Marcus Aurelius (121 AD – 180 AD)

Marcus Aurelius at Campidiglio

In the center of Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome, there’s a statue of Marcus Aurelius who was once Emperor of Rome.  But today he is remembered, in large part, for his journal known as “Meditations” (170-180 AD). These “meditations” were dialogues he had with himself as a means of better understanding his own actions. They were meant for personal and not public use.

Marcus writes “What stands in the way becomes the way” meaning that we should learn to turn obstacles upside down. Sometimes what we see as a barrier can actually become the solution. But it is an art I have yet to master.

The mind, like the body, can become rigid and what is rigid more easily breaks than does something flexible. Like bamboo. To better adapt, maybe we should try stretching both body and mind.

Muscles that are contracted for too long become stiff and difficult to use. The same goes for the mind. A mind that is contracted because it keeps thinking the same thoughts over and over again becomes rigid and difficult to use.

“That all is as thinking makes it so” writes Marcus. Therefore, suggests Marcus, we should learn to control our thoughts. One’s perspective of a situation determines how the situation is affronted and experienced.

Meditations is not a book that can be easily absorbed. A book of reflections, it encourages its readers to reflect as well. Theodore Roosevelt brought a copy with him on his River of Doubt expeditation. The former Prime Minister of China, Wen Jiabao, read Meditations over 100 times whereas collective bargaining creator, Beatrice Webb, referred to Meditations as her Manual of Devotion.

Marcus, like other Stoics, saw journaling as a way of gaining insight into one’s own behavior. Writing about yourself will help you learn about yourself.


Related: Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius + Turning the Obstacle Upside Down + Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: Book Summary, Key Lessons and Best Quotes + Stoic Journaling: How to Make More Sense of Your Thoughts, Emotions and Habits +

The Horse on the Hill + Diary Writing and other Spiritual Practices + Know Thyself

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