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  • Roxanne Noor

The Inner Citadel

The inner citadel is a mental fortress one creates against adversity. The inner citadel can be destroyed through external pressures if it is not built into the folds of the mind and discipline of the body. For Marcus Aurelius, the soul was his guide, and the mind and body acted as its protector. 

He communed with the soul inside of him through writing, and the philosophical spiritualized diary Meditations was born. The reason the book has a spiritual feeling is because it was Aurelius’ spiritual exercise, his mental gymnastics combined with introspection, an inner listening.

Aurelius built his inner citadel by erecting three fundamental rules.

1. Expression through objectivity: Focus on objective reality instead of the discourse surrounding it. (Objective truthfulness)

2. Allow the universal nature of things: If your father dies, don’t wish for his aliveness, simply be in what is. (Consent to fate)

3. Achieve justice. (Altruism)

“Strive always to have the essential rules of life present in one’s mind, and to keep placing oneself in the fundamental disposition of the philosopher, which consists essentially in controlling one’s inner discourse, in doing only that which is of benefit to the human community, and in accepting the event brought to us by the course of the Nature of the All.”

The stoics believed no bad things can truly happen to us in life, just a bad perception of what the experience means. The nature of the cosmos cannot be dictated by the force of man. The only things we can control are our thoughts, not what life gives us. We achieve harmony by participating in the present moment by accepting what fate brings.

Through the process of judging life from an objective lens, there is less emotional reactivity. In aligning ourselves to the nature of the cosmos, serenity sprouts because we do not place ourselves against life. From this way of being in the world, action comes out of wisdom, and the duty of each action is justice. 

Human nature places us in a state of interdependence where we have a relationship with others and the world at large. How do you show up for fellow man? How do you respond to aggravation or injustice? What is your will? 

Aurelius wrote Meditations to reinforce these unquestionable rules in his life. Through his awareness and ritualized practice, the words held meaning. Writing actualized the thoughts and gave him a direction, and course of action.

Now 1,842 years later man is still facing the same root of both his fears and desires. Though we aren’t living in the Roman Empire, we still must overcome difficulties to live joyfully. It's The majority of us live in cities rife with dysfunction. Just take a look outside.

In New York, I walk past mothers addicted to crack. I see homeless people sleeping on the street while billionaires live in penthouses above them. There is rape and violence. Children are neglected. Couples fight loudly. Hysterics and drama live in every corner. The world presses on us, and we are a part of the madness. We don’t need to add to it. Inside the concrete jungle, we can keep the forest within. 

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