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Understanding Stories: Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway

Cat in the Rain is a short story by Ernest Hemingway. First published in 1925, the 1,145-word story perfectly exemplifies the iceberg theory style of writing that Hemingway made famous. This writing style is a minimalistic style that focuses on surface-level elements without explicitly unpacking the underlining themes. The deeper meaning of the story isn’t overtly discussed but comes through the text, regardless.

The story starts by establishing an isolated atmosphere. 

There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room.

Hemingway informs us that the two Americans aren’t just alone but they also don’t know anyone else in the hotel. We feel a sense of isolation from the start which is further unpacked by the rain, forcing everyone to stay inside. More isolated than they otherwise would have been. 

The motor cars were gone from the square by the war monument. Across the square in the doorway of the cafe a waiter stood looking out of the empty square.

The text then shifts to the wife, and immediately her wants are expressed. She sees a cat stuck out in the rain and she wants the cat. The main conflict of the story comes when the wife’s wants are met with disinterest by the husband. The husband doesn’t even bother to stop reading to address his wife’s wants.

“I’m. going down and get that kitty,” the American wife said.

“I’ll do it,” her husband offered from the bed.

“No, I’ll get it. The poor kitty out trying to keep dry under a table.”

The husband went on reading, lying propped up with the two pillows at the foot of the bed.

Now that the focus of the story has narrowed from saving a cat from the rain to an unsatisfied relationship, Hemingway provides us with further evidence for the latter point. The wife comes across the hotel keeper and notes the man’s dignity and the way he pays attention to her and how he wishes to serve her needs. Three things we assume her husband isn’t doing. 

The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked the way he wanted to serve her.

However, the wife’s want isn’t fulfilled. When she goes out to rescue the cat, it’s gone. So instead, the wife whines and for the first time, we see Hemingway refer to her as an ‘American girl’ perhaps suggesting her age. The story narrows in our mind and now we see the couple is young and perhaps the story is turning towards a loss of innocence. 

“Yes,” she said, “under the table.” Then, “Oh, I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty.”

When she talked English the maid’s face tightened.

“Come, Signira,” she said. “We must get back inside. You will be wet.”

“I suppose so”, said the American girl.

Once more, the importance of the hotel keeper is highlighted as she goes back inside.

The padrone made her feel very small and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance. 

When the wife gets back to her room, she expresses her wants again but her husband continues to read, ignoring her requests and even telling her to be quiet. 

“And I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. And I want it to be spring and I want to brush my hair out in front of a mirror and I want a kitty and I want some new clothes.”

“Oh, shut up and get something to read.,” George said. He was reading again.

However, in the end, one of the wife’s wants is met. The hotel keeper sends her a cat. Here, Hemingway implies that another man can fulfill her wants instead of the husband. The fact that Hemingway hints at the hotel keeper being able to make her feel important we can infer something deeper is happening, underneath the surface of the text. Because the hotel keeper fulfills the wife’s wishes, we can take this as a symbolic gesture as to the hotel keeper fulfilling the wife’s physical or emotional needs. This may hint at an adulterous relationship to come or one that has happened already. Or perhaps, further acknowledging that this relationship between the husband and wife will not last as the wife realizes her dissatisfaction and understands that there are others who can make her happy. 

Lessons From Books: The Wisdom Of Insecurity

The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety is a book by Alan Watts, which tackles psychological security. This topic is even more important than ever before with how quickly our world is changing and evolving. This can cause an increase in anxiety as we find ourselves to be insecure. Watts argues that this is just the reality of life. It is not in finding security, but in acceptance, where we might find salvation from anxiety and insecurity.

Lessons:

Two Kinds of Anxiety

On the one hand, there is the anxiety that one may be missing something, so that the mind flits nervously and greedily from one pleasure to another, without finding rest and satisfaction in any. On the other, the frustration of having always to pursue a future good in a tomorrow which never comes, and in a world where everything must disintegrate, gives men an attitude of “What’s the use anyhow?”

Both these anxieties cheapen the present experience. We are constantly jumping from one pleasure to the next, trying to fill our pleasure quota, hence not appreciating each individual pleasure or we are ignoring the goodness in the present because we think our future will bring us even greater pleasure. This comparison with the future boon then makes it impossible for the present worthwhile.

Both these anxieties leave us unsatisfied.

We crave distraction—a panorama of sights, sounds, thrills, and titillations into which as much as possible must be crowded in the shortest possible time. 

The Dichotomy of Pain & Pleasure

If we are to have intense pleasures, we must also be liable to intense pains. The pleasure we love, and the pain we hate, but it seems impossible to have the former without the latter. Indeed, it looks as if the two must in some way alternate, for continuous pleasure is a stimulus that must either pall or be increased. And the increase will either harden the sense buds with its friction, or turn into pain. A consistent diet of rich food either destroys the appetite or makes one sick. 

If then we are to be fully human and fully alive and aware, we must suffer for our pleasures. Without such willingness, there can be no growth in the intensity of consciousness.

Pain and pleasure are related to one another. In order to have the highest sense of pleasure, we have to be open to the highest sense of pain. For example, often the highest form of pleasure comes after something we have poured our heart and soul into achieving. However, the pain related to the failure of such a venture is also extreme. But, if we have suffered enough disappointments and failures in life, then we lower our hopes and goals and with it, we lower our potential pleasure and pain feedback. However, this is then dimming the experience of life. In order to fully and vividly experience life, we have to accept the possibility of the highest form of pain, so its equal pleasure is also available to us. 

Why It’s Hard To Be Happy

The real problem does not come from any momentary sensitivity to pain, but from our marvellous powers of memory and foresight—in short from our consciousness of time. For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations—especially the latter. 

Again, it is our sense of past and future that can make it difficult to be happy. Our past disappointments and failures haunt us and follow our present actions. Once more, our present goals suffer because of the memory of pain attached to us. Likewise, our sense of the future makes us always look forward to the next thing. The next goal. The next moment of pleasure or happiness makes it difficult to be happy in the present. 

This, then, is the human problem: there is a price to be paid for every increase in consciousness. We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain. By remembering the past we can plan for the future. But the ability to plan for pleasure is offset by the “ability” to dread pain and to fear the unknown. Furthermore, the growth of an acute sense of the past and the future gives us a correspondingly dim sense of the present. 

What to do then? Often, to make progress in life, we have to sacrifice pleasures in the present moment for some future gain. However, it is the quality of the pleasure we sacrifice and the type of pleasure we hope to gain which matters most. Cheap pleasures like immediate satisfaction can cause one to fall into the previously mentioned trap of seeking one pleasure after the next. So, sacrificing cheap pleasures in order to satisfy a larger pleasure makes sense. But again, to chase a larger pleasure also means to open yourself up to a larger pain. Future happiness can be trap. A constant run where the goal line keeps moving with each stride you take.

To pursue it (the future) is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom, and the faster you share it, the faster it runs ahead. This is why all the affairs of civilization are rushed, why hardly anyone enjoys what he has, and is forever seeking more and more. Happiness, then, will consist, not of solid and substantial realities, but of such abstract and superficial things as promises, hopes, and assurances. 

Awareness is one way to appreciate the present moment and, with it, happiness. 

Working rightly, the brain is the highest form of “instinctual wisdom.” Thus it should work like the homing instinct of pigeons and the formation of the foetus in the womb—without verbalizing the process or knowing “how” it does it. The self-conscious brain, like the self-conscious heart, is a disorder, and manifests itself in the actor feeling of separation between “I” and my experience. The brain can only assume its proper behaviour when consciousness is doing what it is desired for: not writhing and whirling to get out of present experience, but being effortlessly aware of it. 

Listen To The Body

[…] we have been taught to neglect, despise, and violate our bodies, and to put all faith in our brains. Indeed, the special disease of civilized man might be described as a block or schism between his brain (specially, the cortex) and the rest of his body […] we have allowed brain thinking to develop and dominate your lives out of all proportion to “instinctual wisdom,” which we are allowing to slump into atrophy. As a consequence, we are at war within ourselves—the brain desiring things which the body does not want, and the body desiring things which the brain does not allow; the brain giving directions which the body will not follow, and the body giving impulses which the brain cannot understand. 

Our body often craves simple and necessary pleasures. The body wishes to move, to feel, to exercise its senses. It is made to explore and experience life. But our brain can fill our mind with more wants and needs than necessary. It can make us lazy when our body desires to exercise. It can make us gorge on food when our body has already had enough. It can make us overlook the simple, everyday pleasures of life when our body simply wishes to take in the sunlight, or feel the wind as we go for a pleasant walk. 

Human desire tends to be insatiable. We are so anxious for pleasure that we can never get enough of it. We stimulate our sense organs until they become insensitive, so that if pleasure is to continue they must have stronger and stronger stimulants. In self dense the body gets ill from the strain, but the brains wants to go on and on.

Because we are always looking for greater pleasure, the smaller, mere regular pleasure goes unnoticed. The instinct to live in the present is ignored. 

But to be used rightly it (brain) must be put in its place, for the brain is made for man, not man for his brain. In other words, the function of the brain is to serve the present and the real, not to send man chasing wildly after the phantom of the future. 

Awareness Without Judgement

To be aware of life, of experience as it is at this moment, without any judgement or ideas about it. In other words, You have to see and feel what you’re experiencing as it is, and not as it is named. This very simple “opening of the yes” brings about the most extraordinary transformation of understanding and living, and shows that many of our most baffling problems are pure illusions.

Instead of seeking something, what we might actually need is to let go and be aware of what is happening to us and around us. And do it in a way where we don’t bring our past judgements and baggage with us. 

The truth is revealed by removing things that stand in its light, an art not unlike sculpture, in which the artist creates, not by building, but by hacking away. 

This is what it means to be present in the moment. To allow the experience of the now to wash over you without trying to dissect it, analyze it, or make sense of it. 

To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening. To understand joy or fear, you must be wholly and undivided aware of it. So long as you are calling it names and saying, “I am happy,” or “I am afraid,” you’re not being aware of it. Fear, pain, sorrow, and boredom must remain problems if we do not understand them, but understanding requires a single and undivided mind. This, surely, is the meaning of that strange saying, “If thine eye be single, they whole body shall be full of light.” 

Art of Living

The art of living in this “predicament” is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past and the known on the other. It consists in being completely sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive. 

The art of living also requires an acceptance of change. Everything, including us, is in a state of flux. By accepting this, you aren’t married to one single idea about life or about yourself. You allow yourself to be flexible and adapt as the world, and yourself, change. 

Struggle as we may, “fixing” will never make sense out of change. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. 

Often, the beauty of life is in the fact that everything is dying. That the present moment will soon become the past. This phase in life will soon be over. This pleasure you are feeling will soon end. When you know everything is changing and hence, dying, you come to appreciate the momentarily understanding that you gain. 

The truth is rather that the images, though beautiful in themselves, come to life in the act of vanishing. 

Silence

We must repeat: memory, thought, language, and logic are essential to human life. They are one half of sanity. But a person, a society which is only half sane is insane. To look at life without words is not to lose the ability to form words—to think, remember, and plan. To be silent is not to lose your tongue. On the contrary, it is only thought silence that one can discover something new to talk about. One who talked incessantly, without stopping to look and listen, would repeat himself ad nauseam.

Lessons From Books: Letters To A Young Poet

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke is a collection of ten letters that encompass Rilke’s thoughts on how a poet should feel, love, and seek the truth. Rilke was a renowned poet and novelist known for his lyrical style of prose. These letters further cover how Rilke felt about life, how he viewed hardship and struggle, joy and happiness, and the importance of positive thinking and solitude.

Lessons:

Creating Helpful Thoughts

And your doubts can become a good quality if you school them. They must grow to be knowledgeable, they must learn to be critical. As soon as they begin to spoil something for you ask them why a thing is ugly, demand hard evidence, test them, and you will perhaps find them at a loss and short of an answer, or perhaps mutinous. But do not give in, request arguments, and act with this kind of attentiveness and consistency every single time, and the day will come when instead of being demolishers they will be among your best workers – perhaps the canniest of all those at work on the building of your life.

Thoughts can be debilitating. They can riddle your mind with doubts and stop you from taking action. They can change a happy, positive situation into a negative one. They can suck away the joy of life by constantly pointing out how things can go wrong, what you should have done, and how you’re wrong about everything. Worse of all, you are stuck with your thoughts. Thoughts accompany you from birth until death. 

Therefore, what Rilke suggests is poignant and important. 

You don’t want to be in a constant battle with your thoughts for the rest of your life. Ideally, you want your thoughts to be aligned with your beliefs and wants and to act in a way that they empower you. Rilke suggests critical thinking in order to gain this benefit. When a negative thought arises, or a thought filled with doubt, guilt, or shame, pick at it, poke holes in its logic, make it work, and justify its position. Don’t simply accept that thought as the truth. In some ways, you have to wrestle with your thoughts and eventually submit them to your will, so they become loyal. 

Love Your Fate

I might be able to say about your tendency towards self-doubt or your inability to reconcile your inner and outer life, or about anything else that assails you – it all comes down to what I have said before: the same desire that you might find enough patience in you to endure, and simplicity enough to have faith; that you might gain more and more trust in what is hard and in your own loneliness among other people. And otherwise let life take its course. Believe me: life is right, whatever happens.

Each life is unique. Each individual has their own challenges in life, which they must either overcome, adapt, or accept. The acceptance of one’s hardships is vital. Instead of viewing bad luck or struggle in a negative light, it can help to see the pleasure in it, to find love in that hardship through the realization that this makes your life different. This makes your life solely your own.

Solutions and adaptation often come after acceptance. If you’re in denial of something, it is unlikely you will be in the correct mindset to improve your current condition. But, once you accept your fate and perhaps even love it, then you’re ready for the next step.

Reflect On Your Sadness

The only sorrows which are harmful and bad are those one takes among people in order to drown them out. Like diseases which are treated superficially and inexpertly, they only abate, and after a short pause break out again with more terrible force, and accumulate inside and are life, unlived, rejected, lost life – from which we can die. If it were possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and a little beyond the outworks of our intuitions, perhaps we should then bear our sadnesses with greater assurance than our joys. For they are the moments when something new enters into us, something unknown to us; our feelings, shy and inhibited, fall silent, everything in us withdraws, a stillness settles on us, and at the centre of it is the new presence that nobody yet knows, making no sound.

When you ignore and disregard your sorrow, it often festers inside you and shows up later in life to cause more harm than it would have done if it was acknowledged on time. Sadness can be viewed as an important event in your life. Joy passes quickly. It arises and disappears as the joyful moment passes. It is as if human beings aren’t meant to live in joyful moments. While sadness sticks around. Years later, that sad moment feels as heavy as it did when it first happened. The reason for this is that sadness changes an individual. Sadness alters how you think, how you act, who you trust, your likes and dislikes, and much more. So, it’s important when a sad event occurs to seek solitude so you can reflect on the coming changes and see what kind of individual you are morphing into. 

What is new in us, the thing that has supervened, has entered into our heart, penetrated to its innermost chamber and not lingered even there – it is already in our blood. And we never quite know what it was. One might easily suppose that nothing had happened, but we have altered the way a house alters when a guest enters it. We cannot say who has come, perhaps we shall never know, but there are many indications that it is the future that enters into us like this, in order to be transformed within us, long before it actually occurs. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and static moment when our future comes upon us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and accidental point when it happens to us as if from the outside.

Embrace Hardship and Difficulty

People have tended (with the help of conventions) to resolve everything in the direction of easiness, of the light, and on the lightest side of the light; but it is clear that we must hold to the heavy, the difficult. All living things do this, everything in nature grows and defends itself according to its kind and is a distinct creature from out of its own resources, strives to be so at any cost and in the face of all resistance. We know little, but that we must hold fast to what is difficult is a certainty that will never forsake us. It is good to be alone, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult should be one more reason to do it.

This is a simple matter of human nature. We like pleasure and dislike pain. This concept then becomes that we like what makes us comfortable and dislike what makes us uncomfortable. However, comfort and pleasure result in minimal growth. Humans need a reason, hardship, or difficulty to fight against in order to grow as an individual. 

But difficult things are what we were set to do, almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious.

So, the avoidance of pain and struggle causes us to plateau and even regress. Once the mindset shifts to the acceptance of becoming a better version of yourself, then hardship and difficulty become allies in this venture of self-improvement.

And if we only organize our life according to the principle which teaches us always to hold to what is difficult, then what now still appears most foreign will become our most intimate and most reliable experience. How can we forget those ancient myths found at the beginnings of all peoples? The myths about the dragons who at the last moment turn into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses, only waiting for the day when they will see us handsome and brave? Perhaps everything terrifying is deep down a helpless thing that needs our help.

Importance Of Solitude

Think, dear Mr Kappus, of the world that you carry within you, and call this thinking whatever you like. Whether it is memory of your own childhood or longing for your own future – just be attentive towards what rises up inside you, and place it above everything that you notice round about. What goes on in your innermost being is worth all your love, this is what you must work on however you can and not waste too much time and too much energy on clarifying your attitude to other people.

As we grow older, it becomes more difficult to hear the voice inside of us. The busyness of everyday life doesn’t allow for moments of peace. In doing so, we lose touch with what we truly want and need. We follow the herd, a mass of nameless faces all headed one way, and believe that they must be going the right way and doing the right things. But because you don’t truly know yourself, you can easily end up living a life that you did not want. 

The first step in understanding your own wants and needs is to hear your own voice. This, according to Rilke, comes through the necessity of solitude. To sit alone with your thoughts, meditate, and go on long walks by yourself. These activities connect you with your inner voice. They help you shovel away all the random mess in your head and help you rediscover that child-like voice inside whose needs and wants you’ve been ignoring. 

Take pleasure in your growth, in which no one can accompany you, and be kind-hearted towards those you leave behind, and be assured and gentle with them and do not plague them with your doubts or frighten them with your confidence or your joyfulness, which they cannot understand. Look for some kind of simple and loyal way of being together with them which does not necessarily have to alter however much you may change; love in them a form of life different from your own and show understanding for the older ones who fear precisely the solitude in which you trust. Avoid providing material for the drama which always spans between parents and their children; it saps much of the children’s strength and consumes that parental love which works and warms even when it does not comprehend. Ask no advice of them and reckon with no understanding; but believe in a love which is stored up for you like an inheritance, and trust that in this love there is a strength and a benediction out of whose sphere you do not need to issue even if your journey is a long one.

Find The Beauty Around You

No, there is not more beauty here than elsewhere, and all these objects which generation after generation have continued to admire, which inexpert hands have mended and restored, they mean nothing, are nothing and have no heart and no value; but there is a great deal of beauty here, because there is beauty everywhere. Infinitely lively waters go over the old aqueducts into the city and on the many squares dance over bowls of white stone and fill broad capacious basins and murmur all day and raise their murmur into the night, which is vast and starry and soft with winds. And there are gardens here, unforgettable avenues and flights of steps, steps conceived by Michelangelo, steps built to resemble cascades of flowing water – giving birth to step after broad step like wave after wave as they descend the incline. With the help of such impressions you regain your composure, win your way back out of the demands of the talking and chattering multitude (how voluble it is!), and you slowly learn to recognize the very few things in which something everlasting can be felt, something you can love, something solitary in which you can take part in silence.

The real beauty for Rilke was in the everyday things, not some specific statue or monument deemed beautiful by others that you’ll have to travel hundreds of miles and pay thousands of dollars to see. Often these sights are pleasurable at the moment but the further you get away from that moment, the less you remember and the less beautiful they seem until you find yourself flipping through old pictures and see yourself beside a monument or painting and remember, yes you had been there once upon a time. Such beauty is not real. 

What is real is the appreciation of life around you at this very moment. To consciously look for beauty in the everyday life because it’s these moments, the breakfasts, lunch, and dinners, the drives to work, the drives back, moments spent with family and friends, going to local restaurants, and parks and so on. It’s these moments that make up your life and if you wish to live a life filled with beauty and wonder, it is in these moments one needs to find it and appreciate it. 

If you have this love for what is slight, and quite unassumingly, as a servant, seek to win the confidence of what seems poor – then everything will grow easier, more unified and somehow more conciliatory, not perhaps in the intellect, which, amazed, remains a step behind, but in your deepest consciousness, watchfulness and knowledge.

How To Live Like An Artist

Only love can grasp them and hold them and do them justice – With regard to any such disquisition, review or introduction, trust yourself and your instincts; even if you go wrong in your judgement, the natural growth of your inner life will gradually, over time, lead you to other insights. Allow your verdicts their own quiet untroubled development which like all progress must come from deep within and cannot be forced or accelerated. Everything must be carried to term before it is born. To let every impression and the germ of every feeling come to completion inside, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, in what is unattainable to one’s own intellect, and to wait with deep humility and patience for the hour when a new clarity is delivered: that alone is to live as an artist, in the understanding and in one’s creative work.

Being an artist requires you to trust your own judgement and intuition. To give light to your own thoughts and opinions and allow those thoughts to carry on until they are completed. This will result in many failures and few successes, but each failure and success comes with further insight into who you are, what you need, and what you believe in. The more insight you gain about yourself, the better your expression of art becomes. As art is often self-expression.

On Being A Writer

“You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me that. You have asked others, before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you worry when certain editors turn your efforts down. Now (since you have allowed me to offer you advice) let me ask you to give up all that. You are looking to the outside, and that above all you should not be doing now. Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself. Examine the reason that bids you to write; check whether it reaches its roots into the deepest region of your heart, admit to yourself whether you would die if it should be denied you to write. This above all: ask yourself in your night’s quietest hour: must I write? Dig down into yourself for a deep answer. And if it should be affirmative, if it is given to you to respond to this serious question with a loud and simple ‘I must’, then construct your life according to this necessity; your life right into its most inconsequential and slightest hour must become a sign and witness of this urge. Then approach nature. Then try, like the first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose. Don’t write love poems; avoid at first those forms which are too familiar and habitual: they are the hardest, for you need great maturity and strength to produce something of your own in a domain where good and sometimes brilliant examples have been handed down to us in abundance. For this reason, flee general subjects and take refuge in those offered by your own day-to-day life; depict your sadnesses and desires, passing thoughts and faith in some kind of beauty – depict all this with intense, quiet, humble sincerity and make use of whatever you find about you to express yourself, the images from your dreams and the things in your memory. If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches, for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place. And even if you were in a prison whose walls did not let any of the sounds of the world outside reach your senses – would you not have your childhood still, this marvellous, lavish source, this treasure-house of memories? Turn your attention towards that. Attempt to raise the sunken sensations of this distant past; your self will become the stronger for it, your loneliness will open up and become a twilit dwelling in which the noise other people make is only heard far off. And if from this turn inwards, from this submersion in your own world, there come verses, then it will not occur to you to ask anyone whether they are good verses.”

Lessons From Books: Meditations By Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius is regarded as one of the three most prominent Stoic philosophers. After his death, his personal journal was made public, in which he recounted the many life lessons and self-affirmations that he learned. One of the unique aspects of the book is its repetitiveness. Throughout the book, Marcus Aurelius reminds himself of the different tenants of Stoic philosophy and this act of reminding becomes a lesson: As human beings, we need constant reminders in order to stay on the right path.

This post covers the second book out of the twelve books, which comprise Meditations.

Lessons

Control Your Pleasures

You are old; don’t then let the directing mind of yours be enslaved any longer — no more jerking to the strings of selfish impulse, no more disquiet at your present or suspicion of your future fate

Don’t allow yourself to be moved by pleasure. Instead, give authority to your directing mind, which is reason. Your actions and choices should be reason-based. It is not reasonable to lament your past or fear your future. We should instead focus the directing mind on present actions. 

On Procrastination

Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned to you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.

One solution to procrastination is to remind yourself of two things: first, the previous broken promises, and second, the limitation of time. A reminder of previous promises creates a feeling of guilt and also shows you that you’ve been down this path before and different action is required. While the reminder of time creates a sense of urgency. Time does not stop. Opportunities do not wait. The more you wait, the less likely it is that you will accomplish that task.

Importance of a Focused Aim

Every hour of the day give vigorous attention, as a Roman and as a man, to the performance of the task in hand with precise analysis, with unaffected dignity, with human sympathy, with dispassionate justice — and to vacating your mind from all its other thoughts. And you will achieve this vacation if you perform each action as if it were the last of your life; freed, that is, from all lack of aim, from all passion-led deviation from the ordinance of reason, from pretense, from love of self, from dissatisfaction with what fate has dealt you.

This is a solution to the wandering mind. Perform each task as if it were your last. Choices and decisions and to-do lists overwhelm you, and this leads to inaction. But when you push all that noise out of your head and focus on the task at hand as if it’s the only task that matters. This way, you also exercise an important muscle: the ability to focus and work deeply. 

Step by step, one focused session at a time, one task at a time, that’s the secret to progress.

You Are Your Worst Enemy

Self-harm, my soul, you are doing self-harm: and you will have no more opportunity for self-respect.

A painful truth can be the realization that you are responsible for all the things that have gone wrong in your life. Your thoughts, inaction, behaviours, choices, attitudes reflect the current state you are in. When you commit bad actions which you have deemed to be wrong, then you lose a level of respect for yourself. It is by understanding that you can be your own worse enemy and that your impulses and actions need to be steered by reason, that you come to hone in and control yourself. 

Self Reflect

Failure to read what is happening in another’s soul is not easily seen as a cause of unhappiness: but those who fail to attend to the motions of their own soul are necessarily unhappy. 

Know thyself is etched in the temple’s stone of Delphi. The ancient Greeks understood the importance of self-knowledge. You are the source of your well-being and happiness. Take ownership and responsibility for this. If there is a disconnect between you and your soul, then you will never find the solution to make yourself content in life. You will always search and look for the next thing to make you happy. 

Everything Perishes

How all things quickly vanish, our bodies themselves lost in the physical world, the memories of them lost in time; the nature of all objects of the sense — especially those which allure us with pleasure, frighten us with pain, or enjoy the applause of vanity — how cheap they are, how contemptible, shoddy, perishable, and dead: these are matters for your intellectual faculty to consider.

The end of all things is the same, to diminish. Then, don’t waste your time chasing things just for the sake of pleasure and vanity. If you make that an aim, then you will constantly be on the chase, going from one pleasure to the next, aiming for more pleasure as you get used to a baseline, craving more attention and applause as you get used to the old ones. These are cheap aims that do not last and chasing them is a waste of your life.

To put it shortly: all things of the body stream away like a river, all things of the mind are dreams and delusion; life is warfare, and a visit in a strange land; the only lasting fame is oblivion. 

Five Ways Dangers To Our Soul

The soul of man violates itself, especially so when it becomes, as far it is able, an abscess and like a growth on the universe. For feeling dislike for anything which happens is an apostasy from Nature, in a part of which the natures of each of the remaining parts are involved. And secondly, whenever the soul turns away from some man, or even does things contrary to him, on the grounds of harming him, such as are the souls of those who are enraged. Thirdly when one is bested by either pleasure or toil. Fourthly, whenever it plays a part, and is false or dissembling in either doing or saying something. Fifth, when it casts its own act or desire at no goal, but vainly and inconsequently spends energy on anything whatsoever, although it is necessary for the smallest things to occur with an eye to the end in view. And the end of logical animals is in following the reason and law of the city and government which is oldest.

So, in order to preserve your soul and have it excel, be one with nature’s will. Don’t separate from your fellow man. Don’t give in to pleasure and pain. Follow the truth. Have an aim in life. 

What It Means to Live a Stoic life

This consists in keeping the divinity within us inviolate and free from harm, master of pleasure and pain, doing nothing without aim, truth, or integrity, and independent of others’ action or failure to act. Further, accepting all that happens and is allotted to it as coming from that other source which is its own origin: and at all times awaiting death with the glad confidence that it is nothing more than the dissolution of the elements of which every living creature is composed.

Mindfulness & The Practice Of Non-Judgement

In his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zim defines mindfulness as the “art of conscious living”. The book dives further into the practical application of mindfulness, how to cultivate it, and the different practices and exercises.

Fundamentally, mindfulness is a simple concept. Its power lies in its practice and its applications. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.

Instead of allowing the unconscious, automatic behaviours and habits to direct your energy or your fears and insecurities to move you, mindfulness can help you control your actions and make decisions based on reason and logic. This is achieved through attention.

When we commit ourselves to paying attention in an open way, without falling prey to our own likes and dislikes, opinions and prejudices, projections and expectations, new possibilities open up and we have a chance to free ourselves from the straitjacket of unconsciousness.

When you aren’t bound by past thought processes and narratives, you can then act upon present needs. 

The spirit of mindfulness is to practice for its own sake, and just to take each moment as it comes—pleasant or unpleasant, good, bad, or ugly—and then work with that because it is what is present now.

Judgement is one aspect of our consciousness that derails the present experience and disrupts our ability to be still.

When you dwell in stillness, the judging mind can come through like a foghorn. I don’t like the pain in my knee…. This is boring…. I like this feeling of stillness; I had a good meditation yesterday, but today I’m having a bad meditation…. It’s not working for me. I’m no good at this. I’m no good, period. This type of thinking dominates the mind and weighs it down. It’s like carrying around a suitcase full of rocks on your head. It feels good to put it down. Imagine how it might feel to suspend all your judging and instead to let each moment be just as it is, without attempting to evaluate it as “good” or “bad.” This would be a true stillness, a true liberation.

Each moment doesn’t have to be good or comfortable or exciting. If you are constantly chasing those “higher” moments, then you are not living in the present because much of the present is mundane. So, the goal is to appreciate the unexciting events of your life as much as the exciting ones.

When you label every experience, the negative can outshine the positive because it is in our nature to dwell on something that didn’t meet our expectations. In doing so, you set yourself up to be emotionally distraught. Instead, when the judgemental thoughts arise, steer clear of them and focus on the task at hand. Nothing more, nothing less.

The good or the bad don’t matter. What matter is alertness and stillness in the present.“Knowing that our judgments are unavoidable and necessarily limiting thoughts about experience. What we are interested in in meditation is direct contact with the experience itself—whether it is of an inbreath, an outbreath, a sensation or feeling, a sound, an impulse, a thought, a perception, or a judgment. And we remain attentive to the possibility of getting caught up in judging the judging itself, or in labeling some judgments good and others bad.

So the simple exercise of focusing on your breath can be grounding. When you feel yourself becoming judgemental, take a break and focus on the inhale and exhale. That will bring you back to the present moment, the moment where you are fully engaged. And then go back to your work with that stillness. With practice, the ability to be non-judgemental and to be still becomes easier.

We get caught up in thinking we know what we are seeing and feeling, and in projecting our judgments out onto everything we see off a hairline trigger. Just being familiar with this deeply entrenched pattern and watching it as it happens can lead to greater non-judgmental receptivity and acceptance.

This detachment exercise is another way to separate yourself from your judgemental thoughts. Once you are aware of this concept, then when the judgemental thoughts bud, you can pick them off before they really grow and dominate your present situation.

It simply means that we can act with much greater clarity in our own lives, and be more balanced, more effective, and more ethical in our activities, if we know that we are immersed in a stream of unconscious liking and disliking which screens us from the world and from the basic purity of our own being. The mind states of liking and disliking can take up permanent residency in us, unconsciously feeding addictive behaviors in all domains of life. When we are able to recognize and name the seeds of greediness or craving, however subtle, in the mind’s constant wanting and pursuing of the things or results that we like, and the seeds of aversion or hatred in our rejecting or maneuvering to avoid the things we don’t like, that stops us for a moment and reminds us that such forces really are at work in our own minds to one extent or another almost all the time. It’s no exaggeration to say that they have a chronic, viral-like toxicity that prevents us from seeing things as they actually are and mobilizing our true potential.