My 7 Most Important Lessons from the book “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius.
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
The book was written with no intention of publication by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was also a philosopher. Title of the book got wrong interpretation, and in Greek it sound more like “Notes to self”. This work of Marcus Aurelius consists of remarkable series of challenging spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the emperor struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe.
Reflecting the emperor's own noble and self-sacrificing code of conduct, this eloquent and moving work draws and enriches the tradition of Stoicism, which stressed the search for inner peace and ethical certainty in an apparently chaotic world. In the face of inevitable pain, loss, and death — the suffering at the core of life — Aurelius counsels stoic detachment from the things that are beyond one's control and a focus on one's own will and perception. This huge collection of extended meditations and short aphorisms has been admired by statesmen, thinkers and readers through the centuries.
Marcus Aurelius delivers many insightful and inspirational observations about human nature and the human condition, and he makes an excellent rational argument for seeking the good and for acting modestly and continently.
The message is simple but extraordinarily powerful: life is short, the past and the future are inaccessible, pain and pleasure have no meaning, but inside each one of us there is a ruling faculty that is touched only by itself. The only thing that is of any importance is our own private quest for perfection, which no external power can ever destroy.
Choose not to be hurt and you will not be.
“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
Live in a present moment.
“Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”
Know your self and look with in for strength.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”
Focus your action.
“Resolve firmly, to act like a Roman-- with dignity, humanity, independence, and justice. Free your mind from all other considerations.”
“Among the truths you will do well to remember: first, external things can never touch the soul, but stand inert outside it, so that disquiet can arise only from fancies within; and secondly, that all visible objects change in a moment, and will be no more. The whole universe is change, and life itself is but what you deem it.”
Do what you can with what you have been given.
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly.”
You can endure anything.
“Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by nature to bear.”
This book is not your typical philosophy reading that you can talk about with your friends to appear smart. It is a practical guide of “How to live your under pressure” from one of the greatest man that ever lived… and probably a first self-help book ever written, but with very different meaning. Marcus reminds us that all is transient: this too shall pass.
We find several recurring themes in The Meditations: develop self-discipline to gain control over judgments and desires; overcoming a fear of death; value an ability to retreat into a rich, interior mental life (one's inner citadel); recognize the world as a manifestation of the divine; live according to reason; avoid luxury and opulence. But generalizations will not approach the richness and wisdom nuggets a reader will find in Marcus's actual words.
If you feel that you're pulled in too many directions by the pressures of contemporary life, this book may help anchor you. Circumstances may have changed since the late Roman Empire, but human nature did not. It is surprising those success principles of two thousand years ago still applicable now. How Marcus could predict human nature that is still accurate to present days.
"The way people behave. They refuse to admire their contemporaries, the people whose lives they share. No, but to be admired by Posterity - people they've never met and never will - that's what they set their hearts on. You might as well be upset by not being a hero to your great-grandfather."