In His Book Meditations, Marcus Aurelius Points Out that How to Turn Obstacles into Fuel That Can Help Us Grow.
In his book Meditations, Marcus Aurelius writes:
Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces — to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it — and makes it burn still higher. — Meditations 4.1
While facing obstacles, it might be easy to be subdued by the emotions. Only those who want to do or be something other than their normal self has to face challenges in their life. The good news is that we are apt to face those challenges when the ruling power within us i.e. our mind is in harmony with nature.
When our will is powerful enough, we naturally react in a positive way to the external event. We accommodate the external changes which we face in our life rather than resist & grieve all the way about the harshness of life. Rather than moaning or blaming others for what we are facing, we adapt to these things with the way it is and to an extent possible by us.
Marcus writes that it needs no specific material to do that, to adjust to what the reality is rather than bemoaning for what it is or what it should have. When our inward power obeys nature, we confront the challenging events rather than shying away from it. We adapt to those events in every possible by us.
When our inward or ruling power is in harmony with nature, we pursue the goal that we aim in accordance with the circumstances. The effort to achieve that aim is no less than 100% but the expectation for the outcome of that effort is no more than 0%. A true soul whose inward power is in harmony with nature never expects all the things that he desires from his actions.
He pursues his aim as circumstances allow and that distinguishes him from the rest. He is not negatively impacted by the challenges that come along the way in his journey to greatness. He endeavors and keeps himself detached from the fruits of his labor.
Ages before Marcus Aurelius, Bhagwan Shri Krishna enlightened Arjuna with this knowledge on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Bhagwan Shree Krishna said in Bhagavad Gita’s Chapter 2 Shloka 47:
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||
You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.
When our motivation is the action in itself and not the fruits of those actions, then the results of our action can never demotivate us to let go of the chase. We will be self-motivated to pursue our goal no matter the circumstance. All the obstacles that we will face will be converted into combustible materials that can fuel our growth.
When we lack this wisdom of fruits and results, even a minute setback can extinguish our flame inside us to achieve greatness. But with this wisdom, no obstacles can halt our journey of self-fulfillment. We develop an understanding that helps us remain unflinching from our determination. We somehow come to terms with that we are not in control of all the things that happen to us. All we can do is navigate our way through that chaos with peace and tranquility.
“…it turns obstacles into fuel.” the obstacles that previously were blocking our progress are now the fuel that can help us grow.
Just like a small oil-lamp would have been extinguished due to the overwhelming size of the woods. Similarly, due to the perceived burdensome nature of the obstacles, we might give up the case and we give them the power to those circumstances to extinguish our hopes. But equipped with the wisdom as mentioned above, those all obstacles will add fuel to help us be a blazing fire that overpowers whatever comes along its way and only rises higher.
Similarly, the obstacles when faced with a mind or inward power, that is in its natural state or in harmony with nature, helps us to rise to newer heights. A well-trained mind is helpful in overcoming obstacles. The resilience of that well-trained mind is apt to overcome challenges. When in harmony with nature, Our inward power is apt to help us elevate to new heights.