Marcus Aurelius' Meditations


Take heart, find courage or gain inspiration from the following quotes of Marcus Aurelius, taken from his great philosophical work, The Meditations.

The perspective offered in Meditations could best be described as seeing yourself as part of a larger scheme of things and finding peace in that way. Aurelius reflects on his own life and uses the wisdom gained from his experiences as the basis for a guide to living your life and self-improvement, placing a strong emphasis on good judgement, reflection and thoughtfulness over emotions (the type of approach that philosophers often call Stoicism).

Although Meditations is a monologue, Aurelius uses the second person ('You') throughout, as opposed to the first person ('I'). This gives the work the feel of a motivational book. Written in about 167 A.D., you might say The Meditations was one of the world's earliest self-improvement guides.

A little more about Marcus Aurelius:

Not only was he a great and famous Stoic philosopher, Aurelius was also a Roman Emperor - considered by some scholars as one of the better and more competent rulers during the imperial phase of Rome. Much later, the Italian Renaissance-era political philosopher, Machiavelli, named Aurelius as one of his "Five Good Emperors", a sort of benevolent dictator who was able to rule through good sense and reason and with the support of his powerful peers in the Senate.

The historian, Edward Gibbon, in his famous work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote this of rule by the "Five Good Emperors": "...the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of wisdom and virtue."

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"Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them."

"At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: 'I have to go to work as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I'm going to do what I was born for the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?'

'But it's nicer in here ...'

So you were born to feel 'nice'? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don't you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you're not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren't you running to do what your nature demands?

'But we have to sleep sometime ...'

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that as it did on eating and drinking. And you're over the limit. You've had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you're still below your quota.

You don't love yourself enough. Or you'd love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they're really possessed by what they do, they'd rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.

Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort?"

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."

"When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love ..."

"The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury."

"If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."

"Our life is what our thoughts make it."

"It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live."

"Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking."

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

"I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others."

"The best revenge is not to be like your enemy."

"When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you."

"Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look."

"Here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not "This is misfortune," but "To bear this worthily is good fortune."

"How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy."

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