How the Stoic Practices Living According to their Values
As a Roman Emperor, Marcus was mentored by many teachers. One of them was Junius Rusticus, one of Marcus’ closest advisors and a mentor to Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius mentioned Rusticus in the first chapter of his infamous book, Meditations.
“From Rusticus, I gained the idea that I was in need of correction and therapy for my character.”
Stoic philosophy emphasized good virtues or characters and the ability to accept criticism without being offended. But, because I am not a Roman Emperor, nor do I live in the era of the Stoic philosopher, I’ve to find my own method of following my values, building my virtues, and accepting and correcting the flaws of my character. Two of the methods taught by Marcus Aurelius, and one he implemented while writing Meditations are:
Writing & Imagining.
Marcus Aurelius wrote down virtues exhibited by the people he admired, whose characters he thought highly of. He imagined himself what would his teachers, father, and mother do? He wrote it down, learned it, and embody these virtues or good characters. Thus, allowing him to follow his values.
“Take on the color of dead men.”
Studied the wise and the sage—those who lived before you and exhibited a good example of a life well-lived.
The first step to follow the path of Marcus Aurelius as a Stoic disciple is to write down the virtues exhibited by someone I respect, particularly those I know, which includes my family and friends. Several people come to mind. Some already passed, some still accompany me in my journey of life.
From my late Father, I learned the values of honesty, integrity, and intellectual humility. My father was a man of few words but well-respected and admired for his simplicity, his good character, and his ability to be humble despite possessing an immense amount of knowledge.
From my late Grandmother, I learned the values of kindness and compassion. Oma was a very royal person, always the first to help others and have almost little to no ill thoughts about others.
From my Mother, I learned the values of temperance, courage, and piety. My mother gives as much as she earns-truly believes in the idea that the more we have, the more we have to share it with others. From my mother, I also learned the true meaning of courage and bravery. To push through in life despite the surmounting challenges and fulfill one’s duty without complaining.
From my two older Sisters, I learned the values of hard work and legacy. Both lived rather well when my Father was still around, and they eventually had to let go of the comfort of life for a little while soon after my Father’s death. Despite the grief we all shared, they showed me that life is far from over, and my Father's legacy has to be continued.
From one of my closest best friends, Dara, I learned the values of responsibility and discipline. Despite her age, Dara showed emotional maturity like no others. She bloomed into her responsibility, and her discipline inspired me to got it all together as an adult.
From my other closest best friend, Erika, I learned the values of wisdom and rationality. Erika favored logic over feelings, in contrast to my own way of thinking, which led me to some chaotic, impulsive decisions. Erika’s levelheadedness also taught me to be a responsible adult, living in accordance with my own age without diminishing my free-spirited nature.
From two people whom I adored, Mudita and Rifda, I learned the values of loyalty, authenticity, and also compassion. They taught me that love is unconditional and isn’t bound to technicalities in a relationship. Love is preserving and inspiring, allowing me to grow as the person that I am today.
From my companion, Mirani, I learned the values of serenity, composure, hard work, devotion, and compassion. Mirani taught me how to be a true Stoic-to give space between the stimulus of the situation and my reaction. She taught me how to have composure even in the direst situations or during emotional turbulence. Mirani also taught me about devotion and compassion, that humans are flawed and no one is perfect or completely up to our standards but that does not mean I have to give up or dismiss them for their flaws.
Writing down these values of people I adored allowing me to take a step back whenever overwhelming emotions started to overcome me. I imagined what would they do if they’re put in my positions? And then I asked myself what Marcus Aurelius taught me:
Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?”
I also started to practice questioning myself, do I live according to my nature, as a human who must not only learn but embody the four Stoic virtues, and do I follow my values when I act a certain way?