“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way is the way.” –Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Modern social conventions influence fears, desires, pleasures, and pains. As humans there are things we want and desire as well as things we seek to obtain to give us pleasure. On the other side, we avoid fears and are averse to pain. However, part of stoic philosophy teaches that through use of our reason we are able to control our reactions and thoughts we give to events and situations that occur outside of our control. By making use of our mental faculties we are fully equipped to manage our emotions to occurrences in our external world. Stoic philosophers believed the end goal to living or the way to living a purposeful life is through cultivating virtue, by which mental tranquility is enabled. Since the development of our virtue and character is made by our choices, our thoughts, and our acts in which we have total control in executing, we are able to achieve mental tranquility. Mental tranquility as defined by the stoics is freedom from perturbations, which includes freedom from negative emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness and from negative states such as stress and depression. By freeing ourselves from negativity and pessimism through use of our rational minds and finding understanding in everything that occurs in our world, we are able to live in a state of equanimity and balance.
Furthermore, obstacles and challenges are a part of living. However, rather than letting go of one’s power over a situation and allowing negative feelings to flood the mind and thus blur our clarity and reason remain objective, realize what is and what is not in your control, and adjust accordingly. As illustrated in The Alchemist by Paoulo Coehlo, as human beings we are meant to reach our potential, achieve our fates, and arrive at our truths. What might appear at first as something negative could be part of a step leading you to where you need to be. First, question what or who determines and labels life events as good or bad; society and history may have an influence. Rather than succumbing to the labels placed upon events that are not stemmed from one’s reason use rationality to reach independent conclusions. Listen to the signs and be open to the possibilities. Also, an event is only negative if one perceives it as such. For every challenge there is always either something positive gained through the rise of the challenge, something remains to be grateful for, or both. Moreover, human suffering has meaning and purpose. For example, obstacles serve as character-building experiences that give us the opportunity to rise and practice our courage. Human suffering enables empathy and compassion levels to increase as well as improve our capacity to connect with others. Also, suffering enables the ability to witness and experience kindness from others and revel at the beauty of the human heart and spirit.
Do not miss an important part of the human experience in handling suffering. There is nothing standing in the way between individuals and their happiness. Obstacles serve a powerful purpose as opportunities, blessings, and teachers. Own the time and welcome the lessons.