The Tranquility Within Us
Finding peace on Earth — or at least peace of mind
“Nothing is so bitter that a calm mind cannot find comfort in it.” — Seneca, c. 60
This time of the year, we’re all looking for some tranquility.
While last week’s extra edition of the newsletter contained some encouraging words to power through, now as the lull between Christmas and New Year’s Eve rolls around, we might simply be looking to unplug and recharge.
As an interesting aside, what a terrible irony it is that we recharge by unplugging.
It’s like looking to the past to inform our present. Counterintuitive on the surface, but deeply fundamental.
Sometimes it takes a counterintuitive example to nudge our somnambulant awareness.
When the ancient poet Horace wrote to Lollius Maximus (is that Latin for ROFL?), he suggested that he “interrogate the writings of the wise.”
Asking them to tell you how you can
Get through your life in a peaceable tranquil way.
Will it be greed, that always feels poverty-stricken,
That harasses and torments you all your days?
Will it be hope and fear about trivial things,
In anxious alternation in your mind?
Where is it virtue comes from, is it from books?
Or is it a gift from Nature that can’t be learned?
What is the way to become a friend to yourself?
What brings tranquility?
What makes you care less?
Horace’s reverie strikes a thoughtful tone — a questioning tone. He doesn’t pretend to hold the answers, because the answers are within each one of us.
And those answers are as unique as we are. Some of us might prefer a walk in nature, others might like to focus on the present, and yet others put their minds toward gratitude.
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Horace’s Guide to Finding Tranquility
Taking Horace’s advice, it seems natural to pan for nuggets of wisdom regarding the search for tranquility in his own Epistles.
Three particular quotes stand out as wonderful and timeless examples of how we might find tranquility, even for moments each day.
Finding Tranquility in Nature
“Let us step out into the open, my friend, and leave the dusty city behind us; let us drink in the pure, cool air and gaze upon the grass, the trees, and the streams.”
Part of finding tranquility is getting out and looking for it. You can’t find tranquility (and tranquility doesn’t find you) when you’re doomscrolling or obsessing at your desk.
Solvitur ambulando, meaning “It is solved by walking,” shows us that by getting outside and physically moving around, we can free ourselves from the stresses in our lives.
Maybe it’s an extended hike in nature or just a quick walk around the block. A babbling brook, the wind in our faces, or the brisk morning air can do wonders for our attitude.
Finding Tranquility in the Present
“Why do we worry about the future? It is uncertain, and its very uncertainty should free us from fear. Let us live for today, and make the most of what we have right now.”
Tranquility is a wonderful state of mind to seek, and to be tranquil is to be able to sit quietly and enjoy today without a nod to the past or a glance toward the future.
Just soak in the here and now, focus on what you’re doing and saying to those around you, and be your best self, without worries about what tomorrow may bring.
Finding Tranquility in Gratitude
“Let us be grateful for the good things we possess, and let us not be envious of others. If we are content with what we have, we will have all that we need, and we will be at peace.”
As you know, I’m a big fan of expressing gratitude. Horace’s own colleague Cicero also knew the power of gratitude when he wrote: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
With gratitude, force ourselves to acknowledge our external blessings — those that have been bestowed on us. In doing so, we admit that were dependent on other forces and other people in our lives, and that in turn can give us a sense of peace on contentment.
I hope you have moments out in nature in which you can enjoy the present and reflect on your blessings as the year winds to a close.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
One More Thing
If you want to spend some time finding tranquility over the holidays, consider picking up a copy of Tom Morris’ The Oasis Within, a tale set in 1934 in which a 13-year-old journeys across the desert with his 70-year-old uncle and learns some of the secrets of life in the process.