The Pursuit of Calm #5

The question often arises as to why those that are ‘calm’ seemingly, on the surface anyway, have very few problems compared with the rest of us.

Here’s a few simple reasons as to why:
First, the calm seem to manage expectations as much as possible. In short they rarely expect what isn’t possible in the first place.

Expectations are a slippery slope, firstly we can tend to judge others, and ourselves, by our own expectations.
Expectations also often leads to assumptions – another human trait that we all struggle with. One of the best passages regarding assumptions comes from the powerful book The Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz…“Don’t Make Assumptions…We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking – or even the way they look at us – we take it personally – then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing. It is always better to ask questions (like my mate Socrates) than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering.”

[If you have not read the Four Agreements, I’d recommend getting a copy…it can be read in a couple of hours, and I think, should be read at least a couple of times a year.]

Secondly, the calm always consider both the best and worst case scenario. They don’t just think about what they wish to happen, but also realistically what can happen if things were to suddenly turn.

Considering both sides of an outcome is a smart move with all our choices – I guess this could be considered ‘living-intentionally 101’.
We can often find ourselves making a (subconscious) choice, not being (fully) cognisant of the outcomes, then, being impacted by the proceeding obstacle, challenge, negative outcome – and then, proceed to bash ourselves up because of how we’re feeling/thinking – mostly annoyed, frustrated and anxious because ‘all this shit keeps happening to me’.
It took me years to connect the dots that my alcohol consumption was my segue to ill mental and physical health, but it took me decades to become ‘realistic’ about the impact of my habit and to stop beating myself up. I actually now think it was overcoming my self-flagellation that ultimately resolved my substance abuse and life-long sobriety ensued.

Thirdly, the calm act with a reverse clause – meaning that they not only consider what might go wrong, but they are prepared for that to be exactly what they want to happen – it is an opportunity to exercise excellence & virtue.

Part of my own early morning quietude routine is to consider, welcome and accept events outside my control. I have no control of anything outside my sphere of choice, but I do have complete control over how I choose to respond / or not respond.
The reality is we are tested 24/7, and though I am a complete novice, by habitually practicing & reminding myself of this each & every morning, I offer myself the perfect opportunity to cultivate and exercise my own values and virtues…every.single.time I am tested.

I still fail, fall down, and get frustrated everyday, but…at the end of my day, before closing my eyes, I review how the day has unfolded,  and I can pin point what I have done well, and, more importantly where and what I can do better.
Which then becomes the topic of reflection for the following morning when I compose myself for that day ahead.

Ref: The Daily Stoic
-Ryan Holiday

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Calm is a Habit
As per my previous posts on calm, our ability to nurture and habitually toil the fertile soil required to manifest calm is dependant on our ability to create space – space as in quietude and reflection, and space between stimulus and our response.

Quietude and reflection lays the foundation of calm, whilst sober, satiated, healthy, rejuvenated, simplified living provides us the window to remember to stand on that very foundation when we find ourselves inevitably struggling.

“If you want to see things just as they are,

then you yourself must practice just as you are.”
– Dogen

Personally, I don’t actually think ‘calm’ individuals have less problems. I think they’ve actively reduced the clutter, noise and distraction firstly, this enables clearer, conscious choices to be made.
Conscious choices means an elevation in the quality of your problems.
Being calm also enables one to consciously sieve the stimulus outside our control, before being either at best ‘triggered’, or at worst, allowing the ‘agitation’ to ‘escalate’ our state of mind, thus eliminating triggering compulsive contrary habits and behaviours.

Very handy life-tools me thinks.

“Do not follow the ideas of other, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself.

Your body and mind will become clear and you will realise the unity of all things.”
Dōgen 
Zen Master
(1200-1253)