Two Monks: A Short Story On Living In The Moment

Two traveling monks reached a river with a strong current where they met a young woman. The woman asked them if they could help her across the river, and even though the monks had vowed to avoid contact with women, the older monk picked her up and carried her across the river.

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The younger monk couldn’t believe what happened as they continued on their way.

Hours had passed and the younger monk, still wondering about the event, was unable to hold his silence and said, “Brother, our spiritual training teachers us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up and carried her!”

“Brother,” the older monk replied, “I set her down hours ago, why are you still carrying her?”

 

This story shares a message about living in the present moment. So often we all carry around past hurts, holding grudges, or even carrying past joys that may be unattainable to reach again, when all this does is hurt ourselves. Maybe we even carry around a past pain of someone else, and try to remind them of past hurts, but what good does that do?

Do you invest your money into things that only bring you misery? Not purposefully, so why would you invest misery into your mind?

We all go through tough times. People betray us, they try to sabotage us sometimes and we can’t understand why. We can choose to hold onto the past but it will only weigh us down from experiencing a wonderful present moment. Let us choose to let go of what doesn’t help us and concentrate on the present moment. This moment, right now, is where happiness is to be had.

4 Philosophy ideas that can bring you temporary peace

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Disclaimer—This might change your perspective on life. Hopefully for the better. 

The choice is yours.

The 4 philosophy ideas I discuss stem from a philosophy called stoicism.

I wanted to title this post: “Stoicism 101; an old philosophy that can liberate you,” but I’m not sure if many people have heard about stoicism, and I know most people have heard of philosophy.

So what is stoicism? (scroll down to ‘4 Main Points‘ section for just the main points if you’d like).

Stoicism is defined as: “The endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.”

It is being okay with everything that happens & accepting how you feel.  It is focusing on what you can control, and letting go of the rest.  

Stoicism is liberating.

Stoicism can help you: 

  • Become a better person & friend
  • Deal with people & external events appropriately
  • Deal with adversity
  • Maintain a level head through praise & criticism
  • Come to peace with death
  • Overcome destructive emotions, and many more.

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Stoicism is also defined as: “An ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.”

Stoicism helps us accept life as it is.  It helps us get past our labels of “good” & “bad.” Stoicism helps put us in a mindful state of awareness, getting us out of our constantly judging mind, enabling us to experience life fully, non-judgmentally.

In relation to living non-judgmentally, I’ve heard this quote: “What is chaos to the fly is normal to the spider.”

Shakespeare also said, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

We know what is good or bad in human terms, but there is a lot more going on in the universe than what we think.

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Think about the millions of galaxies just like this one. Or even think about 10 more. The Universe is vast.

There is so much happening beyond us.

We know that murder is a bad thing, yet cows, chickens and other animal life are murdered daily in our world.  I eat meat so I am not complaining, I am just trying to get us all to think.

Do you think eating dog is bad?

Multiple countries eat dog today, and other countries think that this is very wrong…Here is an article that came out April 3, 2018 that discusses how over 5 million dogs are eaten in Vietnam every year—Click Here For Article.

Is it wrong to kill animals for food? I don’t have that answer.

Maybe hundreds or thousands of years from now, if the human race is still around, they will wonder how we could have eaten the meat of other animals.

Maybe not though as well.

Look back to a few examples from recent centuries, the 1900’s & beyond, to things we look back on in disgust: Open racism, public hangings & no womens’ rights.

These injustices are still happening today in some places.

So this is what philosophy is; thinking. Thinking, learning & then living out the best life from what we know. Philosophy is about questions & perspectives.

Stoicism is not pessimistic, it is optimistic, you just need to see it in the right light.

Before I get to the main points of stoicism, I would like your feedback via email. I am considering writing a short ebook that will discuss stoicism in more detail.  I have about 70 pages of solid notes on the subject, & have read multiple books regarding stoicism, so if you would be interested in reading a short ebook(condensed to about 20 pages) please let me know!

For now, here is a summary of a few main points that stoicism offers & how we can apply them to our lives.

4 Main Points

1~Amor Fati

Which translates to a love of one’s fate•

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German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a big fan of amor fati. 

He is quoted saying, “my formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it, but love it.”

The stoics also had another way of looking at this. They believed in a universal guiding force of the universe. They thought we are like a dog tied to a moving cart, and we have two options: We can try to dig our hind legs in, struggling to control everything, getting dragged & being challenged. Or we can enjoy the ride & live our best lives.

Last quote on Amor Fati:

“Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.” Epictetus (Philosopher & former slave)

Are you loving your fate?  If not, you can with practice, and it will help you live your best life.

2~Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest

Most of us have heard this quote: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

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We have heard it, and might think, “yea that’s good, I should do that.” But we often don’t follow through with this quote.

We need to follow through with action. Make a list of things you can control, and a list of things you can’t control.  Then stop wasting any time on things you cannot control.  This takes time & practice, as I am practicing this myself and am not perfect at it.

I love this idea from Philip Ghezelbash that relates to focusing on the things we can control:

“Do you have a problem in your life?

No? ► Then don’t worry.

Yes? ► Can you do something about it?…

Yes? ► Then don’t worry.

No? ► Then don’t worry.”

I have been practicing this lately when I am stuck in traffic.  There is no reason to get upset in uncontrollable traffic, but many people do & I have too at times.  I’ve been reminding myself that I have no control over the traffic, and this reminder has been bringing me peace of mind.

3~Practice poverty & misfortune

This may sound counterproductive but it can actually help a person grow tremendously.

When we intentionally practice poverty & misfortune a few days each month, we will be more prepared and accepting for when it does come.

“We must learn to disappoint ourselves at leisure before the world ever has a chance to slap us by surprise at a time of its own choosing.” Alain de Botton

Alain goes on to say: “One of the goals of civilization is to instruct us in how to be sad rather than angry. Sadness may not sound very appealing. But it carries – in this context – a huge advantage. It is what allows us to detach our emotional energies from fruitless fury around things that (however bad) we cannot change and that are the fault of no-one in particular and – after a period of mourning – to refocus our efforts in places where our few remaining legitimate hopes and expectations have a realistic chance of success.”

Entrepreneur, practicer of stoicism, and author of a New York Times Best Selling Book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss, practices this each month.  See him talk about it by clicking here

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Tim Ferriss

Ferriss talks about how the philosopher Cato, would practice poverty & misfortune:

During Cato’s age, over 2000 years ago, every now and then he would wear clothes that society viewed as humiliating.

Cato did this to train himself to be ashamed of only those things truly worth being ashamed about.

Deep down we know that clothes are nothing to be ashamed of, but many people spend a lot of money to buy brand clothing to impress people they don’t even like.

The philosopher Seneca also practiced this.  In one of his writings he wrote: “Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’”

We undervalue what we have, because most likely we’ve always had it…

“Many of your fears are based on undervaluing the things that are easily obtainable.” Tim Ferriss

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Ferriss also practices this by doing fasts, not eating anything for days, & also doing fasts that include only eating rice, or only drinking water.  (If you plan on doing a fast, research it as much as possible beforehand).

This year I have done two 30 hour fasts, and multiple 16-20 hour fasts.

There has been a lot of research done on fasting, and it has many benefits.  This Harvard study explains how fasting can lead to a longer and healthier life: Click Here for the study.

I’ve been practicing this another way without even knowing it:  When I need clothes, I first go to Goodwill or other thrift stores, where I buy great clothes for a cheap price.  I am very glad my mother took us to thrift shops growing up; they really have some amazing gems.  And when I buy clothes that society might think is “poor,” that doesn’t bother me & I’ll still wear it.

Macklemore agrees here in his song Thrift shop(clean version).

He says, “I’m like, ‘yo, that’s 50 dollars for a t-shirt.’ Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition. 50 dollars for a t-shirt, that’s just some ignorant _____.

I call that getting tricked by the business.”

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Do we care that much about the opinions of others that we will spend enormous amounts of money to impress them?

2000 years ago, former Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius said, “it never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.

Think about what your life would be like without the things you have.  It could happen.  Better to have practiced misfortune so that if it comes to you, you won’t be bothered by it.

Are you practicing poverty & misfortune?  If not, do you think you will?

4~None of what you do lasts

Again, this may sound pessimistic, but it is liberating, and if you are still reading you can sense that practicing stoicism can be liberating.

Marcus Aurelius reminded himself of all the people who have died, whether they had a “great” occupation or a “lowly” one.  He said: “Run down the list of those who felt intense anger at something: the most famous, the most unfortunate, the most hated, the most whatever: Where is all that now? Smoke, dust, legend…or not even a legend. Think of all the examples. And how trivial the things we want so passionately are.

“No matter how clever or brilliant, none of what we do lasts…It’s good to remember that.” Ryan Holiday

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“If everything is ephemeral, what does matter?  Right now matters.  Being a good person and doing the right thing right now, thats what matters and that’s what was important to the Stoics. Be humble and honest and aware.” Ryan Holiday

If you want to really live your best life, it is important to frequently think of your own mortality. This will help you appreciate each and every moment, and not have such an intense fear of death that most people refuse to think about.

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” Marcus Aurelius

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I hope you enjoyed learning about, or learning more about the wonderful philosophy of stoicism.  There are many more practices involved with stoicism; these were a few key starting points I believe are good to begin with, & they are ones that I am practicing.

If you want to learn more about stoicism, I recommend reading the book “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius.  I recently read it & it is now one of my top 3 all-time favorite books.

And as I said, I have many notes on stoicism and am considering writing a short ebook on the subject to discuss it in more details (the ebook would be around 20 pages). If this is something you’d be interested in reading please let me know 🙂

I look forward to hearing from you, & hope you have gained a new perspective through reading this.

Cheers.

“In your actions, don’t procrastinate. In your conversations, don’t confuse. In your thoughts, don’t wander. In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive. In your life, don’t be all about business.” Aurelius

It’s okay to feel bad

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And it’s okay to feel good.  

How long have we had this idea in America that everyone should be happy all the time?

The media portrays smiling families, good times, and happy endings, but that isn’t always the case.

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How people think they should be.

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How people think they shouldn’t be.

You don’t need to be happy all the time To Live A Great Life.

Does your Instagram look like the picture on the top left?

Oftentimes we look at someone who is upset and think “Oh there must be something wrong with them.”  Why do we think something has to be wrong?  Maybe it’s okay for them to feel bad.  It’s okay for them to feel what they feel.  When we allow our feelings to come and don’t try to force them to leave, they will leave on their own.  When we try to control our emotions, they multiply.

You are not alone in your struggles.  Basically everyone at one point or another in their lifetime will experience depression, anxiety, OCD etc.

Check out this list of some of the greats who have dealt with depression and in some cases suicide:

Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Ludwig Wan Beethoven, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Allen Poe, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Orwell, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Kurt Cobain, Ellen Degeneres, Johnny Depp, Eminem, Chris Evans, Jon Hamm, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps, Brad Pitt, J.K. Rowling, Channing Tatum, Owen Wilson, and many others.

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So we can be there to support others and to support ourselves because everyone is going through something, and that’s okay.  We need to remember that everyone suffers in life, and the meaning we give our suffering can make our lives better or worse.

“You don’t need to feel great to act great.” Coach T

So how can we gain Peace of Mind through this idea of accepting our feelings as they are?

“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.” Eckhart Tolle

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A Study…

Psychologists at the University of California Berkeley have researched and tested the idea of accepting negative emotions and have found that “people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health.”

See their article Here

These psychologists have also stated that acceptance and self-compassion are two key habits to happiness.

“People who accept their emotions without judging or trying to change them are able to cope with their stress more successfully.”

My Experience

There have been multiple times where I’ve experienced overwhelming feelings.  Over time I’ve learned that I can sit and dwell in these feelings or I can try to move on.  Sometimes these feelings come back to me, but I now work on accepting them as they are.  I allow myself to feel what I’m feeling, and then let the emotions go away in their time.

I remind myself that these feelings are temporary.  They will pass, and it will be okay.  With each new day comes a choice to suppress our emotions, or to allow them to come and then go.

Smiling helps, just look in the mirror and smile.  It’s funny, I know.  Try it for a few minutes and see what happens.

I Exercise.  This is something that is known to boost endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body.

Or you can take some time to just breathe.  Listen to your breath, just your breath.  Find a comfortable place, let go of the wandering mind and breathe.  Listening to your breath allows you to get back to this moment, here, now.  Try that for five minutes just to see how often your mind wanders.

I am not perfect at this craft, but I enjoy the practice and think you will too!

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Conclusion:

It’s okay to think & feel happy, sad, depressed, anxious, joyous, all the emotions.

Remember that feelings are temporary; they will pass, but your actions will last.

Try to be conscious of how you are thinking and feeling when you are down, and don’t allow yourself to just dwell on auto-pilot in negative feelings.  Feel what you feel, accept what you’re feeling and thinking, even wave to your feelings if you’d like, and then watch them go like cars passing by.

Peace of Mind is not just a state of relaxation.

Peace of Mind isn’t about feeling a certain way.  

It’s about feeling the way you feel.

Feeling how you feel is the greatest happiness of all.

“You can’t stop the waves (of emotions) but you can learn to surf.”

Above all, it’s about letting the mind be as it is and knowing something about how it is in this moment.  It’s not about getting somewhere else, but about allowing yourself to be where you already are. — Jon Kabat-Zin

Thanks for reading!  Please share your thoughts in the comments.