My personal notes on the book Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.

  • Think of your many years of procrastination; how the gods have repeatedly granted you further periods of grace, of which you have taken no advantage. It’s time now to realize the nature of the universe to which you belong, and of that controlling Power whose offspring you are; and to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment, or it will be gone, and never in your power again.
  • Are you distracted by outward cares? Then allow yourself a space of quiet, wherein you can add to your knowledge of the Good and learn to curb your restlessness. Guard also against another kind of error: the folly of those who weary their days in much business, but lack any aim on which their whole effort, nay, their whole thought, is focused.
  • Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul; above all, he who possesses resources in himself, which he need only contemplate to secure immediate ease of mind - the ease that is but another word for a well-ordered spirit. Avail yourself often, then, of this retirement, and so continually renew yourself.
  • For the sole thing of which any man can be deprived is the present; since this is all he owns, and nobody can lose what is not his.
  • The whole universe is change, and life itself is but what you deem it.
  • Put you from the belief that “I have been wronged”, and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.
  • To what, then, must we aspire? This, and this alone: the just thought, the unselfish act, the tongue that utters no falsehood, the temper that greets each passing event as something predestined, expected, and emanating from the One source and origin.
  • So here is a rule to remember, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not, “This is a misfortune”, but “To bear this worthily is a good fortune”.
  • At day’s first light have in readiness, against disinclination to leave your bed, the thought that “I am rising for the work of man”. Must I grumble at setting out to do nwhat I was born for, and for the sake of which I have been brought into the world? Is this the purpose of my creation, to lie here under the blankets and keep myself warm? “Ah, but it is a great deal more pleasant!” Was it for pleasure, then, that you were born, and not for work, not for effort? Look at the plants, the sparrows, ants, spider, bees, all busy at their own tasks, each doing his part towards a coherent world-order; and will you refuse man’s share of the work, instead of being prompt to carry out Nature’s bidding? “Yes, but one must have some repose as well.” Granted; but repose has its limits set by nature, in the same way as food and drink have; and you overstep these limits, you go beyond the point of sufficiency; while on the other hand, when action is in question, you stop short of what you could well achieve.
  • Live with the gods. To live wiht the gods is to show them at all times a soul contented with their awards, and wholly fulfilling the will of that inward divinity, that particle of himself, which Zeus has given to every man for ruler and guide - the mind and the reason.
  • …remember that whatsoever lies outside the bounds of this poor flesh and breath is none of yours, nor in your power.
  • No matter to what solitudes banished, I have always been a favourite of Fortune. For Fortune’s favourite is the man who awards her good gifts to himself - the good gifts of a good disposition, good impulses, and good deeds.
  • Look beneath the surface: never let a thing’s instrinsic quality or worth escape you.
  • To refrain from imitation is the best revenge.
  • Soon you’ll be ashes, or bones. A mere name, at most—and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want inlife are empty, stale, and trivial. Dogs snarling at each other. Quarreling children—laughing and then bursting into tears a moment later. Trust, shame, justice, truth—“gone from the earth and only found in heaven.” Why are you still here? Sensory objects are shifting and unstable; our senses dim and easily deceived; the soul itself a decoction of the blood; fame in a world like this is worthless. —And so? Wait for it patiently—annihilation or metamorphosis. —And until that time comes—what? Honor and revere the gods, treat human beings as theydeserve, be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood—and nothing else is under your control
  • If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought or deed, I will gladly change. I seek the truth, which never yet hurt anybody. It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance which does harm.
  • Accustom yourself to give careful attention to what others are saying, and try your best to enter into the mind of the speaker.
  • What is no good for the hive is no good for the bee.
  • The man of ambition thinks to find his good in the operations of others; the man of pleasure in his own sensations; but the man of understanding in his own actions.
  • Accept modestly; surrender gracefully.
  • When men are inhuman, take care not to feel towards them as they do towards other humans.
  • A man’s true delight is to do things he was made for. He was made to show goodwill to his kind, to rise above promptings of his senses, to distinguish appearances from realities, and to pursue the study of universal Nature and her works.
  • We have three relationships: one to this bodily shell which envelops us, one to the divine Cause which is the source of everything in all things, and one to our fellow-mortals around us.
  • Make the best of today. Those who aim instead at tomorrow’s plaudits fail to remember that future generations will be nowise different from the comtemporaries who so try their patience now, and nowise less mortal. In any case, can it matter to you how the tongues of posterity may wag, or what views of yourself may entertain?
  • Take it that you have died today, and your life’s story is ended; and henceforward regard what further time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus, and live it out in harmony with nature.
  • When you have done a good action, and another has had the benefit of it, why crave for yet more in addition - applause for your kindness, or some favour in return - as the foolish do?
  • Facts stand wholly outside our gates; they are what they are, and no more; they know nothing about themselves, and they pass no judgement upon themselves. What is it, then, that pronounces the judgement? Our own guide and ruler, Reason.
  • Work yourself hard, but not as if you were being made a victim, and not with any desire for sympathy or admiration. Desire one thing alone: that your actions or inactions alike should be worthy of a reasoing citizen.
  • Erase fancy; curb impulse; quench desire; let sovereign reason have the mastery.
  • Many of the anxieties that harass you are superfluous: being but creatures of your own fancy, you can rid yourself of them and expand into an ampler region, letting your thought sweep over the entire universe, contemplating the illimitable tracts of eternity, marking the swiftness of change in each created thing, and contrasting the brief span between birth and dissolution with the endless aeons that precede the one and the infity that follows the other.
  • A man does not sin by comission only, but often by omission.
  • Practise, even when success looks hopeless. The left hand, inept in other respects for lack of practice, can grasp the reins more firmly than the right, because here is has had practice.
  • Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.
  • Meditate upon what you ought to be in body and soul when death overtakes you; meditate upon the brevity of life, and the measureless gulfs of eternity behind it and before, and upon the frailty of everything material.