The philosophy of the Stoics and the Taoists brings me great comfort in these times and reinforces for me what I already loosely practice. I was in the hospital for a week in 2019 and had lots of time to reflect on how when everything is taken away: our clothes, our external lives, our freedom to go as we please, even our name becomes a bracelet one wears and sees on a dry erase board with a condition, a doctor, and a plan, we are left with the core of who we are, our raw humanity and what we can make of it.
Stoicism in such times teaches us to let go of clinging to things and to be in the present moment. Indeed, Stoicism teaches us to love each moment and everything that happens in each moment (amori fati, or “love of fate” in the Latin), since each moment is all we truly ever have.
Many HSPs feel the sense of grief, tension, and anxiety in the world in these trying times of the pandemic. HSPs may or may not have lives where chasing external rewards is their focus but these times show us quite dramatically the prudence of planning ahead, being content with our rich inner worlds, and valuing those we hold dear. If this pandemic has any silver lining at all it’s that it has allowed many people a time to reflect on their lives and take stock of how their lifestyle and choices either reflect an alignment between one’s modest ambitions, desires, and wants versus the external world of conspicuous consumption, depletion, and a treadmill existence that is out of sync with fundamental happiness.
In this trying time, it seems altogether appropriate that we truly live in this moment, while appreciating that we need very little to be happy or content. When people’s lives have been culled back to a large degree, we are left to re-examine who we are at our cores, and forced to confront either our true depth or our true superficiality.
The Taoists and Stoics have much to teach us in this moment if we listen and let go of societal expectations. The more we are willing to let go, the more content we may become, with less anxiety, worry, or fear to trouble our minds. I was reminded very graphically of my relative impermanence last year and allowed an opportunity to deeply consider my core essence as a human being on this planet at this time. I discovered that trying times stripped away much of the external milieu we all embody, but revealed inner resources in abundance. I chose to view my time in isolation and no control as a time to re-frame my appreciation for all that I loved and would regain.
In the first day after release, I recall quite well my first walk on my familiar walking trail and how the sheer freedom to simply move, breathe, and take in the birds whistling, the sound of the river, and the feel of my body moving felt as if it were my first day on Earth. In any time of withdrawal, we can choose to use it as a chance to bemoan our circumstances, or to engage with our inner worlds of present moment, clarity about who we are at our depths, and to follow the Stoic’s advice in letting go…
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person