. Our deeds are what we are. We may concentrate on making wise choices, and we can focus on performing excellent work.

Answer this: How can I find the balance between preparation and worrying?

Step 8:

"The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately."

Humans are the only species we know of with a particular aptitude known as prospection or future-mindedness. Psychology describes this as creating and assessing mental representations of prospective futures.

Having this skill isn't necessarily a terrible thing in and of itself. It's always how we use something that might turn it into a problem. It serves as philosophical guidance, but it also serves as a cautionary biological note. Suppose you keep dwelling on negative thoughts of future occurrences that may or may not occur. In that case, your brain will become continuously overworked, resulting in the production of stress hormones, anxiety, and unwelcomed tension. Our brains see this experience as a threat when we get locked in negative future loops, and our stress reaction goes into overdrive.

Journaling and meditation are two great activities that can help you live day to day instead of worrying about the future. 

Ask yourself: What's something I do for myself to make me content in the present?

Step 9:

"To wish to be well is a part of becoming well." 

Stoics believe that setting an intention is very important before taking a step. Whether it is to learn something new, right your wrongs, or work to heal yourself, it rings true for all aspects of your life. Your mind is just as strong as your body. Having a positive outlook can benefit your healing process, like being unwell or suffering from trauma.

We often double our pain by having a bad attitude toward things and people trying to help us. We need to want to change so that our situation changes. It's like addicts, and they must themselves want to stop any outside influence and help work. If you apply this to your life, you'll have a much easier experience getting through bad experiences in life. 

Ask yourself: What influences my negative outlook while recovering from a bad experience?

Step 10:

"He who is brave is free."

To properly express the type of person we want to be, live the life we truly want to live, and leave the legacy we desire, we must take responsibility for who we are above and beyond our immediate impulses, desires, and social pressures.

If we are not free to determine our character, conduct, and legacy, we are under something else's power and, hence, lack freedom. And if we aren't responsible for our thoughts and actions, someone or something else is—thus, we are enslaved once more. As a result, the high demand is clear: we must be brave in expressing ourselves. 

Ask yourself: If there were no restrictions, what kind of person would I be, and what kind of life would I live?


Wednesday, April 6, 2022