The HighExistence Podcast

“The Stoics can teach you how to find a sense of purpose in life, how to face adversity, how to conquer anger within yourself, moderate your desires, experience healthy sources of joy, endure pain and illness patiently and with dignity, exhibit courage in the face of your anxieties, cope with loss, and perhaps even confront your own mortality while remaining as unperturbed as Socrates.”
― Donald J. Robertson, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

Donald Robertson is one of the world's leading experts on Stoicism, especially how it relates to cognitive science and therapy. Donald has spent decades as a clinical psychologist and has been studying the great Stoic classics for just as long. Recently, Donald released a book, part biography, part self-improvement, about the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. It's a truly amazing read, as practical as it is enjoyable.

“When we reason well about life and live rationally, we exhibit the virtue of wisdom. Living in agreement with Nature, in part, means fulfilling our natural potential for wisdom; that’s what it means for us to flourish as human beings.” ― Donald J. Robertson, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

In my first interview with Donald, we covered a lot of general Stoic principles, but in this episode we look specifically at decoding the mind of Marcus Aurelius so we can start living more like this philosopher king.

“According to Stoic philosophy, when we assign intrinsic values like “good” or “bad” to external events, we’re behaving irrationally and even exhibiting a form of self-deception. When we call something a “catastrophe,” for instance, we go beyond the bare facts and start distorting events and deceiving ourselves. Moreover, the Stoics consider lying a form of impiety—when a man lies, he alienates himself from Nature.”
― Donald J. Robertson, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

WHAT WE DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • The Stoic training of Marcus Aurelius
  • The role of compassion in Marcus' life
  • The battle between Stoicism and sophism
  • The biggest influences on Marcus' development
  • How Marcus journaled and reflected on his day
  • The biggest mistakes and misconceptions when practicing Stoicism
  • The Stoic view of pornography and other temptations
  • Donald answers, do Stoics ever see themselves as victims of life
  • The incredible emphasis and techniques Marcus used to manage his anger
  • The hardships that beset Marcus' life
  • The level of plagiarism found in Stoic texts
  • Western philosophy and psychedelics
  • The role of mysticism and psychedelics
  • Much, much more!

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Direct download: Donald_Robertson_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:40pm EDT

Most people have heard of Stoicism.

It's a philosophy dense with practical wisdom.

But how many Stoics do you know?

I don’t mean people who have read Meditations or Letters from a Stoic, I mean actual Stoics…

Individuals who are comparable to the authors of these books in their tranquility, wisdom, self-discipline, and joy.

This was a question I kept asking myself as I embarked on my study of Stoicism 10 years ago.

One of my passions is learning, or more specifically learning through systems.

I’m the guy who measures every workout at the gym, keeps detailed spreadsheets for my martial arts progress, and has pretty much every habit tracking app available on his phone. I believe technology, if harnessed correctly, can be an incredible tool for wisdom.

This is why, when I first started getting into Stoicism, I was disappointed by most peoples answer to “How do you ACTUALLY become a Stoic?”

Most of the time the answer was something like the following:

Read the original Stoic classics multiple times. Reflect on your day by journalling. Do a few visualizations throughout the day. Focus only on the things you can control.

It’s not a terrible answer, but it’s far from great. I needed a roadmap. I needed to know that I wasn’t going to be wasting my precious time focusing on the wrong things. I needed a system.

Since there weren't any available, I set out to create one (this would go one to become The Stoic Quest).

When I first started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu two years ago I realized the deep value of embodied wisdom. You cannot watch technique videos and expect to beat opponents at grappling. So much of the learning comes when you are faced with challenges you must overcome.

With Stoicism, many people spend time filling their heads with ideas and not putting any of it into practice. This means the time spent reading about the Stoic principles acts more like a distraction from problems than an antidote to them.

So how do we get around this? How do we get actually bridge the gap and put theory into practice and stop wasting time in intellectual lala-land??

That's what we discuss on the podcast today. On this episode, I relinquished my usual role as podcast host so I could sit in the hot seat. Fellow collaborator at HighExistence, Mike Slavin wears the interviewer hat and together we explore topics such as:

  • How I used Stoicism to overcome my social anxiety
  • The exercises I developed for reducing intense fear
  • The right and wrong ways to learn Stoicism (and anything else)
  • My favorite technique to live with more gratitude
  • The key components missing from modern Stoicism
  • My thinking process behind the Stoic Quest
  • And tons more

Visit highexistence.com/stoicquest to learn more about the Stoic obstacle course.  

Direct download: Gamifying_Stoic_Philosophy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:06am EDT

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