Meditations

by Marcus Aurelius

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
 5 min read
Meditations
Meditations

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Expect tough times with people, but know they can't really hurt you. Understand that we all have flaws and are alike in many ways.
  2. Focus on what you're doing right now with seriousness. Don't let outside stuff distract you, and don't waste time without a purpose.
  3. Follow principles that match the way the world and nature work. Act in ways that are right and fit with what you believe.
  4. Pay attention to what's happening now. Don't stress about other people's actions unless it really matters, and focus on what you can change or do at the moment.
  5. Make choices based on clear thinking and natural laws. Think things through logically and grow inside by understanding how the world works.

Summary

Recognizing Human Nature and Developing Resilience

  • “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me.”
  • “Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses, to kick against fate and the present, and to mistrust the future.”
  • “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 will never return.”

Fostering Self-Discipline and Purposeful Living

  • “Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.”
  • “Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.”
  • “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.”

Embracing Stoic Principles for a Fulfilling Life

  • “Don’t ever forget these things: The nature of the world. My nature. How I relate to the world. What proportion of it I make up. That you are part of nature, and no one can prevent you from speaking and acting in harmony with it, always.”
  • “In comparing sins (the way people do) Theophrastus says that the ones committed out of desire are worse than the ones committed out of anger: which is good philosophy.”
  • “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
  • “Nothing is more pathetic than people who run around in circles, ‘delving into the things that lie beneath’ and conducting investigations into the souls of the people around them, never realizing that all you have to do is to be attentive to the power inside you and worship it sincerely.”

Cultivating Inner Peace and Mindful Action

  • “You cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the one you’re losing.”
  • “You can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?”
  • “The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose.”
  • “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.”

Living in Accordance with Nature and Rational Thought

  • “We should listen only to those whose lives conform to nature.”
  • “Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.”
  • “Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.“
  • “Nothing is so conducive to spiritual growth as this capacity for logical and accurate analysis of everything that happens to us.”

Questions

  1. How can acknowledging the flawed nature of others help you develop resilience and prevent their actions from affecting you negatively?
  2. Why is it important to recognize and embrace the world and power you belong to, and how can this understanding impact your use of time?
  3. How can focusing intently on the task at hand and avoiding distractions lead to a more purposeful and fulfilling life?
  4. In what ways can being attentive to your inner power and aligning with nature enhance your daily life and decision-making?
  5. How can embracing the present moment and letting go of what you cannot control lead to inner peace and effective action?
  6. Why is it important to align your actions and decisions with natural principles and rational thought, and how can this influence your personal growth?
  7. How can understanding and accepting the temporary nature of life help you focus on what truly matters?
  8. In what ways can a logical and accurate analysis of life events contribute to your spiritual and personal development?

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