“In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present- I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm?” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
The first voice I hear most mornings, after the sunrise greetings from my beautiful wife and the pre-sunrise meowing of our kitten, is that of Andy Puddicombe. I’ve become accustomed to starting the day by finding a comfortable place to sit, putting in my earbuds, and hitting play on the Headspace app; for the next ten minutes, Andy guides me through a short morning meditation, giving me some mental space and structure as I begin my day.
It took many years of friends extolling the value of meditation before I decided to give it a try; it took several months before the practice became part of my daily routine. The practice has been good for me, fighting the disquiet that permeates my everyday mind: for too long, I thought of too much, too often. Slowing down this frenetic pace of thought has brought me focus and clarity.
The title of Meditations for Marcus Aurelius’ self-help-guide-cum-memoir is both apt and perplexing. It is clear that the emperor took copious notes on everything he read and experienced—his own marginalia, it seems—and that the meditations are a beautiful distillation of those notes. His train of thought, however, is anything but focused and clear; his ideas and learnings are considered, articulate, but go everywhere at once. They are meditations in the literal sense, but hardly meditative.
The ideas of cosmic perspective and stoicism in Meditations are resonant, but they echo many of the lessons I have learned in my journey towards mindfulness. To understand one’s place in the world, and to act in accordance with that understanding is a powerful ethos—Marcus Aurelius may have been the right voice to deliver that message in his time, but I just don’t see him speaking into my earbuds with a soothing cadence every morning, anymore.