Finding Happiness the Epictetus Way #5
Epictetus‘ Stoic philosophy is not concerned with the usual complicated subject matter of philosophy, such as Ontology & Physics but it concerns itself with ways to make life easier & happier for an average person. Perhaps that is the reson for it’s appeal even today.
If you want to improve, reject such reasonings as these: “If I neglect my affairs, I’ll have no income; if I don’t correct my servant, he will be bad.” For it is better to die with hunger, exempt from grief and fear, than to live in affluence with perturbation; and it is better your servant should be bad, than you unhappy.
Begin therefore from little things. Is a little oil spilt? A little wine stolen? Say to yourself, “This is the price paid for apathy, for tranquility, and nothing is to be had for nothing.” When you call your servant, it is possible that he may not come; or, if he does, he may not do what you want. But he is by no means of such importance that it should be in his power to give you any disturbance.
Worrying is the most futile of our mind’s activities, because it achieves nothing. There’s a very apt poster which says that there are only two times you should not worry: When you can do something about the problem & when you can’t do anything about a problem.
“I vow to let go of all worries and anxiety in order to be light and free.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
“Worry never robs tomorrow of it’s sorrow. It only saps today of it’s joy.” –Leo Buscaglia
“Practice being content, your world will become worry free.” (Still Thoughts-Jing Si Aphorism)
Mark Twain said it well when he quipped: “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
if there’s something you can do about the situation, why worry. If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry!”
You may remember the A.A. Milne stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and Pooh’s friend Piglet. Piglet was an inveterate worrier: “Supposing that…?” “What if…?” “Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?” We are told that, after careful thought, Piglet was comforted by Pooh’s reply of “Supposing it didn’t?” I can’t resist mentioning another favourite reference from the same books, this time from Eeyore: “It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is.” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” (http://www.legalsecretaryjournal.com )
There’s a Buddhist/Zen story that illustrates how Human mind is accustomed to seeing only the bad situation instead of focusing on the good that is there:
There was once an old lady who worried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a noodle vendor. On sunny days, she worried, “Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?” These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry. When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter. She thought, “Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a noodle vendor. You cannot dry noodles without the sun. Now there will be no noodles to sell. What should we do?” As a result, the old lady lived in sorrow everyday. Whether sunny or rainy, she grieved for one of her daughters. Her neighbors could not console her and jokingly called her “the crying lady.”
One day, she met a monk. He was very curious as to why she was always crying. She explained the problem to him. The monk smiled kindly and said, “Madam! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more.”
The crying lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The master replied, “It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but the younger daughter being able to dry her noodles. With such good strong sunlight, she must be able to make plenty of noodles and her business must be very good. When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper.”
The old lady saw the light. She followed the monk’s instruction. After a while, she did not cry anymore; instead, she was smiling every day. From that day on she was known as “the smiling lady.”
Ajan Brahm says ‘The possibilities for the future are infinite. When we focus on the unfortunate possibilities, that’s called worry. When we remember the other possibilities, which are usually more likely, that’s called freedom from worry.’
There’s this cute song by Bob Marley ‘Don’t worry About a thing’ & Connie Talbot’s rendition :
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