6 Ways to Find Calm

How to take the view from above

Welcome to The Stoa Letter, the newsletter on Stoic theory and practice.

Every week we share two emails to help you build resilience and virtue with ancient philosophy. Each email includes one meditation on Stoic theory, one action to do in order to become more Stoic, and links to the best resources we’ve found.

🏛️ Theory

When seen from the right perspective, the trivial falls away and what is important remains. We understand the big picture by taking the view from above. This cosmic view is a mindset for focus and calm.

That’s why it’s so important to cultivate. This letter covers 6 tips for taking the view from above and finding calm.

1. 🎨 Experience Art

The exercise works by expanding our sense of time, space, and experience. Anything which broadens these dimensions can move us into a greater perspective. Books, movies, music, and art each help us do that.

Think of the great narratives of history, epic stories of the past, beautiful musical works, or biographies of ancient lives. Each of these, if approached correctly, grounds our place in the world.

Much modern media obsesses over romantic love, economic success, or the latest news – as if those were the only things that exist. We can’t let that distort our vision.

The art we consume and create shapes us and our society. Hence, if we want to be excellent, we should experience excellent art. One criterion for judging art, not the only one, is whether it’s conducive for taking a larger view.

I’ll list out recommendations in the links below and I hope you share some in the comments for other readers too.

🖼️ 2. Keep Physical Reminders

Our physical environment also shapes who we are. Carry a memento to remind yourself of the cosmic perspective.

Carry a memento to bring your awareness to the vastness of space, the finitude of life, or the deep stretch of time. When you look at it, you’ll be reminded that life is so much larger than whatever you currently see. That can bring a sense of relief and focus.

Shape the external world to look like the desired internal world. Only then can we go from adversity to the stars: per aspera ad astra.

Per aspera ad astra

Through adversity to the stars.

🧘‍♂️ 3. Meditate

Through meditation, we can better understand the view from above. Sit in stillness and contemplate the wider scheme of things in order to see things as they are.

This requires setting time aside and finding a quiet environment, somewhere you can reflect. Once you’ve found that, listen to a guided meditation or walk through the steps here.

🖋️ 4. Write

Writing is an excellent way to think. By externalizing our thoughts, we’re forced to crystalize them. We can turn the idea of the view from above into a concrete and precise one. We begin to bring it to life with language and examples.

For instance, you may reflect on your day and note how it compares with the days of your ancestors. Or look back on what you journaled about decades ago and see how little of it matters now. Perhaps try writing a meditation on your place in space. Remind yourself that the world we occupy is much larger than we tend to acknowledge.

⏸️ 5. Pause

The cosmic view should shape your everyday experience. If you pause during your day and take it, you will become closer to the ideal: seeing reality as it is.

So, when you can, pause, observe what’s happening, and reframe it in terms of the big picture.

You can do this by performing a short meditation: visualize your place in your city, nation, and planet. Remember that you exist in a small sliver of time. Contemplate the fact that you are one human among one billion, one animal among trillions.

⛰️ 6. Encounter Nature

Nature is sublime. It reminds us how small we are. In the outdoors, we get the sense that things have been here for millions of years and they will be here for millions more. After we are gone, it'll be as if we had never been.

Landscape with Mountain Lake by Caspar David Friedrich

It's essential, after you cultivate that broader perspective, to ask yourself: what matters? What role do I play in this larger picture?

By returning to those simple roles and reliable relationships, you will find your meaning. Each of us has a part to play in the network of humankind.

🎯 Action

Take the view from above today, at least once.

🔗 Links

🎨 Here are the promised works of art that help me take the view from above:

Share the pieces you find most sublime in the comments.

✉️ What is Stoicism has a clear breakdown of the view from above exercise here.

In human terms, there is no better (or higher) “view from above” than the one an astronaut experiences from outer space. As they gaze wide-eyed from their unfathomable vantage point, they see our planet as a tiny, fragile ball – a pale blue dot. For an astronaut in that moment, all of Earth’s division and conflict fades away. It’s just a small, beautiful sphere hanging in the void.

Be sure to subscribe to his free newsletter for a set of Stoic resources every Sunday – and if you want meditations everyday you can’t go wrong with his daily routines.

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1 Referral — Cheatsheet on The Most Important Stoic Concepts— get access to our list of the most important Stoic concepts with links and instructions for putting each into practice.

3 Referrals – The Stoic Training Program PDF — in this 10-page guide, we share the three main ideas and practices that ground a Stoic approach to life.

5 Referrals – Five Stoic Meditations get five downloadable meditations to go deeper into your practice.

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