For many years I have been fascinated by the thinking of ancient philosophers – not for any grand purpose other than to try and enjoy my life more and be a more positive energy in the world. One of the philosophers I am most drawn to is Epicurus – and in particular his thesis that the only thing we can control is how we think about things, which is ultimately what we base our choices on.
I have to admit that as someone who loves order and forward planning, control is very important to me. This is what keeps making this lesson such a hard one to follow. For Epicurus we don’t control our bodies, our possessions, other people or events in the world – we control one thing – our MIND. And this is where I came to the notion of rent-free space in my mind. He states so simply that it is our judgements that create a disturbed or orderly life.
Recently I had the experience of something finally working out that I have for many years been desperate to achieve. I have spent literally years oscillating between intense rage and utter despair. Neither of which helped or had an impact on the situation other than me spending massive amounts of energy on it and giving up my peace of mind. I was away last week working on a very exciting global change programme and I suddenly realised how much more energy, focus and drive I was able to give to it now that my mind was not pre-occupied with a situation I could not control.
I came away from the work realising that, no matter how much I think I am learning and developing, it is so easy to get trapped by my mind. How much time I give to being angry – playing things out in my head while in the shower, traveling to work, playing with my son, working with groups, attempting to meditate!
My insight from this experience is that true wisdom lies in my ability to make this shift – not when something has been resolved but rather when I am in the storm of it. What I have come to realise is that every time I get upset or angry a little of life leaves me. I am giving away space and time in my mind not only rent free but am paying a high price for it – and most annoyingly it is all up to me, no one else is responsible or to blame as much as I would like that to be the case.
So I invite you to ask yourself a question that Epicurus asked himself when next you get upset
For what have I sold my peace of mind?
This blog was written by Charles Irvine, Managing Director of Questions of Difference.
A conceptual futurist, affirmatively disruptive philosopher and organisational resultant