I always thought ‘Ataraxia’ was just the name of an Everclear song (well at least the intro to a song). But recently I found out it’s not just a made up word, like ‘discombobulate’¹ or ‘woozlewuzzle’ (at 2:17).
It actually means ‘untroubledness.’ In ancient Greece, philosophers like Epicurus said that ataraxia is the state of mental equilibrium that we should constantly shoot for. An undisturbed and tranquil state of mind, unaffected by emotional, mental or external disturbances, that’s vital for us to maintain if we want to live a good life.
I’ve written about how what we sometimes think we don’t need are the things we need the most. When things around us get all disturbed, disjointed or distopic, that’s when we need to return to our own ataraxia.
David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel was running late once and he told his driver, ‘I’m late, so slow down.’ I’ve also heard people say, ‘If you don’t have 5 minutes a day to meditate or just stop and take a moment for yourself, you need 2 hours.’
When we think we don’t have time for something, that’s when we need it most. If you’re in a rush, firstly don’t speed, go through your usual routine and do the things you usually do (This is something my friend Matt does).
Same goes for when you’re worked up over something someone said or did. That’s when you most need to remember to come back to your usual state and get back your equilibrium. If you don’t, strong emtions, especially negative ones easily spiral out of control.
So when my wife does something that ticks me off –something that’s pretty much ‘small-n’ nothing, but I think it’s ‘all-CAPS-and-bold’ SOMETHING– I stop and then do something nice for her, make her a coffee or lunch.¹ Immediately after, I forget what got me ticked off in the first place. Which just confirms that whatever bugged me really was small-n nothing.
¹ By the way, so not a fan of how little this word gets used.
² Also something Matt does.