Stoic Practice: Scratches Happen in Training
“When your sparring partner scratches or head-butts you, you don’t then make a show of it, or protest, or view him with suspicion or as plotting against you. And yet you keep an eye on him, not as an enemy or with suspicion, but with a healthy avoidance. You should act this way with all things in life. We should give a pass to many things with our fellow trainees. For, as I’ve said, it’s possible to avoid without suspicion or hate.” – Marcus Aurelius
See each day and every situation as a training exercise. You will accept things quicker even if they’re annoying—it’s just training.
Scratches happen. Don’t blame your sparring partner. Don’t blame the event. We’re all just training. Things go wrong. People act like jerks.
The stakes suddenly become much lower. We interpret mistakes more generously. We stretch a point an extra time. We’re way more resilient that way.
Just dust it off as training
Imagine the opposite. Seeing every situation as the championship was on the line . . . You’d be on tenterhooks all the time, and react to every tiny thing. It’s much smarter to be easy and shake off minor blows with a simple nod. Just dust it off as training. Nothing happened. Move on.
You don’t want to be the person who gets enraged over scratches. They take things so seriously it seems ridiculous from the outside. They think that barely visible spot ruins their looks, that dirty remark is worth a fight, or that leftover sip of milk is a reason to lose their mind.
Look, these things might be important to you, but that’s no reason to blow a gasket. Remain calm, scratches happen. Smile and move on. And if appropriate, inform others about your opinion on how to eat ice cream, talk to people, and how much milk is fine to leave in the bottle.
“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, because an artful life requires being prepared to meet and withstand sudden and unexpected attacks.”
Marcus Aurelius reminds us to be prepared for sudden slaps. All these hits and blows life throws at us are opportunities for practice. Each slap contains the chance to stay calm and strengthen who you want to be, but also the risk to go ballistic and become more of who you don’t want to be.
You’re a warrior. Nothing and nobody can throw you off balance easily. You’re ready to deal with some punches and side-kicks. Such is life. Even better, knowing that these kicks make you stronger, you rub your hands together and look forward to them. They cannot come unexpected and hard enough.
You want to be strong. You want to handle yourself in the face of adversity. You want to be unshakable in the midst of a storm. You want to remain cool when others panic.So you simply can’t afford to turn your head to every scratch. It’s just training. Smile and move on.