Let’s talk about something you don’t control, almost everything.
Isn’t it a very strange coincidence that the ones who crave the most control seem to have little in their own lives? Not really if you take a look at the reality of the world we live in, no matter how we would intend things to turn out it is always different, and even if we get what we ask for it’s never as good as it seems. Always worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, trying to meet guidelines and expectations. Any time you stumble you build more resentments, guilt, and shame. You hunger for what others have, and you seek and hold jealousy in your heart, your mind focuses on your inability to accept reality and blind to the present moment. Grudges build, stress consumes and your bogged down waist deep in your shit.
Before long you’re in your last days, knowing the end is near and spent your whole life obsessed with everything you’re unable to control, and this has become your bitter end. Exactly the type of life I see being lived every day by many around me, I can tell by the way people talk about each other and point the finger. Everyone is full of opinions on what’s going on with sports or the economy or politics, with what someone else is doing down to their dogs and cats. If only you could control everything what type of world would it be? Let me tell you I would never want that responsibility or to live in that world even if I could control all! Up or down, black or white and no middle ground, a see-saw of behaviors thoughts and actions that throw balance and peace out of the window. No thank you; I’m done falling for that lie that is so prevalent in our society. Just pick one. Fear is the seed of addiction, imagined, or unrealistic fears also are at the root of all evil. Trying to control the things outside of your control is just within human nature, exasperated in the addict’s mind. The need to control stems from fear and insecurity.
During my 60-day rehab stay at Matt Talbot I seen a book sitting on the table, it belonged to my friend Jason Murphy the founder of this website and project. I was always interested in thinking outside the box and enjoyed philosophy in general, so this book naturally grabbed my attention. “The Daily Stoic” (366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman) is a book that focuses on a daily reading for each day of the year. The book contains quotes by some of the greatest stoic philosophers of ancient Rome (Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius) then a clear explanation by Holiday and Hanselman.
What I read in these pages is my introduction into stoic philosophy and now a belief in the practice. Esoteric philosophy has also caught my attention but aligns more with the spiritual side versus how to live life on life’s terms; I will always revert to stoicism. Under the topic of control, I have copied some insightful quotations written by these stoic philosopher’s and hope you can find your meaning within them.
“How many have laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements – How little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!”
-Seneca, on the Brevity of Life, 3.3B
“You have been formed of three parts-body, breath, and mind. of these, the first two are yours insofar as they are only in your care. The third alone is truly yours.”
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.3
These next three quotes by Epictetus sums up quite a bit on having the wisdom to know the differences between what you can and can’t control or change. Knowing what is inside your ability to control and what you cannot, letting go of our innate sense to control, is very liberating. To myself, this practice brings me more peace and serenity than I ever imagined.
“The chief task in life is simply this; to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”
-Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4-5
“Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything of our own doing. even more, the things in our control are by nature free, unhindered, and unobstructed, while those not in our control are weak, slavish, can be hindered, and not our own.”
-Epictetus, Enchiridion, 1.1-2
“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What’s not under control are the body and any of its parts, our possesions, parents, siblings, children, or country-anything with which we might associate.”
-Epictetus, Discourses, 1.22.10
The Bible also has many lessons on the practice of letting go of control, in this case of self-will and God’s will. The difference between your will and your higher power’s will is in future posts, some of these quotes are direct from the Bible and shine a light on control issues.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This next verse out of the Bible is a beautiful written on the subject of control and worry. It has a very similar vibe that the Stoic philosophers had:
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
Buddism almost is entirely built on letting go of control; there is an excellent website called “Brainy Quote” (www.brainyquote.com) that I will reference for quotes from Buddha (563BC-483BC) that are extremely rich in the art of “letting go.”
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”
This last quote from Buddha is such a direct and simple explanation of the benefits gained by simply gaining control of your mind, and the Stoic’s point out that the mind is the only single thing we can have full control over. The Bible believes the rest of our externals that surround us every day can be navigated not through trying to control them but by God’s will and our trust in this higher power.
There are too many lessons given down through the ages that are telling us the same things. I am barely skimming the surface in this article on the subject of control. I would hope you, the reader may think of some of these own factors and behaviors in your own life, what could you lose from giving up some control in your own lives and externals? What is it in our human nature to try and control everything around us while it is obviously a cause of many negatives that are ruining and wasting our lives?
Thanks for reading