food for thought (do try this at home)

 Breakfast: by far my favourite meal of the day!

A lot has happened during these past couple of months, the exhibition and all the preparation that entails, clay evenings on Wednesdays, museum visits (Ai Weiwei in Kunsthal Rotterdam, Kiss  My Soul in Dordrechts museum, to name just a few) Christmas, New Year, several birthday celebrations, collaborating with Aukje and Laura in anticipation of our group-exhibition, training with Snoopy, walking with Snoopy, being annoyed by and cuddling Snoopy, in short life.

One thing I'm really excited about and want to share here is the fact that I'm following a philosophy course on Stoicism, together with friend I. (fellow-artist, sparring partner and my ipad-teacher).
We drive back&forth together, all in all 2 hours, and already in the car we're chattering away on what we've read and seen regarding the course, exchanging notes et cetera.

What I'm going to talk about today is something that has liberated me, given me insights and happiness. In short it has opened up, no it has blown my mind!

Our philosophy teacher is journalist/philosopher Remko van Broekhoven and one of the main course-books is 'Stoïcisme als levenskunst. Evenveel geluk als wijsheid' by philosopher Miriam van Reijen (who is also Remko's mother). This was the first book I devoured, moving on quickly to "Filosferen maakt een eind aan al het gezeur'*, an interview with Miriam van Reijen by author Francien Homan.
Second title roughly translates as: 'Practicing philosophy puts an end to all complaining.'

According to Miriam philosophy is the art of thinking systematically ánd critically. Now that I've read two of her books I agree.
Van Reijen's mission in life is to offer practical philosophy to whomever is seeking enlightenment (for want of a better word). So many, maybe all of us at some point in our lives, suffer from unwanted emotions. But how to deal with them? Here's where it gets interesting, Van Reijen states: you do not have to deal with negative feelings, much like a sore tooth in which case you want the dentist to help you get rid of the pain, you want her to get to the root of the problem. In the same way unwanted emotions can be resolved thanks to a philosophical, or stoic approach. Back to what we human beings tend to suffer from: unwanted emotions, like anger, fear, revenge, sadness......In her view: 

A negative/unwanted emotion stems from 2 conflicting thoughts.

Yep, think about that for a moment. I know, I resisted at first and then  started 'testing' it: as soon as I felt a negative mood take hold of me, I looked at it and asked self: what am I feeling and then, what are my thoughts? And if you're honest you will always be able to distinguish two thoughts, one of which is true and the other one is not, it just isn't. If there are more thoughts, dig deeper until you get to the root of the negative affection, where you will encounter 2 conflicting thoughts.

To quote Gloria Steinem 'The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.'

I'll give you an example: imagine you're sitting on the settee eating a bag of crisps feeling guilty. Why this negative unwanted emotion? the two thoughts: 
- I'm sitting here comfortably eating what I want = true
- I should be running outdoors = untrue
this second thought is untrue, this is a judgemental statement.
Realising the latter, means you can toss it out of your head, leaving you with what it is you want to be doing right now.

Another one. You're late for class because your train arrived late. You're upset, angry even. Why?
- the train's late = true
- my train shouldn't be late, I don't care if all the other trains are late, mine just isn't supposed to be = untrue
Let go of second thought, in fact it's quite ridiculous, why can't your train be late as it so obviously is. No point in resisting the truth.

Of course this can be difficult/hard, one might even go as far as to say everything worthwhile takes effort, perseverance, requires discipline, these are things you can practice, believe me I know. And yes thought patterns have etched particular grooves so much so you react almost without thinking and creating new ones can be incredibly hard to realise. Like new behavioral habits, f.e. quitting smoking. But I reiterate: doable.

Important to note here Miriam van Reijen - nor I - are talking about things like PTSS or severe clinical depression. 

However, if and when you can accept yourself for who and what you are, you will also have to admit you are always doing exactly what it is you want to do. Despite what you or others think you should be doing......

All of the above does not mean you cannot 'fight' the good fight, yes by all means do, but as soon as you realise you've done all you can, let it go.

There's so much more to write about on the stoic way of life, f.e. Spinoza's view on 'free will', according to him and Miriam there's no such thing. But then there's Sartre telling us: all you do all day long is make choices.
Hmpf, not going there today, I think you have enough to chew on.

This might all sound terribly familiar and resonate - it did for me -especially for those of you who've read books about or practice Buddhism, you'll notice many parallel strains of thought.

Now that I've taken note of Van Reijen's take on stoicism I think it's time for me to go back to the source and read these:

enough talk, couple of images from last weekend

three very busy days, including lots of sales, there was such a great vibe there, thanks to all who visited and made it such a memorable happening..... we will be back!

click on link for short video impression

now go off and do what you want;-)



long comment LOST...but love how deeply engaged you are with this...
how sometimes Luck will have it that we are met with the exact
right "teaching" for the exact place we are in our lives and
all the pieces fall into place, the exhilaration of that

and YES! to the exhibit!

will return a few times and look for the Buddhist thread

i just finished the Real Happiness Meditation Challenge with Sharon Salzberg. Reading this makes me SMILE how sometimes we luck
out and are met with a "practice" of just the right kind at just the right time of our lives and everything falls into place.....
Thank you for the effort it took to bring this here...i will need
to read a couple times more.....
love how deeply eng said…
Crazy you mention the stoics! I stumbled on a podcast The Daily Stoic, had no idea this was such a helpful philosophy for our times. Then here you are studying it! I love how these little synchronicities spring up to add something beneficial
Saskia said…
oh wow Grace, you persevered in your meditation practice, congrats! - not that I'm surprised as you are such a disciplined being - I have been catching up on your blog, reading from the present backwards.....maybe I have heard of these stoic teachings before, but wasn't ready; whatever the moment is NOW.
also, went for a long walk with a friend I hadn't seen in a while and we got to talking about what we're up to, and of course I just had to talk 'bout this stocism course. I explained how much it helped me resolve certain issues and then we got to discussing some of her problems and lo and behold she texted me the other day and said this stoic way of looking at one's emotions, recognising them for what they ARE, had helped her too....isn't that just great! love to you Grace
Saskia said…
Ha Joy, you 'found' him too, our youngest son pointed me in his direction, serendipitously 'round the same time I'd started with my philosophy course!
We need all the help we can get;-)
thXx for dropping by and mentioning The Daily Stoic, Ryan Holiday's the person behind it.



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