Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Book Review

meditations-marcus-aurelius-book-reviewTitle: Meditations
Author: Marcus Aurelius
Year:  First published: 180; New edition published: 27/04/2006
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Classics, Nonfiction, History
Get a copy: 1) Search in local bookstores to support small business 2) Amazon
Short Description: The fact that the author was a Roman emperor for nearly 20 years (from 161 to 180) is enough to convince you to take and read the book. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a great read for people who want to personally grow. An amazing opportunity to connect with someone who ruled half of the world nearly 2000 years ago.

 

About

A small book with philosophical notes of the Roman Emperor Mark Aurelius. The book sets a start, makes it acceptable, the intimate talking to yourself. Meditations is a living text that awakens reflections and takes the reader to the depths of individual self-knowledge.

Written originally in Greek, without any intention of publication, by the only Roman emperor who was also a philosopher, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) offer a remarkable series of challenging spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the emperor struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe.

 

My Opinion

You can see the book by Marcus Aurelius recommended in pretty much every book club and self-help site. After seeing the title listed in more than dozen sites I follow, I couldn’t help seeing what all the buzz is about. Well, I didn’t have to read a lot of pages to understand why other people were suggesting the book.

First of all, considering the fact that the author was a Roman emperor for nearly 20 years (from 161 to 180) is enough to convince you to take and read the book – there aren’t many other similar books that have reached us. Secondly, as you can guess, the Emperor’s personal experience is especially valuable to us. There aren’t many people who have ruled an entire empire and wrote a book about it. Despite the fact that he has run and ruled so many people, his notes reveal a down-to-earth person who is facing similar to our current obstacles.

The book itself represents the private journal of the great Imperator. A way to transcend his individuality and thus to overcome the internal and external problems he is facing. The notes are extremely short but filled with such great wisdom. It goes without saying that the author was devoted to evolve, grow, and ultimately become a better person. His daily notes range from reminders of what to do, what to avoid, and what qualities he can take from the people around him. In some places, he communicates facts of his life – illness, passion for reading, difficulties, even death. The notes are the main means to stay present, focused towards his goals and ambitions.

Personally, I was surprised and inspired by what I read here. Surprised, because the written notes are so real now, in our time. The problems that Marcus Aurelius has encountered do not differ much from what we are facing now. Inspired, because the author manages to solve problems with only a few words, to breathe hope and purpose through his words. If you’re looking for a change in the beginning of the new year, you should first look deep inside yourself, ask yourself what’s your own ambitions. If you’re still not sure, get a copy of the book and find what a Roman Emperor did to keep going and keep growing the greatest Empire of our time.

 

Key Takeaways:

Notes, thoughts, and essential takeaways that I want to remember from the book. My main goal is to leave you with curated content, to which you can easily return to in the future for reference, that’s also holding the main insights of the book without spoiling what the book is all about:

 

When it’s hard for you to wake up, think: Is this why I came to this world?

The author realizes the pleasure of resting. I guess he had the option to devote himself to long breaks and big feasts – he was an emperor, though. But that’s not in his nature. He discusses with himself, on several occasions in the book, the importance of being active, doing deeds, vigorously pursuing his interests. Finally, concludes that a person who doesn’t value himself does exactly the opposite: prefer long breaks and oversleeping.

People who value their work, their craft, and career, sink deep inside the workflow. Such people can be easily spotted. They forget to eat, rarely sleep more than a few hours, and the only thing they talk is their work. Possessed by their passion, they heatedly pursue their interest, looking for ways to expand, multiply what they already have built.

Ultimately, there isn’t much value in sleeping. Even though we’re all different – in terms of size, gender, nationality – we all need approximately the same amount of time to rest. That’s around 8 hours per day. To be honest, I don’t think that we need 8 hours per se. That was something installed in our heads long before we knew how to go to the bathroom, all by ourselves. With the right diet and set of exercise, one can survive a day with only between 6 and 7 hours of sleep. Why the hell would you need more than that? Tomorrow might be your last day, figuratively speaking. Are you really going to lay back and rest on your pillow for more than 10 hours? I bet you won’t.

Following and pursuing your purpose is what you should be doing. Activities, that are beneficial to the human community. That’s the best motivation, ever.

 

What we are composed of

Marcus Aurelius defines himself as composed of flesh, breath and guiding principle. Since the first two, flesh and breath, are obviously something out of our control, he put his focus on the third one, the guiding principle.

If take a moment to explore your own existence, what will you find? Bones, organs, blood, flesh, eyes, limbs. Our bodies are vessels which are transporting our consciousness. A tool which can be used for what our minds fancy. The body itself is no more than a shell. An armor that protects our minds from the outside world. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes not so much. Even though you can’t so easily change the full cover, your daily actions influence your looks. Eating junk food and not exercising will lead to a rusty ship, which movements are threatened from every little obstacle. In contrast, taking care of your body and regularly working out, will make your faster and tougher.

Our most important component, the one that truly determines us, is our consciousness. Unfortunately, we rarely think that way. Mainly, because is something invisible. Something hidden from the outside world. Something we only truly understand. Regardless of your friendships, few to zero people really know what’s happening inside your mind. It’s the same with everyone. That’s why we focus mainly on external things. Things that other people can see. Neglecting our own internal treasure.

Pay attention to your thoughts. Don’t let them be enslaved or let them become a puppet on a string. Do not allow your consciousness to resent or viewed with distrust towards the future. What will happen later is a reflection of our actions, meaning, you reap what you sow.

Managing and channeling your thoughts towards your own desires is a daunting task. Still, your primary efforts should be focused there.

 

It is shameful when your body doesn’t give up on life but your soul does

Our minds are what they are, depending on what their most frequent thoughts and ideas are.

If you’re participating a contest, a game, and your mind is filled with thoughts about failing, losing, tripping on the field, your body will soon recognize these thoughts and will start acting towards this direction. In contrast, if you think of yourself as a person who is worthy, such that will succeed thanks to what are his actions, then, your chances for prosperity will be much higher. That’s why it’s much more likely a bad thing to happen to a person with negative thoughts, and the other way around: a positive thing to occur to a person with good thoughts. They simply attract what they’re thinking about.

Some people are simply negative. I get that. They rarely think that life is good and that miracles exist. Even if they win something, or the universe grand them a valuable possession, no matter material or not, they will still find parts that are unfavorable. Chances such people to change their perspective is close to none. At least, if they continue to live in the current surroundings and with the same people.

I know a lot of people who simply exist. Their bodies remain present in this world while their minds are already rotten inside. Life for them lost meaning long ago.

It’s no longer about living, it’s simply about surviving the current day. Which is quite unfortunate. Such people hardly take advice or listen to suggestions.

If you’re not happy, to break the cycle, resurrect your soul from the dead, I’d recommend to anyone making a big change (quit your job, ditch a client, move house, go on a crazy trip, leave your phone at home). Break the cycle of phone > commute > phone > work > phone > commute (+ alcohol, TV, sofa.)

 

Don’t Waste your time dealing with people who don’t deserve

At least twice (or more) a day, someone shakes my faith in humanity – I even wrote an article about this – How To Be Stupid – Comprehensive Guide For Being Dumb. Either this will be a person who makes a turn without signaling before that, someone who thinks that his life is much more important than everyone else’s by only talking about himself, or, situations where people don’t bother to think before executing something.

All of the above, and much more, are things that sometimes takes me out of my skin. My mind instantly jumps to thinking things, bad things, that I won’t share here, anywhere. Even though I know that I shouldn’t be influenced by such people, I still am. It’s hard to neglect stupidity when you see such. Hard, but not impossible.

Why deny your own thoughts by consuming other people thoughts, letting their actions divert you from your own ambitions? It doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, It happens all the time and I don’t know if whether even a monk would endure people who park in disabled bays when they’re not disabled.

It’s of utmost importance to handle properly accidental and aimless thoughts about other people. Whenever someone annoys you during the day, and this will most definitely happen, accept the situation in your own head, tell yourself that you shouldn’t care, and focus your thoughts back to what’s on your schedule. Let them live in their own world, and punish them by not paying attention.

We must train our minds to have such thoughts that, if someone asked you unexpectedly: “What do you think right now?”, you can immediately answer him wholeheartedly: “I am about to do this task.” Of course, without holding any grudges, simply focus towards what’s important.

 

About our natural talents

Depending on what our natural talent is, we’re all especially good or bad when doing certain things. Some of us are great writers, others are clever mathematicians, we have artists, poets, innovators, leaders, storytellers, engineers, social experts, there are even people who are born with the ability to be great magicians.

Even though we all have a natural advantage for executing specific tasks, that doesn’t automatically mean that we suck big time when doing everything else. That’s simply the excuse we tell ourselves. A way to peace our minds and remind our ego, that we’re above all, AWESOME.

“Nature did not give me this talent” or, “I wasn’t born with this ability, these are the excuses we use for things which we don’t fully understand. Instead of trying to delve deep and try to at least get the basics, we immediately go to the other extreme and blame mother nature. However, how many other things you weren’t able to do well in the beginning that you are now able to execute blindfolded?

There is a global argument about whether or not top salespeople are born or made – similar to the argument about the chicken and the egg. Well, even though some people are truly gifted with the ability to persuade others of buying something they don’t necessarily need, there are thousands of evidence that support the fact that selling is a learnable skill. Same applies to pretty much all skills popular to the human population. The only secret? You have to truly want it, to master this skill.

Everything is hard at first. That’s why so few people are really successful. The majority of the population prefers watching the TV and scrolling through their phones. Ask yourself, to which group you belong?

 

Favourite Quote:

Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Marcus Aurelius

 

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