Title: Meditations Author: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Series: Penguin Great Ideas Mass Market Paperback: 176 pages Publisher: Penguin UK; UK ed. edition (February 1, 2005) Language: English Today self-help discipline is a key dynamic force behind achieving any goal by any person associated with any profession, organisation, or belonging to any walk of life. Earlier, I believed that the origin of self-help discipline was rooted in social psychology, a product of the last century, when once I read so in a motivational book. But after reading ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius which changed this opinion of mine, I am now of the considered view that the self-help industry covering self-control, regulating thoughts, willpower, perseverance, endurance, patience, EQ, time management, productivity, confidence, presentation, communication, daily life, happiness, success, good-habits, and different arts of self-improvement etc are all rooted in ancient history, though seemingly scattered in branches of philosophy hitherto, and not every skill is specialised separately – the discipline of self-help is traced back to the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. I randomly came across a book review on meditation and mindfulness, ‘Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion’ written by Sam Harris, last year. This developed my interest manifold in meditation. I then decided to read the best book on this topic. After googling for some time, I found ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius, bought its hard copy in 2017, and read it in June 2018. Aurelius prepares you with the mental strength required to cope with daily challenges, for you to live each day with peace of mind, while telling yourself that you are only human and are, indeed, compelled to live with other human beings When life hits me in the face, I take refuge in my seclude ? a tiny and cosy reading nook in the corner of my room, devoted for the purposes of study ? and surrender myself to book reading. This gives me strength and hope. Coming to this short, to the point book, Aurelius has made a great change in my outlook towards life, in coping with its difficulties, conflicts, challenges, grief and sorrows without being influenced or disappointed behaviourally by external social conditions. Remember: building the mental strength taught by Aurelius requires relentless practice in order to gain mastery. This simple book envisages a very different perspective on meditation, opposed to my expectation based on what I had heard before from others about the subject. It helps to cultivate a matured approach in understanding human behaviours and how to deal with them, and gives insight on how to live a satisfactory life in the face of human sufferings. Aurelius’s invaluable ideas teach exercising self-control and coping with distractions, avoiding talkativeness, purposeless actions, officiousness and fault-finding, adhering to strict reason, casting away vain hopes, doing good without claiming credit openly or expecting repayment of debt, regulating impulse and action, and urging oneself to be man of ambition rather than, simply, a man of flesh; in short, to be a master of your own-self. To pursue success, his idea is worthy of praise: ‘practice, even when success looks hopeless’. In self-help books you are encountered with ideas that are all about making your day better than the previous one or how the way you start your day determines how well you live the hours that follow it. However, Aurelius prepares you with the mental strength required to cope with daily challenges, for you to live each day with peace of mind, while telling yourself that you are only human and are, indeed, compelled to live with other human beings. He says, “Begin your day when you wake up in the morning by telling yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, dishonest, jealous, and surly. And today, I shall be meeting them with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ungratefulness, arrogance, ill-will, and selfishness. This is because they are like this, because they can’t tell good from evil. On the other hand, I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, and have recognised the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit and wrongdoer himself, who is my brother ? not in a physical sense, but as a fellow-creature similarly endowed with reason and possessing a share of the divine. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I, we were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet, or eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper, and lower. [And so, none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness.] To obstruct each other is against nature’s law ? and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction? [To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions].” This is a truly self-disciplined approach on how to live your day without letting distractions and external social conditions put you off the course of pursuing your daily objectives, leading you to achieving a broader aim of your life. It teaches to exercise self-control, be yourself in a natural way, without copying the arrogant behaviour of the opposing person you are communicating to. It further teaches you to regulate your thoughts without getting angry or emotional when encountered with biased, racist, bigoted, unkind, and unscrupulous people. To endure with all sorts of pains of life and all its manifestations, but also enjoy it and stick to principles of goodness, are Marcus’s key teachings. Aurelius, a practitioner of Stoic philosophy and meditations, gives a different insight on death. He writes, “Keep this constantly in mind: that all sorts of people have died – all professions, all nationalities.” He further writes, “Everything is born to die, which is a natural process. [When] to die (having met your obligations).” Aurelius says, “As you kiss your son good night, whisper to yourself; he may be dead tomorrow [in an uncertain future time].” The author does, certainly, not mean to instill uncomfortable feelings of disappointment, rather he trains you to be mentally prepared to cope with any uncertain situation of the like. While going through all the books, some questions come to mind that are hard to agree upon while we come across Aurelius’ views. Leave his attributing a lot of things to God and preaching to be his true follower, take for instance his definition of a wrongdoer. A wrongdoer is one “who harms himself more than the victim”. It does not sound sane to agree with him when the mind goes to think of crimes of rape or murder. Another of his views of endorsement are of Theophrastus, who says that “sin committed out of desire is worse than ones committed out of anger”. This could be interpreted in different ways and not agreed with. Also, his idea that to pursue the unattainable is “insanity” contrasts and contradicts with real-life success stories of many icons in various fields of life. Even though to be critical, you will find this short book, Meditation, quite amazing as a source of mental strength, self-help, self-discipline and motivational in learning the art-of-living. At least, this book has earned a place in my list of books which shaped and changed my outlook towards life. The reviewer is former officer and member research committee of Nacta. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, June 21st 2018.