Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180) was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. His reign was marked by years of military conflict.
He practiced Stoicism and wrote about his own Stoic practice in a series of journals which he wrote solely for his own personal use.
Marcus Aurelius is widely regarded as one of history’s most exemplary leaders. Machiavelli referred to him as the last of the “Five Good Emperors.” He also described Marcus Aurelius as: “unassuming, a lover of justice, hater of cruelty, sympathetic and kind”.
Despite all of the benefits and privileges that he enjoyed as an Emperor, Marcus Aurelius had a tough time, he: “did not meet with the good fortune that he deserved, for he was not strong in body and was involved in a multitude of troubles throughout practically his entire reign.” [Cassius Dio]
But despite ill-health together with a troubled and extremely stressful life, Marcus Aurelius never gave in to self-pity or self-indulgence [common vices of Roman emperors], and throughout those ten long years of struggle as he was directing military campaigns, Marcus Aurelius produced twelve volumes of his private journals.
Trained in Stoic philosophy, Marcus Aurelius dedicated time almost every night to practicing a series of Stoic spiritual exercise which are reminders intended to help him train himself to humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever adversity he was dealing with.
They have become one of the most influential philosophy books in the history of the world and have come to be known as: “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”.
Given that these journals were written and used solely for his own personal use and self-improvement, and were not intended to be read by anyone other than himself, the “Meditations” are a book of short sayings, rather like sutras, ranging from a couple of sentences to a paragraph. The journals were not written in any particular thematic sequence but rather a series of self-reminders or admonishments as a form of stoic practise and an on-going exercise in self-improvement.
The same themes recur again and again and illustrate how Stoic journaling practise is based on self-examination, reflection and repetition.
"Meditations" is a most extraordinary document - perhaps one of a kind. This is the most private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man, at that time, giving advice to himself on how to do the best job possible in delivering onerous demands, responsibilities and obligations of his position.
“Meditations” is a personal work- book of actionable advice based on stoic teachings which Marcus Aurelius practiced and used. It is very readable and accessible and you will read this book and come away with a phrase or a line that will resonate with you and help you the next time you are experiencing difficulties.
The purpose of this site is to show you how to cope in tough times, and to provide you with the tools to do this successfully.
The teachings, quotations, reflections and observations of Marcus Aurelius are especially relevant as at time of writing in early 2021 the world slowly emerges from post Covid-19 lockdown and starts to come to terms with the societal, economic and financial consequences.
This is practical, actionable philosophy!
Below are five some of the major themes that recur throughout the book.
 Accept and live in accordance with the inter-connectedness of all things
The concept of connectedness, and the whole, flows throughout the “Meditations”. In common with all the Stoics, Marcus Aurelius believed that we are part of an inner-connected organism.
“Always remember these things: what the nature of the Whole is, what my own nature is, the relation of this nature to that, what kind of part it is of what kind of Whole, and that there is no one who can prevent you keeping all that you say and do in accordance with that nature, of which you are a part.”
“He who sees the present has seen all things, both all that has come to pass from everlasting and all that will be for eternity: all things are related and the same.
You should meditate often on the connection of all things in the universe and their relationship to each other.
In a way all things are interwoven and therefore have a family feeling for each other: one thing follows another in due order through the tension of movement, the common spirit inspiring them, and the unity of all being.”
 Avoid the
pursuit of pleasure, fame and the approval of others
“Consider that as the heaps of sand piled on one another hide the former sands, so in life the events which go before are soon covered by those which come after.”
“When you’ve done well and another has benefited by it, why like a fool do you look for a third thing on top— credit for the good deed or a favor in return?”
 The Acceptance of Death and Living In A Universe Of Change
“Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able — be good.”
 It is your response to events that creates the outcomes that you experience
“Let not future things disturb you, for you will come to them, if it shall be necessary, having with you the same reason which you now use for present things.”
“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.”
“Our actions may be impeded . . . but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.”
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
 Your Rational Mind is Your Greatest Asset
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
Here are a number of touch points
Return to: The Stoics
Return to: Inspirational People