A great Stoic once said “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of our life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…”
Stoicism, for those who have not majored in philosophy, is considered a ideology of personal ethics. According to its teachings, we as social beings, can only find happiness in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain.
Stoicism incorporates the practice of logic to provoke us to use our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature's plan. By meditating on the contemplation of death the Stoics would train themselves to remain in the present moment. Back in the day, it was more than just a set of beliefs or ethical claims, it was considered more of a way of life.
I know the truth of death is an overwhelming reality for us to wrap our heads around. The fact that you are a mortal being, that will some day cease to exist? It’s hard to swallow. Even as I write it my face cringes.
But my intention here is not so much to focus on the reality of our death, but instead on the power of our life.
“Memento Mori” is a Latin phrase that means “remember that you will die,” “remember that you are mortal”. Now I understand that sounds morbid and as millennials the last thing we want is to be thinking too much about death, especially with today’s culture of youth glorification and the perpetuating consumeristic lie that you can stay young forever. The thought literally sits at odds with the comfortable narrative we have surrounded ourselves with.
However, the truth is, that it is a thought that we all need to be reminded of. The importance in this thought is not so much to focus on the end of things, but instead to focus on the NOW of life. The immense infinite now that we have each and everyday.
This phrase should force you to focus on what you can do NOW, with the life that you have at this given moment.
The HERE and NOW are the things that matter most.
You should be constantly asking yourself: How can I make the here and now really count? How am I letting fear stop me? How am I letting my past weigh me down?
Meditating and acknowledging your morality is only depressing if you miss the point.
Look at it as a way to find perspective in life. See it as a way to identify your priorities, your meaning, and what it is that you want most.
Use this idea as way to see life as a gift-- don't let yourself get lost in the trivial insignificant ordeals of the everyday human existence.
Don't let your vanity consume you.
Realize that you have a certain amount of time to live, so live life in a certain kind of way. Don’t let transient things become distractions. Don’t let drama consume you. Don’t let fear stop you and most of all to let your time escape you. The only truth you need to become conscious of is that life is precious, it is short and you have the power to make the most of it now.
Here are some ways to use “Memento Mori” to seize your life:
Live life with purpose each and everyday. Do things because they are aligned with who you want to be.
Stop making excuses. You never know what is or could be if you don’t try.
Choose not to be a victim. Remember that you are always winning, even when you are losing you have won a new lesson or point of view that you otherwise would not have gotten.
Stop comparing yourself to others, your life is your journey, no one else has to understand it and no one else can live it.
Take action now in anyway, big or small steps count.
Let go of the past that is weighing you down and don’t let it affect your future.
Rethink what your priorities are.
Mediate fully on what you want for yourself and why you want those things.
Finally, as this year comes to and end and a new one begins I invite you to think about all the new ways you can live the life you were meant to live -- today. No one has a better way of provoking this thought other than our dear Steve Jobs, when he reminds us in his famous commencement speech; "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."