Dissecting Meditations, a personal journal by Marcus Aurelius Part #4

What you are getting into: 769 words, 5mins read

Here, I will share my contemplations upon reading the published personal journal of Marcus Aurelius, a roman emperor from 161-180 AD. Thoughts mainly stemmed from Stoicism, and Marcus Aurelius used the notes for guidance and self improvement. It’s a translated book by Gregory Hays, or you can read it online.

For this and upcoming posts I attempt to dissect quotes I favour upon reading the book.

Photo via Unsplash

People try to get away from it all — to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like.

By going within.

Nowhere you can go is more peaceful — more free of interruptions — than your own soul. Especially if you have other things to rely on. An instant’s recollection and there it is: complete tranquility. And by tranquillity I mean a kind of harmony.

So keep getting away from it all — like that. Renew yourself. But keep it brief and basic. A quick visit should be enough to ward off all <…state your troubles here…> and send you back ready to face what awaits you. What’s there to complain about? People’s misbehaviour? But take into consideration:

  • that rational beings exist for one another;
  • that doing what’s right sometimes requires patience;
  • that no one does the wrong thing deliberately;
  • and the number of people who have feuded and envied and hated and fought and died and been buried

…and keep your mouth shut.

Or are you complaining about the things the world assigns you? But consider the two options: Providence or atoms. And all the arguments for seeing the world as a city.

Or is it your body? Keep in mind that when the mind detaches itself and realises its own nature, it no longer has anything to do with ordinary life — the rough and the smooth, either one. And remember all you’ve been taught — and accepted — about pain and pleasure.

Or is it your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of all those applauding hands. The people who praise us — how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region in which it all takes place. The whole earth a point in space — and most of it uninhabited. How many people there will be to admire you, and who they are.

So keep this refuge in mind: the back roads of your self. Above all, no strain and no stress. Be straightforward. Look at things like a man, like a human being, like a citizen, like a mortal. And among the things you turn to, these two:

  1. That things have no hold on the soul. They stand there unmoving, outside it. Disturbance comes only from within — from our own perceptions.
  2. That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. Think of how many changes you’ve already seen.

“The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.”

This entry is the perfect example of something we should all return to when we get stressed out, faltering under anxiety, or overthinking. The most important point is delivered in the beginning — most of us want to escape by going away when we can go within.

Overindulging in escapism can detach us from reality. To counter that, perhaps better cost effective way is to go within, search inside ourselves, or meditate. Take for example, you could find yourself a comfortable chair, sink your body into it, let the cushion mould against your warm body, close your eyes gently, let your body relax, note the gentle breeze grazing across your face, take a deep breath, all the way into your lungs, pay attention to your surroundings, imagine you are sitting at a beach, or on top of the mountain, or deep underwater, or in a jacuzzi. Basically you can transport to anywhere you want to be by going within.

It is particularly prudent that we realise most matters that bothers us are in fact, trivial. Perhaps the most important thing we have is time. Each morning when we wake up, we are given 24hours. It repeats itself like Groundhog Day. How many minutes and hours do we want to spend worrying, rushing, attending to busy work, getting frustrated, feeling annoyed? And how many minutes and hours do we want to spend feeling happy, excited, full of anticipation that something amazing is going to happen?

The end quote “The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.” hits me the most. What if we reframe how we view life not as reality, instead as perceptions we perceive? Then we have the power to perceive the life we want to have. We then have full control of our feelings, thoughts, how we conduct our business, and how we love someone.

We are then free from the shackles of our own mind to do the things that makes us happy, a little more, every 24hours.

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