Chapter Nine - The Ancient Art of Self-Leadership (Part III)
"I am realizing this. I really am starting to feel that I can change."
"Great. Continue reflecting on your day," he instructed.
"Well, I wish I hadn't yelled at my client. I wish I hadn't argued with the court clerk and I wish I hadn't screamed at the traffic."
"The traffic doesn't care, does it?"
"It just keeps on being traffic," I noted.
"I think you now see the power of the Ritual of Personal Reflection. By looking at what you are doing, how you are spending your day and the thoughts you are thinking, you give yourself a benchmark for measuring improvement. The only way to improve tomorrow is to know what you did wrong today."
"And come up with a clear plan so that it doesn't happen again?" I added.
"Precisely. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. Mistakes are part of life and essential for growth. It's like that saying, 'Happiness comes through good judgment, good judgment comes through experience, and experience comes through bad judgment.' But there is something very wrong with making the same mistakes over and over again, day in and day out. This shows a complete lack of self-awareness, the very quality that separates humans from animals."
"I've never heard that one before."
"Well it's true. Only a human being can step out of himself and analyze what he is doing right and what he is doing wrong. A dog cannot do this. A bird cannot do this. Even a monkey cannot do it. But you can. This is what the Ritual of Personal Reflection is all about. Figure out what is right and what is wrong in your days and in your life. Then set about making immediate improvements."
"Lots to think about, Julian. Lots to think about," I offered reflectively.
"How about thinking about the Sixth Ritual for Radiant Living: the Ritual of Early Awakening."
"Uh-oh. I think I know what's coming."
"One of the best pieces of advice I learned in that far-off oasis of Sivana was to rise with the sun and to start the day off well. Most of us sleep far more than we need to. The average person can get by on six hours — and remain perfectly healthy and alert.
Sleep is really nothing more than a habit and like any other habit, you can train yourself to achieve the result you want; sleeping less in this case."
"But if I get up too early, I really do feel exhausted," I said.
"For the first few days, you will feel very tired. I'll freely admit this. You might even feel this way for the first week of getting up nice and early. Please see this as a small measure of short-term pain for a large measure of long-term gain. You will always feel a little discomfort when you are installing a new habit. It's sort of like breaking in a new pair of shoes — at first it's a little hard to wear them but soon they fit like a glove. As I told you earlier, pain is often the precursor to personal growth. Don't dread it, Instead, embrace it."
"Okay, I like the idea of training myself to get up earlier. First, let me ask you what does 'early' mean?"
"Another fine question. There is no ideal time. Just like everything else I have shared with you so far, do what is right for you. Remember Yogi Raman's admonishment: 'nothing to extremes, everything in moderation.'"
"Getting up with the sun sounds extreme."
"Actually it isn't. There are few things more natural than rising with the glory of the first rays of a new day. The sages believed that sunshine was a gift from Heaven and while they were careful not to overexpose themselves, they regularly had sunbaths and often could be seen dancing playfully in the early morning sunshine. I firmly believe that this was another key to their extraordinary longevity."
"Do you sunbathe?" I asked.
Absolutely. The sun rejuvenates me. When I grow tired it keeps my mood bright. In the ancient culture of the East, the sun was thought to be a connection to the soul. People worshipped it as it allowed their crops to flourish along with their spirits. Sunlight will release your vitality and restore your emotional and physical vibrancy. It is a delightful physician, when visited in moderation of course. Alas, I digress. The point is to get up early, every day."
"Hmm. How do I build this ritual into my routine?"
"Here are a couple of quick tips. First, never forget that it is the quality and not the quantity of sleep that is important. It is better to have six hours of uninterrupted deep sleep than even ten hours of disturbed sleep. The whole idea is to provide your body with rest so that its natural processes can repair and restore your physical dimension to its natural state of health, a state that is diminished through the stresses and struggles of daily use. Many of the habits of the sages are based on the principle that one must strive for quality rest rather than quantity sleep. For example, "Yogi Raman would never eat after 8:00 p.m. He said that the digestive activity it induced would reduce the quality of his sleep. Another example was the sages' habit of meditating to the soft sounds of their harp immediately before heading off to sleep."
"What was the reason behind this?"
"Let me ask you, John. What do you do before you go to sleep every night?"
"I watch the news with Jenny, the same as most people I know."
"I kind of thought so," replied Julian, with a mysterious twinkle in his eyes.
"I don't get it. What could possibly be wrong with getting a little shot of the news before I go to sleep?"
"The ten-minute period before you sleep and the ten-minute period after you wake up are profoundly influential on your subconscious mind. Only the most inspiring and serene thoughts should be programmed into your mind at those times."
"You make the mind sound like a computer."
"That's a pretty fair way to look at it — what you put in is what you get out. Even more important is the fact that you alone are the programmer. By determining the thoughts that go in, you also are determining precisely what will come out. So, before you go to sleep, don't watch the news or argue with anyone or even go over the day's events in your mind's eye. Relax. Drink a cup of herbal tea, if you like. Listen to some soft classical music and prepare yourself to drift off into a rich, renewing slumber."
"It makes sense. The better the sleep, the less I will need."
"Exactly. And remember the Ancient Rule of Twenty-one: if you do anything for twenty-one days in a row, it will be installed as a habit. So stay with the early-rising routine for about three weeks before you give up because it feels too uncomfortable. By then it will be a part of your life. Within short order you will be able to rise at 5:30 a.m. or even at 5:00 a.m. with ease, ready to savor the splendor of another great day."
"Okay, so let's say that I am getting up every day at five-thirty. What do I do?"
"Your questions show that you are thinking, my friend. I appreciate this. Once you are up, there are many things you can do. The fundamental principle to keep in mind is the importance of starting your day off well. As I've suggested, the thoughts you think and the actions you take in the first ten minutes after you wake up have a very marked effect on the rest of your day."
"Absolutely. Think positive thoughts. Give a prayer of thanks for all you have. Work on your gratitude list. Listen to some great music. Watch the sun come up, or perhaps go for a quick walk in natural surroundings if you feel up to it. The sages would actually make themselves laugh whether they felt like it or not, just to get the 'happiness juices' flowing early in the morning."
"Julian, I am trying very hard to keep my cup empty — and I think you will agree that I've done pretty well for a novice. But that really sounds odd, even for a band of monks living high in the Himalayas."
"But it is not. Take a guess how many times the average four-year-old laughs in a day."
"I do, three hundred. Now guess how many times the average adult in our society laughs in the course of a day."
"Fifty?" I tried.
"Try fifteen," Julian said, smiling in satisfaction. "You see my point? Laughing is medicine for the soul. Even if you don't feel like it, look in the mirror and laugh for a couple of minutes. You can't help but feel fantastic. William James said, 'We don't laugh because we are happy. We are happy because we laugh.' So start your day on a delightful footing. Laugh, play and give thanks for all you have. Every day will be an exquisitely rewarding one."
"What do you do to start your day off on a positive footing?"
"Actually, I have developed quite a sophisticated morning routine which includes everything from the Heart of the Rose to drinking a couple of glasses of freshly squeezed fruit juice. But there is one strategy in particular which I would like to share with you."
"It is. Shortly after you have awakened, go into your sanctuary of silence. Get still and focused. Then ask yourself this question:
'What would I do today if today was my last?' The key is to really get into the meaning of this question. Mentally list all the things you would do, the people you would call and the moments you would savor. Envision yourself doing these things with great energy. Visualize how you would treat your family and your friends. Even picture how you would treat total strangers if today was your last day on the planet. As I told you earlier, when you live every day as if it was your last, your life will take on a magical quality.
"And this brings me to the seventh of the Rituals of Radiant Living: the Ritual of Music."
"I think I'm going to love this one," I replied.
"I'm sure you will. The sages loved their music. It gave them the same spiritual boost as the sun did. Music made them laugh, it made them dance and it made them sing. It will do the same for you. Never forget the power of music. Spend a little time with it every day, even if it is listening to a soft piece on a cassette while you drive to work. When you feel down or weary, play some music. It is one of the finest motivators I know of."
"Aside from yourself!" I exclaimed sincerely. "Just listening to you makes me feel great. You really have changed, Julian, and not just on the outside. Gone is your old cynicism. Gone is your former negativity. Gone is your old aggressiveness. You really do seem to be at peace with yourself. You have touched me tonight."
"Hey, there's more!" shouted Julian with his fist in the air.
"Let's keep going."
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Okay. The eighth ritual is the Ritual of the Spoken Word. The sages had a series of mantras which they would recite morning, noon and night. They told me that this practice was immensely effective in keeping them focused, strong and happy."
"What's a mantra?" I asked.
"A mantra is nothing more than a collection of words strung together to create a positive effect. In Sanskrit, 'man' means 'mind' and 'tra' means 'freeing.' So a mantra is a phrase which is designed to free the mind. And, believe me, John, mantras accomplish this objective in a very powerful way."
"Are you using mantras in your daily routine?"
"I sure am. They are my faithful companions wherever I go. Whether I am on the bus, walking to the library or watching the world go by in a park, I am constantly affirming all that is good in my world through mantras."
"So mantras are spoken?"
"They do not have to be. Written affirmations are also very effective. But I have found that repeating a mantra aloud has a wonderful effect on my spirit. When I need to feel motivated, I might repeat, 'I am inspired, disciplined and energized' out loud two or three hundred times. To maintain the supreme sense of self-confidence I have cultivated, I repeat, 'I am strong, able and calm.' I even use mantras to keep me youthful and vital," Julian admitted.
"How could a mantra keep you young?"
"Words affect the mind in a pronounced way. Whether they are spoken or written, they are powerful influences. While what you say to others is important, even more important is what you say to yourself."
"Exactly. You are what you think about all day long. You are also what you say to yourself all day long. If you say that you are old and tired, this mantra will be manifested in your external reality. If you say you are weak and lack enthusiasm, this too will be the nature of your world. But if you say that you are healthy, dynamic and fully alive, your life will be transformed. You see, the words you say to yourself affect your self-image and your self-image determines what actions you take. For example, if your self-image is one of a person who lacks the confidence to do anything of value, you will only be able to take actions which are aligned with this trait. On the other hand, if your self-image is one of a radiant individual who is fearless, again, all your actions will correspond to this quality. Your self-image is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts."
"If you believe that you are unable to do something, let's say, find that perfect partner or live a stress-free life, your beliefs will affect your self-image. In turn, your self-image will prevent you from taking steps to find the perfect partner or to create a serene life for yourself. It will actually sabotage any efforts you might make in this direction."
"Why does it work this way?"
"Simple. Your self-image is a governor of sorts. It will never let you act in a way that is inconsistent with it. The beautiful thing is that you can change your self-image, just like you can change everything else in your life if it is not serving to enhance it. Mantras are a great way accomplish this objective."
"And when I change my inner world, I change my outer world," I said dutifully.
"My, how quickly you learn," Julian said, giving me the thumbs-up sign he had used so much in his former life as a star litigator.
"Which leads us into the Ninth Ritual of Radiant Living quite nicely. This is the Ritual of a Congruent Character. It is sort of an off-shoot of the self-image concept we were just talking about. Simply stated, this ritual requires you to take daily, incremental action to build your character. Strengthening your character affects the way you see yourself and the actions you take. The actions you take come together to form your habits and, this is important, your habits lead you to your destiny. Perhaps Yogi Raman articulated the formula best when he stated: 'You sow a thought, you reap an action. Reap an action, you sow a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap your destiny.'"
"What kinds of things should I do to build my character?"
"Anything that cultivates your virtues. Before you ask me what I mean by 'virtues,' let me clarify the concept. The wise people of the Himalayas believed strongly that a virtuous life was a meaningful life. So they governed all of their actions by a series of timeless principles."
"But I thought you said they governed their lives by their purpose?"
"Yes, this is quite so, but their life's calling included living in a manner congruent to these principles, ones that their ancestors held dear to their hearts for thousands of years."
"What are these principles, Julian?" I asked.
"They are, simply stated: industry, compassion, humility, patience, honesty and courage. When all your actions are congruent and aligned with these principles, you will feel a deep sense of inner harmony and peace. Living this way will inevitably lead you to spiritual success. This is because you will be doing what is right. You will be acting in a way that is in accordance with the laws of nature and the laws of the universe. This is when you will start to tap into the energy of another dimension, call it a higher power if you will. This is also when your life will move from the ordinary into the realm of the extraordinary and you begin to sense the sacredness of your being. It is the first step to lifelong enlightenment."
"Have you tasted this experience?" I asked.
"I have, and I believe you will too. Do the right things. Act in a way that is congruent with your true character. Act with integrity. Be guided by your heart. The rest will take care of itself. You are never alone, you know," replied Julian.
"What do you mean?"
"I'll explain it to you another time perhaps. For now, remember that you must do little things every day to build your character. As Emerson said: 'Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as to think.' Your character is built when you act in a way that corresponds with the principles I've just mentioned. If you fail to do this, true happiness will always elude you."
"And the final ritual?"
"This is the all-important Ritual of Simplicity. This ritual requires you to live a simple life. As Yogi Raman said 'one must never live in the thick of thin things. Focus only on your priorities, those activities which are truly meaningful. Your life will be uncluttered, rewarding and exceptionally peaceful. This I promise you.' "He was right. The moment I started to separate the wheat from the chaff, harmony filled my life. I stopped living at the frenetic pace to which I had grown accustomed. I stopped living my life in the eye of the tornado. Instead, I slowed down and took the time to smell the proverbial roses."
"What things did you do to cultivate simplicity?"
"I stopped wearing expensive clothes, I kicked my addiction to six newspapers a day, I stopped needing to be available to everyone all the time, I became a vegetarian and I ate less. Basically, I reduced my needs. You see, John, unless you reduce your needs, you will never be fulfilled. You will always be like that gambler in Las Vegas, staying at the roulette wheel for 'just one more spin' in the hope that your lucky number will come up. You will always want more than you have. How can you ever be happy?"
"But earlier you told me that happiness comes from achievement. Now you are telling me to reduce my needs and be content with less. Isn't this a paradox?"
"Excellent point, John. Brilliant in fact. It might seem like a contradiction, but it isn't. Lifelong happiness does come through striving to realize your dreams. You are at your best when you are moving forward. The key is not to make your happiness contingent on finding that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. For example, even though I was a millionaire many times over, I told myself that success to me meant having three hundred million dollars in my bank account. This was a recipe for disaster."
"Three hundred million?" I asked in disbelief.
"Three hundred million. So no matter how much I had, I was never satisfied. I was always unhappy. It was nothing more than greed. I can now admit this freely. It was much like the story of King Midas. I'm sure you have heard that one?"
"Sure. The man who loved gold so much he prayed that everything he touched would turn to gold. When his wish was granted he rejoiced. That was until he realized that he couldn't eat because his food had turned to gold and so on, so forth."
"Right. Similarly, I was so money-driven that I couldn't enjoy all that I had. You know there came a time when all that I could eat was bread and water," Julian said, growing very quiet and pensive.
"Are you serious? I always thought you ate at the best restaurants with all those celebrity friends of yours."
"That was in the early days. Not many people know about this, but the burden of my out-of-control lifestyle gave me a bleeding ulcer. I couldn't even eat a hot dog without getting sick. What a life!
All that money and all I could eat was bread and water. It was pathetic really." Julian caught himself "But I'm not one to live in the past. It was another one of life's great lessons. As I told you earlier, pain is a powerful teacher. To transcend pain, I had to first experience it. I wouldn't be where I am today without it," he said stoically.
"Any ideas on what I should do to bring the Ritual of Simplicity into my own life?" I asked.
"There are so many things you can do. Even little things will make a difference."
"Stop picking up the phone every time it rings, stop wasting time reading junk mail, stop eating out three times a week, give up your golf-club membership and spend more time with your kids, spend a day a week without your watch, watch the sun rise every few days, sell your cellular phone and dump the pager. Need I continue?" Julian asked rhetorically.
"I get the point. But sell the cell phone?" I asked anxiously, feeling as a baby might at the doctor's suggestion that his umbilical cord should be cut.
"Like I've said, my duty is to share the wisdom I have learned through my journey with you. You need not apply every strategy to make your life work. Try the techniques and use those that feel right to you."
"I know. Nothing to extremes, everything in moderation."
"I have to admit though, every one of your strategies sounds great. But will they really bring about profound shifts in my life in only thirty days?"
"It will take even less than thirty days — and even more," said Julian, with his trademark look of dimpled mischievousness.
"Here we go again. Do explain, O Wise One."
"'Julian' will be fine, although 'Wise One' would have looked formidable on my old letterhead," he joked. "I say it will take less than thirty days because true life change is spontaneous."
"Yes, it happens in the blink of an eye, the very moment you decide from the deepest core of your being that you will raise your life to its highest level. In that instant, you will be a changed person, one set on the course of his destiny."
"And why longer than thirty days?"
"I promise you that by practicing these strategies and tools, you will see marked improvements in one month from this moment. You will have more energy, less worries, more creativity and less stress in every aspect of your life. Having said this, the sages' methods are not of the quick-fix kind. They are ageless traditions which are meant to be applied daily, for the rest of your days. If you stop applying them, you will find that you will gradually slide back into your old ways."
After Julian had explained the Ten Rituals for Radiant Living to me, he paused. "I know that you want me to keep going so I will. I believe so strongly in what I am sharing with you that I don't mind keeping you up all night. Perhaps this is a good time to get a little deeper."
"What exactly do you mean? I think all that I have heard tonight is pretty deep," I said in surprise.
"The secrets I have explained will allow you and all those you come into contact with to create the lives you desire. But there is much more to the philosophy of the Sages of Sivana than meets the eye. What I have taught you up to now has been immensely practical. But you must know something of the underlying spiritual current which flows through the principles I have outlined. If you do not understand what I am speaking about, don't worry at this point. Simply take it in and chew on it for a while, you can digest it later."
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?"
"Precisely," said Julian, now smiling. "You always were a quick study."
"Okay, let's hear the spiritual stuff," I said energetically, unaware that it was nearly two-thirty in the morning.
"Within you lies the sun, the moon, the sky and all the wonders of this universe. The intelligence that created these wonders is the same force that created you. All things around you come from the same source. We are all one."
"I'm not sure I follow you."
"Every being on this Earth, every object on this Earth has a soul. All souls flow into one, this is the Soul of the Universe. You see, John, when you nourish your own mind and your own spirit, you are really feeding the Soul of the Universe. When you improve yourself, you are improving the lives of all those around you. And when you have the courage to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, you begin to draw upon the power of the universe. As I told you earlier, life gives you what you ask of it. It is always listening."
"So self-mastery and kaizen will help me help others by helping me help myself?"
"Something like that. As you enrich your mind, as you care for your body and as you nurture your spirit, you will come to understand exactly what I am saying."
"Julian. I know you mean well. But self-mastery is a pretty high ideal for a 215-pound family man who, up to now, has spent more time on client development than personal development. What happens if I fail?"
"Failure is not having the courage to try, nothing more and nothing less. The only thing standing between most people and their dreams is the fear of failure. Yet failure is essential to success in any endeavor. Failure tests us and allows us to grow. It offers us lessons and guides us along the path of enlightenment. The teachers of the East say that every arrow that hits the bull's eye is the result of one hundred misses. It is a fundamental Law of Nature to profit through loss. Never fear failure. Failure is your friend."
"Embrace failure?" I asked in disbelief
"The universe favors the brave. When you resolve, once and for all, to lift your life to its highest level, the strength of your soul will guide you. Yogi Raman believed that everyone's destiny was laid out for them at birth. This path always leads to a magical place filled with magnificent treasures. It was up to each individual to develop the courage to walk this way. There is a story he shared with me that I would like to pass on to you. Once, in ancient India, there was an evil giant who owned a magnificent castle overlooking the sea. As the giant had been away for many years fighting in wars, the children of the nearby village used to come into the giant's beautiful garden and play with great delight. One day, the giant returned and threw all of the young children out of his garden. 'Never return here!' he yelled as he slammed the huge oak door in disgust. He then erected a huge marble wall around the garden to keep the children out.
"Winter came with bitter cold which is native to the northernmost parts of the Indian subcontinent, and the giant wished the warmth would soon return. Spring visited the village which lay below the giant's castle, but the icy claws of winter refused to leave his garden. Then, one day, the giant finally smelled the fragrances of Spring and felt the radiance of the sun through his windows. "Spring has finally returned!" he cried, running out into the garden. But the giant was unprepared for the sight which greeted him. The children of the village had somehow managed to climb over the castle wall and were playing in the garden. It was because of their presence that the garden had been transformed from a wintry wasteland into a lush place filled with roses, daffodils and orchids. All the children laughed and giggled with joy, but one. From the corner of his eye, the giant spotted a little boy who was much smaller than all the other children. Tears ran from his eyes as he did not have the strength to climb the wall into the garden. The giant felt sad for this boy and, for the first time in his life, regretted his evil ways. 'I will help this child,' he said, running towards him. When all the other children saw the giant coming, they ran from the garden, fearing for their lives. But the tiny little boy stood his ground. 'I will slay the giant,' he stammered. 'I will defend our playground.'
"As the giant approached the child, he opened his arms. 'I am a friend,' he said. 'I have come to help you over the wall and into the garden. This will be your garden now.'" The little boy, now a hero amongst the children, rejoiced in happiness and gave the giant the golden necklace which he had always worn around his neck. 'This is my lucky charm,' he said. 'I want you to have it.'
"From that day on, the children played with the giant in his wonderful garden. But the brave little boy whom the giant loved the most never did return. As time went on, the giant grew ill and frail. The children continued to play in the garden but the giant no longer had the strength to keep them company. In those quiet days, it was the little boy who the giant thought of the most.
"One day, in the midst of a particularly bitter winter, the giant glanced out his window and saw a truly miraculous sight: though most of the garden was covered in snow, at the center of the garden there stood a magnificent rosebush overflowing with spectacularly colored flowers. Next to the roses stood the little boy who the giant loved. The boy was smiling sweetly. The giant danced with delight and rushed outside to embrace the child.
'Where have you been all these years, my young friend? I've missed you with all my heart.'
"The boy was thoughtful in his response. 'Many years ago you lifted me over the wall into your magical garden. Now, I have come to take you into mine.' Later that day, when the children came to visit the giant they found him lying lifeless on the ground.
From head to toe, he was covered by a thousand beautiful roses.
"Always be brave, John, like that little boy. Stand your ground and follow your dreams. They will lead you to your destiny. Follow your destiny, it will lead you into the wonders of the universe. And always follow the wonders of the universe, for they will lead you to a special garden filled with roses."
As I looked over at Julian to tell him that this story had touched me deeply, I saw something that startled me: this rock-hard legal gladiator who had spent the better part of his life defending the rich and famous had started to weep.
Chapter 9 Action Summary • Julian's Wisdom in a Nutshell
T h e S y m b ol
T h e V i r t u e
• Self-Mastery is the DNA of life mastery
T he W i s d om
• Success on the outside begins within • Enlightenment comes through the consistent cultivation of your mind, body and soul • Do the Things You Fear
T h e T e c h n i q u e s
• The 10 Ancient Rituals for Radiant Living Q u o t a b l e Q u o t e
The Universe favors the brave. When you resolve to lift your life to its highest level, the strength of your soul will guide you to a magical place with magnificent treasures.