An Ancient Wellness Resource – The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Up until now, I’ve mostly used this blog to share my own thoughts and experiences, and to offer strategies that may assist you in your own journey. From now, however, I’m going to make a regular feature of the tools and resources that I have used in the past and those that I am discovering. New books and sites are always being written, and new teachers are always emerging with their own particular message. Of course, what I will be sharing with you will only be the resources that I have used.

To start off, I want to introduce one of the first books I consciously used to guide myself through a tricky period some 15 years ago. It’s the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Marcus was a Roman Emperor. They depicted him as the father of Commodus in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000). Marcus was a stoic and there is a real nobility in his approach to dealing with the inevitability of suffering.

It’s the sort of book that lends itself to readers who like to dip. I used to keep it by my bed or in the living room (that’s where it is now). Even though he was a Roman, it was originally written in classical Greek, the language of high culture and literature even for the Romans.

Here are some random excepts from the translation by C.R. Haines, published by Harvard University Press (first published 1916).

Every hour make up thy mind sturdily as a Roman and as a man to do what thou hast in hand with scrupulous and unaffected dignity and love of thy kind and independence and justice; and give thyself rest from all other impressions. And thou wilt give thyself this, if thou dost execute every act of thy life as though it were thy last, divesting thyself of all aimlessness and all passionate antipathy to the convictions of reason, and all hypocrisy and self-love and dissatisfaction with thy allotted share. Thou seest how few are the things, by mastering which a man may lead a life of tranquility and godlikeness; for the Gods also will ask no more from him who keeps these precepts.

Here’s another that I read this morning:

Men seek out retreats for themselves in the country, by the seaside, on the mountains, and thou to art wont to long above all for such things. But all this is unphilosophical to the last degree, when thou canst at a moment’s notice retire into thyself. For nowhere can a man find retreat more full of peace of more free form care than his own soul… Make use then of this retirement continually and regenerate thyself. Let thy axioms be short and elemental, such as when set before thee will at once rid thee of all trouble, and send thee away with no discontent at those things to which thou art returning.

(To the women readers, please forgive Marcus his generalising on the male.)

I find these useful as reminders to focus on the moment, on the power of Now as Eckhart Tolle has put it more recently. And the second reading reminds me that wherever we are, we have access to inner peace. If we can’t afford to go to the retreat of our dreams, if our resources are limited, then we have this endless resource within us at all times – all we have to do is make the conscious choice to us it.

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