The Timeless Secret of Lifelong Happiness



 CHAPTER 13

The Timeless Secret of Lifelong Happiness


When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.

- Mahatma Gandhi

It had been over twelve hours since Julian had arrived at my house the night before to share the wisdom he had gathered in Sivana. Those twelve hours were, without a doubt, the most important of my life. All at once, I was feeling exhilarated, motivated and, yes, even liberated. Julian had fundamentally changed my outlook on life with Yogi Raman's fable and the ageless virtues that it represented. I realized that I had not even begun to explore the reaches of my human potential. I had been squandering the daily gifts that life had thrown my way. Julian's wisdom had allowed me the opportunity to come to grips with the wounds that were keeping me from living with the laughter, energy and fulfillment I knew that I deserved. I felt moved.

   'I'll have to leave soon. You have commitments which are pressing on your time and I have my own work to tend to,' Julian said apologetically.

   'My work can wait.'

   'Unfortunately, mine can't,' he said with a quick smile.

   'But before I leave, I must reveal the final element of 'Yogi Raman's magical fable. You will recall that the sumo wrestler who walked out of the lighthouse in the middle of a beautiful garden with nothing more than a pink wire cable covering his private parts slipped on a shiny gold stopwatch and fell to the ground. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally regained consciousness when the marvellous fragrance of the yellow roses reached his nose. He then jumped to his feet in delight and was astonished to see a long, winding path studded with millions of tiny diamonds. Of course, our friend the sumo wrestler took the path and, in doing so, lived happily ever after.'

   'Seems plausible,' I chuckled.

   'Yogi Raman had quite a vivid imagination, I'll agree. But you have seen that his story has a purpose and that the principles it symbolizes are not only powerful — they are highly practical.'

   'True,' I agreed without reservation.

   'The path of diamonds, then, will serve to remind you of the final virtue for enlightened living. By carrying this principle with you through your daily work, you will enrich your life in a way that is difficult for me to describe. You will begin to see the exquisite wonders in the simplest of things and live with the ecstacy you deserve. And by carrying out your promise to me and sharing it with others, you will also allow them to transform their world from the ordinary into the extraordinary.'

   'Will this take me a while to learn?'

   'The principle itself is strikingly straightforward to grasp. But learning how to apply it effectively in all your waking moments will take a couple of weeks of steady practice.'

   'Okay, I'm dying to hear it.'

   'Funny you say that because the seventh and final virtue is all about living. The Sages of Sivana believed that a truly joyful and rewarding life comes only through a process they called 'living in the now.' These yogis knew that the past is water under the bridge and the future is a distant sun on the horizon of your imagination. The most important moment is now. Learn to live in it and savor it fully.'

   'I understand exactly what you are saying, Julian. I seem to spend most of my day fretting over past events that I have no power to change or worrying about things to come, which never do arrive. My mind is always flooded by a million little thoughts pulling me in a million different directions. It's really frustrating.'

   'Why?'

   'It tires me out! I guess I just don't have peace of mind. Yet I have experienced times when my mind is fully occupied on only what was in front of me. Often this happened when I was under the gun to crank out a legal brief and I didn't have time to think about anything other than the task at hand. I've also felt this kind of total focus when I was playing soccer with the boys and I really wanted to win. Hours seemed to pass by in minutes and I felt centered. It was as if the only thing that mattered to me was what I was doing in that very moment. Everything else, the worries, the bills, the law practice, didn't count. Come to think of it, these were probably the times when I felt the most peaceful as well.'

   'Being engaged in a pursuit that truly challenges you is the surest route to personal satisfaction. But the real key to remember is that happiness is a journey, not a destination. Live for today — there will never be another one quite like it,' stated Julian, his smooth hands coming together as if to give a prayer of thanks for being privy to what he had just said.

   'Is that the principle that the path of diamonds in Yogi Raman's fable symbolizes?' I asked.

   'Yes,' came the succinct reply. 'Just as the sumo wrestler found lasting fulfillment and joy by walking the path of diamonds, you can have the life you deserve the very moment you start to understand that the path you are currently walking on is one rich with diamonds and other priceless treasures. Stop spending so much time chasing life's big pleasures while you neglect the little ones. Slow things down. Enjoy the beauty and sacredness of all that is around you. You owe this to yourself.'

   'Does that mean that I should stop setting big goals for my future and concentrate on the present?'

   'No,' replied Julian firmly. 'As I said earlier, goals and dreams for the future are essential elements in every truly successful life. Hope for what will appear in your future is what gets you out of bed in the morning and what keeps you inspired through your days. Goals energize your life. My point is simply this: never put off happiness for the sake of achievement. Never put off the things that are important for your well-being and satisfaction to a later time. Today is the day to live fully, not when you win the lottery or when you retire. Never put off living!'

   Julian stood up and started pacing back and forth across the living room floor like a seasoned litigator releasing his final kernels of reason in an impassioned closing argument. 'Don't fool yourself into thinking that you will be a more loving and giving husband when your law firm takes on a few more junior lawyers to ease the burden. Don't kid yourself into believing that you will start to enrich your mind, care for your body and nourish your soul when your bank account gets big enough and you have the luxury of more free time. Today is the day to enjoy the fruits of your efforts. Today is the day to seize the moment and live a life that soars. Today is the day to live from your imagination and harvest your dreams. And please never, ever forget the gift of family.'

   'I'm not sure I know exactly what you mean Julian?'

   'Live your children's childhood,' came the simple reply.

   'Huh?' I muttered, perplexed at the apparent paradox.

   'Few things are as meaningful as being a part of your children's childhood. What is the point of climbing the steps of success if you have missed the first steps of your own kids? What good is owning the biggest house on your block if you have not taken the time to create a home? What is the use of being known across the country as a red-hot trial lawyer if your kids don't even know their father?' Julian offered, his voice now quivering with emotion. 'I know whereof I speak.'

   This last comment floored me. All I knew of Julian was that he had been a superstar litigator who hung out with the rich and the beautiful. His romantic trysts with nubile fashion models were almost as legendary as his courtroom skills. What could this former millionaire playboy possibly know about being a father? What could he possibly know about the daily struggles I faced in trying to be all things to all people, a great father and a successful lawyer? But Julian's sixth sense caught me.

   'I do know something of the blessings we call children,' he said softly.

   'But I always thought you were the city's most eligible bachelor before you threw in the towel and gave up your practice.'

   'Before I was caught up in the illusion of that fast and furious lifestyle that I was so well known for, you know that I was married.'

   'Yes.'

   He then paused, as a child might before telling his best friend a closely-guarded secret. 'What you do not know is that I also had a little daughter. She was the sweetest, most delicate creature I have ever seen in my life. Back then, I was a lot like you were the first time we met: cocky, ambitious and full of hope. I had everything anyone could ever want. People told me I had a brilliant future, a stunningly beautiful wife and a wonderful daughter. Yet, when life seemed to be perfect, it was all taken from me in an instant.'

   For the first time since his return, Julian's eternally joyful face was enveloped in sadness. A single tear began to slide down one of his bronzed cheeks and dripped onto the velvety fabric of his ruby red robe. I was speechless and gripped by the revelation of my long-time friend.

   'You don't have to continue Julian,' I offered sympathetically, placing an arm around his shoulder to comfort him.

   'But I do, John. Of all those I knew in my former life, you showed the most promise. As I said, you reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger. Even now you still have so much going for you. But if you keep on living the way you're living, you are headed for disaster. I came back to this place to show you that there are so many wonders waiting for you to explore, so many moments left for you to savor.'

   'The drunk driver who killed my daughter didn't take away only one precious life on that sun-soaked October afternoon — he took two. After my daughter's passing, my life unravelled. I started spending every waking minute at the office, foolishly hoping that my legal career might be the salve for the pain of a broken heart. Somedays, I even slept on a couch in my office, dreading to return to the home where so many sweet memories had been laid to rest. And while my career did take off, my inner world was a mess. My wife, who had been my constant companion since law school, left me, citing my obsession with my work as the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. My health deteriorated and I spiralled into the infamous life that I was engaged in when we first met. Sure I had everything money could possibly buy. But I sold my soul for it, I really did,' Julian noted emotionally, his voice still choked up.

   'So when you say 'Live your children's childhood,' you are basically telling me to take the time to watch them grow and flourish. That's it, isn't it?'

   'Even today, twenty-seven years after she left us while we were driving her to her best friend's birthday party, I would give anything just to hear my daughter giggle again or to play hide-and-seek like we used to in our back garden. I would love to hold her in my arms and softly caress her golden hair. She took a piece of my heart with her when she left. And though my life has been inspired by new meaning since I found the way to enlightenment and self-leadership in Sivana, a day doesn't pass without me seeing the rosy face of my sweet little girl in the silent theatre of my mind. You have such great kids, John. Don't miss the forest for the trees. The best gift you could ever give your children is your love. Get to know them again. Show them that they are far more important to you than the fleeting rewards of your professional career. Pretty soon they will be off, building lives and families of their own. Then it will be too late, the time will be gone.'

   Julian had struck a chord deep inside of me. I guess I had known for some time that my workaholic pace was slowly but steadily loosening our family's ties. But it was like a smoldering ember, burning quietly, slowly gathering its energy before revealing the full extent of its destructive potential. I knew my kids needed me, even if they might not have told me so. I needed to hear this from Julian. Time was slipping by and they were growing up so quickly. I couldn't remember the last time my son Andy and I had stolen off early on a crisp Saturday morning to spend the day at the fishing hole his grandfather loved so much. There was a time when we would go every weekend. Now, this time-honored ritual seemed like someone else's memory.

   The more I thought about it, the harder it hit me. Piano recitals, Christmas plays, little-league championships had all been traded for my professional advancement.

   'What was I doing?' I wondered. I really was sliding down the slippery slope that Julian described. There and then, I resolved to change.

   'Happiness is a journey,' Julian continued, his voice rising once again with the heat of passion. 'It is also a choice that you make. You can marvel at the diamonds along the way or you can keep running through all your days, chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that ultimately reveals itself to be empty. Enjoy the special moments that every day offers because today, this day is all you have.'

   'Can anyone learn to 'live in the now'?'

   'Absolutely. No matter what your current circumstances might be, you can train yourself to enjoy the gift of living and fill your existence with the jewels of everyday life.'

   'But isn't that a little optimistic. How about someone who has just lost everything they own due to a bad business deal. Let's say that not only are they financially bankrupt but emotionally bankrupt as well?'

   'The size of your bank account and the size of your house have nothing to do with living life with a sense of joy and wonder. This world is full of unhappy millionaires. Do you think the sages I met in Sivana were concerned with having a well-balanced financial portfolio and acquiring a summer home in the South of France?' Julian asked mischievously.

   'Okay. I see your point.'

   'There is a huge difference between making a lot of money and making a lot of life. When you start spending even five minutes a day practicing the art of gratitude, you will cultivate the richness of living that you are looking for. Even the person you spoke of in your example can find an abundance of things to be thankful for, notwithstanding his dire financial predicament. Ask him if he still has his health, his loving family and his good reputation in the community. Question him as to whether he is happy to have citizenship in this great country and whether he still has a roof over his head. Perhaps he might have no assets other than a masterful ability to work hard and the ability to dream big dreams. Yet these are precious assets for which he ought to be grateful. We all have much to be thankful for. Even the birds singing outside your windowsill on what looks like another magnificent summer's day appear as a gift to the wise person. Remember, John, life doesn't always give you what you ask for, but it always gives you what you need.'

   'So by giving daily thanks for all of my assets, whether these are material or spiritual, I will develop the habit of living in the moment?'

   'Yes. This is an effective method for putting far more living into your life. When you savor the 'now,' you kindle the fire of life that allows you to grow your destiny.'

   'Grow my destiny?'

   'Yes. I told you earlier that we all have been given certain talents. Every single person on the planet is a genius.'

   'You don't know some of the lawyers I work with,' I quipped.

   'Everyone,' said Julian emphatically. 'We all have something that we are meant to do. Your genius will shine through, and happiness will fill your life, the instant you discover your higher purpose and then direct all your energies towards it. Once you are connected to this mission, whether it is being a great teacher of children or an inspired artist, all your desires will be fulfilled effortlessly. You will not even have to try. As a matter of fact, the harder you try, the longer it will take you to reach your aims. Instead, simply follow the path of your dreams, in full expectation of the bounty that is certain to flow. This will bring you to your divine destination. This is what I mean by growing your destiny,' Julian offered sagely.

   'When I was a young boy, my father loved to read me a fairy tale known as 'Peter and the Magic Thread.' Peter was a very lively little boy. Everyone loved him: his family, his teachers and his friends. But he did have one weakness.'

   'What was that?'

   'Peter could never live in the moment He had not learned to enjoy the process of life. When he was in school, he dreamed of being outside playing. When he was outside playing he dreamed of his summer vacation. Peter constantly daydreamed, never taking the time to savor the special moments that filled his days. One morning, Peter was out walking in a forest near his home. Feeling tired, he decided to rest on a patch of grass and eventually dozed off. After only a few minutes of deep sleep, he heard someone calling his name. 'Peter! Peter!' came the shrill voice from above. As he slowly opened his eyes, he was startled to see a striking woman standing above him. She must have been over a hundred years old and her snow-white hair dangled well below her shoulders like a matted blanket of wool. In this woman's wrinkled hand was a magical little ball with a hole in the center and out of the hole dangled a long, golden thread.'

   ''Peter,' she said, this is the thread of your life. If you pull the thread just a bit, an hour will pass in seconds. If you pull a little harder, whole days will pass in minutes. And if you pull with all your might, months — even years — will pass by in days.' Peter grew very excited at this discovery. 'I'd like to have it if I may?' he asked. The elderly woman quickly reached down and gave the ball with the magic thread to the young boy.

    The next day, Peter was sitting in the classroom feeling restless and bored. Suddenly, he remembered his new toy. As he pulled a little bit of the golden thread, he quickly found himself at home, playing in his garden. Realizing the power of the magic thread, Peter soon grew tired of being a schoolboy and longed to be a teenager, with all the excitement that phase of life would bring. So again he pulled out the ball and pulled hard on the golden thread.

   Suddenly he was a teenager with a very pretty young girlfriend named Elise. But Peter still wasn't content. He had never learned to enjoy the moment and to explore the simple wonders of every stage of his life. Instead, he dreamed of being an adult. So again he pulled on the thread and many years whizzed by in an instant. Now he found that he had been transformed into a middle-aged adult. Elise was now his wife and Peter was surrounded with a houseful of kids. But Peter also noticed something else. His once jet black hair had started to turn grey. And his once youthful mother whom he loved so dearly had grown old and frail. Yet Peter still could not live in the moment. He had never learned to 'live in the now' So, once again, he pulled on the magic thread and waited for the changes to appear.

   Peter now found that he was a ninety-year-old man. His thick dark hair had turned white as snow and his beautiful young wife Elise had also grown old and had passed away a few years earlier. His wonderful children had grown up and left home to lead lives of their own. For the first time in his entire life, Peter realized that he had not taken the time to embrace the wonders of living. He had never gone fishing with his kids or taken a moonlight stroll with Elise. He had never planted a garden or read those wonderful books his mother had loved to read. Instead, he had hurried through life, never resting to see all that was good along the way.

   Peter became very sad at this discovery. He decided to go out to the forest where he used to walk as a boy to clear his head and warm his spirit. As he entered the forest, he noticed that the little saplings of his childhood had grown into mighty oaks. The forest itself had matured into a paradise of nature. He lay down on a small patch of grass and fell into a deep slumber. After only a minute, he heard someone calling out to him. 'Peter! Peter!' cried the voice. He looked up in astonishment to see that it was none other than the old woman who had given him the ball with the magic golden thread many years earlier.

   'How have you enjoyed my special gift?' she asked.

   Peter was direct in his reply.

   'At first it was fun but now I hate it. My whole life has passed before my eyes without giving me the chance to enjoy it. Sure, there would have been sad times as well as great times but I haven't had the chance to experience either. I feel empty inside. I have missed the gift of living.'

   'You are very ungrateful,' said the old woman. 'Still, I will give you one last wish.'

   Peter thought for an instant and then answered hastily. 'I'd like to go back to being a schoolboy and live my life over again.' He then returned to his deep sleep.

   Again he heard someone calling his name and opened his eyes. 'Who could it be this time?' he wondered. When he opened his eyes, he was absolutely delighted to see his mother standing over his bedside. She looked young, healthy and radiant. Peter realized that the strange woman of the forest had indeed granted his wish and he had returned to his former life.

   'Hurry up Peter. You sleep too much. Your dreams will make you late for school if you don't get up right this minute,' his mother admonished. Needless to say, Peter dashed out of bed on this morning and began to live the way he had hoped. Peter went on to live a full life, one rich with many delights, joys and triumphs, but it all started when he stopped sacrificing the present for the future and began to live in the moment.'

   'Amazing story,' I said softly.

   'Unfortunately, John, the story of Peter and the Magic Thread is just that, a story, a fairy tale. We here in the real world will never get a second chance to live life to the fullest. Today is your chance to awaken to the gift of living — before it is too late. Time really does slip through your fingers like tiny grains of sand. Let this new day be the defining moment of your life, the day that you make the decision once and for all to focus on what is truly important to you. Make the decision to spend more time with those who make your life meaningful. Revere the special moments, revel in their power. Do the things that you have always wanted to do. Climb that mountain you have always wanted to climb or learn to play the trumpet. Dance in the rain or build a new business. Learn to love music, learn a new language and rekindle the delight of your childhood. Stop putting off your happiness for the sake of achievement. Instead, why not enjoy the process? Revive your spirit and start tending to your soul. This is the way to Nirvana.'

   'Nirvana?'

   'The Sages of Sivana believed that the ultimate destination of all truly enlightened souls was a place called Nirvana. Actually, more than a place, the sages believed Nirvana to be a state, one that transcended anything they had known previously. In Nirvana, all things were possible. There was no suffering and the dance of life was played out with divine perfection. On reaching Nirvana, the sages felt that they would step into Heaven on Earth. This was their ultimate goal in life,' Julian observed, his face radiating a peaceful, almost angelic quality.

   'We are all here for some special reason,' he observed prophetically. 'Meditate on what your true calling is, and how you can give of yourself to others. Stop being a prisoner of gravity. Today, light your spark of life and let it blaze brightly. Start applying the principles and strategies that I have shared with you. Be all that you can be. A time will come when you too will taste the fruits of that place called Nirvana.'

   'How will I know when I reach this state of enlightenment?'

   'Little hints will appear to confirm your entrance. You will start to notice the holiness in everything that is around you: the divinity of a moonbeam, the allure of a lush blue sky on a scorching summer day, the fragrant bloom of a daisy or the laugh of a mischievous little child.'

   'Julian, I promise you that the time you have spent with me will not be in vain. I will dedicate myself to living by the wisdom of the Sages of Sivana and I will keep my promise to you by sharing all that I have learned with those who will benefit by your message. I am speaking from the heart. I give you my word,' I offered sincerely, feeling the throes of emotion stirring within.

   'Spread the rich legacy of the sages to all those around you. They will quickly benefit from this knowledge and improve the quality of their lives, just as you will improve the quality of yours. And remember, the journey is to be enjoyed. The road is just as good as the end.'

   I let Julian continue. 'Yogi Raman was a great storyteller but there was one story he told me which stood out amongst the rest. May I share it with you?'

   'Absolutely.'

   'Many years ago, in ancient India, a maharajah wanted to build a great tribute to his wife as a sign of his deep love and affection for her. This man wanted to create a structure the likes of which the world had never seen, one that would shimmer across the moonlit sky, one that people would admire for centuries to come. So every day, block by block, his workers toiled in the hot sun. Every day this structure started to look a little more defined, a little more like a monument, a little more like a beacon of love against the azure blue Indian sky. Finally, after twenty-two years of daily, gradual progress, this palace of pure marble was complete. Guess what I'm speaking of?'

   'I have no idea.'

   'The Taj Mahal. One of the Seven Wonders of the World,' Julian replied. 'My point is simple. Everyone on this planet is a wonder of this world. Every one of us is a hero in some way or another. Every one of us has the potential for extraordinary achievement, happiness and lasting fulfillment. All it takes are small steps in the direction of our dreams. Like the Taj Mahal, a life overflowing with wonders is built day by day, block by block. Small victories lead to large victories. Tiny, incremental changes and improvements such as those I have suggested will create positive habits. Positive habits will create results. And results will inspire you towards greater personal change. Begin to live each day as if it was your last. Starting today, learn more, laugh more and do what you truly love to do. Do not be denied your destiny. For what lies behind you and what lies in front of you matters little when compared to what lies within you.'

   Without saying another word, Julian Mantle, the millionaire lawyer-turned enlightened monk, got up, embraced me like the brother he had never had and walked out of my living room into the thick heat of another scorching summer day. As I sat alone and collected my thoughts, I noticed that the only evidence I could find of this sage messenger's extraordinary visit sat silently on the coffee table in front of me. It was his empty cup.


Chapter 13 Action Summary • Julian's Wisdom in a Nutshell 


The Virtue               Embrace the Present


The Wisdom         • Live in the 'now'. Savor the gift of the present 

                               • Never sacrifice happiness for achievement

                               • Savor the journey and live each day as your last


The Techniques    • Live Your Childrens' Childhood

                               • Practice Gratitude

                               • Grow Your Destiny


Quotable Quote        We are all here for some special reason. Stop being a prisoner                                            of your past. Become the architect of your future.




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