My favorite guidelines for life, inspired by Buddhism and Stoicism

Since I tried out meditation for the first time a couple of years ago, basic ideas and life strategies from (secular) Buddhism have increasingly become part of my most utilized and appreciated mental models. More recently, the same has happened with a few concepts from Stoicism. As Buddhism and Stoicism share a lot of similarities, this is not surprising.

An effective way to actually implement this type of ancient wisdom into one’s days is to write a few key phrases down and to look at them often so they get internalized. Today I went through my scattered notes and compiled a list with my favorites. I figured I might as well share them, in case someone finds this inspiring.

  • The obstacle is the way.
    Love that one. Very helpful whenever some task or upcoming situation causes unpleasant thoughts or emotions.
  • Ego is the enemy.
    This statement, like the previous one, is actually a title of a book written by Ryan Holiday. Both are great. The author even went to so far as to tattoo those lines on his forearms.
  • You are not your thoughts.
    Probably the most fascinating experienced insight that meditation offers.
  • Control your attention.
    Everyone’s attention is in constant demand by other people, companies, the media, ideologies — in the digital age more than every before. Learning to control how and on what to spend attention is crucial and very hard, as everyone knows who practices meditation. The mind permanently looks for distraction — outside as well as inside.
  • Withdraw your attention from the past and the future.
    Often, compulsive thinking about the past or future is preventing us from focusing on the moment and causes unnecessary worries and pain. From Eckhard Tolle’s “The Power of Now”.
  • Welcome everything.
    Whatever happens — accepting it and then looking for a way to learn/grow from it is smarter than wasting time and energy with being upset about why it must not/should not have happened. Because it did happen.
  • Life is suffering.
    One (translated) key message from Buddhism describing a joint experience that every human shares at least occasionally. Even here, accepting that as a fact instead of rejecting it makes dealing with difficult situations easier.

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