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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reacting to External Things

Here's a great quote I have been carrying around with me for several decades:

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (from Meditations)

What are things that are external to you that may stress you? Just about everything: your job, your partner, your mother-in-law, your children, daily traffic, bills, the weather, delays, not knowing how to do something, the news, you name it, ten to one it is external to you. So if it is external to you, your reaction to it is one that comes from inside of you. It doesn't just happen because there is snarled traffic, it happens because you choose it, or allow it, or are blind to the fact that you even have a choice, and so what seems to be automatic to you (your reaction), is actually something you have a say about.

Your own estimate of it: you decide how you will think and feel about something and how you will react to it, because it is your estimate of it that makes it something negative or awful or terrifying or neutral or positive in your life. By choosing how you will react, by being in charge of your reactions, rather than allowing them to blow you about like a leaf in the wind, you gain inner freedom.

Photo: Assilah, Morocco

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