In some respect, life has not changed at all.
Struggling with oneself and others, being distracted, or having to work hard to achieve goals are far from being inventions of our times.
There are many stories and records available allowing us to learn more about the way our ancestors dealt with this. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, a Roman emperor who lived from 121 till 180 is also known as a philosopher. Journaling regularly, his thoughts became a widely known book: Meditations.
And they remain applicable to this day and a big part of stoic philosophy.
In times of growing uncertainty, this one seems to gain in importance every day:
“Concentrate every minute like a Roman — like a man — on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions.
Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.
You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.” — Marcus Aurelius
It’s an invitation to engage fully in the task we have ahead of us. Whatever it might be.
It’s ok to worry about the state of the world or the dangers of the pandemic, but then it’s worth it to see as the task instead of the distraction. If worry is the task, what are you trying to transform with the worry?
Do you want it to serve you to feel the emotions that come along so that you understand what the worry is about? Do you want it to serve you to decide on the rules that are useful for you and that you can settle in? Do you want it to serve you to understand which part of uncertainty belongs to you and which one simply exists? Do you want it to serve you to choose the work you can do now?
All of us worry, but keeping it as a distraction or denying it mainly feeds our sense of uncertainty.
The invitation Marcus Aurelius shares is one that is of remarkable self-care while reminding of the potential of self-indulgence.
It is an invitation into a practice.