Written with no intention to be published, Meditations (AD 121-180) is the personal diary of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor. He wrote to himself daily about the world around him and how to make the most of each day.
￼Even those of us who love what we do, and are fortunate enough to have a home and food in our bellies can, on occasion struggle to face the day. The paralysing pain of “what is the point to all of this?” has struck most if not all of us: it’s what makes us beautifully human.
Aurelius has some motivations for all of us to get out of bed and live the life we were made for. Here are some of our favourites:
1. Get out of bed because you matter
When is feels so much nicer to remain under the covers and put the alarm to snooze, Aurelius replies;
What do I have to complain of…Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?…Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants … 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?
Aurelius believes our true nature, is to live a life of service. That means getting out of bed for all of us. We are all counting on you to contribute your unique gifts and make the world better. When we act like what we say and do doesn’t matter, we hurt ourselves and ignore our meaningful purpose. We are worth so much more than that. So get out from the covers because you have so much to give!
2. People will fudge you off…and their opinions shouldn’t matter.
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest…and I have recognised the wrong doer has a nature related to my own.
People are frustrating and hurtful: and so are you. Lets remind ourselves of that before we let anger rise. We are all guilty of being unkind, lazy and judgmental.
That is not to say we must behave like saints. We mustn’t allow people who want nothing more than to rain their struggles all over our day, have our focus. Boundaries are important.
It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.
3. You are in control of your emotions
Chose not to be harmed and you will not be harmed.
We can chose to give into negativity or realise the responsibility of our emotions rests in our hands: there is so much power in that.
Strive to make yourself a better person. Control your arrogance. Stop getting angry with stupid and unpleasant people.
Aurelius believes much of our suffering comes from our perception and interpretation of the events, rather than the events themselves. A belief much in common with Buddhism. We mustn’t give in to negativity and allow others to have control over our hearts and minds. There is room to chose a different response and that is our responsibility.
4. Death is our friend
You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think…Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life.
Death is our only certainty. Every day we waste is a day we never get back. Once we grasp this fact – death becomes a friend to keep us in the moment. Once we deeply feel we are not here forever, the trivial keeping us up all night, no longer has that power over us. We act with a clarity and gratefulness to be alive. It is when we take time for granted, we make poor judgement and waste our precious moments. Hearing deaths tick, helps us to act with purpose, love and action.
5. Be present
Discard your misperceptions. Stop being jerked like a puppet. Limit yourself to the present.
Living in the present helps us to act with deliberate intention. The past has gone and the future is an imagination. All we have is this moment and it is a beautiful gift that was not guaranteed. How do you want to use this gift? By living in the present we can realign our goals to where we really want to be: according to our own values, not the interests of others.
6. Be Grateful
Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess…, but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren’t already yours.
How many of us wish we had more? We look at our peers with secret envy or resentment? How many of us take the opportunity to see what we already have? Take a moment each day to list three things you are grateful for. Soon you will realise you have so much already and certainly enough to help you get to where you want to be.
7. Be Kind
An antidote to battle unkindness we were given kindness.
Aurelius would tell himself never to say or do anything, that if exposed to the public, would bring him shame. How many of us would feel horrified if our WhatsApp messages were leaked? Our words and actions have powerful consequences. Talk is often cheap.
Aurelius is also calling us to being kinder to ourselves. That we have so much potential to be and do incredible things. Watch negative internal thoughts, because we often become them. After time;
Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought.
So be your biggest cheerleader and know you can only be and do what you imagine – so imagine something meaningful.
8. Find a mentor
Mastery of reading and writing requires a master. Still, more so life…go straight to the seat of intelligence—your own, the world’s, your neighbours.
There are people out there who have already experienced your pains, challenges, hopes and goals. Seek them out and learn what you can. Likewise, be available to those who want to learn from you. No one has changed anything alone.
9. Do less
If you seek tranquility, do less.
Stop getting caught up in things that don’t matter. For us to live full and happy lives we must be awake to our tendency to overwork and to compulsively do. Moments of stillness, leisure and quiet are essential for our own self-care.
Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, is this necessary
10. We can only change ourselves
It’s silly to try and escape other people’s faults. Just try and escape your own.
How much time do we waste trying to influence the actions of others around us? How much pain do we bring to ourselves trying to make others happy – when deep down we know it is an impossible task. We have too many of our own faults to work on. When we stop trying to fix others and realise how much work we have to do on our own selves, we become responsible. It is also bloody scary. Aurelius tells us that all these answers, however are already are inside us: if only we paused to listen.
Nowhere you can go is more peaceful, more free of interruptions, than your own soul. Retreat to consult your own soul and then return to face what awaits you.