Somehow I got on the mailing list for someone who runs one of those series of self–help courses, the first step of which is to help the presenter by buying into his philosophy, i.e., his book or online course(s). But in this case, his mailing caught my eye for his spin on the concept of “euthymia,” from Ancient Greek stoic philosophy. Seneca, in a dialog “Of Peace of Mind,” gives us an appreciation of this concept.
What you need, therefore, is, not any of those harsher remedies to which allusion has been made, not that you should in some cases check yourself, in others be angry with yourself, in others sternly reproach yourself, but that you should adopt that which comes last in the list, have confidence in yourself, and believe that you are proceeding on the right path, without being led aside by the numerous divergent tracks of wanderers which cross it in every direction, some of them circling about the right path itself. What you desire, to be undisturbed, is a great thing, nay, the greatest thing of all, and one which raises a man almost to the level of a god. The Greeks call this calm steadiness of mind euthymia, and Democritus’s treatise upon it is excellently written: I call it peace of mind: for there is no necessity for translating so exactly as to copy the words of the Greek idiom: the essential point is to mark the matter under discussion by a name which ought to have the same meaning as its Greek name, though perhaps not the same form. What we are seeking, then, is how the mind may always pursue a steady, unruffled course, may be pleased with itself, and look with pleasure upon its surroundings, and experience no interruption of this joy, but abide in a peaceful condition without being ever either elated or depressed: this will be “peace of mind.”
From: L. Annaeus Seneca, Minor Dialogs Together with the Dialog “On Clemency”; Translated by Aubrey Stewart, M.A., Late Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, pp. 250-287
THE NINTH BOOK OF THE DIALOGUES OF L. ANNAEUS SENECA, ADDRESSED TO SERENUS.
OF PEACE OF MIND.
Immediately I am struck with its similarity to the yogic “virtue”of equanimity, upekśa (borrowed by Patanjali from the Buddhists). But additionally, I am struck with this advice, which is called out in the mail I received from the self help fellow.
have confidence in yourself, and believe that you are proceeding on the right path, without being led aside by the numerous divergent tracks of wanderers which cross it in every direction, some of them circling about the right path itself
So for me, euthymia will have this additional sense of belief or confidence in one’s own path. This reminds me of the advice, deduced from The Bhagavad Gita, that it is a form of violence to follow a dharma other than your own. To me this means to take the advice of others to heart, but ultimately to follow one’s own counsel. We live the truth or falsehood, and consequences of our own actions.
I don’t think this necessarily means an enjoinder to stoicism as much as peace of mind, tranquility. What couldn’t we accomplish with that confidence? How might we also engage others, with that sense of responsibility for our choices?
I’m excited by the discovery of this concept in the most unlikely of places, and I intend to meditate more upon this.