7 Meditation Anchors


Am I being virtuous?  Am I focusing on what is important?  What follows are what I call my Seven Meditation Anchors.  During times of relaxation (before bed, with morning coffee, or even when I think I need to relax–e.g. heavy traffic or when family has driven me to the limit).  I use these 7 anchors to help me come back to what is important.  Sometimes I focus on one of them, other times I meditate on each in turn.  I rarely meditate for longer than 15 minutes.

Thanks, Siddhartha!

For those familiar with Zen/Buddhism, four of these, Compassion, Love, Joy, Equanimity will have a vaguely familiar look…the Four Sublime States are a cornerstone of my anchors.  They are what I call the spiritual/emotional anchors.  They speak to the cerebellum, the medulla, the spiritual/ancestral (limbic and reptillian) brain.

The remaining three, Understanding, Patience, and Persistence, I consider rational anchors.   They speak to the cerebrum (Neocortex), or thinking brain. They elicit cause and effect, and help with the “why’s” of what to focus on.

So, here they are with a short description for each.  Don’t worry, I will expand upon each in the upcoming days.  (Rationals are blue, Spirituals are green)

  • Compassion – is to feel the suffering of others.
  • Understanding – is to put yourself into another’s mind, or into a situation and really think about what you would do
  • Patience – is to understand that things take time, despite large amounts of effort
  • Persistence – if things take time, then great effort is required over and over and over…
  • Joy – is not just joy, but sympathetic joy.  This is to revel in the good fortune of others…the opposite of envy
  • Equanimity – is the ability to see things as they are, from a distance, to be the water and not the waves (see Passionate Equanimity)
  • Love – as in Lovingkindness; this is love without possessing, without judging, without expecting it in return, it is to love as if a god

Note:  You may be wondering why these are listed in this particular order.  It’s a simple practical decision for me:  it’s because in this order, they spell CUPP-JEL, which I can remember easily.  None is more important than another, in my opinion (see last paragraph of my credentials here).  You might choose to start with the “rationals” and finish with the “spirituals,” or vice versa (that would spell UPPJELC). For all I care, use PLUC-JEP.

After Signing the Acceptance Contract, What Next?


Now that I’ve made and accepted my Acceptance Contract, I am free to move on to answering other questions.  I can now tackle things that are more in my control:

  • Why don’t more people read my blog?
  • Can my message help others?
  • How can I reach a bigger audience?
  • Am I focusing on the things in my life that are important?
  • What do people need?
  • Can I provide that to them?
  • If not, what can I provide?

Probably the biggest of these questions is, “Am I focusing on the things in my life that are important?”   Well, answering this question requires me to know what is important.   To know what is important, I need to answer whether I am living a life of virtue?  If I am not, then why not?

What should I focus on?

What leads to a life of virtue? Honesty? Industry? Love? Sharing?  These are all things to be reflected on in my meditation.  I have asked these questions, and I have found that seven meditation anchors lead me to acting with virtue.  They allow me to live my life with a backdrop of ocean so that whatever figurative poison drops into my life is diluted (see Passionate Equanimity).

These seven will be revealed in turn…


An “Acceptance Contract”


You may have been to my Stoic page, where I introduce the essential triad I have taken from the Stoics.  This triad is about understanding what is under my control, accepting that fate will change my life unexpectedly, and knowing that all things are impermanent.  These three concepts are essential in building the attitude of “indifference” to the external factors around us.

Once you build this philosophy, certain questions of “Why?” begin to fade away.

  • Why did this happen to me?
  • Why did my dog die?
  • Why does every investment I make seem to tank?
  • Why can’t I afford a new car?
  • Why did I just win the lottery? (Threw this one in…positive occurrences are fate as well)
  • Why are thousands murdered every year?

I just won the lottery! Now I will always be happy!

These things are going to happen…much of it is simply fate.  They are mostly or completely out of your control.  Like everything else, your dog is impermanent.  But one question may still be lingering in your mind:  “isn’t there a big plan for me?”  In all of my research, and all that I have reflected on Stoic philosophy, one thing seems to be consistent.  The Stoic strives to be indifferent to this big plan.  God may have a plan for you, but it is simply part of the plan for all of existence.  You are simply a player in the giant unfolding of the cosmos.  He may be raising you from the minute you were born to save the world.  You may be the one to cure cancer, to win the Tour De France, or to lead a church, but if you are a Stoic, you are not concerned with the specific plan for you.  In short, the limit of your existential “why asking” stops at “why should I live a virtuous life?” and ends with “because it is in accordance with nature (both human and universal),” and moreover, because that is the way God intended it.  All further why questions are not essential to living a virtuous life.

In my post on Life as Training, I alluded to this indifference as faith.  This requires further reflection, I think.   I won’t talk around this any longer:  praying is a manifestation of a lack of faith.  When you pray for something, it is for your own sake (even if it is to feel a little power over something….”Dear God, please watch over those on the East coast so Hurricane Sandy [Frankenstorm] does them no harm”).  So, if you are part of God’s plan, and God put you here on Earth with murders, rapes, earthquakes, hurricanes (Frankenstorm) and all, why do you find it necessary to ask “are you sure this is your plan, God?  Can you change it just a little for me?”  For your sake, indeed.

Would you sign an Acceptance Contract?

Instead, I have said my prayer only once when I accepted the Stoic life, “I’ll do my part with the flesh, breath, and mind you gave me.  Other than that, you’ve got the rest, God.”  This is a covenant (a SUPER CONTRACT) between me and all of existence…and I only need to make it once.  Upon further reflection, I’ve realized that what I originally called indifference might be better described as acceptance:   An Acceptance Contract


Marcus on Acceptance of Fate (A Modern Day Translation by Me)


What follows is my own translation of an excerpt from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations,  You can easily find a more raw translation anywhere on the internet, for example click here.  I believe “The Meditations” is an awesome (as in filling me with awe) collection of wisdom that has endured centuries of time (he wrote them throughout his life sometime around 160 AD).  I humbly admit that my posts are influenced by the thoughts of giant minds such as his.  When he wrote his meditation they were to himself, so when he is saying “you,” he is saying it to himself.  They are indeed his Stoic meditations.  You may replace “the gods” with “God” or “Nature” or “fate.”  Regardless of where you find your spiritual inspiration, or even if you don’t, Marcus provides us with a potent guide to living a tranquil Stoic life.

“Of all that you think you are, you are but a little flesh and breath, and your mind. Throw away your books; no longer distract yourself: it is not allowed; be as if you were now dying.

First, despise the flesh; you are blood and bones and a network of nerves, veins, and arteries.

Next the breath, see the breath, what kind of a thing it is, air, and not always the same, but every moment sent out and again sucked in.

The third part then is your mind, so consider this: you are an old man; no longer let your mind be a slave, no longer be pulled by the strings like a puppet to being disagreeable, no longer either be dissatisfied with your present situation or fear the future.

All that is from the gods is meant to be.  That which is from fortune is not separated from nature and interweaves with all things.  From this all things flow; and these occurrences are necessary, and are an advantage to the whole universe, of which you are a part.  And that is good, for every part of nature is necessary for the whole of nature, and maintains it.  Thus the universe is preserved, just like the changes of the elements, so it is with the changes of things made by them.

Let these principles be enough for you.  But cast away your desire for books, that you may not die murmuring, but cheerfully, truly, and from your heart thankful to the gods.  Remember how long you have been putting off these things, and how often you have received an opportunity from the gods, and yet you did not use it.  You must now at last perceive of what universe you are a part, and of what administrator of the universe your existence is a product of, and that your time on Earth is limited and fixed, which if you do not use for clearing away the clouds from your mind, it will go and you will go too, and you will never return.

Every moment think steadily as a man to do what you must with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice; and to give yourself relief from all other thoughts.  You will give yourself relief, if you do every act of your life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to you.

You see how few things are really necessary to be able to live a life of tranquility, a godly life; for the gods on their part will require nothing more from him who observes these things.”

A Little Knowledge? (Moderation Part 7)


Part 7 in the Moderation Series.  To See Part 1, click here.

It seems like the more we know, the more we don’t know.  I have lived my life never tiring of learning more.  I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge, and I don’t think I’ve ever lost it.

I think one of the greatest things my parents ever did for me was purchase a set of World Book Encyclopedias.  I would flip through those things devouring knowledge.  Facts, figures, history, I wanted to know more and more.  It was one of the ways I could explore my world around me.  Searching for knowledge is inherently human, I think.  However, I also think I may be obsessive about it.  I am addicted to the pursuit of knowledge.

My obsession with knowledge was fueled by these.

In comes the internet circa 1993ish.  What a treasure-trove of information, and it never ends!  Never, never, never, never ends.  Never!   Sometime, about 10 years ago, I realized that I had literally burned out, completely overdosed on all the information the internet had to offer.  I spent life saying “Let’s find out,” to unknown answers.  With the internet, I had Yahoo, Lycos, and Google to answer all my questions.   It overwhelmed me.  At some point, I realized I had to slow down.  I couldn’t possibly know everything.

My Desk: Sometimes I wonder if I still have “too much” information.

So is there such thing as too much knowledge?  Well, I think the answer lies in comparing knowledge with wisdom.  By definition, knowledge is the state of knowing something, particularly a fact.  Wisdom, on the other hand, is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.  So, there is a lot of information out there, and it is my job to have the wisdom to tell what parts of that knowledge are useful, true, or correct.

In essence, I have to filter the knowledge I receive to gain wisdom.  Wisdom, then, is the moderation of knowledge.  You might argue, aha, then you don’t need to moderate your wisdom!  I would tend to agree.  Wisdom, in and of itself, is a moderating word.  To say we only need wisdom in moderation, is like saying we only need moderation in moderation.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

“…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference…”  from the Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr