Mindfulness Meditation for Stoics

Contemplative exercises, nonjudgmental awareness, and Stoicism as more than lifehacks

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

Every week we share three 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

What is the goal of Stoicism?

To have one’s will aligned with Nature. Whatever one wants, happens. Whatever one does not desire, does not.

This is an ambitious ideal.

How can one approach it?

There are many tools and techniques. Mindfulness meditation is one. Sages, or those who would be sages, have meditated for thousands of years.

Mindfulness meditation focuses on cultivating nonjudgemental awareness. It’s about seeing the world as it is without adding imaginary stories or unnecessary value judgments.

In this way, the practice meshes well with Stoicism. The ancient Stoics encouraged us to question every impression. We shouldn’t automatically assume our thoughts accurately represent the world. With meditation, we can better internalize the reality that we are neither our thoughts nor sensations. What you think isn’t necessarily so.

Meditation does this by training “mental movements.” By simply on watching your mind and returning to the object of meditation whenever you get distracted, you build the habits of attention necessary for thinking well.

Consider this from the standpoint of Stoic view psychology. Simplifying a bit, first, life presents us with sensations. Then, we decide how to interpret those sensations. As it was said:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.


Mindfulness meditation helps us pause and use that space well. Many of us automatically respond to triggers like pain by making negative judgments. Discomfort provokes the belief that we have been harmed.

Instead of immediately jumping to the idea that were harmed – we can pause and return to what matters. That movement – noticing what’s going on and shifting attention – is what one trains in meditation.

By sitting and quietly paying attention to the breath, sensations in your body, or some other meditation object we can improve our awareness and focus.

With practice, one can approach the life of the sage. If you haven’t meditated before, learn how to start with the links below.

🎯 Action

Practice nonjudgemental awareness.

Try meditation, describing events objectively, or pausing during your day and willingly accepting whatever has come your way.

🔗 Links

🧘‍♂️ Practice meditation with the Stoa app or our free meditations available on YouTube:

🧠 I’ve been reading the The Knowledge – a weekly newsletter from David Elikwu to help you think deeper, work smarter, and decide better. Subscribe for free here. I found his stuff by listening to a number of interviews he’s done for The Knowledge podcast. Recommended!

📰 If you’re reading Stoicism merely for self-help you’re missing the point. Professor Nancy Sherman on what is missed when we view Stoicism only as a series of ‘life hacks’.

🐦️ Recent quotables from Twitter:

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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.

7 Referrals – Signed Book – Get a signed version of Rome’s Last Citizen. We’ve got a limited number of these. First come, first serve.

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