“Keep death and exile before your eyes each day, along with everything that seems terrible – by doing so, you’ll never have a base thought nor will you have excessive desire.” Epictetus, Enchiridion.
These days it’s difficult to keep images of death and exile away from our eyes, so I’ve chosen an unrelated image of open water to accompany this post, rather than something depressing that will likely invoke upsetting thoughts.
Replace the word exile with ‘becoming a refugee’ and you get the picture vividly enough.
What Epictetus reminds us here is that there is so much not in our control, so much that can be taken away from us at any moment, that all we are left with is the heart beating in our chest and the thoughts in our mind. Simply existing. No amount of cursing or wanting is going to change that. It’s a truth we have to learn to live with.
But if the heart beating in your chest – possibly stressed as a result of seeing and hearing too much about the terrible tragedies in the world, or worrying about the cost-of-living crisis, or feeling insecure living in rented accommodation – is enough to keep you from finding calm, try closing your day by thinking of three things that you are grateful for. If you have the means, then write them down somewhere. Focus on the things in your here-and-now that bring you some reassurance, even if it is for one night only.
Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash