Christians call it the “recollected heart.” In Sanskrit it is called “smirti,” or “that which is remembered.” I’m reading Jacob Needleman and John P. Piazza’s new introduction and translation of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius and I’m learning just how much this Roman emperor—whom nobody could accuse of dropping out of society (he wrote in spare moments as he oversaw Rome’s campaigns on the Empire’s northern borders)—prized the ability to step back inside ourselves and remember who we really are.
Making the effort of stepping back and witnessing the workings of our mind is the only way to freedom, according to the extremely busy and burdened Marcus Aurelius. It is the only way to really connect with others and with society and with the Whole of Nature.
“People seek retreats for themselves in the country, by the sea, and near the mountains,” he writes. “But this is a sign of ignorance, since you have the power to retire within yourself whenever you wish.”