We carry unnecessary emotional backpacks through life. The more we see them in their proper context, the more frequently we can set them aside. They may always accompany us, but we needn’t bear their weight.
The Stoics counsel amor fati or ‘love of fate’, while Zen and other Buddhist paths encourage the related practice of acceptance. We are regular people, you and I. I smile often, but not always. Your forehead sometimes wrinkles. We’re not ideal beings with equanimity beyond ruffling. Is acceptance possible?
Throughout my life, my highest priority has been to be right, and I’ve assumed that being right would bring me security. Now, I value learning over knowledge, and I realise that learning requires admitting fallibility and befriending uncertainty.
Ryan Holiday shows us how to apply Stoicism to modern life in The Obstacle is the Way. The underlying point is that life sends us what we need to grow and progress. But why or how is it that the obstacle is the way? How does nature lay this path for us?
Like you, I built my castle at the shore, Innocent of worldly wash and salt.
Parental splashes shaped turret and door. Securing love demanded I’d no fault.
Community of selves inside the gate, Some in favour, others disapproved.
The deepest keep, unwanted aspects’ fate. Sentries’ footsteps pacing ramparts’ grooves.
The most profound personal growth comes from a deeper understanding and acceptance of Now, of What Is. Any moment, regardless of its particulars, is dazzling in its completeness, and this insight brings a new perspective.
Tift is a gifted therapist and practicing Buddhist. He helps us understand that we needn’t pathologise disturbing experience. We organise our lives around personal discomforts that seem unbearable, but we have capacities our child-selves didn’t, and we can now work with all experience.
A former therapist, Feldman Barrett is now a neuroscientist challenging outdated views of the brain and mind. The brain’s predictions create our world, based on socially-inherited concepts. But we can update our conceptual library and re-cognise our reality.
Ruiz is a Toltec sage who gives an ancient ‘Western’ take on Eastern wisdom and spiritual growth. When we see our own dream (or story), fear loses its grip on us. When we love ourselves as we are, our relationships are no longer a search for what we already have.
Deutsch is a physicist and computational scientist who places learning above knowledge. His ‘Many Worlds’ interpretation is our best explanation of quantum theory. I love his view of our ever-growing mastery barely scratching life’s mystery.
O’Malley goes beyond Stoicism to show how what’s in the way is The Way. She shows how a few powerful assumptions, which she calls spells, shape the story through which reality arrives for us, and she invites us to use our bodies to overcome those spells.
Part philosopher, part entertainer, Watts is my favourite guide to the spiritual journey. He translated the East for us and integrated it with Western thought. I most appreciate his Taoist writings and his invitation to insecurity.