Key Takeaway #1: You can find peace and contentment in your own mind
“People seek retreats for themselves in the country, by the sea, or in the mountains. You are very much in the habit of yearning for those same things. But this is entirely the trait of a base person, when you can, at any moment, find such a retreat in yourself. For nowhere can you find a more peaceful and less busy retreat than in your own soul—especially if on close inspection it is filled with ease, which I say is nothing more than being well-ordered. Treat yourself often to this retreat and be renewed.”— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.3.1
Depending on external circumstances to feel happy, content and peaceful always leads us to disappointment and despair. You can’t rely on achievements and events such as getting a promotion at work, attracting a perfect partner, or buying a new house to make you feel satisfied and whole. If you’re going through some stressful and challenging times, you might think that changing your circumstances will help you attain peace. However, this might not be possible, and even if you succeed in altering them, there’s no guarantee that your new situation will bring you tranquility and contentment. Hence, instead of changing the external world, it’s much better to find peace in your own mind.
Each of us has the power to retreat into our mind. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax and tap into the stillness within, no matter what your surroundings look like. It’s not the events themselves but our perceptions of them as troublesome that mainly cause sadness and distress within us. Marcus firmly believed that serenity is always accessible to us at a moment’s notice; you don’t need to alter your circumstances to experience it, instead, you must choose to immediately eliminate any negative and upsetting impressions from your mind. This will help you be at peace. As he succinctly put it, “Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” If we don’t let challenging situations negatively impact us and drive us to become a worse version of ourselves, we are never truly harmed by them.
We must choose to elevate ourselves and be superior to pain and pleasure. This helps us to follow the logos and wholeheartedly accept the course that nature has designed for us. In addition, we become a person of virtue and character.
Tranquility and authentic satisfaction are nothing short of luxury in today’s world. And the good news is that you don’t have to look elsewhere for them–they’re always within you. You can be your own source of peace and contentment in any situation. Just detach from the external world and cultivate mindfulness and awareness in your everyday life, and you can have an instant retreat whenever you like.