People seek retreats for themselves in the countryside by the seashore, in the hills, and you too have made it your habit to long for that above all else. But this is altogether unphilosophical, when it is possible for you to retreat into yourself whenever you please; for nowhere can one retreat into greater peace or freedom from care than within one’s own soul—
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book 4
Amidst the chaos and uncertain times we are living in during this global pandemic, I wanted to reflect on some wisdom from Marcus Aurelius that can help us reframe events and shift perspectives.
In this quote Marcus reflects on the notion that despite our external circumstances we can always find solace within.
Many of us seek to escape our day-to-day realities through retreat or travel. Travel can provide us with an opportunity to explore new landscapes, ideas, histories and cultures. Moreover, it offers us a temporary distraction from the ‘rat race’ and daily routines, in which we often operate in auto-pilot mode for.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world is directed to reside inside, refrain from travel and remaining in isolation to stop the spread of the virus. Nonetheless, I think we can use this time as an opportunity to cultivate solitude, and become more acquainted with our inner selves.
Rather than finding peace or tranquility though retreat, Marcus urges us to find it within ourselves. This can be done through living in the present moment, self reflection and contemplation. We can become aware of beauty and intricacies of life that we often ignore because we are too busy to do so. In the horrors of the Holocaust, Anne Frank was able to relish in the simple pleasures that life had to offer at that time. A glance at nature to recharge, find stillness and take a glimpse at the sublime. In her diary she writes,
Once we learn to find contentment within ourselves, in the mundane, we can find it anywhere.
Stay safe, and remain resilient.