A Most Extraordinary Garden

 


CHAPTER 7

A Most Extraordinary Garden


Most people live— whether physically, intellectually or morally— in a very restricted circle of their potentialbeing. We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon ofwhich we do not dream.

- William James

'In the fable, the garden is a symbol for the mind,' said Julian. 'If you care for your mind, if you nurture it and if you cultivate it just like a fertile, rich garden, it will blossom far beyond your expectations. But if you let the weeds take root, lasting peace of mind and deep inner harmony will always elude you.

   'John, let me ask you a simple question. If I went into your backyard where you have that garden you used to tell me so much about and threw toxic waste over all your prized petunias, you wouldn't be thrilled, would you?'

   'Agreed.'

   'As a matter of fact, most good gardeners guard their gardens like proud soldiers and make certain that no contamination ever enters. Yet look at the toxic waste that most people put into the fertile garden of their minds every single day: the worries and anxieties, the fretting about the past, the brooding over the future and those self-created fears that wreak havoc within your inner world. In the native language of the Sages of Sivana, which has existed for thousands of years, the written character for worry is strikingly similar to the character symbolizing a funeral pyre. Yogi Raman told me that this was no mere coincidence. Worry drains the mind of much of its power and, sooner or later, it injures the soul.'

   'To live life to the fullest, you must stand guard at the gate of your garden and let only the very best information enter. You truly cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought—not even one. The most joyful, dynamic and contented people of this world are no different from you or me in terms of their makeup. We are all flesh and bones. We all come from the same universal source. However, the ones who do more than just exist, the ones who fan the flames of their human potential and truly savor the magical dance of life do different things than those whose lives are ordinary. Foremost amongst the things that they do is adopt a positive paradigm about their world and all that is in it.'

   Julian added: 'The sages taught me that on an average day the average person runs about sixty thousand thoughts through his mind. What really amazed me though, was that ninety-five percent of those thoughts were the same as the ones you thought the day before!'

   'Are you serious?' I asked.

   'Very. This is the tyranny of impoverished thinking. Those people who think the same thoughts every day, most of them negative, have fallen into bad mental habits. Rather than focusing on all the good in their lives and thinking of ways to make things even better, they are captives of their pasts. Some of them worry about failed relationships or financial problems. Others fret over their less-than-perfect childhoods. Still others brood over more trifling matters: the way a store clerk might have treated them or the comment of a co-worker that smacked of ill-will. Those who run their minds in this fashion are allowing worry to rob them of their life force. They are blocking the enormous potential of their minds to work magic and deliver into their lives all that they want, emotionally, physically and, yes, even spiritually. These people never realize that mind management is the essence of life management.

   'The way you think stems from habit, pure and simple,' Julian continued with conviction. 'Most people just don't realize the enormous power of their minds. I have learned that even the best-conditioned thinkers are using only 1/100th of a percent of their mental reserves. In Sivana, the sages dared to explore the untapped potential of their mental capacity on a regular basis. And the results were astounding. Yogi Raman, through regular and disciplined practice, had conditioned his mind so that he was able to slow down his heartbeat at will. He had even trained himself to go for weeks without sleep. While I would never suggest that these should be goals for you to aspire to, I do suggest that you start to see your mind for what it is — nature's greatest gift.'

   'Are there some exercises I can do to unlock this mind power? Being able to slow down my heartbeat would definitely make me a hit on the cocktail-party circuit,' I suggested cheekily.

   'Don't worry about that now, John. I'll give you some practical techniques that you can try later that will show you the power of this ancient technology. For now, what is important is that you understand that mental mastery comes through conditioning, nothing more and nothing less. Most of us have the same raw materials from the moment we take our first breath of air; what separates those people who achieve more than others or those that are happier than others is the way that they use and refine these raw materials. When you dedicate yourself to transforming your inner world your life quickly shifts from the ordinary into the realm of the extraordinary.'

   My teacher was growing more excited by the moment. His eyes seemed to twinkle as he spoke of the magic of the mind and the wealth of goodness it would surely bring.

   'You know John, when all is said and done, there is only one thing that we have absolute dominion over.'

   'Our kids?' I said, smiling good-naturedly.

   'No, my friend — our minds. We might not be able to control the weather or the traffic or the moods of all those around us. But, we most certainly can control our attitude towards these events. We all have the power to determine what we will think about in any given moment. This ability is part of what makes us human. You see, one of the fundamental gems of worldly wisdom I have learned in my travels to the East is also one of the most simple.'

   Julian then paused as if to summon up a priceless gift.

   'And what might that be?'

   'There is no such thing as objective reality or 'the real world.'

   There are no absolutes. The face of your greatest enemy might be the face of my finest friend. An event that appears to be a tragedy to one might reveal the seeds of unlimited opportunity to another. What really separates people who are habitually upbeat and optimistic from those who are consistently miserable is how the circumstances of life are interpreted and processed.'

   'Julian, how could a tragedy be anything but a tragedy?'

   'Here's a quick example. When I was travelling through Calcutta, I met a schoolteacher named Malika Chand. She loved teaching and treated her students as she would her own children, nurturing their potential with great kindness. Her perennial motto was 'Your I can is more important than your I.Q. ' She was known throughout her community as a person who lived to give, who selflessly served anyone in need. Sadly, her beloved school, which had stood as a silent witness to the delightful progress of generations of children, succumbed to the flames of a fire set by an arsonist one night. All those in the community felt this great loss. But as time passed, their anger gave way to apathy and they resigned themselves to the fact that their children would be without a school.'

   'What about Malika?'

   'She was different, an eternal optimist if there ever was one. Unlike everyone around her, she perceived opportunity in what had happened. She told all the parents that every setback offers an equivalent benefit if they took the time to search for it. This event was a gift in disguise. The school that burned to the ground was old and decrepit. The roof leaked and the floor had finally buckled under the strain of a thousand little feet scampering across its surface. This was the chance that they had been waiting for to join hands as a community and build a much better school, one that would serve many more children in the years to come. And so, with this sixty-four-year-old dynamo behind them, they marshalled their collective resources and raised enough funds to build a sparkling new school, one that stood as a shining example of the power of vision in the face of adversity.'

   'So it's like that old adage about seeing the cup as half full rather than half empty?'

   'That's a fair way to look at it. No matter what happens to you in your life, you alone have the capacity to choose your response to it. When you form the habit of searching for the positive in every circumstance, your life will move into its highest dimensions. This is one of the greatest of all the natural laws.'

    'And it all starts with using your mind more effectively?'

   'Exactly, John. All success in life, whether material or spiritual, starts with that twelve-pound mass sitting between your shoulders. Or more specifically, with the thoughts that you put into your mind every second of every minute of every day. Your outer world reflects the state of your inner world. By controlling the thoughts that you think and the way you respond to the events of your life, you begin to control your destiny.'

    'This makes so much sense, Julian. I guess my life has become so busy that I have never taken the time to think about these things. When I was in law school, my best friend Alex used to love reading inspirational books. He said that they kept him motivated and energized in the face of our crushing workload. I remember him telling me that one of them said that the Chinese character for 'crisis' is comprised of two sub-characters: one that spells 'danger' and another that spells 'opportunity.' I guess that even the ancient Chinese knew that there is a bright side to the darkest circumstance — if you have the courage to look for it.'

   'Yogi Raman put it this way: 'There are no mistakes in life, only lessons. There is no such thing as a negative experience, only opportunities to grow, learn and advance along the road of self-mastery. From struggle comes strength. Even pain can be a wonderful teacher.' '

   'Pain?' I protested.

   'Absolutely. To transcend pain, you must first experience it. Or to put it another way, how can you really know the joy of being on the summit of the mountain unless you have first visited the lowest valley. Get my point?'

   'To savor the good one must know the bad?'

   'Yes. But I suggest that you stop judging events as either positive or negative. Rather, simply experience them, celebrate them and learn from them. Every event offers you lessons. These little lessons fuel your inner and outer growth. Without them, you would be stuck on a plateau. Just think about it in your own life. Most people have grown the most from their most challenging experiences. And if you meet with an outcome you did not expect and feel a little disappointed, remember that the laws of nature always ensure that when one door closes another opens.'

   Julian started to raise his arms in excitement, much as a Southern minister might while preaching to his congregation. 'Once you consistently apply this principle to your daily life and start to condition your mind to translate every event into a positive, empowering one, you will banish worry forever. You will stop being a prisoner of your past. Instead, you will become the architect of your future.'

   'Okay, I understand the concept. Every experience, even the worst, offers me a lesson. Therefore, I should open my mind to the learning in every event. In this way, I will grow stronger and happier. What else might a humble, middle-class lawyer do to improve things?'

   'First of all, begin to live out of the glory of your imagination, not your memory.'

   'Run that one by me again.'

   'All I'm saying is that to liberate the potential of your mind, body and soul, you must first expand your imagination. You see, things are always created twice: first in the workshop of the mind and then, and only then, in reality. I call the process 'blueprinting' because anything that you create in your outer world began as a simple blueprint in your inner world, on the lush picture screen of your mind. When you learn to take control of your thoughts and vividly imagine all that you desire from this worldly existence in a state of total expectancy, dormant forces will awaken inside you. You will begin to unlock the true potential of your mind to create the kind of magical life that I believe you deserve. From tonight onwards, forget about the past. Dare to dream that you are more than the sum of your current circumstances. Expect the best. You will be astonished at the results.

   'You know, John, all those years in the legal profession I thought I knew so much. I spent years studying at the finest schools, reading all the law books I could get my hands on and working with the best role models. Sure, I was a winner at the game of law. Yet I how realize I was losing in the game of life. I was so busy chasing the big pleasures of life that I missed out on all the little ones. I never read those great books my father used to tell me to read. I haven't built any great friendships. I've never learned to appreciate great music. Having said this, I really think I am one of the lucky ones. My heart attack was my defining moment, my personal wake-up call, if you will. Believe it or not, it gave me a second chance to live a richer, more inspired life. Like Malika Chand, I saw the seeds of opportunity in my painful experience. More importantly, I had the courage to nourish them.'

    I could see that while Julian had grown younger on the outside he had grown far wiser within. I realized that this evening was more than just a fascinating conversation with an old friend. I realized that tonight could be ray own defining moment and a clear chance for a new beginning. My mind started to consider all that was wrong in my own life. Sure I had a great family and a stable job as a well-regarded lawyer. Yet in my quiet moments I knew there had to be more. I had to fill that emptiness that was starting to envelope my life.

   When I was a kid, I dreamed such great dreams. Often, I visualized myself as a sports hero or as a business tycoon. I really believed that I could do, have and be whatever I wanted to be. I also remembered the way I used to feel as a young boy growing up on the sun-splashed west coast. Fun came in the form of simple pleasures. Fun was spending a glorious afternoon skinny-dipping or riding through the woods on my bicycle. I had such a curiosity for life. I was an adventurer. There were no limits on what my future could bring. I honestly don't think I have felt that kind of freedom and joy for fifteen years. What happened?

    Perhaps I lost sight of my dreams when I became an adult and resigned myself to acting the way adults were supposed to act. Maybe I lost sight of them when I went to law school and started talking like lawyers were supposed to talk. In any event, that evening with Julian at my side, pouring his heart out over a cup of cold tea, made me resolve to stop spending so much time making a living and to spend far more time creating a life.

    'Looks like I have you thinking about your life also,' Julian observed. 'Start thinking about your dreams for a change, just like when you were a little child. Jonas Salk said it best when he wrote: 'I have had dreams and I have had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.' Dare to dust off your dreams John. Start to revere life again and celebrate all of its wonders. Awaken yourself to the power of your own mind to make things happen. Once you do, the universe will conspire with you to work magic in your life.'

    Julian then reached into the depths of his robe and pulled out a little card, about the size of a business card, which had tears along its sides, apparently the result of many months of constant use.

   'One day, while Yogi Raman and I were walking along a quiet mountain path, I asked him who his favorite philosopher was. He told me that he had many influences in his life, and it was difficult for him to single out any one source for his inspiration. There was one quotation, however, that he carried deep within his heart; one that encapsulated all the values he had come to cherish over a life spent in quiet contemplation. At that glorious place, deep within the middle of nowhere, this learned sage of the East shared it with me. I too etched its words into my heart. They serve as a daily reminder of all that we are—and all that we can be. The words came from the great Indian philosopher Patanjali. Repeating them aloud every morning before I sit down to meditate has had a very profound influence on the course of my day. Remember, John, words are the verbal embodiment of power.'

   Julian then showed me the card. The quotation read:

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

   In that instant, I saw the connection between physical vitality and mental agility. Julian was in picture-perfect health and looked many years younger than he had when we had first met. He brimmed with vibrancy and it appeared that his energy, enthusiasm and optimism knew no bounds. I could see that he had made many changes to his former lifestyle, but it was obvious that the starting point of his magnificent transformation was mental fitness. Success on the outside indeed begins with success on the inside, and by changing his thoughts, Julian Mantle had changed his life.

   'Exactly how can I develop this positive, serene and inspired attitude, Julian? After all these years in my routine, I think my mental muscles have grown a little flabby. Come to think of it, I have very little control over the thoughts that are floating around the garden of my mind,' I said with sincerity.

   'The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. If you have become a negative thinker, this is because you have not cared for your mind and taken the time to train it to focus on the good. Winston Churchill said that 'the price of greatness is, responsibility over each of your thoughts.' Then you will install the vibrant mindset you are looking for. Remember, the mind truly is like any other muscle in your body. Use it or lose it.'

   'Are you saying that if I don't exercise my mind it will grow weak?'

   'Yes. Look at it this way. If you want to strengthen the muscles of your arm to achieve more, you must train them. If you want to toughen up your leg muscles, you must first exert them. Similarly, your mind will do wonderful things for you if only you will let it. It will attract all that you desire into your life, once you learn how to operate it effectively. It will create ideal health if you care for it properly. And it will return to its natural state of peacefulness and tranquility — if you have the vision to ask for it. The Sages of Sivana have a very special saying: 'The boundaries of your life are merely creations of the self.''

   'I don't think I understand that one, Julian.'

   'Enlightened thinkers know that their thoughts form their world and the quality of one's life comes down to the richness of one's thoughts. If you want to live a more peaceful, meaningful life, you must think more peaceful, meaningful thoughts.'

   'Hit me with the quick-fix, Julian.'

   'What do you mean?' Julian asked gently, running his bronzed fingers along the front of his brilliantly textured robe.

   'I'm excited about what you are telling me. But I'm an impatient guy. Don't you have any exercises or techniques that I can use right now, here in my own living room, to change the way I run my mind?'

   'Quick-fixes do not work. All lasting inner change requires time and effort. Persistence is the mother of personal change. I'm not saying that it will take years to make profound changes in your life. If you diligently apply the strategies I am sharing with you every day for only one month, you will be astonished at the results. You will begin to tap into the highest levels of your own capacity and enter the realm of the miraculous. But to reach this destination, you must not get hung up on the outcome. Instead, enjoy the process of personal expansion and growth. Ironically, the less you focus on the end result, the quicker it will come.'

   'How so?'

   'It's like that classic story of the young boy who travelled far from his home to study under a great teacher. When he met the wise old man, his first question was, 'How long will it take me before I am as wise as you?'

   'The response came swiftly, 'Five years.'

   ''This is a very long time,' the boy replied. 'How about if I work twice as hard?'

   ''Then it will take ten,' said the master.

   ''Ten! That's far too long. How about if I studied all day and well into the night, every night?'

   ''Fifteen years,' said the sage.

   ''I don't understand,' replied the boy. 'Every time I promise to devote more energy to my goal, you tell me that it will take longer.

   Why?'

   ''The answer is simple. With one eye fixed on the destination, there is only one left to guide you along the journey''

   'Point well taken, counselor,' I conceded graciously. 'Sounds like the story of my life.'

   'Be patient and live with the knowledge that all you are searching for is certain to come if you prepare for it and expect it.'

   'But I've never been the lucky sort, Julian. All that I have ever received has come through sheer persistence.'

   'What is luck, my friend?' Julian replied kindly. 'It is nothing more than the marriage of preparation with opportunity.'

   Julian added softly: 'Before I give you the precise methods passed on to me by the Sages of Sivana, I must first share a couple of key principles. First, always remember that concentration is at the root of mental mastery.'

   'Seriously?'

   'I know. It surprised me too. But it is true. The mind can accomplish extraordinary things, you have learned this. The very fact that you have a desire or a dream means that you have the corresponding capacity to realize it. This is one of the great universal truths known to the Sages of Sivana. However, to liberate the power of the mind, you must first be able to harness it and direct its focus only to the task at hand. The moment you concentrate the focus of your mind on a singular purpose, extraordinary gifts will appear within your life.'

   'Why is it so important to have a concentrated mind?'

   'Let me offer you a riddle that will answer your question nicely. Say you were lost in the woods in the middle of the winter. You desperately needed to stay warm. All you have in your knapsack is a letter your best friend had sent to you, a tin of tuna and a small magnifying glass that you carry to compensate for your fading eyesight. Luckily, you managed to find some dry kindling wood, but unfortunately you have no matches. How would you light the fire?'

   Good grief. Julian had stumped me. I had no idea what the answer was.

   'I give up.'

   'It's very simple. Place the letter amongst the dry wood and hold the magnifying glass over it. The rays of the sun will be focused so as to ignite the fire within a matter of seconds.'

   'And what about the can of tuna?'

   'Oh, I just threw that in to distract you from the obvious solution,' Julian replied with a smile. 'But the essence of the example is this: putting the letter over the dry wood would produce no result. Yet, the second you use the magnifying glass to concentrate the scattered rays of the sun onto the letter, it will ignite. This analogy holds true for the mind. When you concentrate its tremendous power on definite, meaningful objectives, you will quickly ignite the flames of your personal potential and produce startling results.'

   'Like what?' I asked.

   'Only you can answer this question. What is it that you are searching for? Do you want to be a better father and live a more balanced, rewarding life? Do you desire more spiritual fulfillment?

   Is it adventure and fun that you feel you are lacking? Give it some thought.'

   'How about eternal happiness?'

   'Go big or stay home,' he chuckled, 'Nothing like starting off small. Well, you can have that too.'

   'How?'

   'The Sages of Sivana have known the secret of happiness for over five thousand years. Fortunately, they were willing to share this gift with me. Do you want to hear it?'

   'No, I thought I'd take a break and go wallpaper the garage first.'

   'Huh?'

   'Of course I want to hear the secret of eternal happiness, Julian. Isn't that what everyone is searching for, ultimately?'

   'True. Well here it is . . . could I trouble you for another cup of tea?'

   'C'mon, quit stalling.'

   'Alright, the secret of happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do and then direct all of your energy towards doing it. If you study the happiest, healthiest, most satisfied people of our world, you will see that each and every one of them has found their passion in life, and then spent their days pursuing it. This calling is almost always one that, in some way, serves others. Once you are concentrating your mind power and energy on a pursuit that you love, abundance flows into your life, and all your desires are fulfilled with ease and grace.'

   'So simply figure out what turns you on and then do it?'

   'If it is a worthy pursuit,' Julian replied.

   'How do you define 'worthy'?'

   'As I said, John, your passion must, in some way, improve or serve the lives of others. 'Victor Frankl said it more elegantly than I ever could when he wrote: 'Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued. It must ensue. And it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.' Once you find out what your life's work is, your world will come alive. You will wake up every morning with a limitless reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. All your thoughts will be focused on your definite objective. You won't have time to waste time. Valuable mental power will, therefore, not be wasted on trifling thoughts. You will automatically erase the worry habit and become far more effective and productive. Interestingly, you will also have a deep sense of inner harmony, as if you are somehow being guided to realize your mission. It is a wonderful feeling. I love it,' Julian offered gleefully.

   'Fascinating. And I like the part about getting up feeling good. To be really honest with you, Julian, most days I wish I could just stay under the covers. It would be so much better than facing the traffic, the angry clients, the aggressive opponents and the ceaseless flow of negative influences. It all makes me feel so tired.'

   'Do you know why most people sleep so much?'

   'Why?'

   'Because they really don't have anything else to do. Those who rise with the sun all have one thing in common.'

   'Insanity?'

   'Very funny. No, they all have a purpose that fans the flames of their inner potential. They are driven by their priorities, but not in an unhealthy, obsessive way. It is more effortless and gentle than that. And given their enthusiasm and love for what they are doing in their lives, such people live in the moment. Their attention is fully and completely on the task at hand. Therefore, there are no energy leaks. These people are the most vibrant and vital individuals you will ever have the good fortune to meet.'

   'Energy leaks? Sounds a little New Agey, Julian. I'll bet you didn't learn that one at Harvard Law School.'

   'True. The Sages of Sivana pioneered that concept. Though it has been around for centuries, its application is just as relevant today as it was when it was first developed. Too many of us are consumed by needless and endless worry. This drains us of our natural vitality and energy. Have you ever seen the inner tube of a bicycle tire?'

   'Of course.'

   'When it is fully inflated, it can easily take you to your destination. But if there are leaks in it, the tube eventually deflates, and your journey comes to an abrupt end. This is also how the mind works. Worry causes your precious mental energy and potential to leak, just like air leaking out of an inner tube. Soon, you have no energy left. All of your creativity, optimism and motivation has been drained, leaving you exhausted.'

   'I know the feeling. I often spend my days in the chaos of crisis. I have to be everywhere at once and I can't seem to please anyone. On those days, I notice that even though I have done very little physical labor, all my worrying leaves me totally deflated by the end of the day. About the only thing I can do when I get home is pour myself a scotch and cuddle up with the remote control.'

   'Exactly. Too much stress does this to you. Once you find your purpose, however, life becomes much easier and far more rewarding. When you figure out what your main aim or destiny really is, you will never have to work another day in your life.'

   'Early retirement?'

   'No,' said Julian in the no-nonsense tone he had mastered during his days as an eminent lawyer. 'Your work will be play.'

   'Wouldn't it be a little risky for me to give up my job to start searching for my overriding passion and purpose? I mean, I have a family and real obligations. I have four people who depend on me.'

   'I'm not saying you that have to leave the legal profession tomorrow. You will, however, have to start taking risks. Shake up your life a bit. (Jet rid of the cobwebs. Take the road less travelled. Most people live within the confines of their comfort zone. Yogi Raman was the first person to explain to me that the best thing you can do for yourself is regularly move beyond it. This is the way to lasting personal mastery and to realize the true potential of your human endowments.'

   'And what might those be?'

   'Your mind, your body and your soul.'

   'So what risks should I take?'

   'Stop being so practical. Start doing the things you have always wanted to do. I have known lawyers who have quit their jobs to become stage actors and accountants who have become jazz musicians. In the process, they have found the deep happiness that had eluded them for so long. So what if they could no longer afford two vacations a year and a posh summer home in the Caymans? Calculated risk taking will pay huge dividends. How will you ever get to third base with one foot on second?'

   'I see your point.'

   'So take the time to think. Discover your real reason for being here and then have the courage to act on it.'

   'With due respect, Julian, all I do is think. As a matter of fact, part of my problem is that I think too much. My mind never stops. It is filled with mental chatter — it drives me crazy sometimes.'

   'What I'm suggesting is different. The Sages of Sivana all took time daily to silently contemplate not only where they were, but where they were going. They took the time to reflect on their purpose and how they were living their lives, every day. Most importantly, they thought deeply and genuinely about how they would improve the next day. Daily incremental improvements produce lasting results which, in turn, lead to positive change.'

   'So I should take the time to reflect on my life regularly?'

   'Yes. Even ten minutes of focused reflection a day will have a profound impact on the quality of your life.'

   'I understand where you are coming from, Julian. The problem is, once my day gets cranking, I can't even find ten minutes to eat lunch.'

   'My friend, saying that you don't have time to improve your thoughts and your life is like saying you don't have time to stop for gas because you are too busy driving. Eventually it will catch up with you.'

   'Yeah, I know. Hey, you were going to share some techniques with me, Julian,' I said, hoping to learn some practical ways to apply the wisdom I was hearing.

   'There is one technique for mastering the mind which towers above all the rest. It is a favorite of the Sages of Sivana who taught it to me with great faith and trust. After practicing it for only twenty-one days I felt more energetic, enthusiastic and vibrant than I had felt in years. The practice is over four thousand years old. It is called The Heart of the Rose.'

   'Tell me more.'

   'All that you need to perform this exercise is a fresh rose and a silent place. Natural surroundings are best but a quiet room will also do nicely. Start to stare at the center of the rose, its heart. Yogi Raman told me that a rose is very much like life: you will meet thorns along the way but if you have faith and believe in your dreams you will eventually move beyond the thorns into the glory of the flower. Keep staring at the rose. Notice its color, texture and design. Savor its fragrance and think only about this wonderful object in front of you. At first, other thoughts will start entering your mind, distracting you from the heart of the rose. This is the mark of an untrained mind. But you need not worry, improvement will come quickly. Simply return your attention to the object of your focus. Soon your mind will grow strong and disciplined.'

   'That's all there is to it? It sounds pretty easy.'

   'That is the beauty of it, John,' Julian replied. 'However, this ritual must be performed daily for it to be effective. For the first few days, you will find it difficult to spend even five minutes in this exercise. Most of us live at such a frenetic pace that true stillness and silence is something foreign and uncomfortable. Most people hearing my words will say that they have no time to sit and stare at a flower. These are the same people that will tell you that they have no time to enjoy the laughter of children or to walk barefoot in the rain. These people say they are too busy to do such things. They don't even have time to build friendships, for friendships also take time.'

   'You know a lot about such people.'

   'I was one of them,' said Julian. He then paused and sat still, his intense gaze riveted on the grandfather clock my grandmother had given Jenny and I as a housewarming present. 'When I think of those who live their lives this way, I remember the words of an old British novelist whose work my father loved to read: 'One must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind him to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle — and a mystery.'

   'Persist and spend longer and longer periods savoring the heart of the rose,' Julian continued in his throaty tone. 'After a week or two you should be able to perform the technique for twenty minutes without your mind wandering onto other subjects. This will be your first indication that you are taking back control of the fortress of your mind. It will then focus only on what you command it to focus on. It will then be a wonderful servant, able to do extraordinary things for you. Remember, either you control your mind or it controls you.'

   'Practically speaking, you will notice that you will feel far calmer. You will have taken a significant step towards erasing the worry habit that plagues most of the population and you will enjoy more energy and optimism. Most importantly, you will also observe a sense of joyfulness entering your life along with an ability to appreciate the many gifts that surround you. Each day, no matter how busy you get and how many challenges you might face, return to the Heart of the Rose. It is your oasis. It is your silent retreat. It is your island of peace. Never forget that there is power in silence and stillness. Stillness is the stepping stone to connecting with t h e universal source of intelligence that throbs through every living thing.'

   I was fascinated by what I had heard. Could it really be possible to profoundly improve the quality of my life with such a simple strategy?

   'There must be more to the dramatic changes I see in you than the Heart of the Rose.' I wondered aloud.

   'Yes. This is true. In fact, my transformation came about as a result of using a number of highly effective strategies in concert. Don't worry, they are all just as simple as the exercise I have just shared with you — and equally as powerful. The key for you, John, is to open your mind to your potential for living a life rich with possibilities.'

   Julian, ever the fountain of knowledge, continued to reveal what he had learned in Sivana. 'Another particularly good technique for ridding the mind of worry and other negative, life-draining influences is based on what Yogi Raman called Opposition Thinking. I learned that under the grand laws of Nature, the mind can only hold one thought at any one time. Try it yourself John, you will see that it is true.'

   I did try it and it is true.

   'Using this little-known information, anyone can easily create a positive, creative mindset within a short period. The process is straightforward: when an undesirable thought occupies the focal point of your mind, immediately replace it with a uplifting one. It's as if your mind is a giant slide projector, with every thought in your mind being a slide. Whenever a negative slide comes up on the screen, take swift action to replace it with a positive one.

   'This is where the prayer beads around my neck come in,' Julian added with rising enthusiasm. 'Every time I catch myself thinking a negative thought, I take this necklace off and remove another bead. These beads of worry go into a cup I keep in my knapsack. Together they serve as gentle reminders that I still have a distance to travel on the road to mental mastery and responsibility over the thoughts that fill my mind.'

   'Hey, that's a great one! This is really practical stuff I have never heard anything quite like it. Tell me more about this philosophy of Opposition Thinking.'

   'Here's a real-life example. Let's say you have had a tough day in court. The judge disagreed with your interpretation of the law, the litigator on the other side belonged in a cage, and your client was more than a little annoyed with your performance. You come home and fall into your favorite chair, full of gloom. Step one is to become aware that you are thinking these uninspiring thoughts. Self-knowledge is the stepping stone to self-mastery. Step two is to appreciate once and for all that just as easily as you allowed those gloomy thoughts to enter, you can replace them with cheerful ones. So think of the opposite of gloom. Concentrate on being cheerful and energetic. Feel that you are happy. Perhaps you might even start to smile. Move your body as you do when you are joyful and full of enthusiasm. Sit up straight, breathe deeply and train the power of your mind on positive thoughts. You will notice a remarkable difference in the way you feel within minutes. Even more importantly, if you keep up your practice of Opposition Thinking, applying it to every negative thought that habitually visits your mind, within weeks you will see that they no longer hold any power. Do you see what I'm getting at?'

   Julian continued his explanation: 'Thoughts are vital, living things, little bundles of energy, if you will. Most people don't give any thought to the nature of their thoughts and yet, the quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life. Thoughts are just as much a part of the material world as the lake you swim in or the street you walk on. Weak minds lead to weak actions. A strong, disciplined mind, which anyone can cultivate through daily practice, can achieve miracles. If you want to live life to the fullest, care for your thoughts as you would your most prized possessions. Work hard to remove all inner turbulence. The rewards will be abundant.'

   'I never saw thoughts as living, things Julian,' I replied, amazed at this discovery. 'But I can see how they influence every element of my world.'

   'The Sages of Sivana firmly believed that one should only think 'Sattvic' or pure thoughts. They arrived at such a state through the techniques I have just shared with you along with other practices such as a natural diet, the repetition of positive affirmations or 'mantras' as they called them, reading books rich with wisdom and by constantly ensuring that their company was enlightened. If even one impure thought entered the temple of their minds they would punish themselves by travelling many miles to an imposing waterfall and standing under the ice-cold water until they could no longer bear the frigid temperature.'

   'I thought you told me these sages were wise. Standing under an ice-cold waterfall deep in the Himalayan mountains for thinking one little negative thought strikes me as extreme behavior.'

   Julian was lightning fast in his response, the result of his many years as a world-class legal warrior: 'John, I'll be blunt. You truly cannot afford the luxury of even one negative thought.'

   'Really?'

   'Really. A worrisome thought is like an embryo: it starts off small but grows and grows. Soon it takes on a life of its own.'

   Julian stopped for a moment and then smiled. 'Sorry if I seem a little evangelistic when I speak on this subject, on the philosophy I learned on my journey. It's just that I have discovered tools that can improve the lives of many people, people who feel unfulfilled, uninspired and unhappy. A few adjustments in their daily routines to include the Heart of the Rose technique and a constant application of Opposition Thinking will give them the lives they want. I think they deserve to know this.

   'Before I move from the garden to the next element of Yogi Raman's mystical fable, I must let you know of one more secret which will offer you great aid in your personal growth. This secret is based on the ancient principle that everything is always created twice, first in the mind and then in reality. I have shared already that thoughts are things, material messengers that we send out to influence our physical world. I have also informed you that if you hope to make remarkable improvements in your outer world you must first start within and change the caliber of your thoughts.

  'The Sages of Sivana had a wonderful way to ensure that their thoughts were pure and wholesome. This technique was also highly effective in manifesting their desires, however simple, into reality. The method will work for anyone. It will work for a young lawyer who seeks financial abundance just as it will work for a mother seeking a richer family life or a salesperson seeking to close more sales. The technique was known to the sages as the Secret of the Lake. To apply it, these teachers would rise at 4:00 a.m., as they felt that the early morning possessed magical qualities from which they could benefit. The sages would then travel along a series of steep and narrow mountain paths which eventually led them to the lower reaches of the region they inhabited. Once there, they would walk along a barely visible trail lined with magnificent pine trees and exotic flowers until they arrived at a clearing. At the edge of the clearing was an aqua blue lake covered by thousands of tiny white lotuses. The water of the lake was strikingly still and calm. It was truly a miraculous sight. The sages told me that this lake had been a friend to their ancestors over the ages.'

   'What was the Secret of the Lake?' I asked impatiently.

   Julian explained that the sages would look into the waters of the still lake and envision their dreams becoming reality. If it was the virtue of discipline they wished to cultivate within their lives they would picture themselves getting up at dawn, performing their rigorous physical regimen without fail and spending days in silence to enhance their willpower. If it was more joy they were seeking, they would look into the lake and envision themselves laughing uncontrollably or smiling each time they met one of their brothers or sisters. If it was courage they desired, they would picture themselves acting with strength in the moment of crisis and challenge.

   'Yogi Raman once told me that as a boy, he lacked confidence as he was smaller than the other boys his age. While they were kind and gentle to him given their environmental influences, he grew insecure and shy. To cure this weakness, Yogi Raman would travel to this heavenly spot and use the lake as a picture screen for images of the person he hoped to be. Some days he would visualize himself as a strong leader, standing tall and speaking with a powerful, commanding voice. Other days he would see himself as he wished to be when he grew older: a wise sage filled with tremendous inner strength and character. All the virtues he wished to have in his life, he saw first on the surface of the lake.

   'Within a matter of months, Yogi Raman became the person whom he mentally saw himself becoming. You see, John, the mind works through pictures. Pictures affect your self-image and your self-image affects the way you feel, act and achieve. If your self-image tells you that you are too young to be a successful lawyer or too old to change your habits for the better, you never will achieve these goals. If your self-image tells you that lives rich with purpose, excellent health and happiness are only for people from backgrounds other than your own, this prophecy will ultimately become your reality.

   'But when you run inspiring, imaginative pictures through the movie screen of your mind, wonderful things start to happen in your life. Einstein said that 'imagination is more important than knowledge.' You must spend some time every day, even if it is just a few minutes, in the practice of creative envisioning. See yourself as you want to be, whether this means serving as a great judge, a great father or a great citizen of your community.'

   'Do I have to find a special lake to apply the Secret of the Lake?' I asked innocently.

   'No. The Secret of the Lake was simply the sages' name for the ageless technique of using positive images to influence the mind. You can practice this method in your own living room or even at the office if you really want to. Shut your door, hold all calls and close your eyes. Then take a few deep breaths. You will notice that after two or three minutes you will start to feel relaxed. Next, visualize mental pictures of all that you want to be, to have and to attain in your life. If you want to be the world's best father, envision yourself laughing and playing with your kids, responding to their questions with an open heart. Picture yourself acting gracefully and lovingly in a tense situation. Mentally rehearse the way you will govern your actions when a similar scene unfolds on the canvas of reality.

   'The magic of visualization can be applied to so many situations. You can use it to be more effective in court, to enhance your relationships and to develop yourself spiritually. Consistent use of this method will also bring you financial rewards along with an abundance of material gain, if this is important to you. Understand once and for all that your mind has magnetic power to attract all that you desire into your life. If there is a lack in your life it is because there is a lack in your thoughts. Hold wonderful pictures in your mind's eye. Even one negative image is poisonous to your mindset. Once you start to experience the joy this ancient technique brings, you will realize the infinite potential of your mind and begin to liberate the storehouse of ability and energy that currently sleeps within you.'

   It was as if Julian was speaking a foreign tongue. I had never heard anyone speak of the magnetic power of the mind to attract spiritual and material abundance. Nor had I ever heard anyone speak of the power of imaging and its profound effects on every aspect of one's world. Yet, deep inside I had faith in what Julian was saying. This was a man whose judgment and intellectual abilities were impeccable. This was a man who was internationally respected for his legal acumen. This was a man who had walked down the path I was now journeying along. Julian had found something on his odyssey to the East, that much was clear. Looking at his physical vitality, his obvious tranquility, seeing his transformation confirmed that I would be wise to listen to his advice.

   The more I thought about what I was hearing the more sense it made. Surely the mind must have a great deal more potential than most of us are currently using. How else could mothers lift otherwise immovable cars to save their crying infants who had fallen underneath? How else could martial artists break stacks of bricks with one fell swoop of their hands? How else could the yogis of the East slow down their heartbeats at will or endure tremendous pain without blinking an eye? Maybe the real problem was within me and my lack of belief in the gifts that every being possesses. Perhaps this evening sitting alongside a former millionaire-lawyer turned monk of the Himalayas was a sort of wake-up call for me to start making the most of my life.

   'But doing these exercises at the office, Julian?' I responded. 'My partners think I'm strange enough as it is.'

   'Yogi Raman and all the kind sages with whom he lived, often used a saying that had been passed down to them through the generations. It is my privilege to pass it on to you, on what has become an important evening for both of us, if I may say so. The words are as follows: 'There is nothing noble about being superior to some other person. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.' All I'm really getting at is that if you want to improve your life and live with all that you deserve you must run your own race. It doesn't matter what other people say about you. What is important is what you say to yourself. Do not be concerned with the judgment of others as long as you know what you are doing is right. You can do whatever you want to do as long as it is correct according to your conscience and your heart. Never be ashamed of doing that which is right; decide on what you think is good and then stick to it. And for God's sake, never get into the petty habit of measuring your self-worth against other people's net worth. As Yogi Raman preached: 'Every second you spend thinking about someone else's dreams you take time away from your own.''

   It was now seven minutes past midnight. Remarkably, I didn't feel the least bit tired. When I shared this with Julian he smiled once again. 'You have learned yet another principle for enlightened living. For the most part, fatigue is a creation of the mind. Fatigue dominates the lives of those who are living without direction and dreams. Let me give you an example. Have you ever had an afternoon at the office where you were reading your dry case reports and your mind started to wander and you started to feel sleepy?'

   'From time to time,' I answered, not wishing to reveal the fact that this was my modus operandi. 'Sure, most of us feel drowsy at work on a regular basis.'

   'Yet, if a friend calls on the phone to ask you if you want to go out to the ball game that night or asks you for advice on his golf game, I have no doubt that you would spring to life. Every trace of your fatigue would vanish. Is that a fair assessment?'

   'That's fair, counselor.'

   Julian knew he was on a roll. 'So your tiredness was nothing more then a mental creation, a bad habit your mind has cultivated to act as a crutch when you are performing a tedious task. Tonight you are obviously enchanted with my story and keen to learn the wisdom that has been revealed to me. Your interest and mental focus give you energy. This evening, your mind has not been in the past nor has it been in the future. It has been squarely focused on the present, on our conversation. When you consistently direct your mind to live in the present you will always have boundless energy, no matter what time the clock reflects.'

   I nodded my head in agreement. Julian's wisdom seemed so obvious and yet so much of it had never occurred to me. I guess common sense is not always so common. I thought about what my father used to tell me when I was growing up: 'Only those who seek shall find.' I wished he was with me.


Chapter 7 Action Summary • Julian's Wisdom in a Nutshell

 

The Virtue           Master Your Mind


The Wisdom      • Cultivate your mind - it will blossom beyond your expectations

                           • The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your thoughts

                           • There are no mistakes - only lessons. See setbacks as opportunities                                  for personal expansion and spiritual growth

                           

The Techniques       • The Heart of the Rose

                                 • Opposition Thinking

                                 • The Secret of the Lake


Quotable Quote      The secret of happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do                                   and then direct all of your energy towards doing it. Once you do                                       this, abundance flows into your life and all your desires are filled                                        with  ease and grace.



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