Summary of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

We have learned much from the private journal of the great emperor, Marcus Aurelius. A pillar upholding Stoic Philosophy, Meditations serves as a manual for living well.

In our first post, Marcus taught us about the importance of retreating into one’s self:

“Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind…”

In our second, we learned that we each must walk a path uniquely our own:

“Every living organism is fulfilled when it follows the right path for its own nature.”

In our third, the Philosopher-King teaches us about that self-mastery begins with one’s mind:

“Your mind will take on the character of your most frequent thoughts: souls are dyed by thoughts.”

And, finally, in Marcus Aurelius on Acceptance, we learned that we are the source of our own frustration:

“You can strip away many unnecessary troubles which lie wholly in your own judgment.”

I return to Meditations every year. There is a timeless wisdom found in these pages, calling us away from the trivialities of life toward the higher nature of our soul. The Stoic philosophy gives us the tools to master ourselves while remaining indifferent toward the things over which we have no control.

Throughout the book, Marcus stresses that our life is short and all is fleeting. Nothing transcends time as all applause grows inaudible in eternity. The life we live is small and our time is brief. But, rather than a source of disappointment, this seemed to be the source of his inspiration.

We must strive to become our highest self because our time is brief, daily choosing the thoughts and actions which will lead to our development.

“What a tiny part of the boundless abyss of time has been allotted to each of us – and this soon vanished in eternity; what a tiny part of the universal substance and the universal soul; how tiny in the whole earth the mere clod on which you creep. Reflecting on all this, think nothing important other than active pursuit where your own nature leads and passive acceptance of what universal nature brings.“

These were the words written by the most powerful man in the world. They were not meant for public consumption and so are completely devoid of affectation. Meditations shows the true value of philosophy; acting as the immune system for the mind, a sound philosophy protects us from our lower tendencies and buffers us from the outer world.

Every great mind we study gives us more white blood cells to combat daily life.

We find ourselves in a fortunate position. Our personal philosophy is the greatest influence on the quality of our lives and just so happens to be the thing over which we have most control. Herein lies our freedom and responsibility to make the most of this opportunity.

With guidance from such great minds as Marcus Aurelius, I like our chances.

If you want to read Chris’s latest book on personal development, check it out here.

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