"Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking."
— Marcus Aurelius
"Economic factors, personal psychology, impulsiveness, aggressiveness, pleasure i.e. Utopia will fail because people have their hate, their need to be loved; and special interests."
— Sigmund Freud
Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor from 161 to 180, is considered an important stoic philosopher. His stoic tome, "Meditations," written in Greek, described how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.
Freud was intrigued by the equanimity proposed by Marxism but he finally recognized if we don't deal with the ego (unconscious of the psyche), no form of government would ever work whether it be Communism, Socialism, Despotism or Capitalism because they all contain the aggression of the ego. The ego seeks an enemy, someone to hate or disagree with — the scapegoat. Because of the ego nothing will ever change in the world. As a result the world has had nothing but wars since the beginning. We continue to disagree and find someone, a country, a culture, a race, a religion or person to hate. Attack always follows. Following the ego's attack is guilt and then we are trapped. But just because nothing will change in the world does not mean that we cannot change our minds, thoughts and lives. As Marcus Aurelius said, the solution is "within yourself, in your way of thinking."
We can have peace if we decide to be responsible for the way we understand what we see. We always look outside and never within. We can see things either as an attack or a call to choose peace. If we see attack, the ego is feeling threatened and needs to retaliate, to do something. We can disagree with kindness, and that is choosing peace instead of attack. When you dislike someone, look within at the judgments. Where do they come from? Old beliefs or your own projections you prefer not to accept? The ego mind feeds on disagreement, separation and always looks for differences. Peace sees everyone as equal. We see the split mind clearly in Aurelius' "way if thinking" and Freud's "hate, needs, and special interests."
Here are some suggestions in choosing which mind or thoughts to listen to: Take a few minutes each day and watch your thoughts. You will see the busy ego mind, but do not judge, just watch, observe objectively and become aware of the chatter. Who is watching the thoughts? You are the stillness behind the thoughts. That stillness, in the right mind, is the stately calm within; who you are as spirit, as love. If you have a thought you would not share with everyone — it is not from the right mind of spirit.
When you have an impulse to do something, wait. The impulse will pass. The ego mind always speaks first. Then let the love in your right mind guide you and you will do the right thing in every situation, and there will be no guilt.
Be the joy you want to see in your world. Smile and you will be smiled upon. And you never know, but your smile could have a profound effect on someone who is suffering, silently. Exclude no one from your love. Love never compares or condemns and it brings equanimity to all. Enjoy spring, nature is awakening around us. Celebrate Easter and the end of death. Resolve to live in your loving right mind and gradually the ego will diminish. Choosing the peace within makes us happy.
Sally McKirgan facilitates the Inner Peace column. Send 600- to 700-word articles to email@example.com.