The Stoic Philosophy of Living According to Nature and Maintaining Inner Peace – lessons from Marcus Aurelius

1. Live according to your nature

Aurelius adhered to the Stoic philosophy and believed that human nature is consistent with the nature of the universe, and one should live in accordance with this unified nature and live in accordance with nature. The universe is my motherland, and I am a member of all things in the universe. All things are related to each other and are originally one . There is a divine order that connects them to form the same universe. The order of the universe is the most powerful force. It governs and utilizes all things, including my life. I must carefully understand the effect of this force on me and consciously obey its control.

According to this concept, I want to accept whatever happens to me with peace of mind. All my experiences have been woven into the thread of my destiny by the order of the universe from the beginning, and are necessary for its endless life, its harmony and perfection. The order of the universe governs everything, and nothing that is inconsistent with the order of the universe will happen to me. Regarding nature, which can give everything and take away everything, a sensible person should say: ” Give me whatever you want to give me, and take back whatever . ” You can’t pray to the gods to make something happen. , let something not happen, but pray to God to let you not expect anything, and not be afraid of anything.

For the environment you are destined to live in and the people you are destined to live with, you have to adapt rather than complain. In short, you must be willing to accept whatever happens outside your body.

Aurelius used an analogy: ” A healthy eye should be willing to see all visible things. It cannot be said that it only wants to see green things. Wouldn’t it be a pair of sick eyes? A healthy stomach should be able to digest all edible things. It cannot be said that it only wants to see green things. If you only want to eat soft food, you will become a sick stomach. In the same way, a healthy mind should be willing to accept everything that happens. If someone’s heart shouts that it only wants good luck, it is the same as a sick eye or a sick stomach. It’s a sick mind. ”

You might say, isn’t what Aurelius advocated fatalism? Yes, but this is for external encounters. People have complete sovereignty over the quality of their own souls. In fact, if you realize that there is a connection between the order of the universe and the quality of your soul, the power of the universe will empower your soul, making your soul upright and strong. As long as you feel deep down that your nature is consistent with the nature of the universe, no force in the world can stop you from living according to your nature.

2. Maintain peace of mind

By living according to your own nature, you can maintain peace of mind and establish an order in your heart. Specifically how to maintain peace of mind, Aurelius pointed out the following points.

First, get rid of passion and let reason be strong and dominate the mind. Such a mind is a strong fortress and the safest place to live.

Second, be indifferent to external things. We must realize that external things exist outside the mind and have nothing to do with the mind. Also realize that all external things are subject to change and will eventually perish. Therefore, it should not cause turmoil to the mind.

Third, only care about what is necessary. Some people are concerned about everything and want to find out everything. They even want to ponder what their neighbors are thinking. Such people are the most pitiable. You should also only do what is necessary. Most of the things people do are unnecessary, but they take up a lot of time and cause a lot of trouble. Focus on the few necessary things and do them without distraction, and your mind will be at peace.

Fourth, accept insurmountable obstacles. If you are suffering because you have not completed something you should do, then just keep doing it, why bother here? But if you say it’s because you encountered insurmountable obstacles, then there is no need for you to be miserable , because it is not your responsibility to not complete the task. You go on to say that if you can’t complete this thing, your life will be worthless, so just give up your life happily.

People can’t always compete with themselves, neither left nor right. Isn’t this deliberately trying to make things difficult for themselves?

Fifth, eliminate the interference of physical pain. Learn from Epicurus. When the body is tortured by disease, use philosophy to help yourself, separate the mind from the body, and try not to let the pain of the body interfere with the tranquility of the mind.

Philosophy is the patron saint of the soul, which can make the soul strong and self-sufficient. With philosophy, a person can hide everything in his heart. Aurelius said: ” People always want to retreat to the countryside, the seaside, and the mountains and forests. This is a vulgar idea, because you can retreat . ” As long as you have simple and firm principles in your heart , using them is enough to clear up all the chaos and make your mind a more peaceful residence than anywhere else in the world.

3. It all depends on perception

To be able to live according to one’s nature, the key is to make correct judgments. The root of all pain is making wrong judgments. Let reason determine the value of things, and from the perspective of reason, only things that reason can control have value, that is, philosophical thinkingAnything that cannot be controlled by reason, such as wealth, power, fame and other external things, as well as external fate and misfortunes, are worthless.

In life, it seems that what disturbs our souls mainly is what happens to us. However, Aurelius pointed out that everything depends on our perspective, and the reason why the mind is disturbed is not the matter itself, but our judgment of the matter. The reason why you are hurt by something that happens to you is because you think it is bad. As long as you don’t think it is bad , it cannot hurt you. We may ask: Aren’t things inherently good or bad? Aurelius told us that when something bad happens, you will have an initial impression. Just stay on this initial impression and don’t add anything to it, so that you will not I feel very unfortunate. If you accept what has happened as a fact and consider what to do next under this premise, it will not disturb your mind too much. The reason why the things you pursue or avoid always bother you is not actually that they come to you, but that you provoke them yourself. Only when your judgment on them becomes calm will they calm down.

Don’t make bad judgments about things that are not within the control of your will. Natural and man-made disasters and all kinds of unexpected misfortunes will fall on good people and bad people without distinction, so it doesn’t matter whether they are good or bad.

What you can control is your attitude towards misfortune. You cannot say: How unlucky I am that this has happened to me. Say it this way: How lucky I am that even though this happened, I remained calm, not overwhelmed, and not frightened. External unfortunate events cannot stop you from being an upright and noble person. Being able to withstand misfortune only tests and proves your inner character. Regarding the behavior of others, what disturbs our minds is not the behavior itself, but our opinions. It is true that bad behavior causes us pain, but the anger and annoyance caused by our behavior are far more painful than that. This does not mean that you should not make judgments about whether your behavior is good or bad, but that you should not make judgments such as ” I have been hurt . ” If a shameless person annoys you, ask yourself, is it possible that there are no shameless people in the world? Is it possible for a shameless person not to do immoral things? Neither is possible. Then, don’t expect the impossible. There must be some shameless people in the world, and you are just one of them. Of course, you cannot expect bad people to only harm others but treat you well. This is too absurd.

Aurelius looked down on people who got angry easily. He said that a man should be strong, courageous, calm and brave. When encountering people and things that don’t go your way, swallowing one’s anger and being angry are both signs of weakness. If you don’t like someone and something they do, if you have the ability, change the person; if you can’t do that, correct the thing; if you can’t do that, then what’s the point of being angry? What to use? You must be like the rock on the shore, which remains unmoved despite the constant beating of the waves, until the furious waves become tame.

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