How often do we see people in government speak about spirituality and our connection to the universe? Almost never. A rare exception to this rule was the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. He possessed both worldly power and immense wisdom. To this day he continues to change people’s lives through his work written thousands of years ago.
Since I discovered his work, I have been re-reading Marcus Aurelius Meditations and absorbing every ounce of wisdom I can. Today, I would like to share with you five life-changing Marcus Aurelius quotes that will show us how to live a more conscious and mindful life.
Take away thy opinion, and then there is taken away the complaint, “I have been harmed.” Take away the complaint, “I have been harmed,” and the harm is taken away. — Marcus Aurelius
This quote reminds of all the times I used to overthink little conflicts at my workplace. If someone reprimanded me for doing a poor job or made a criticizing remark, it would really get to me.
The entire day I would replay the conversation in my mind and imagine all the ways I could have responded to my colleague.
I would write entire scripts in my head about standing up for myself, putting that person in his place, proving that he was wrong (not me). And in the process, I would feel angry at myself for not doing it, which made me feel even worse than during the actual conversation.
And the worse part is that I willingly created this suffering for myself.
I would not let go of negative thoughts and keep the conflict alive in my head, giving it more power over me.
Have you ever noticed this tendency in your own life? How often do you continue to carry conflicts in your mind when the actual incident has ended?
Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. — Marcus Aurelius
This is one of those Marcus Aurelius quotes that makes me remember how I used to crave travel. I saw it as an escape from the drudgery of everyday life, from routine, from boredom, from unhappiness.
For me, the grass always seemed greener on the other side. “This is where people really live a full life,” I thought to myself whenever I was planning a new trip abroad.
New experiences dulled my pain, and for a few weeks I felt a little bit happier and recharged my batteries. But the happier I felt abroad, the more miserable I felt when I finally got back home.
Everything around me seemed gloomy and unwelcoming. I would be disappointed and wanted to go back and never return.
But what I realized is that no matter where you move, sooner or later everything will lose its magic appeal. Your surroundings will become familiar and uninspiring.
The joy can never come from outside circumstances but your inner state. If you are still inside, nothing from the outside can trouble you.
You gain the ability to see everything with fresh eyes devoid of mental labels. You gain the ability to feel a connection to the outside world which is very hard to put into words. And even if you can’t travel for the rest of your life, you will never feel bored or lonely, because you will feel one with the universe.
What about you? Do you feel the need to travel all the time? Do you treat travel as an escape from daily routine?
Consider for example, the times of Vespasian. Thou wilt see all these things, people marrying, bringing up children, sick, dying, warring, feasting, trafficking, cultivating the ground, flattering, obstinately arrogant, suspecting, plotting, wishing for some to die, grumbling about the present, loving, heaping up treasure, desiring consulship, kingly power. Well, then, that life of these people no longer exists at all. — Marcus Aurelius
Whenever I read this quote, I remind myself that whatever difficulties I’m facing right now they’re not going to last forever. That everything is impermanent and comes to an end.
This sounds so simple, isn’t it? But we don’t follow this wisdom in our daily lives. We do exactly the opposite.
We blow everything out of proportion. Every little thing that goes wrong becomes a matter of utmost importance. We think about it, feel inadequate, anxious, and discontent.
Even if it happens 50% of the time, it’s almost half of our life. Half of our life lived unconsciously, out of alignment with life and “what is.”
What I found out from my own spiritual practice is that most situations resolve by themselves if I don’t give them the significance that my mind wants to give them.
In the past I would become distraught and start erratically doing something, adding more anxiety and worry. But now I just let it be. I do whatever I can at that moment, make a plan of action, but I do it from a place of stillness, not worry and anxiety.
Do you have this tendency in your own life? Do you let small things take over your life and give them more significance than they really have?
When we have meat before us and such eatables, we receive the impression that this is the dead body of a fish, and this is the dead body of a bird or of a pig; and again, that this Falernian wine is only a little grape-juice, and this purple robe some sheep’s wool dyed with the blood of a shell-fish: such then are these impressions, and they reach the things themselves and penetrate them, and so we see what kind of things they are. — Marcus Aurelius
This quote reminds of all the times I used external things to build my identity. I would buy stuff to add to my sense of self.
I’m buying this model of a smartphone because this is the kind of person I am. I want people to see it and make a conclusion about me.
I’m buying this brand of cloth because it represents my preferences and my personality. When I dress like this, I want people to make judgments about my character and my interests. I want them to see me in this certain light.
I go only to these theaters, museums, and restaurants because this is where my people hang out. I go to these places because it’s a part of my identity and my social status. I want to hang out with people who only go to places like these; I have nothing in common with “those” others.
I would use this kind of logic in all outer aspects of my life. I would construct my identity around these things and fool myself into believing that it was real.
What I found out later is that those things weren’t me, and they were quite shallow and contributed to much of my unhappiness.
How much importance are you placing on external things in your life? Do you have a tendency to equate your “self” with them? Take a moment to think about it.
Love that only which happens to thee and is spun with the thread of thy destiny. For what is more suitable? — Marcus Aurelius
This is one of the best Marcus Aurelius quotes that gives me the strength to live my life unapologetically and face every challenge without inner or outer resistance.
It reminds me that we are part of something bigger, an interconnected web of the universe. In a sense, the entire history of the world brought about this moment, right now.
What could be more insane than to resist this moment and make an enemy of life itself? When we stop resisting and bring ourselves in alignment with the universe life becomes lighter and more cooperative.
But I’m not saying we should become passive, do nothing, or let other people manipulate us.
Acceptance of the present moment is a place of strength, not weakness. It means we are fully present, we know where we are, what we are facing, and what we need to do to resolve the situation.
Every action is powerful because it comes from the place of inner alignment with the universe.
What do you think about these Marcus Aurelius quotes? Do you have a favorite one of your own you want to share?