I recently finished William Braxton Irvine’s A Guide to the Good LIfe: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, published by Oxford University Press.
This was my first exposure to the philosophy of the Stoics, which to me seems like a Greek/Roman version of Buddhism. There are a lot of parallels to the East with pragmatic advice that resembles Taoism, Confuscianism and Buddhism. One of the main practices Dr. Irvine explains is “negative visualization.” This is where one actually takes some time to visualize what the worst thing that could happen would be. It’s important to note that one does this only periodically as it is meant to be a sort of “wake up” to the psyche to realize that the worst has not happened yet and we have the gift of the present moment. Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh often leads a meditation on death which is very much like this. To meditate on one’s own death as well as the death of loved ones better prepares one for the inevitable but also sweetens the moments we have with our loved ones. It’s a method of reducing the pain and suffering of life and to shift the focus to the positive.
Irvine actually puts forth a good argument for modernizing Stoicism which is not all denial of pleasure as the Cynics were. Rather it’s living and enjoying a good life. This is one without excess but one where we actually are present and conscious of our treasures.
There’s also a good overview of the major Stoics like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Zeno, Epitectus and reading list of the major works. – Recommended.