How to Be Calm & Collected | Inspirational Podcast

Inspirational Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of wearable inspiration for a better world. Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from a lecture by Dr. George Lincoln Walton, delivered to the Harvard Medical School in 1913.

To stay calm in our stressful age means to achieve poise. And what I mean by poise is: equanimity. The type of equanimity I have in mind is a purely practical one, such as the kind that will enable us to drive to work during rush hours without losing our temper. Not that I expect anyone permanently to attain this degree of equanimity, but I nevertheless will offer suggestions that cultivate such poise, to the extent, at least, of lessening our fears, of taking the edge off our acute resentments against things and persons, of modifying somewhat our impatience, and materially curbing our worry.

As a neurologist, it is my belief that nervousness would be rare if we simply could get rid of our needless fears and worries, avoid swearing or even feeling like swearing; if we could argue without acrimony, could stifle our aversions, could resist the temptation to play the martyr, and could listen to criticism and ridicule without getting “hot under the collar.”

Furthermore, I believe that if such an equilibrium could be attained, the actual amount of effective work in the world would be easily doubled. Not that people wouldn’t get tired, but it would be a healthy tired, the kind a normal child has after a long day’s play; not the kind of tired that puts you where you can’t sleep if a clock ticks, but the kind that makes you relax every muscle in your body and sleep until the alarm rings, or if you don’t sleep, makes you lie still in one position and think what a good time you are having, instead of tossing, turning, and fussing about that eight hours’ sleep on which you had set your mind.

Unfortunately, we are not by nature so endowed that we can expect, without effort, to adopt the poise that insures such slumber, nor is it likely that the laws of heredity will be so far subverted that our descendants will be so constituted. But there is ONE thing we can do, and that is by training, modify to a certain extent these faulty mental habits and take the edge off our fret and worry; in short, cultivate emotional poise.

We may not fully succeed. But shouldn’t we at least try to attain a more fretless, fussless, and unworrying manner of living? I asked this of a friend recently and he promptly answered, “No. If everybody was like that it would be a very boring world.” However, I fancy that if such equanimity could be achieved, there would still be enough variety left in life to make up for missing the fun of being worried and getting mad.

If we are to change our mental attitudes, we should begin by modifying them by suggestion. In attacking faulty mental habits, suggestion is the most potent agent at our command. There is nothing new or pseudo-scientific about the practical employment of self-suggestion toward achieving poise and equanimity. Lao Tzu urged his followers to guard their vitality by entering into harmony with their environment. And Cicero claimed that to learn to live without tumult is the best training for the fulfillment of a wish.

Each of us would do well to absorb the following quotation from Marcus Aurelius: “Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet today with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, and unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil.” For by doing so, we might then begin to view these people with pity instead of resentment—realizing that their attitude toward us, and their abuse of us, has really nothing to do with us, but is merely a symptom of their ignorance…..

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