Dissecting Meditations, a personal journal by Marcus Aurelius Part #5

What you are getting into: 513 words, 3mins 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

Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you.

— Then where is harm to be found?

In your capacity to see it. Stop doing that and everything will be fine. Let the part of you that makes that judgment keep quiet even if the body it’s attached to is stabbed or burnt, or stinking with pus, or consumed by cancer. Or to put it another way: It needs to realise that what happens to everyone — bad and good alike — is neither good or bad. That happens in every life — lived naturally or not — is neither natural nor unnatural.

This teaches one to let go of judgment. Our capacity to label things equates to judgment, which turns to harm. Anything that happened to us, can happen to anyone. For example, falling in love, striking the lottery, eating your favourite food, contracting sickness, being humiliated, etc — these are the things that can happen to anyone.

Stop for a minute and ask yourself when was the last time you said: “Why me?!” The act of asking this question generally stems from judging the unfairness that befell upon you. “I shouldn’t have experienced unfairness because I’m a good person.” Does that mean a bad person should be punished for their sins? Am I really free of sin? Is this judgment affecting me? Can I let go of the labels? Why do I even want to judge and label someone / something? Don’t I know that judging brings harm to my mind?

Once my mind accepts the labels put forth, it brings harm to me. Imagine that your loved one passed a scathing criticism to you. How would you react? Would you get defensive and engage in a heated discussion? Or would you feel extremely hurt and want nothing to do with them? Now imagine a stranger passing off a scathing criticism to you. How would you react this time round? Will your reaction still be the same?

You must know these are someone else’s opinions. Yes, they have the ability to influence you, but you have the ability to accept or reject them. Blindly accepting external opinions may make you a puppet. Rejecting all external opinions may make you isolated and detached. What gives?

Understand yourself. Your triggers. Your weak points. Your strong points. Build your own filters. Refine them. Know ultimately harm is merely our mind’s reaction. Like gatekeepers, they do not allow filth to enter. Neither should we untruth opinions to corrupt our mind.

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