Choose Your Response Carefully!

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A bit of continuation to the mature response -blog from last week.

That topic was in retrospect a big hit for myself, because by writing that I had prepared myself for rejection what followed the next day. Now I was ready to deal with it in mature way, because I had just revisited the notes and what it means to respond maturely. Despite knowing and remembering some of this, I have to say that dealing with rejection in personal relationships is never easy.

Even in professional life: sales and marketing people face rejection several or even dozens of times per day it’s not easy even though there it’s not so personal. Rejection hurts.

Here we come to the part what we are actually able to control: our response to the outside impulse. Separation between an animal and a conscious being is the ability to delay the time in between impulse and response. We have the ability to choose our response. This so called last of human freedoms is what many philosophies including stoicism teaches us.

Today I realized that choosing means that there are usually several different options for us to consider. Several paths, from which we can always choose the best suited path for our purposes.

How long can you take in between impulse and response? Try taking a moment of your time.

Usually the powerful have the time to be quiet and think before reply. Do you recognize the feeling?

Be responsible, choose your response carefully!

Now is the Time to Be What You Can Be

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In short I’ve fallen for stoicism. During the January I’ve re-read two books on stoicism: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday. Also currently I am reading Ego is the Enemy and I will read the Daily Stoic.

Stoicism is a practical and applied philosophy of a virtuous life. If you cannot practice the thought or virtue, it’s not stoicism. Being a stoic means having inner dialogue, finding what you are in control of and then living the best life you can from there with no complaints about the circumstances or about results. Stoicism is about action, not about attaching to the rewards.

Living the best you can in the present, because stoic recognizes life is only in the present. Nobody can change the past, however with the action in the present we create future. Nor does stoic gets attached to the future – everything goes to the plan because we are creating the plan every moment as we go. Stoic cannot be thus harmed by ill will, because stoic turns any obstacle into opportunity or dies trying.

Literally stoic recognizes the shortness of life: memento mori – remember you are mortal.

It’s only now time to be what you can be. It’s now when you should start not only being, but start the doing. Be the doing you can be!

I decided to modify the words of Gandhi: Do the change you want to see in the world. Doing is being, do not just talk, start doing something about what you want! In the end we never cannot be still to long, we are never complete, perfection is just a day dream. Excellence is what we should pursue. Excellence means the best we are capable of with the given time and resources. We do not need to commit overly too much resources, that would be foolish, yet we need just enough to create excellence, the best possible solution.

Excellence requires letting go and yet finding ways to fulfill the need completely. Excellence is the practice of virtues. Every day we become what we can be if we practice excellence. The time to practice excellence is now!

Everyday Practice to Benefit Others

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 What I like about Buddhist thinking, is the idea of non-attachment and selfless service for others. Also in order to serve others, one must first learn to take care of oneself, which is not an easy task. In fact taking care of oneself becomes an everyday responsibility, because even when one learns the skillful way to deal with anything that occurs, one must also keep on sustaining that habit. Sustaining is the daily practice, that is why masters train every day.

If we want to be the masters of our own lives, we should start to practice also taking care of ourselves every day. Once we overcome our own anxiousness and confusion, we can finally start truly benefitting others as well.

In everyday practice, we must first each morning take care of our own unskillful thinking and then we can turn our practice into selfless service of others, I think this is suitable enough philosophy for a layperson.

Reasons for the ‘best’ way to be helpful diverge after the point has been made that we might need to take care of ourselves first, that’s why we have different philosophies, different branches of Buddhism and even different forms of service.

Almost any rule is a simplification and thus cannot be fully applied. In the sales profession it is necessary to prioritize the needs of others from your current position. However, the Buddhist could argue that one might benefit all the people more, if you first would take the time to reach enlightenment yourself and then remain in this world and help people. Such people are called bodhisattvas and it is certainly interesting perspective.

In my current thinking, combining ideas from many sources and philosophies, I think the taking care of your own thinking in the morning and then retaining skillful practice through the day is a sufficient way for the layperson to progress. You make your life your practice by not attaching to the fruits of your labor. This kind of selfless service idea is strong in Bhagavad Gita and Zen schools of thought and I think it is rather practical philosophy.

Giving Up Desires is a Piece of Bliss

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I’ve found refuge in the thoughts of karma:

Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;

And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BCE

One is like is his desires. In the end if we live up to our best, in the end we will be well.

Another train of thought, I like to entertain is that of philosopher (stoic). With few desires there needs are easily fulfilled and life is lived happy.

Avoiding desire is difficult and requires effort. It also involves dealing with thoughts such as:

I am not my grades

I am not my past

I am not my thoughts

I am not my salary

I am not my net worth

Most of these I’ve found to be incredibly helpful thought, each one has been kind of like a breakthrough, giving up a desire is acquiring a piece of bliss.

Goodwill Balance

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What I love about Buddhist philosophy is the thought of building incredible goodwill.

Aristotles had similar ideas: if everybody would compete in virtue, we all would get the best of everything.

Whatever it is virtue of ancient Greece, or the good deeds of Buddhism or any other culture I am fascinated by the human desire to be good.

Good and bad in the end have the same potential. However, what I think is right: when we feel accepted, contributing and fulfilling life, we naturally want to be good towards others as well. We have the need to share.

The thing about Buddhist philosophy is, to train the mind to let go of most of things and then sort of delay the gratification indefinitely. Well delay might be wrong choice of words, since it also involves enjoying what is in the present, enjoying to like the simple things that are present in life.

Equipped with a mind that has few wants and all the needs fulfilled, is a happy mind. And happy mind wants to share and see others prosper as well. That kind of mind seeks to fulfill the needs of others to the best of their ability.

All the good in life does in the end happens when we live through the virtues and build a solid goodwill balance.

Review: Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

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Obstacle is the way is one of my new instant favorite books. Essentially the title gives a big clue what the book is about, however the content delivers and brings the perspectives to look the obstacle as the way.

Book highly draws its inspiration from Stoicism and people who have kind of applied these lessons in their lives.

I love the way of thinking, because I would rather see the positive over the negative whatever happens in life. This book certainly has plenty of examples on how exactly the adversity has been turned into success.

Key take away for me is concept of building the “inner citadel” for whatever life will throw, we must be prepared.

I listened the audio version mostly while jogging, so at this time I do not have much notes. However, it’s sufficient to say that I will be listening this again in the near future and probably several times, because it’s rather easy to listen to and there are always different angles to think about these things.

After reading or listening this book you may expect to be philosopher of action.

Easy Beliefs or Hard Truths

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Benefit of beliefs, is that we are able to operate in the complex world without thinking about the reality itself too much.

Disadvantage of the beliefs is, when they become obsolete, we cannot easily start explaining the world without first building a sense of reality and building sense of reality does take a long time and never is incomplete.

Objective observation of the world is demanding at first, so we would not be naturally inclined to do it if it wasn’t for our long term advantage. The progress begins by our ability to acknowledge what is, not by the energy packed action under illusionary beliefs.

Truth can seem a slow, complex and therefore a troublesome thing. Truth isn’t glamorous or sexy, therefore it is probably so unpopular. We often prefer lies over the truths.

Truths can hurt too and many times it may not be preferred.

Yet truth is the only way to get anywhere reliably. Even though it takes a lot of conscious effort and energy to develop more accurate sense of reality, it is worth it. Truth becomes automatic pattern a habit, so we become attuned to the truth like fish are to the water. There are several ways to pursue the path: science or academics, philosophy or vipassana for example.