If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
— Marcus Aurelius
THINKING MAKES IT SO
Aurelius wrote those words in a notebook he called “To Himself?” and that I call “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.” It’s good to remember that this gentle man, forced by birth and a sense of duty to be both emperor and military chief of Rome, wrote them by night in his tent after fighting Huns all day. The external things that troubled him, then, were likely to be a lot harsher than many of the things that trouble you. I, for example, found my peace of mind riled today by a broken water heater, resulting in the lack of a hot shower. That’s a much milder irritant than a barbarian invasion, yet your mind plays the same trick on you in either situation. There is the thing itself—invasion by Huns or broken water heater—and then there’s your interpretation of it. One of the thinking flaws of the human mind is to confuse the unarguable reality of the event with feelings about it and estimations of it. Shakespeare later echoed this thought in his famous line “Nothing is good or bad but that our thinking makes it so.”
A CONSCIOUS LIVING PRACTICE FOR TODAY – OCTOBER 19
Begin to make distinctions between the reality of a given event—a toothache or a traffic light or a glitch at work—and your interpretation of it. Notice that the interpretation, no matter how accurate, is still only an interpretation.
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