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The strange thing is that when I was dangerously ill I gave up everything, not fearful but utterly content. As soon as I came out of intensive care, and it became evident that I might be granted some extra time, I started thinking and desiring. The desire that was uppermost in my mind was the idea of running a five week course on Stoicism. As I was likely to go through a lengthy period of treatment I thought that I might be qualified by the end of it to not only speak from theory but also from immediate experience, and indeed so it turned out.
Last week marked the end of what was I'm pleased to say an extremely successful five week course on Stoicism with people enthusiastically wanting more. Therefore, starting on the 27th February, I will definitely be running another course. Put the date in your diary if you think you might be interested.
We finished the term with a consideration of why the Stoics thought living in the present to be of such crucial importance. I know for sure that when you're knocking on heaven’s door, you really do appreciate the moment.
This is the quotation from Marcus Aurelius we ended with:
Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars.
Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed.
Quit the evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble.
It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Participate. Exert yourself. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.
It’s advice worth taking.
Very best regards, William
KNOWLEDGE IS IN THE MOMENT
Only the present is mine, and the present is all I live. Epictetus
The great thing about the present moment is that it is the only time that we are truly alive. But so busy are we preparing to live at some other time we miss this obvious fact.
The experience of what is currently on offer is so often overlaid with preoccupations, distractions, fear and expectation, and yet it is only in the present that genuine concerns can be met with any understanding. It is only in the present that things can be timed to perfection, tackled with a touch of true artistry.
Every other way of working must be dull by comparison. This is self evident. Yet emotional involvement has its way of possessing heart and mind, and methods have to be consciously adopted to realign our perception and connect with the present.
You may have command of all the relevant information, and this information may have utter validity, but the effective application of that information, the creating of a perfect fit, is only possible at one time. This is an observation made recently:
I had all the information at my finger tips. I was so well informed. There wasn't anybody at the meeting that could possibly have what was available to me. I was certain that I could dictate events.
What I didn't have was an understanding of the dynamic that existed at that particular time. To have that I had to embrace the whole situation as it manifested then, and that included all those things that were not in my way of thinking. This became evident as the meeting progressed. I had to look again and think again. It was only when I abandoned my script and gave my attention fully to what was happening did the knowledge of what was really required become evident. By making that connection all the information I had marshalled became the servant of the moment, and things that were right for that time naturally arose.
The interesting thing was that not only was there a precise and creative application of that information, there was also a deeper understanding of myself. It was if I had somehow touched a deeper resource.
This observation is not so much about facts and figures, regardless of the importance of those facts and figures; it's more about the context in which those facts and figures found their precise application. When awareness of this order arises, conflicting interests and divisive arguments, no matter how compelling, are subsumed into the brightness of this present moment, and precisely what is being demanded by the present becomes clear. It's here that knowledge really arises, and that's why it's important to look again and think again, and maybe even abandon cherished approaches.
What is evident in this observation is that rather than using information to force a result, he offered it in service of the present, and in the process what arose was: 'a deeper understanding of myself,' the ability to touch, 'a deeper resource.' By honouring the present he came to a deeper understanding of himself which in turn allowed for a more creative response.
Gather the knowledge needed in the only time possible.
Make sure you haven’t overlooked the obvious.
Look again. Think again.