I started making a list of recommended reading material. During my search, Seneca, born Lucius Annaeus Seneca, and the letters he wrote, intrigued me and I became obsessed with his work.
Although challenged with health issues, generally asthma, he became a famous writer. His work is an important group of reading material that I think should be in everyone’s library. Seneca gave us wisdom, opinions and philosophies that can help us with enduring this race for self-development.
After reading the first couple of letters, in the book Letters From A Stoic, I realized that this could be knowledge that each of us need to hear in the attempt to increase our consciousness and to help us to evolve more creatively each day.
During the reading of the first couple of letters, I highlighted some thoughts from Seneca that can help us.
- “Pass time in your own company”
- “Frequent changes of treatment”
- “It is not the man that has too little that is poor”
- “Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”
We are bombarded, on a daily basis, with things to do, people to see and activities to explore. We are forever busy, trying to get the “to-do” items done. If we however think that being busy all the time is a good thing, then think again.
Seneca was accurate when he said that its proof of “a well ordered mind” to be able to sit and pass time in our own company. Have you ever felt awkward by yourself? When we switch off laptops, smartphones, and other distractions, often we faced with a feeling of “what now”. Later we will see that Seneca said that we should be our own best friend. How can we do that though if we are not comfortable to be in our own company?
Action: Use 3 – 5 minutes every morning to be alone with yourself. Moreover, just breathe. Keep your attention on the breath, while it goes in and out.
Extra note on the action: You might find that when you are with yourself, that annoying voice pops up in your mind. It is fine, do not try to kill him or ban him from your head. Stay with him, but do not associate with him. Allow the thoughts to come up in your consciousness and allow it to go again. If you find yourself associated with it, then bring your awareness back to your breath.
- “…nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent changes of treatment; a wound will not heal over if it is being made the subject of experiments with different ointments…”
We live in a time of quick fixes. From a physical ailment to running our lives, we have a fix for everything. Now, I am all for getting things done quicker and more efficiently. However, “quick fixing” our problem, rarely gives us a long lasting change.
In this letter, Seneca, compares “treatment” to the material we read in order to better ourselves. He says, “The same must needs be the case with people who never set about acquiring an intimate acquaintanceship with any one great writer, but skip from one to another, paying flying visits to them all.” He also says that one should digest ideas, essays and other material, before moving on to the next. Thus, we will be extracting the value or usefulness.
Likewise, if we have a problem or challenge we should not be jumping around from one solution to the other. We should rather analyse the problem, get to the cause of it, and treat the cause and not the symptom. Before moving on to a new treatment or solution, you must first test the current one and allow it to provide its value.
Action: When faced with a challenge or problem, analyse the cause of the problem by asking the following questions:
- What evidence of the problem can you see?
- Where in your life do you see this evidence?
- Ask why five times
Extra note on the action: Sometimes we will sabotage ourselves when answering these questions. Why? Because we do not really want to know our weaknesses. The thing is though, as soon as we break through that barrier, its liberating to find us standing on the other side. Break through and do not stop until you have your challenge laid bare in front of you. Then put actions in place to tackle and burry that challenge.
- “It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.”
Our attitude or mentality about wealth, true wealth, sometimes needs adjustment. What does true wealth mean to you?
Do you need thousands in investment to feel wealthy? Alternatively, does it mean when you have an extra R1000 or R2000 at the end of the month means that you wealthy?
Being wealthy means different things to different people. Seneca asks the question: “What difference does it make how much there is laid away in a man’s safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another’s and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already.”
Do you sometimes hear yourself reasoning in this way? I certainly do. What is true wealth? For Seneca it definitely was not only acquiring money. We think that when we have a million rand invested we will be happy or content. However, we can already be content with what we have.
- Write down what you would do if you do not have to work for another day. Example: I would travel and write full time.
- Then write down how this would make you feel? Example: Free, Valued
- What can you do now in order to get the same feeling? Example: Create time and space for you to travel, maybe locally first, and use this time to write.
Extra note on the action: When we apply this action, we will be able to determine what wealth means to us and how we can already get the associated feeling/emotions.
I am sure, while I am making my way through the letters of Seneca, more wisdom will become apparent. The only question is this; will we make the most of it by applying it and therefore evolve creatively?
A note on the above mentioned actions:
In the view of this article’s point number two, I would suggest focusing on one of the actions suggested and try it out for a week to three weeks before moving on to another action. In doing this we will allow it, enough time to settle in and provide its value.
 Caligula was a Roman emperor in A.D. 37 (LETTERS FROM A STOIC)