Collective Journaling w/ Peter Limberg and Co-Hosts. Daily @ 8:00 AM ET. Patreon event. 90 mins.
Awakening the Subtle Body: Embodiment Practice w/ Schuyler Brown. November 10th @ 12:00 PM ET. Patreon event. 120 mins.
Newly posted event:
Making Sense of Everything: The Wisdom of Integral Theory w/ Ken Wilber. November 22nd @ 4:00 PM ET. Patreon event. 90 mins.
Here is a note I received from my friend Ari when he saw that Ken Wilber will be visiting The Stoa…
KEN FUCKING WILBER AT THE STOA. 🤯
Yes, one of the most important living philosophers is indeed visiting The Stoa soon. This will be a great honor for me to host this session, as Ken was a huge influence for many of us here at The Stoa. Past guests will also be in attendance, asking Ken some 🔥 questions.
November 9th, 2021
I am feeling annoyed.
I woke up early today, walked over to the Copenhagen Coffee Lab here in Lisbon, super excited to start this journal entry. I realized our adapter for electrical European outlets is not with me and my battery life is less than 10% now. My annoyance is unfairly creeping over to Camille, who was the one tasked to purchase an adapter before we left Canada, and purchased only one.
All of this is me not being Stoic of course. The hotel is only a 10-minute walk away, Camille might drop by with the adapter soon, and I probably can get some good words here before the battery dies. Worst case scenario: the battery dies, giving me an opportunity to read the excellent Pierre Hadot book sitting in front of me now, The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
I am not annoyed anymore. A few minutes of Stoically processing and this annoyance is now gone. I absolutely love processing things like this. I do this all the time. When some unpleasant emotions find their way to disrupt my serenity, I feel it, honor it, and reason with it.
The example displayed above is Stoicism on easy mode; most serenity-disrupting emotional triggers are more nebulous, not easy to get into the right relationship with. The hard mode serenity-disrupters require more advanced capacities. To name a few...
Intrasubjective awareness. This is having a sensitivity to the three aspects of what Brad Blanton calls “the awareness continuum”: 1) what are the sensations in your body, 2) what are your senses picking up in your immediate environment, 3) what is going on in your mind right now. Seamlessly flowing through the continuum, labeling what is as truthfully as one can, helps with Stoic processing. I also find translating my emotional reality into propositional content super helpful here.
Abstragmatics. This is Jean Robertson’s portmanteau of the words abstraction and pragmatics. This is about developing the capacity to fluidly climb up and down the “ladder of abstraction” in ways that practically meet the moment. Many galaxy brains often abstract in masturbatory and inaccessible ways, disconnecting them from others and ultimately themselves. Artfully knowing when to be more or less abstract, while hopping from ladder to ladder (aka context switching) is dearly needed to process the more difficult triggers.
The metagame. This one is similar to intrasubjective awareness but leans towards normative understandings rather than merely cultivating a descriptive prowess of what is. Jamie Combs’ 4Game model is useful here. There are four games we are always playing - the short game (your bodymind), the mid game (your environment), the long game (your goals/values), and the deep game (your philosophy). It is important to not have “game enmeshment,” avoiding “category errors” of the games at play. The capacity to “go meta” to delineate between the games, know their contours, code-switching when needed, is important for Stoic gameplay.
There are more to mention but my laptop will be shutting down soon. Camille says she will be here in 15 minutes, so Hadot will keep me company until then...
Camille is here now, bringing life, for both my laptop battery and myself. I was reading “The Meditations as Spiritual Exercises” chapter while waiting for her. Hadot argues that Marcus Aurelius' famous Meditations journal was his spiritual practice. As regular readers know, Marcus’ journals are the philosophical inspiration for me doing what I am doing here - journaling is also my spiritual practice.
Marcus followed certain Stoic dogmata, or universal principles, which he wrote over and over, expressed slightly differently. The most important one: take full ownership of all events happening to you as they happen to you. Hadot drops some fire Marcus passages…
Always and everywhere, it depends on you piously to be satisfied with the present conjunction of events.
On the occasion of everything that causes you sadness, remember to use this “dogma”: not only is this not a misfortune, but it is a piece of good fortune for you to bear up under it courageously.
When I was in a room guarded by a security officer, and not being able to move due to the straps that were on me, my mind suddenly turned to Marcus Aurelius, and I remembered this thing I am into called Stoicism. I radically started focusing on what was in my control, and reasoned my way back to reality, and the demonic energy eventually went away.
I sense I can become even more sophisticated with integrating this principle. I do think my Stoic processing game is already pretty tight. By using my intrasubjective awareness, along with my abstragmatic and metagame talents, I get to process a lot. I sense all of these things make me a decent philosophical coach, as I receive messages like this from my conversational partners often…
That was one of the most rich exchanges I've had.. ever. You are clearly doing what needs to be done on your end, and I'm grateful that includes helping people like me figure out what needs to be done on mine.
I totally converted Camille to the Stoic processing game as well. I just turned to her to ask her how she likes our processing time(lessness) together and she said: I love it. I really love it. I love it as well. Processing is so fucking awesome. The challenge though is that one needs to ontologically code-switch into an ontology of timelessness. Time does not exist for me right now - I do not feel that it is here. I can switch to a time-bounded ontology of course, when wise to do so, aka when I am in get-shit-done mode.
It is a huge mistake to process in a time-bounded ontology, because time has a way to sneak in dirty expectations. My best processing moments happen in these journals, both my public and private ones (my private ones are really fucking raw). The other two processing “containers” I use: leisurely philosophical strolls and my dialogos sessions with my “friends of virtue,” aka the good people in my life who want the best for all the selves in their life.
I do like that phrase I just dropped above as an aside: dirty expectations. This is the thing that is at the heart of Marcus’ favorite universal principle. I still needlessly get triggered by silly things like forgetting my adapter because I often have all these expectations that are misaligned with reality. Let us unpack the expectation I had about arriving at this coffee shop this morning…
I was excited to come here, waking up early, rocking this sprezzatura-friendly outfit, walking in beautiful Lisbon towards the moment when a delicious latte hits my lips. After that moment, the daemon will say hello, timelessness emerges, and words flow. Basically, the delicious life will then be here.
But no, the delicious life was at risk of being denied. My laptop was going to die and I did not know if Camille would have the time to drop by. Time, rushing back in my life, making me consider how long it would take to walk to collect the adapter, then walk back. 20 minutes. I was not really called to do that. The flow would be off, the energy different. In essence, the story would be messy, less beautiful. My expectation for how this morning could go—how it should go—would not have been met.
A phrase from Byung-Chul Han comes to mind here: dirty reality. As I described in a previous entry:
In his book In The Swarm: Digital Prospects he talked about dirty reality, which is when we experience a disenchantment with reality when we glamorize the image of reality. Reality is experienced as dirty when your image of reality becomes better than reality itself.
I am also reminded of a distinction from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): clean pain versus dirty pain. The former is pain that naturally emerges from the vicissitudes of life; it is natural to feel pain with all the emotional hurts and physical sicknesses that life can offer. Dirty pain is the experience of these understandable pains, with the addition of running away from them, denying them, childishly avoiding them. Doing so might serve as a temporary relief but the pain will eventually be doubly worse.
Perhaps we can be inspired by these dirty-themed phrases, enriching Marcus’ favorite principle with the following distinction: clean expectations versus dirty expectations. To unpack these further...
Clean expectations. You have preferences for life to proceed beautifully, as your actions are oriented towards beauty. But things going beautifully are what Stoics call a “preferred indifferent.” Your clean expectation is an expectation towards keeping your fidelity to virtue. To be said more Stoically: have no expectations about things outside of the dominion of your control, only have expectations towards what is in your control - your thoughts and actions.
Dirty expectations. Thinking reality should match your desired preferences of how things could shake out. Yeah, do not think that. That’s that, really. So simple, eh? Man, the world so needs Stoicism to be reborn. It is an existential crime that this basic philosophical goodness is not taught in every school.
A song from Tricky just randomly came on: Hell Is Around the Corner. This momentarily filled me with fear. Some woo-flavored questions are rushing to my mind:
Did my Spotify playlist just give me a spiritual warning? Was being absentminded with forgetting my adaptor this morning secretly in service for me to step up my Stoic game, preparing me for bad things? What bad things was this warning me about?
More questions are now arising…
What if we catch COVID while traveling? What if we get sick from something else? What if SHTF occurs via the meta-crisis, trapping us here, never being able to see our families again? What if we never get to pet Socrates again?!
My Stoicism is slowly kicking in; the questions emerging now feel wiser…
Do I have the courage to meet these things if they happen? Can I avoid capitulating to my dirty expectation of living beautifully 24/7? Can I appreciate this sunny Lisbon morning, along with these delicious espresso-based drinks, and all the playful moments with my beautiful wife, without them spoiling my Stoic fortitude?
Of course, it is my preferred indifferent to have this trip, along with the remainder of my life, be full of beautiful moments. I am ready though, to reprogram my deep code, dropping all dirty expectations, meeting what God decides for me with all the virtue I can muster.
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