Though the Stoics are often associated with the practice of meditation, it is important to note that Stoicism is not a religion and therefore does not require its followers to meditate.
However, many Stoics find that meditation can help achieve the Stoic goal of eudaimonia or happiness.
The Stoics believed that by developing self-awareness and learning to control their emotions, they could overcome negative thoughts and behaviors and achieve a state of inner peace.
Meditation can be an effective way to develop self-awareness and learn to control one’s emotions, making it a popular choice for many modern Stoics. While Stoicism does not require its followers to meditate, many Stoics find it a helpful tool on the path to eudaimonia.
In the following paragraphs, we will trace the routes of Stoicism and discover the different types of Stoics’ meditative practices.
Who Are the Stoics?
Stoicism is a school of thought founded by Zeno of Citium in the 3rd century BC. Stoicism teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.
Stoics believe that emotions like anger, fear, and grief are disruptive and cause needless suffering. They advocate for living by nature and maintaining a clear sense of judgment.
Stoics also believe in using reason and logic to make decisions. The Stoic school of thought was hugely influential during the Hellenistic period, and the Romans later adopted its teachings.
Today, Stoicism is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, thanks partly to modern philosophers like Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, who have popularized its teachings.
Popular Stoic Meditative Practices
Premeditation of Adversity
In emotionally and mentally preparing for challenges, the stoics believed in using a meditative practice called the “praemeditatio malorum,” or premeditation of adversity.
If you can imagine the worst that could happen, it will better equip you to deal with it if it does occur. For example, if you fear public speaking, you might premeditate by imagining yourself giving a speech and botching it horribly.
While this may seem counterintuitive, the stoics believed that by facing our fears head-on, we could render them powerless over us. In other words, what we fear the most cannot hurt us if we have already confronted it in our minds.
By premeditating adversity, we can become more resilient and better able to cope with whatever life throws our way.
Contemplation of Death
The Stoics were among the first to popularize the contemplation of death as a meditative practice. The idea was that if one regularly reflected on their mortality, they would become more stoic in their outlook and better able to withstand the vicissitudes of life.
The Stoics believed that one could learn to appreciate life more fully and live by nature by contemplating death. The Stoics called this practice melete thanatou, or “meditation on death.”
While the Stoic conception of death may seem morbid to some, the practice of melete thanatou can be quite liberating. It can help us to let go of our attachment to material things and focus on what is truly important in life.
It can also remind us of our mortality and the preciousness of time. In an age where we are bombarded with images of death and violence, the stoic practice of melete thanatou can be a valuable tool for developing a more resilient frame of mind.
Contemplation of the Whole
The Stoics believed that a key part of wisdom was seeing things in their proper place within the whole of nature. As a result, they developed the practice of contemplation of the whole, which was designed to help them better understand the universe and its place within it.
The Stoics would begin by contemplating the vastness of the cosmos, then move on to consider the place of humanity within it. They would reflect on the transient nature of human life and the inevitability of death.
By doing so, they hoped to develop a sense of detachment from the things of this world and an awareness of the importance of living by nature. In addition, they believed that this practice would help them better to appreciate the beauty and order of the universe.
As Marcus Aurelius once said, “Contemplation of the Whole will make you wiser than any particular study.” By taking the time to contemplate the whole of nature, we can gain a greater understanding of our place within it and develop a more stoic outlook on life.
Contemplation of the Sage
Since its inception, the stoic meditative practice of contemplation of the sage has been a part of stoic philosophy. The idea is to reflect on the wisdom and virtues of great historical figures or sages to learn from their example and to remind oneself of what is truly important in life.
Marcus Aurelius, one of the most famous stoics, was an ardent proponent of this practice and frequently engaged in it himself. Many stoics have used contemplation of the sage to develop their wisdom and virtue.
By reflecting on the lives of those who have achieved greatness, we can better understand what it takes to lead a good life. Additionally, this practice can help us to let go of the things that are
not truly important and to focus on what is truly worthwhile. In short, contemplation of the sage is a powerful, stoic tool that can help us to become better people.
Stoicism and meditation are two practices that have been around for centuries. Though they were developed independently from one another, the two share a lot of similarities.
Both practices aim to help people live better lives by teaching them how to deal with difficult situations and emotions.
In this post, we’ve looked at some of the basic principles of Stoicism and how you can use them in your own life. We’ve also explored how meditation can help you become more mindful and present at the moment.