By Laura A. Roser
“Men seek for seclusion in the wilderness, by the seashore, or in the mountains – a dream you have cherished only too fondly yourself. But such fancies are wholly unworthy of a philosopher, since at any moment you choose you can retire within yourself. Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul; above all, he who possesses resources in himself, which he need only contemplate to secure immediate ease of mind – the ease that is but another word for a well-ordered spirit. Avail yourself often, then, of this retirement, and so continually renew yourself. Make your rules of life brief, yet so as to embrace the fundamentals; recurrence to them will then suffice to remove all vexation, and send you back without fretting to the duties to which you must return.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4
How Does One Create a Well-Ordered Spirit?
In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell said, “One of our problems today is that we are not well acquainted with the literature of the spirit.” In other words, we care about the news, solving immediate problems, making money, taking the kids to school and so on. We watch funny sitcoms or get engrossed in a television series about a vigilante serial killer or a teacher who has to cook meth to pay for his cancer treatment. This is all fun or necessary (to some extent). But what about the deeper meaning of life? What about the development of your soul?
It used to be that people had a deep cultural heritage built upon great literature. You’d go to the university and learn about how to develop a rich inner life from the greats: Socrates, Plato, Thoreau, Confucius, the Buddha and so on. But now, most of that knowledge is not being taught. It’s all about practicality and getting a degree so you can get a job so you can pay your bills.
One day, however, you will get older. The fleeting concerns will be gone and you will want more. You will want to retreat into your soul. But what if you don’t have a well-developed soul? Well then, you’ve got two choices: 1. distract yourself with more empty pleasures (television, computer games, food, alcohol, sex, work, etc.), 2. delve into the journey of discovering yourself and refining your soul.
So, let’s say you want to take path two: creating a soul you’d be happy to retreat into. How do you do it? Everyone is unique and must find his or he own path. But, I’d recommend starting with philosophical or spiritual literature. Start with some Seneca or Marcus Aurelius. Read spiritual texts, such as the Bible or Buddha’s teachings. You don’t have to be religious to connect with these texts. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about centering yourself and identifying with the greater wisdom within these classical works. If you study enough philosophical literature, religion, anthropology and mythology, you will start to see patterns. Your own personal philosophy will begin to shine through.
Keep a journal about what you believe. This isn’t about being right or wrong. It’s about crafting your own personal philosophy and belief system. It’s about cultivating an inner life that has substance. It is the difference between feeding your body a steady diet of junk food or whole, organic fruits and vegetables. Over time, if all you have is junk, your soul will become sick.
When you are at peace with yourself, that is the true mark of a healthy life. No matter what disorder swirls around you, you can always retreat within your own soul.
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by Laura A. Roser
CEO and Founder of Paragon Road
#1 Expert in Meaning Legacy Planning