Original Link : https://medium.com/stoicism-philosophy-as-a-way-of-life/stoicism-the-view-from-above-741886d3c9a1

Script for a Stoic Meditation Exercise

This is a slightly revised version of a script that I wrote many years ago, which was published in my first book on Stoicism and psychotherapy, The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy in 2010 — a revised 2nd edition of which is due for publication in 2019.

Take a moment to settle into your posture and make yourself comfortable… Close your eyes and relax… [Pause.] Be aware of your breathing… Notice the rhythm of the breath… Do nothing for a while, just be content to contemplate your breathing more deeply… [Pause.] Now, begin by paying attention to the whole of your body as one… From the top of your head, all the way down into your fingers and down into your toes… Be aware of your body as one… every nerve, muscle and fibre… Don’t try to change anything. Don’t try to stop anything from changing… Some things can change just by being observed…

Be content to notice whatever you notice, and feel whatever you feel… Be a passive, detached observer… As you continue to relax, turn your attention deeper within… Become more aware of your body… and imagine how you would appear right now if you could just take a step back and look at yourself… Begin to picture yourself as if seen from the outside… It really doesn’t matter how vividly you can see yourself, it’s just the intention — the idea — that matters. Imagine your body posture… your facial expression… the colour and style of your clothing…

Now keep looking at the image of yourself resting there, and imagine leaving the ground as you gaze down at your body. You begin floating serenely upwards, slowly and continuously, rising upwards. All the while your gaze keeps returning to your body, which remains there below you as you rise above it. Keep looking down toward your body as you float higher and higher…. The roof and ceiling disappear, allowing you to float freely upward. Looking down you see yourself relaxing comfortably below in the building… You appear contemplative and contented. You can see all the rooms, and any other people around you.

As you continue to float gently higher and higher, your perspective widens more and more until you see the whole surrounding area. You see all the buildings nearby from above. You see the people in buildings and in the streets and roads. You observe people far below working, or walking along the pavement, people cycling or driving their cars, and those travelling on buses and trains. You begin to contemplate the whole network of human lives and how people everywhere are interacting with each other, influencing each other, encountering each other in different ways…

Floating higher, people become as small as ants below. Rising up into the clouds, you see the whole of the surrounding region beneath you. You see both towns and countryside, and eventually the coastline begins coming into view as your perspective becomes more and more expansive… You float gently up above the clouds and through the upper atmosphere of the planet Earth… So high that you eventually rise beyond the sphere of the planet itself, and into outer space… You look toward planet Earth and see it suspended in space before you, silently turning… resplendent in all its majesty and beauty…

You see the whole planet… the blue of the great oceans… and the brown and green of the continental land masses… You see the white of the polar ice caps, north and south… You see the grey wisps of cloud that pass silently across the surface of the Earth… Though you can no longer see yourself from so far above, you know and feel that you are down there on Earth below, and that your life is important, and what you do with your life is important. Your change in perspective may even begin to change your view of things, your values and priorities…

You contemplate all the countless living beings upon the Earth. The population of the planet is over seven billion people… You realise that your life is one among many, one person among the whole human race… You think of the rich diversity of human life on Earth. The many languages spoken by people of different races, in different countries… people of all different ages… newborn infants, elderly people, people in the prime of life… You think of the enormous variety of human experiences… some individuals right now are unhappy whereas some are happy… and you realise how richly varied the tapestry of human life before you actually is.

And yet as you gaze upon the planet Earth you are also aware of its position within the rest of the universe… a tiny speck of stardust, adrift in the immeasurable vastness of cosmic space… This world of ours is merely a single planet, a tiny grain of sand by comparison with the endless tracts of cosmic space… a tiny rock in space, revolving around our Sun… the Sun itself just one of countless billions of stars which punctuate the velvet blackness of our galaxy…

You think about the present moment on Earth and see it within the broader context of your life as a whole. You think of your lifespan in its totality… You think of your own life as one moment in the enormous lifespan of mankind… Hundreds of generations have lived and died before you… many more will live and die in the future, long after you yourself are gone… Civilisations too have a lifespan; you think of the many great cities which have arisen and been destroyed throughout the ages… and your own civilisation as one in a series… perhaps in the future to be followed by new cities, peoples, languages, cultures, and ways of life…

You think of the lifespan of humanity itself… Just one of countless billions of species living on the planet… Mankind arose roughly two hundred thousand years ago… animal life itself first appeared on Earth over four billion years ago… Contemplate time as follows… Realise that if the history of life on Earth filled an encyclopaedia a thousand pages long… the life of the entire human race could be represented by a single sentence somewhere in that book… just one sentence…

And now think of the lifespan of the planet itself… Countless billions of years old… the life of the planet Earth too has a beginning, middle, and end… Formed from the debris of an exploding star, unimaginably long ago… one day in the distant future its destiny is to be swallowed up and consumed by the fires of our own Sun… You think of the great lifespan of the universe itself… the almost incomprehensible vastness of universal time… starting with a cosmic explosion, a big bang, immeasurable ages ago in the past… Perhaps one day, at the end of time, this whole universe will implode on itself and disappear once again…

Contemplating the vast lifespan of the universe, remember that the present moment is but the briefest of instants… the mere blink of an eye… the turn of a screw… a fleeting second in the mighty river of cosmic time… Yet the “here and now” is important… standing at the centre point of all human experience… Here and now you find yourself in the midst of living time… Though your body may be small in the grand scheme of things, your imagination, the human imagination, is as big as the universe… bigger than the universe… enveloping everything that can be conceived…

You contemplate all things, past, present and future… You see your life within the bigger picture… the total context of cosmic time and space… You see yourself as an integral part of something much bigger, something truly vast, the “All” itself… Just as the cells of your own body work together to form a greater unity, a living being, so your body as a whole is like a single cell in the organism of the universe… Along with every atom in the universe you necessarily contribute your role to the unfolding of its grand design…

As your consciousness expands, and your mind stretches out to reach the vastness of eternity… Things change greatly in perspective… and shifts occur in their relative importance… Trivial things seem trivial to you… Indifferent things seem indifferent… The significance of your own attitude toward life becomes more and more apparent… you realise that life is what you make of it… You learn to put things in perspective, and focus on your true values and priorities in life… One stage at a time, you develop the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference… You follow nature… your own true nature as a rational, truth-seeking human being… and the one great Nature of the universe as a whole…

Now in a moment you are going to begin sinking back down to Earth, toward your place in the here and now… Part of you can always remain aware of the view from above, though… Whenever you like, you can return to and remember that perspective and the feeling of serenity it brings…

Now you begin your descent back down to Earth, to face the future with greater confidence and equanimity… You sink back down through the sky… down… down… down… toward the local area… down… down… down… into this building… down… down… down… You sink back gently into your body… all the way now… as your feet slowly come to rest upon the floor once again…

Now think about the room around you… Think about action… movement… think about looking around and getting your orientation… raising your head a little… Begin to breathe a little bit more deeply… a little bit more energetically… let your body feel more alive and ready for action… breathe energy and vitality into your body… breathe a little deeper and deeper again… until you’re ready to take a deep breath, open your eyes, and emerge from meditation… taking your mindfulness and self-awareness forward into life… beginning now… take a deep breath… and open your eyes now… when you’re ready… entering the here and now with deep calm and serenity…