I was first introduced to Marcus Aurelius from Ryan Holiday, who has stated Meditations is his favorite book. I’ve found the wisdom profound, and have written here some of the words that spoke most to me.
It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will, like rounding the point. Serenity, total calm, safe anchorage.
The foolishness of people who are amazed by anything that happens. Like travelers amazed at foreign customs.
It never ceases to amaze me: We all love ourselves more than other people, but we care more about their opinion than our own.
Practice even what seems to be impossible. The left hand is useless at almost everything, for lack of practice. But it guides the reins better than the right. From practice.
i. That you’ve made enough mistakes yourself.
ii. That you don’t know for sure it is a mistake. A lot of things are means to some other end. You have to know an awful lot before you can judge other people’s actions with real understanding.
iii. When you lose your temper, or even feel irritated: that human life is very short. Before long all of us will be laid out side by side.
To live a good life: We have the potential for it. If we learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.
As you move forward in the logos, people will stand in your way. They can’t keep you from doing what’s healthy; don’t let them stop you from putting up with them either.
Someone despises me. That’s their problem. Mine: not to do or say anything despicable. Someone hates me. Their problem. Mine: to be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them. Ready to show them their mistake. Not spitefully, or to show off my own self-control, but in an honest, upright way.
Learn to ask of all actions, “Why are they doing that?” Starting with your own.
See human life for what it is: Smoke. Nothing. Especially when you recall that once things alter they cease to exist through all the endless years to come. Then why such turmoil? To live your brief life rightly, isn’t that enough?
When faced with people’s bad behavior, turn around and ask when you have acted like that. Your anger will subside as soon as you recognize that they acted under compulsion.
When you face someone’s insults, hatred, whatever… look at his soul. Get inside him. Look at what sort of person he is. You’ll find you don’t need to strain to impress him.
Enter their minds, and you’ll find the judges you’re so afraid of – and how judiciously they judge themselves.
You want praise from people who kick themselves every fifteen minutes, the approval of people who despise themselves. Is it a sign of self-respect to regret nearly everything you do?
Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer.
You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they’ll still go on doing it.
Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.
And why should we feel anger at the world? As if the world would notice!
Treat what you don’t have as non-existent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave if you didn’t have them. But be careful. Don’t feel such satisfaction that ou start to overvalue them – that it would upset you to lose them.
Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart?
Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and need a comrade to pull you up? So what?
You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves.
Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.
Disgraceful: for the soul to give up when the body is still going strong.
If anyone can refute me – show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective – I’ll gladly change.
Matter: How tiny your share of it.
Time: How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate: How small a role you play in it.
The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.
Take the shortest route, the one that nature planned – to speak and act in the healthiest way. Do that, and be free of pain and stress, free of all calculation and pretension.
Remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great fortune.
To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved as the raging of the sea falls still around it.
Look into their minds, at what the wise do and don’t.
Nothing that goes on in anyone’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you.
Then where is the harm to be found? In your capacity to see it. Stop doing that and everything will be fine.
You have a mind? Yes. Well, why not use it? Isn’t that all you want – for it to do its job?
That sort of person is bound to do that. You might as well resent a fig tree for secreting juice.
Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people – unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind. You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious.
Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and you will never return.
Yes, keep on degrading yourself, soul. But soon your chance at dignity will be gone. Everyone gets one life. Yours is almost used up and instead of treating yourself with respect, you have entrusted your own happiness to the souls of others.
Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time even when hard at work.