“They seek for themselves private retiring places, as country villages, the sea-shore, mountains: yea thou thyself art wont to long much after such places. It is in thy power to retire into thyself, and to be at rest, and free from all businesses. A man cannot retire better than to his own soul; he especially who is beforehand provided of such things within, which whensoever he doth withdraw himself to look in, may presently afford unto him perfect ease and tranquility. … Afford then thyself this retiring continuity,and thereby refresh and renew. … What remains then, but that thou often put in practice this kind of retiring of thyself, to this little part of thyself; and above all things, keep thyself from distraction, … but be free and consider all things.” ~Marcus Aurelius
What Aurelius is calling “retiring places” doesn’t mean a place to go when we retire. Or at least it is not limited to that. He means a place where we go to relax, unwind, escape our busy, everyday lives. It is what a real vacation is all about.
When Aurelius was alive, the sea-shore, the mountains, or a quiet villages were possibly the only choices one had for doing this. Now we are fortunate enough to have many more places to go to unwind and relax. We can hike in a forest, visit an amusement park, or take an ocean cruise (my personal favorite), just to mention a few possibilities. But not all leisure activities are relaxing. One must choose carefully if that is the goal.
Marcus wisely points out that there are internal as well as external options for relaxing. In fact, all relaxing is internal, though it may be stimulated by external things.
Some of us can afford to take vacations to the sea or the mountains only occasionally. Others can’t afford it at all. That doesn’t mean they cannot relax and escape the hustle and bustle. They have to go inside themselves to do it. They can practice forms of meditation and visualization specifically designed to let them escape.
Hidden Treasures Within
Another advantage of relaxing by going within is that we can discover things about ourselves that we didn’t know or had forgotten. Some of it is negative, some positive.
By going within and thinking about ourselves and our behavior, we may realize that we have not been behaving as we should. We may be getting angry to often. We may be too impatient, too intolerant. Maybe we are not working together with others as we should. Learning this is a positive thing. It gives us a chance to began making changes in ourselves.
On the positive side, we may discover out spiritual faculties. Most of us get so caught up in the business of living and working in a materialistic environment that we forgotten about our spiritual side. We may attend an occasional church service, but that is really more social than spiritual. Buy discovering that we do have a spiritual self, we can start the process of awakening and developing those spiritual faculties. Considering that our physical body will die after a short time developing the immortal spirit and soul is a wise thing to do.
Consider all Things
When Aurelius tells us to be free and consider all things, he is not advising us to throw all morality out the door. He doesn’t want us to consider being hit men or drug pushers. He simply wants us to develop an open mind.
The main thing that keeps us from seeing and experiencing what is truly real and permanent is beliefs in our subconscious that block them out. We must take those blinders off if we are to see properly. That is what he means by being free and considering all things.
Relaxing is more than simply taking a break and recharging. It is also opening up to new possibilities.