Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Book Highlights

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Book 2

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. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think. 

Making sure that the power within stays safe and free from assault, superior to pleasure and pain. Making sure that it accepts what happens and what it is dealt as coming from the same place it came from. And above all, that it accepts death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed.

Book 3

Getting the most out of ourselves, calculating where our duty lies, analyzing what we hear and see, deciding whether it’s time to call it quits – all the things you need a healthy mind for, all those are gone. So we need to hurry. Not just because we move daily closer to death but also because our understanding – our grasp of the world – may be gone before we get there.

Trusting that all is for the best. For we carry our fate with us – and it carries us.

If it’s time for you to go, leave willingly – as you would to accomplish anything that can be done with grace and honor. And concentrate on this, your whole life long: for your mind to be in the right state – the state a rational, civi mind should be in.

Your ability to control your thoughts – treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions.

Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see. The span we live is small – small as the corner of the earth in which we live it. 

Nothing is so conducive to spiritual growth as this capacity for logical and accurate analysis of everything that happens to us.

Keep the spirit inside you undamaged, as if you might have to give it back at any moment – if you can embrace this without fear or expectation – you can find fulfillment in what you’re doing now – then your life will be happy. No one can prevent that.

In everything you do, even the smallest thing, remember the chain that links them.

What is unique to the good man? To welcome with affection what is sent by fate. Not to stain or disturb the spirit within him with a mess of false beliefs. Instead, to preserve it faithfully, by calmly obeying God – saying nothing untrue, doing nothing unjust. And if the others don’t acknowledge it – this life lived with simplicity, humility, cheerfulness – he doesn’t resent them for it, and isn’t deterred from following the road where it leads to the end of life. An end to be approached in purity, in serenity, in acceptance, in peaceful unity with what must be.

Book 4

Nowhere you can go is more peaceful – more free of interruptions – than your own soul.

That doing what’s right sometimes requires patience. 

That things have no hold on the soul. They stand there unmoving, outside it. Disturbance comes only from within – from our own perspectives.

That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. Think of how many changes you’ve already seen.

“The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.”

Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.

It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you – inside or out.

Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able – be good.

The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.

Not to be driven this way and that, but always to behave with justice and see things as they are.

If you seek tranquility, do less. Or do what’s essential. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?” But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.

Don’t be disturbed. Uncomplicate yourself. Somehow has done wrong…to himself. Something happens to you, good. It was meant for you by nature, woven into the pattern from the beginning.

Life is short. That’s all there is to say. Get what you can from the present – thoughtfully, justly.

Blind – one who keeps the eyes of his mind shut tight.

A key point to bear in mind: The value of attentiveness varies in proportion to its object. You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.

What should we work for? Only this: proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech. A resolve to accept whatever happens as necessary and familiar, flowing like water from that same source and spring.

The truth: that wisdom is justice.

Look into their minds, at what the wise do and what they don’t.

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. It needs to realize that what happens to everyone – bad and good alike – is neither good nor bad. That what happens in every life – live naturally or not – is neither natural nor unnatural. 

Time is a river, a violent current of events, glimpsed once and already carried past us, and another follows and is gone. 

To pass through this brief life as nature demands. To give it up without complaints. Like an olive that ripens and falls. Praising its mother, thanking the tree it grew on.

It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it – not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. So 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 good fortune.

Book 5

What happens to each of us is ordered. It furthers our destiny.

The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts. 

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone – those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us – a chasm whose depths we cannot see. So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignations, either. As if the things that irritate us lasted. 

The mind is the ruler of the soul. It should remain unstirred by agitations of the flesh – gentle and violent ones alike. Not mingling with them, but fencing itself off and keeping those feelings in their place. When they make their way into your thoughts, through the sympathetic link between mind and body, don’t try to resist the sensation. The sensation is natural. But don’t let the mind start in with judgements, calling it “good” or “bad”. 

Honor and revere the gods, treat human beings as they deserve, be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood – and nothing else is under your control.

You can lead an untroubled life provided you can grow, can think and act systematically. Two characteristics shared by gods and men (and every rational creature): i. Not to let others hold you back. ii. To locate goodness in thinking and doing the right thing, and to limit your desires to that. 

True good fortune is what you make for yourself. Good fortune: good character, good intentions, and good actions. 

Book 6

Look inward. Don’t let the true nature or value of anything elude you. 

The best revenge is not to be like that.

The mind is that which is roused and directed by itself. It makes of itself what it chooses. It makes what it chooses of its own experience. 

When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep on going back to it. 

Perceptions like that – latching onto things and piercing through them, so we see what they really are. That’s what we need to do all the time. Pride is a master of deception.

Respect your own mind – to prize it – will leave you satisfied with your own self.

Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.

If anyone can refute me – show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective – I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.

Death. The end of sense-perception, of being controlled by our emotions, of mental activity, of enslavement to our bodies. 

The only rewards of our existence here are an unstained character and unselfish acts. 

Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one.

The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patience with those who don’t.

When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them. It’s good to keep this in mind.

Why should it bother you that you have only x or y years to live and not more? You accept the limits placed on your body. Accept those placed on your time. 

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.

All those people who came into the world with me and have already left it.

Book 7

I can control my thoughts as necessary; What is outside my mind means nothing to it.

Our own worth is measured by what we devote our energy to

Focus on what is said when you speak and on what results from each action. Know what the one aims at, and what the other means. 

So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone.

Forget the future. When and if it comes, you’ll have the same resources to draw on – the same logos.

Everything is interwoven, and the web is holy; none of its parts are unconnected. They are composed harmoniously, and together they compose the world. One world, made up of all things. One divinity, present in them all. One substance and one law – the logos that all rational beings share. And one truth. 

Let it happen, if it wants, to whatever it can happen to. And what’s affected can complain about it if it wants. It doesn’t hurt me unless I interpret its happening as harmful to me. I can choose not to.

To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it, if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, that they haven’t really hurt you. They haven’t diminished your ability to choose.

When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?

Treat what you don’t have as nonexistent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them. But be careful. Don’t feel such satisfaction that you start to overvalue them – that it would upset you to lose them. 

Everywhere, at each moment, you have the option: to accept this event with humility, to treat this person as he should be treated, to approach this thought with care, so that nothing irrational creeps in. 

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.

Neither unbearable nor unending, as long as you keep in mind its limits and don’t magnify them in your imagination. 

You don’t need much to live happily.

To live life in peace, immune to all compulsion.

Book 8

Not feeling anger at stupid and unpleasant people – even for caring about them.

What is this, fundamentally? What is its nature and substance, its reason for being? What is it doing in the world? How long is it here for?

Apply them constantly, to everything that happens: Physics. Ethics. Logic.

This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.

To accept it without arrogance, to let it go with indifference. 

A rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.

Stop perceiving the pain you imagine and you’ll remain completely unaffected.

Give yourself a gift: the present moment.

Nothing that can happen is unusual or unnatural, and there’s no sense in complaining. Nature does not make us endure the unendurable.

External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now. If the problem is something in your own character, who’s stopping you from setting your mind straight? And if it’s that you’re not doing something you think you should be, why not just do it?

Remember that when it withdraws into itself and finds contentment there, the mind is invulnerable. No place is more secure. Once we take refuge there we are safe forever. Not to see this is ignorance. To see it and not seek safety means misery.

What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.

Book 9

Things wait outside us, hover at the door. They keep to themselves. Ask them who they are and they don’t know, they can give no account of themselves. What accounts for them? The mind does. 

Enter their minds, and you’ll find the judges you’re so afraid of – and how judiciously they judge themselves.

How the mind can participate in the sensations of the body and yet maintain its serenity, and focus on its own well-being. 

None of the people you’re upset about has done anything that could do damage to your mind. Isn’t it yourself you should reproach – for not anticipating that they’d act this way? 

By doing them a favor and expecting something in return, instead of looking to the action itself for your reward. 

Book 10

Be satisfied with what you have, and accept the present – all of it.

You can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so.

If they’ve made a mistake, correct them gently and show them where they went wrong. If you can’t do that, then the blame lies with you. Or no one.

To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be done.

Continual awareness of all time and space, of the size and lifespan of the things around us.

Everything was born to die.

Each of us needs what nature gives us, when nature gives it.

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. 

If you’ve immersed yourself in the principles of truth, the briefest, most random reminder is enough to dispel all fear and pain. None of us have much time. And yet you act as if things were eternal – the way you fear and long for them.

Learn to ask of all actions, “Why are they doing that?” Starting with your own.

Book 11

It’s the pursuit of these things, and your attempts to avoid them, that leave you in such turmoil. And yet they aren’t seeking you out; you are the one seeking them. Suspend judgement about them. And at once they will lie still, and you will be freed from fleeing and pursuing. 

To live a good life: We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference. And why is it so hard when things go against you? If it’s imposed by nature, accept it gladly and stop fighting it. And if not, work out what your own nature requires, and aim at that, even if it brings you no glory.

iv. That you’ve made enough mistakes yourself. You’re just like them.

v. You have to know an awful lot before you can judge other people’s actions with real understanding. 

vi. 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. 

vii. That it’s not what they do that bothers us: that’s a problem for their minds, not ours. It’s our own misperceptions. Discard them. Be willing to give up thinking of this as a catastrophe…and your anger is gone. How do you do that? By recognizing that you’ve suffered no disgrace. 

viii. How much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them. 

“If you don’t have a consistent goal in life, you can’t live it in a consistent way.” 

This advice from Epicurean writings: to think continually of one of the men of old who lived a virtuous life.

Grapes. Unripe, ripened, then raisins. Constant transitions. Not the “not” but the “not yet.”

“We need to master the art of acquiescence. We need to pay attention to our impulses, making sure they don’t go unmoderated, that they benefit others, that they’re worthy of us. We need to steer clear of desire in any form and not try to avoid what’s beyond our control.”

Socrates: What do you want, rational minds or irrational ones? -Rational ones. Healthy or sick? -Healthy. Then work to obtain them. -We already have. Then why all this squabbling?

Book 12

If you can cut free of impressions that cling to the mind, free of the future and the past, and concentrate on living what can be lived, then you can spend the time you have left in tranquility. And in kindness. And at peace with the spirit within you. 

We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.

To see things as they are. Substance, cause and purpose.

At all times, look at the thing itself – the thing behind the appearance – and unpack it by analysis: cause, substance, purpose, and the length of time it exists.

It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you.

That before long you’ll be no one, and nowhere. Like all the things you see now. All the people now living.

It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will. Serenity, total calm, safe anchorage. 

What links one human being to all humans: not blood, or birth, but mind. That an individual’s mind is God and of God. That it’s all how you choose to see things. That the present is all we have to live in. Or to lose.

And how trivial the things we want so passionately are. And how much more philosophical it would be to take what we’re given and show uprightness, self-control, obedience to God, without making a production of it. There’s nothing more insufferable than people who boast about their own humility.

The fraction of infinity, of that vast abyss of time, allotted to each of us. Absorbed in an instant into eternity. Keep all that in mind, and don’t treat anything as important except doing what your nature demands, and accepting what Nature sends you. 

How the mind conducts itself. It all depends on that. All the rest is within its power, or beyond its control. 

Achieve Limitless Success, Happiness and Gratitude

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