The Ancient Art of Self-Leadership



 CHAPTER 9

The Ancient Art of Self-Leadership


Good people strengthen themselves ceaselessly.

- Confucius

'Time is passing quickly,' said Julian before pouring himself another cup of tea. 'The morning will soon be upon us. Do you want me to continue or have you had enough for one night?'

   There was no way that I was going to let this man, who held such gems of wisdom within his grasp, stop without completing his story. At the outset, his tale seemed fantastic. But as I listened to him, as I absorbed the ageless philosophy that had been bestowed upon him, I came to believe deeply in what he was saying. These were not the superficial self-serving ruminations of some two-bit huckster. Julian was the real thing. He clearly walked his talk. And his message rang true. I trusted him.

   'Please continue, Julian, I have all the time in the world. The kids are sleeping at their grandparents' house tonight, and Jenny won't be up for hours.'

   Sensing my sincerity, he continued with the symbolic fable that Yogi Raman had offered him to illustrate his wisdom on cultivating a richer, more radiant life.

   'I have told you that the garden represents the fertile garden of your mind, a garden that is filled with delightful treasures and boundless riches. I have also spoken of the lighthouse and how it represents the power of goals and the importance of discovering your calling in life. You will recall that as the fable continues, the door of the lighthouse slowly opens and out walks a nine-foot-tall, nine-hundred-pound Japanese sumo wrestler.'

   'Sounds like a bad Godzilla movie.'

   'I used to love those when I was a kid.'

   'Me too. But don't let me distract you,' I replied.

   'The sumo wrestler represents a very important element in the life-changing system of the Sages of Sivana. Yogi Raman told me that many centuries ago in the ancient East, the great teachers developed and refined a philosophy called kaizen. This Japanese word means constant and never-ending improvement. And it's the personal trademark of every man and woman who is living a soaring, fully awakened existence.'

   'How did the concept of kaizen enrich the lives of the sages?' I asked.

   'As I mentioned earlier, John, success on the outside begins with success on the inside. If you really want to improve your outer world, whether this means your health, your relationships or your finances, you must first improve your inner world. The most effective way to do this is through the practice of continuous self-improvement. Self-mastery is the DNA of life mastery.'

   'Julian, I hope you don't mind me saying it, but all this talk about one's 'inner world' sounds more than a little esoteric to me. Remember, I'm just a middle-class lawyer from the leafy suburbs with a minivan sitting in the driveway and a Lawn-Boy in the garage.

   'Look. Everything you have told me so far makes sense. As a matter of fact, much of what you have shared with me appears to be common sense, although I know that common sense is anything but common in this day and age. I must tell you though, I'm having a little difficulty with this notion of kaizen and improving my inner world. What exactly are we talking about here?'

   Julian was agile in his response. 'In our society, we all too often label the ignorant as weak. However, those who express their lack of knowledge and seek instruction find the path to enlightenment before anyone else. Your questions are honest and show me that you are open to fresh ideas. Change is the most powerful force in our society today. Most people fear it, the wise embrace it. Zen tradition speaks of a beginner's mind: those who keep their minds open to new concepts — those whose cups are always empty— will always move to higher levels of achievement and fulfillment. Never be reluctant to ask even the most basic of questions. Questions are the most effective method of eliciting knowledge.'

   'Thanks. But I still am unclear about kaizen.'

   'When I speak of improving your inner world, I am simply speaking of self-improvement and personal expansion and it is the best thing you can do for yourself. You might think that you are too busy to spend time working on yourself. This would be a very big mistake. You see, when you have taken the time to build a strong character full of discipline, energy, power and optimism, you can have anything and do anything you want in your outer world. When you have cultivated a deep sense of faith in your abilities and an indomitable spirit, nothing can stop you from succeeding in all your pursuits and living with great rewards. Taking the time to master your mind, to care for the body and to nourish your soul will put you in a position to develop more richness and vitality in your life. It is as Epictetus said so many years ago: 'No man is free who is not a master of himself.''

   'So kaizen is actually a very practical concept.'

   'Very. Think about it, John. How could a person possibly lead a corporation if he cannot even lead himself? How could you nurture a family if you haven't learned to nurture and care for yourself? How could you possibly do good if you don't even feel good? Do you see my point?'

   I nodded in full agreement. This was the first time I had given any serious thought to the importance of improving myself. I had always thought that all those people I would see on the subway reading books with titles like The Power of Positive Thinking or Mega Living! were troubled souls desperate for some form of medicine to get them back on course. Now I realized that those who took the time to strengthen themselves were the strongest and that it was only through improving one's self that one could ever hope to improve the lot of others. I then started to reflect on all the things I could improve. I really could use the added energy and good health that exercising would surely bring. Ridding myself of my nasty temper and my habit of interrupting others might do wonders for my relationship with my wife and kids. And erasing my worry habit would give me the peace of mind and deep happiness I had been searching for. The more I thought about it, the more potential improvements I saw.

   As I started to see all the positive things that would flood into my life through the cultivation of good habits, I grew excited. But I realized that Julian was talking about far more than the importance of daily exercise, a healthful diet and a balanced lifestyle. What he had learned in the Himalayas was deeper and more meaningful than this. He spoke of the importance of building strength of character, developing mental toughness and living with courage. He told me that these three attributes would lead one not only to a virtuous life but to a life filled with achievement, satisfaction and inner peace. Courage was a quality everyone could cultivate and one that would pay huge dividends over the long run.

   'What does courage have to do with self-leadership and personal development?' I wondered aloud.

   'Courage allows you to run your own race. Courage allows you to do whatever you want to do because you know that it is right. Courage gives you the self-control to persist where others have failed. Ultimately, the degree of courage you live with determines the amount of fulfillment you receive. It allows you to truly realize all the exquisite wonders of the epic that is your life. And those who master themselves have an abundance of courage.'

   'Okay. I am starting to understand the power of working on myself. Where do I start?' 

   Julian returned to his conversation with Yogi Raman high atop the mountains, on what he remembered as a remarkably starry and gloriously beautiful night.

   'Initially, I too had trouble with the notion of self-improvement. After all, I was a tough, Harvard-trained legal gunslinger who had no time for New Age theories forced on me by what I thought were people with bad haircuts who hung out at airports. I was wrong. It was this close-mindedness that was holding my life back all of those years. The more I listened to Yogi Raman and the more I reflected on the pain and suffering of my former world, the more I welcomed the philosophy of kaizen, constant and never-ending enrichment of the mind, body and soul, into my new life,' Julian asserted.

   'Why am I hearing so much about the 'mind, body and soul' these days? It seems I can't even turn on the tube without someone making mention of it.'

   'This is the trilogy of your human endowments. To improve your mind without the cultivation of your physical gifts would be a very hollow victory. Elevating your mind and body to their highest level without nurturing your soul would leave you feeling very empty and unfulfilled. But when you dedicate your energies to unlocking the full potential of all three of your human endowments, you will taste the divine ecstacy of an enlightened life.'

   'You've got me pretty excited, pal.'

   'As to your question about where to start, I promise that I will give you a number of ancient yet powerful techniques in a few moments. But first I must share a practical illustration with you. Get into push-up position.'

   'Good grief, Julian's become a drill sergeant,' I silently thought. Being curious and wishing to keep my cup empty, I complied.

   'Now do as many push-ups as you can possibly do. Don't stop until you truly are certain that you cannot do any more.'

   I struggled with the exercise, my two-hundred-and-fifteen-pound frame not being used to much more than walking to the nearest McDonald's with my kids or meandering through a round of golf with my law partners. The first fifteen push-ups were pure agony. With the heat of that summer evening adding to my discomfort, I started to sweat profusely. However, I was determined not to show any signs of weakness and carried on until my vanity started to give way along with my arms. At twenty-three push-ups I gave up.

   'No more, Julian. This is killing me. What are you trying to do here?'

   'Are you certain that you can't do any more?'

   'I'm sure. C'mon, give me a break. The only lesson I'm going to learn from this is what to do for a heart attack.'

   'Do ten more. Then you can rest,' commanded Julian.

   'You've got to be kidding!'

   But I continued. One. Two. Five. Eight. And finally ten. I lay on the floor in total exhaustion.

   'I went through precisely the same experience with Yogi Raman the night he shared his special fable with me,' said Julian.

   'He told me that pain was a great teacher.'

   'What could anyone possibly learn from an experience like this?' I asked breathlessly.

   'Yogi Raman, and all of the Sages of Sivana for that matter, believed that people grow the most when they enter the Zone of the Unknown.'

   'Okay. But what does that have to do with making me do all those push-ups?'

   'You told me after you had done twenty-three that you couldn't do any more. You told me that this was your absolute limit. Yet, when I challenged you to do more, you responded with another ten push-ups. You had more inside you and when you reached for your resources, you received more. Yogi Raman explained a fundamental truth to me whilst I was his student: 'The only limits on your life are those that you set yourself. 'When you dare to get out of your circle of comfort and explore the unknown, you start to liberate your true human potential. This is the first step towards self-mastery and mastery over every other circumstance in your life. When you push beyond your limits, just as you did in this little demonstration, you unlock mental and physical reserves that you never thought you had.'

   'Fascinating,' I thought. Come to think of it, I had recently read in a book that the average person uses only a minute measure of his human capacity. I wondered what we could do if we started using the remaining reservoir of our abilities.

   Julian sensed he was on a roll.

   'You practice the art of kaizen by pushing yourself daily. Work hard to improve your mind and body. Nourish your spirit. Do the things you fear. Start to live with unbridled energy and limitless enthusiasm. Watch the sun rise. Dance in a rain shower. Be the person you dream of being. Do the things you have always wanted to do but didn't because you tricked yourself into believing that you were too young, too old, too rich or too poor. Prepare to live a soaring, fully alive life. In the East they say that luck favors the prepared mind. I believe that life favors the prepared mind.'

   Julian continued his passionate discourse. 'Identify the things that are holding you back. Are you scared of speaking or do you have trouble in your relationships? Do you lack a positive attitude or do you need more energy? Make a written inventory of your weaknesses. Satisfied people are far more thoughtful than others. Take the time to reflect on what it is that might be keeping you from the life you really want and know deep down you can have. Once you have identified what your weaknesses are, the next step is to face them head on and attack your fears. If you fear public speaking, sign up to give twenty speeches. If you fear starting a new business or getting out of a dissatisfying relationship, muster every ounce of your inner resolve and do it. This might be the first taste of real freedom that you have experienced in years. Fear is nothing more than a mental monster you have created, a negative stream of consciousness.'

   'Fear is nothing more than a negative stream of consciousness? I like that. You mean all my fears are nothing more than imaginary little gremlins that have crept into my mind over the years?'

   'Exactly, John. Every time they have prevented you from taking some action, you have added fuel to their fire. But when you conquer your fears, you conquer your life.'

   'I need an example.'

   'Sure. Let's take public speaking, an activity most people fear more than death itself. When I was a litigator, I actually saw lawyers who were scared of stepping into court. They would do anything, including settling their client's otherwise worthy cases just to avoid the pain of getting up on their feet inside a packed courtroom.'

   'I've seen them too.'

   'Do you actually think that they were born with this fear?'

   'I sure hope not.'

   'Study a baby. She has no limits. Her mind is a lush landscape of potential and possibility. Properly cultivated, it will lead her to greatness. Filled with negativity, it will lead her to mediocrity, at best. What I am saying is this: no experience, whether it is public speaking or asking your boss for a raise or swimming in a sun-soaked lake or walking along the beach on a moonlit night, is inherently painful or pleasant. It is your thinking that makes it so.'

   'Interesting.'

   'A baby could be trained to view a glorious sunny day as depressing. A child could be trained to see a puppy as a vicious animal. An adult could be trained to see a drug as a pleasant vehicle for release. It's all a matter of conditioning, isn't it?'

   'Sure.'

   'The same holds true of fear. Fear is a conditioned response: a life-sucking habit that can easily consume your energy, creativity and spirit if you are not careful. When fear rears its ugly head, beat it down quickly. The best way to do that is to do the thing you fear. Understand the anatomy of fear. It is your own creation. Like any other creation, it is just as easy to tear it down as it is to erect it. Methodically search for and then destroy every fear that has secretly slid into the fortress of your mind. This alone will give you enormous confidence, happiness and peace of mind.'

   'Can a person's mind actually be fully fearless?' I asked.

   'Great question. The answer is an unequivocal and emphatic 'Yes!' Each and every one of the Sages of Sivana was absolutely fearless. You could see it in the way they walked. You could see it in the way they talked. You could see it when you looked deep into their eyes and I'll tell you something else, John.'

   'What,' I asked, fascinated by what I was hearing.

   'I too am fearless. I know myself and I have come to see that my natural state is one of indomitable strength and unlimited potential. It was just that I was blocked by all those years of self-neglect and unbalanced thinking. I'll tell you another thing. When you erase fear from your mind, you start to look younger and your health becomes more vibrant.'

   'Ah, the old mind-body connection,' I replied, hoping to mask my ignorance.

   'Yes. The sages of the East have known about it for over five thousand years. Hardly 'new age,'' he said, with a broad grin lighting up his radiant face.

   'The sages shared another powerful principle with me which I think about often. I think it will be invaluable to you as you walk the path of self-leadership and personal mastery. It has given me motivation at times when I feel like taking things easy. The philosophy can be stated succinctly: what sets highly actualized people apart from those who never live inspired lives is that they do those things that less developed people don't like doing—even though they might not like doing them either.

   'Truly enlightened people, those who experience deep happiness daily, are prepared to put off short-term pleasure for the sake of long-term fulfillment. So they tackle their weaknesses and fears head on, even if dipping into the zone of the unknown brings with it a measure of discomfort. They resolve to live by the wisdom of kaizen, improving every aspect of themselves ceaselessly and continuously. With time, things that were once difficult become easy. Fears that once prevented them from all the happiness, health and prosperity they deserved fall to the wayside like stickmen toppled by a hurricane.'

   'So you're suggesting that I must change myself before I change my life?'

   'Yes. It's like that old story my favorite professor told me when I was in law school. One night a father was relaxing with his newspaper after a long day at the office. His son, who wanted to play, kept on pestering him. Finally, fed up, the father ripped out a picture of the globe that was in the paper and tore it into a hundred tiny pieces. 'Here son, go ahead and try to put this back together.' he said, hoping that this would keep the little boy busy long enough for him to finish reading his paper. To his amazement, his son returned after only one minute with the globe perfectly back together. When the startled father asked how he achieved this feat, the son smiled gently and replied 'Dad, on the other side of the globe there was a picture of a person, and once I got the person together, the world was okay.''

   'That's a great story.'

   'You see John, the wisest people I have ever met, from the Sages of Sivana to my professors at Harvard Law School, all seem to know the key formula for happiness.'

    'Do continue,' I said with a hint of impatience.

   'It's precisely what I said earlier: happiness comes through the progressive realization of a worthy objective. When you are doing what you truly love to do you are bound to find deep contentment.'

   'If happiness comes to everyone who simply does what they love doing, why are so many people miserable?'

   'Fair point, John. Doing what you love, whether this means giving up the work you are presently doing to become an actor or spending less time on those things that are less important to make time for those things that are more meaningful, requires a great deal of courage. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone. And change is always a little uncomfortable at first. It is also more than a little risky. Having said this, this is the surest way to design a more joyful life.'

   'Exactly how does one go about building courage?'

   'It's the same as the story: once you get yourself together, your world will be okay. Once you master your mind, body and character, happiness and abundance will flow into your life almost magically. But you must spend some time daily working on yourself, even if for only ten or fifteen minutes.'

   'And what does the nine-foot-tall, nine-hundred-pound Japanese sumo wrestler symbolize in Yogi Raman's fable?'

   'Our hefty friend will be your constant reminder of the power of kaizen, the Japanese word for constant self-expansion and progress.'

   In just a few hours, Julian had revealed the most powerful — and the most astonishing — information that I had ever heard in my lifetime. I had learned of the magic in my own mind and its treasure trove of potential. I had learned highly practical techniques to still the mind and focus its power on my desires and dreams. I had learned the importance of having a definite purpose in life and of setting clear goals in every aspect of my personal, professional and spiritual world. Now I had been exposed to the ageless principle of self-mastery: kaizen.

   'How can I practice the art of kaizen?'

   'I will give you ten ancient yet supremely effective rituals that will lead you far along the path of personal mastery. If you apply them on a daily basis, with faith in their utility, you will observe remarkable results in just one month from today. If you continue to apply them, incorporating the techniques into your routine such that they become habits, you are bound to reach a state of perfect health, limitless energy, lasting happiness and peace of mind. Ultimately, you will reach your divine destiny — for this is your birthright.'

   'Yogi Raman offered the ten rituals to me with great faith in what he termed their 'exquisiteness' and I think you will agree that I am living proof of their power. I simply ask that you listen to what I have to say and judge the results for yourself.'

   'Life-changing results in only thirty days?' I asked in disbelief.

   'Yes. The quid pro quo is that you must set aside at least one hour a day for thirty consecutive days to practice the strategies I am about to offer to you. This investment in yourself is all it takes. And please don't tell me that you don't have the time.'

   'But I don't,' I said honestly. 'My practice is really booming. I don't have ten minutes to myself, let alone a full hour, Julian.'

   'As I told you, saying that you do not have the time to improve yourself, whether this means improving your mind or nourishing your spirit, is much like saying you do not have time to stop for gas because you are too busy driving. Eventually it will catch up with you.'

   'Really?'

   'Really.'

   'How so?'

   'Let me put it this way. You are very much like a high-performance race car worth millions of dollars; a well-oiled, highly sophisticated machine.'

   'Why thank you Julian.'

   'Your mind is the greatest wonder of the universe and your body has the capacity to perform feats that might astonish you.'

   'Agreed.'

   'Knowing the value of this high performance multi-million dollar machine, would it be wise to run it full out every minute of every day without taking a pit stop to let the motor cool down?'

   'Of course not.'

   'Well then, why are you not taking some time every day for your personal pit stop or rest break? Why are you not taking the time to cool down the high performance engine of your mind? Do you see my point? Taking the time to renew yourself is the most important thing you can do. Ironically, taking time out from your hectic schedule for self-improvement and personal enrichment will dramatically improve your effectiveness once you get back into it.'

   'One hour a day for thirty days is all it takes?'

   'It's the magic formula I was always searching for. I would probably have paid a couple of million dollars for it in my old glory days, if I had understood its importance. Little did I know that it was free, as is all priceless knowledge. Having said this, you must be disciplined and apply the strategies which make up the formula daily, with utter conviction in their value.'

   'This is not a quick-fix type deal. Once you are in, you are in it for the long term.'

   'What do you mean?'

   'Spending one hour a day tending to yourself will surely give you dramatic results in thirty days — provided you do the right things. It takes about one month to fully install a new habit. After this period, the strategies and techniques you will learn will fit like a second skin. The key is that you must keep on practicing them every day if you want to keep on seeing the results.'

   'Fair enough,' I agreed. Julian clearly had unlocked a wellspring of personal vitality and inner serenity in his own life. Actually, his transformation from a sickly old litigator to a radiant, energetic philosopher was nothing less than miraculous. At that moment I resolved to dedicate one hour a day to implementing the techniques and principles I was about to hear. I decided to work on improving myself before working to change others, as had been my habit. Maybe I too could undergo a 'Mantle-like' transformation. It was surely worth a try.

   That night, sitting on the floor of my cluttered living room, I learned what Julian called 'The Ten Rituals of Radiant Living.' Some of them required a little concentrated effort on my part. Others could be performed effortlessly. All were intriguing and rich with the promise of extraordinary things to come.

   'The first strategy was known to the sages as the Ritual of Solitude. This involves nothing more than ensuring that your daily schedule includes a mandatory period of peace.'

   'Just what is a period of peace?'

   'It is a period of time, as little as fifteen minutes or as much as fifty, wherein you explore the healing power of silence and come to know who you really are,' Julian explained.

   'Sort of a rest break for that overheated engine of mine?' I suggested with a slight smile.

   'That's a pretty accurate way of looking at it. Have you ever been on a long road trip with your family?'

   'Sure. Every summer we drive down to the islands to spend a couple of weeks with Jenny's parents.'

   'Okay. Do you ever make pit-stops along the way?'

   'Yes. For food, or if I'm feeling a little sleepy I'll take a quick nap after having listened to my kids fight in the back seat for six hours.'

   'Well, think of the Ritual of Solitude as a pit-stop for the soul. Its purpose is self-renewal and this is accomplished by spending time alone, immersed in the beautiful blanket of silence.'

   'What is so special about silence?'

   'Good question. Solitude and quiet connects you to your creative source and releases the limitless intelligence of the Universe. You see, John, the mind is like a lake. In our chaotic world, most people's minds are not still. We are full of inner turbulence. However, by simply taking the time to be still and quiet every day, the lake of the mind becomes as smooth as a plate of glass. This inner quietness brings with it a wealth of benefits including a deep sense of well-being, inner peace and boundless energy. You will even sleep better and enjoy a renewed feeling of balance in your day-to-day activities.'

   'Where should I go for this period of peace?'

   'Theoretically, you could do it anywhere, from your bedroom to your office. The key is to find a place of true quiet — and beauty.'

   'How does beauty fit into the equation?'

   'Beautiful images soothe a ruffled soul,' Julian observed with a deep sigh. 'A bouquet of roses or a simple, solitary daffodil will have a highly salutary effect on your senses and relax you no end. Ideally, you should savor such beauty in a space that will serve as a Sanctuary of the Self.'

   'What's that?'

   'Basically, it is a place that will become your secret forum for mental and spiritual expansion. This might be a spare room in your house or simply a peaceful corner of a small apartment. The point is to reserve a spot for your renewal activities, a place that sits there quietly awaiting your arrival.'

   'I love the sound of that. I think having a silent place to go to when I come home from work would make a world of difference. I could decompress for a while and let go of the stresses of the day It would probably make me a much nicer person to be around.'

   'That brings up another important point. The Ritual of Solitude works best when you practice it at the same time every day.'

   'Why?'

   'Because then it becomes integrated into your routine as a ritual. By practicing it at the same time every day, a daily dose of silence will soon become a habit that you will never neglect. And positive life habits inevitably guide you to your destiny.'

   'Anything else?'

   'Yes. If at all possible, commune with nature daily. A quick walk through the woods or even a few minutes spent cultivating your tomato garden in the backyard will reconnect you to the wellspring of calm that may now be dormant within you. Being with nature also allows you to tune in to the infinite wisdom of your highest self. This self-knowledge will move you into the uncharted dimensions of your personal power. Never forget this,' advised Julian, his voice rising with passion.

   'Has this ritual worked well for you, Julian?'

  'Absolutely. I rise with the sun and the first thing I do is head off to my secret sanctuary. There I explore the Heart of the Rose for as long as need be. Some days I spend hours in quiet contemplation. On other days I spend only ten minutes. The result is more or less the same: a deep sense of inner harmony and an abundance of physical energy. Which brings me to the second ritual. This is the Ritual of Physicality.'

   'Sounds interesting. What's it about?'

   'It's about the power of physical care.'

   'Huh?'

   'It's simple. The Ritual of Physicality is based on the principle that says as you care for the body so you care for the mind. As you prepare your body, so you prepare your mind. As you train your body, so you train your mind. Take some time every single day to nourish the temple of your body through vigorous exercise. Get your blood circulating and your body moving. Did you know that there are 168 hours in a week?'

   'No, not really.'

   'It's true. At least five of those hours should be invested in some form of physical activity. The Sages of Sivana practiced the ancient discipline of yoga to awaken their physical potential and live a strong, dynamic existence. It was an extraordinary sight to see these marvellous physical specimens who had managed to age-proof their lives standing on their heads in the center of their village!'

   'Have you tried yoga, Julian? Jenny started practicing it last summer and says it has added five years to her life.'

   'There is no one strategy that will magically transform your life, John, let me be the first to say this. Lasting and profound change comes through the continued application of a number of the methods I have shared with you. But yoga is an extremely effective way to unlock your reserves of vitality. I do my yoga every morning and it is one of the best things that I do for myself. It not only rejuvenates my body, it completely focuses my mind. It has even unblocked my creativity. It is a terrific discipline.'

   'Did the sages do anything else to care for their bodies?'

  'Yogi Raman and his brothers and sisters also believed that vigorous walking in natural surroundings, whether high on the mountain paths or deep in the lush forests, worked wonders for relieving fatigue and restoring the body to its natural state of vibrancy. When the weather was too harsh to walk, they would exercise within the security of their huts. They might miss a meal but they would never miss their daily round of exercise.'

   'What did they have in their huts? NordicTrack machines?' I quipped.

   'Not quite. Sometimes they would practice yoga postures. Other times I would catch a glimpse of them doing a set or two of one-handed push-ups. I really think it didn't matter too much to them what they did, so long as they moved their bodies and got the fresh air of their breath-taking surroundings flowing through their lungs.'

   'What does breathing fresh air have to do with anything?'

   'I'll answer your question with one of Yogi Raman's favorite sayings, 'To breathe properly is to live properly.''

   'Breathing is that important?' I asked in surprise.

   'Quite early on in Sivana, the sages taught me that the fastest way to double or even triple the amount of energy I had was to learn the art of effective breathing.'

   'But don't we all know how to breathe, even a newborn baby?'

   'Not really, John. While most of us know how to breathe to survive, we have never learned how to breathe to thrive. Most of us breathe far too shallowly and in so doing, we fail to take in enough oxygen to run the body at an optimal level.'

  'Sounds like proper breathing involves a lot of science.'

   'It does. And the sages treated it that way. Their philosophy was simple: take in more oxygen through efficient breathing and you liberate your energy reserves along with your natural state of vitality.'

  'Okay so where do I start?'

   'It's actually pretty easy. Two or three times a day take a minute or two to think about breathing more deeply and effectively.'

   'How do I know if I'm breathing effectively?'

   'Well, your belly should move out slightly. This indicates that you are breathing from the abdomen, which is good. A trick that Yogi Raman taught me was to cup my hands over my stomach. If they moved out as I inhaled, my breathing technique was proper.'

   'Very interesting.'

   'If you like that, then you will love the Third Ritual of Radiant Living,' said Julian.

   'Which is?'

   'The Ritual of Live Nourishment. In my days as a litigator, I lived off of a steady diet of steaks, fries and other types of junk food. Sure I ate at the finest restaurants in the country, but I still filled my body with junk. I didn't know it at the time, but this was one of the main sources of my discontent.'

   'Really?'

   'Yes. A poor diet has a pronounced effect on your life. It drains your mental and physical energy. It affects your moods and it hampers the clarity of your mind. Yogi Raman put it this way: 'As you nourish your body, so you nourish your mind.''

   'I assume then that you changed your diet?'

   'Radically. And it made an amazing difference in the way I felt and looked. I always thought that I was so run down because of the stresses and strains of my work and because the wrinkled fingers of old age were reaching out for me. In Sivana, I learned that much of my lethargy was due to the low-octane fuel I was pumping into my body.'

   'What did the Sages of Sivana eat to stay so youthful and bright?'

   'Live foods,' came the efficient reply.

   'Huh?'

   'Live foods are the answer. Live foods are foods that are not dead.'

   'C'mon, Julian. What are live foods?' I asked impatiently.

   'Basically, live foods are those which are created through the natural interaction of the sun, air, soil and water. What I'm talking about here is a vegetarian diet. Fill your plate with fresh vegetables, fruits and grains and you might just live forever.'

   'Is that possible?'

   'Most of the sages were well over one hundred and they showed no signs of slowing down, and just last week I read in the paper about a group of people living on the tiny island of Okinawa in the East China Sea. Researchers are flocking to the island because they are fascinated by the fact that it holds the largest concentration of centenarians in the world.'

   'What have they learned?'

   'That a vegetarian diet is one of their main longevity secrets.'

   'But is this type of diet healthy? You wouldn't think that it would give you much strength. Remember, I'm still a busy litigator, Julian.'

   'This is the diet that nature intended. It is alive, vital and supremely healthy. The sages have lived by this diet for many thousands of years. They call it asattvic, or pure diet. And as to your concern about strength, the most powerful animals on the planet, ranging from gorillas to elephants, wear the badge of proud vegetarians. Did you know that a gorilla has about thirty times the strength of a man?'

   'Thanks for that important tidbit of information.'

   'Look, the sages are not extreme people. All of their wisdom was based on the ageless principle that 'one must live a life of moderation and do nothing to extremes.' So if you like meat, you can certainly keep eating it. Just remember that you are ingesting dead food. If you can, cut back on the amount of red meat that you eat. It is really hard to digest and since your digestive system is one of the most energy-consuming processes of your entire body, valuable energy reserves are needlessly depleted by this foodstuff. Do you see what I'm getting at? Just compare how you feel after eating a steak with your energy levels after eating a salad. If you don't want to become a strict vegetarian, at least start having a salad with every meal and fruit for dessert. Even this will make a huge difference in the quality of your physical life.'

   'That doesn't seem like it would be too hard to do,' I replied. 'I've been hearing a lot about the power of a largely vegetarian diet. Just last week, Jenny told me about a study in Finland where it was found that thirty-eight percent of new vegetarians studied reported that they felt far less tired and much more alert after only seven months of this new way of life. I should try eating a salad with every meal. Looking at you, Julian, I might even make the salad the meal.'

   'Try it for about a month and judge the results for yourself You will feel phenomenal.'

   'Okay. If it's good enough for the sages, it's good enough for me. I promise you I will give it a shot. It doesn't sound like too much of a stretch, and anyway I'm getting pretty tired of firing up the barbeque every night.'

   'If I have sold you on the Ritual of Live Nourishment, I think you will love the fourth one.'

   'Your student is still holding his empty cup.'

   'The fourth ritual is known as the Ritual of Abundant Knowledge. It centers around the whole notion of lifelong learning and expanding your knowledge base for the good of yourself and all those around you.'

   'The old 'knowledge is power' idea?'

   'It involves far more than that, John. Knowledge is only potential power. For the power to be manifested, it must be applied. Most people know what they should do in any given situation, or in their lives for that matter. The problem is that they don't take daily, consistent action to apply the knowledge and realize their dreams. The Ritual of Abundant Knowledge is all about becoming a student of life. Even more importantly, it requires that you use what you have learned in the classroom of your existence.'

   'What did Yogi Raman and the other sages do to live this ritual?'

   'They had many sub-rituals which they performed on a daily basis as a tribute to the Ritual of Abundant Knowledge. One of the most important strategies is also one of the easiest. You can even start doing it today.'

   'It won't take up too much time, will it?'

   Julian smiled. 'These techniques, tools and tips I am sharing with you will make you more productive and effective than you have ever been. Don't be penny wise, pound foolish.'

   'Say what?'

   'Consider those who say that they do not have the time to back up their computers because they are too busy working on them. Yet, when those machines crash and months of important work is lost, they regret not investing a few moments a day in saving it. Do you see my point?'

   'Get my priorities straight?'

   'Exactly. Try not to live your life bound by the shackles of your schedule. Instead, focus on those things that your conscience and your heart tell you to do. When you invest in yourself and start to devote yourself to raising your mind, body and character to their highest levels, you will almost feel as if you have a personal navigator inside you, telling you which things you must do to see the greatest and most rewarding results. You will stop worrying about your clock and start living your life.'

   'Point well taken. So what was that simple sub-ritual you were about to teach me?' I asked.

   'Read regularly. Reading for thirty minutes a day will do wonders for you. But I must caution you. Do not read just anything. You must be very selective about what you put into the lush garden of your mind. It must be immensely nourishing. Make it something that will improve both you and the quality of your life.'

   'What did the sages read?'

   'They spent many of their waking moments reading and re-reading the ancient teachings of their ancestors. They devoured this philosophical literature. I still remember seeing these wonderful looking people seated on little bamboo chairs reading their strangely bound books with the subtle smiles of enlightenment unfolding across their lips. It was in Sivana that I really learned the power of the book and the principle that a book is the best friend of the wise.'

   'So I should start reading every good book I can get my hands on?'

   'Yes and no,' came the reply. 'I would never tell you not to read as many books as you can. But remember, some books are meant to be tasted, some books are meant to be chewed and, finally, some books are meant to be swallowed whole. Which brings me to another point.'

   'You're feeling hungry?'

   'No, John,' Julian laughed. 'I simply want to tell you that to truly get the best out of a great book, you must study it, not just read it. Go through it as you do when you read those contracts your big clients bring to you for your legal opinion. Really consider it, work with it, become one with it. The sages would read many of the books of wisdom in their vast library ten or fifteen times. They treated great books as scriptures, holy documents of divine origin.'

   'Wow. Reading is really that important?'

   'Thirty minutes a day will make a delightful difference in your life because you will quickly start to see the vast reserves of knowledge available for your use. Every answer to every problem you have ever faced is in print. If you want to be a better lawyer, father, friend or lover, there are books out there that will rocket you to those goals. All the mistakes you will ever make in your life have already been made by those that have walked before you. Do you really think that the challenges you are facing are unique to you?'

   'I've never thought about it, Julian. But I see what you are saying, and I know you are right.'

   'All the problems anyone has ever, and will ever face over the course of their lifetime have already been made,' Julian asserted. 'More importantly, the answers and solutions are all recorded on the pages of books. Read the right books. Learn how those who have preceded you have handled the challenges you are currently facing. Apply their strategies for success and you will be astonished by the improvements you will note in your life.'

   'What exactly are 'the right books?'' I asked, quickly realizing that Julian's point was an excellent one.

   'I'll leave that to your good judgment my friend. Personally, since I have returned from the East, I spend the better part of my days reading biographies of the men and women I have come to admire and a great deal of the wisdom of literature.'

   'Any titles you could recommend to an eager young beaver?' I said, flashing a broad grin.

   'Sure. You will thrive on the biography of the great American, Benjamin Franklin. I think you will also find much growth impetus from Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography entitled The Story of My Experiments with Truth. I also suggest that you read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, the highly practical philosophy of Marcus Aurelius and some of the work of Seneca. You might even read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I read it last week and thought it was very profound.'

   'Think and Grow Rich!' I exclaimed. 'But I thought you left all of that behind you after your heart attack. I'm really sick and tired of all the 'make-money-fast manuals' that are being peddled out there by snake-oil salesmen preying on the weak.'

   'Easy, big fella! I couldn't agree with you more,' offered Julian with all the warmth and patience of a wise, loving grandfather. 'I too want to restore the character ethic to our society. That little book is not about making a lot of money, it is about making a lot of life. I will be the first to tell you that there is a huge difference between well-being and being well off. I've lived it and know the pain of a money-driven life. Think and Grow Rich is about abundance, including spiritual abundance, and how to attract all that is good into your life. You might do well to read it. But I will not press the point.'

   'Sorry Julian, I didn't mean to sound like an aggressive litigator,' I offered apologetically. 'I guess my temper gets the better of me sometimes. One more thing I need to improve. I really am grateful for all that you are sharing with me.'

   'No problem, water under the bridge. My point simply is read and keep reading. Do you want to know something else interesting?'

  'What?'

   'It's not what you will get out of the books that is so enriching — it is what the books will get out of you that will ultimately change your life. You see, John, books do not actually teach you anything new.'

   'Really?'

   'Really. Books simply help you to see what is already within your self. That's what enlightenment is all about. After all my journeying and exploring I found that I have actually come full circle back to the point from which I started as a young boy. But now I know myself and all that I am and can be.

   'So the Ritual of Abundant Knowledge is all about reading and exploring the wealth of information out there?'

   'Partly. For now, read thirty minutes a day. The rest will come naturally,' Julian said with a hint of mystery.

   'Okay, what's the Fifth Ritual of Radiant Living?'

   'It is the Ritual of Personal Reflection. The sages were firm believers in the power of inner contemplation. By taking the time to get to know yourself, you will connect to a dimension of your being that you never knew you had.'

   'Sounds pretty deep.'

   'It's actually a very practical concept. You see, we all have many sleeping talents inside of us. By taking the time to get to know them, we kindle them. However, silent contemplation will deliver even more than this. This practice will make you stronger, more at ease with yourself and wiser. It is a very rewarding use of your mind.'

   'I'm still a little fuzzy on the concept, Julian.'

   'Fair enough. It was also foreign to me when I first heard it. Boiled down to its basic form, personal reflection is nothing more than the habit of thinking.'

   'But don't we all think? Isn't that part of being human?'

   'Well, most of us do think. The problem is that most people think just enough to survive. What I am speaking about with this ritual is thinking enough to thrive. When you read Ben Franklin's biography you will see what I mean. Every evening, after a full day of productive work, he would retire to a silent corner of his home and reflect on his day. He would consider all of his actions and whether they were positive and constructive or whether they were of the negative sort, in need of repair. By clearly knowing what he was doing wrong in his days, he could take immediate steps to improve and advance along the path of self-mastery. The sages did the same. Every night, they would retire to the sanctuary of their huts covered by fragrant rose petals and sit in deep contemplation. Yogi Raman would actually take a written inventory of his day.'

   'What kinds of things would he write down?' I asked.

   'First he would list all of his activities, from the personal care activities of his morning to his interactions with the other sages to his forays into the forest in search of firewood and fresh food. Interestingly, he would also write down the thoughts he had run through his mind during that particular day.'

   'Isn't that hard to do? I can hardly remember what I thought five minutes ago let alone twelve hours ago.'

   'Not if you practice this ritual daily. You see, anyone can attain the kind of results I have attained. Anyone. The real problem is that too many people suffer from that dreadful disease known as excusitus.'

   'I think I might have contracted that one in the past,' I said in full knowledge of what my wise friend was saying.

   'Stop making excuses and just do it!' Julian exclaimed, his voice resonating with the strength of conviction.

   'Do what?'

   'Take the time to think. Get into the regular habit of personal introspection. Once Yogi Raman had listed all that he had done and all that he had thought in one column, he would then do an assessment in another column. As he was confronted by his activities and thoughts in the written form, he asked himself whether they were positive in nature. If they were, he resolved to continue giving his precious energy to them, as they would pay huge dividends in the long run.'

   'And if they were negative?'

   'Then he would come up with a clear course of action to get rid of them.'

   'I think an example might help me.'

   'Can it be personal?' Julian asked.

   'Sure, I'd love to know some of your innermost thoughts,' I suggested.

   'Actually, I was thinking about yours.'

   We both started to giggle like a couple of kids in a schoolyard.

   'Oh, alright. You always did get your way.'

   'Okay let's go through just a few of the things that you did today. Write them down on that piece of paper on the coffee table,' Julian instructed.

   I started to realize that something important was about to happen. This was the first time in years that I had actually taken the time to do nothing but reflect on the things I was doing and the thoughts that I was thinking. It was all so strange and yet so intelligent. After all, how could I ever hope to improve myself and my life if I hadn't even taken the time to figure out what I was supposed to improve?'

   'Where do I start?' I asked.

   'Start with what you did this morning and progress through your day. Just hit a few of the highlights, we still have a fair amount of ground to cover and I want to get back to Yogi Raman's fable in a few minutes.'

   'Fine. I woke up at six-thirty to the sound of my electric rooster,' I joked.

   'Get serious and keep going,' Julian replied firmly.

   'Okay. Then I showered and shaved, gobbled down a waffle and rushed off to work.'

   'And what about your family?'

   'They were all asleep. Anyway, once I got to the office, I noticed that my seven-thirty appointment had been waiting there since seven, and boy, was he furious!'

   'What was your response?'

   'I fought back, what was I supposed to do, let him push me around?'

   'Hmm. Okay. Then what happened?'

  'Well, things went from bad to worse. The courthouse called and told me that Judge Wildabest needed to see me in his chambers and if I wasn't there within ten minutes, 'heads would roll.' You remember Wildabest don't you? You were the one who nicknamed him Judge Wild Beast after he held you in contempt for parking your Ferrari in his parking spot!' I recalled, breaking into laughter.

   'You would have to bring that up, wouldn't you?' Julian replied, his eyes revealing the remnants of that mischievous twinkle he was once well known for.

   'Anyway I rushed down to the courthouse and had another argument with one of the clerks. By the time I got back to the office, there were twenty-seven phone messages waiting for me, all marked 'urgent.' Need I go on?'

   'Please do.'

   'Well on the way home, Jenny called me in the car and asked me to stop by her mother's house and pick up one of those amazing pies my mother-in-law is famous for. Problem was that when I took that exit, I found myself in the middle of a gridlock that was worse than anything I have seen in ages. So there I was, in the middle of rush-hour traffic, in ninety-five-degree heat, shaking with stress and feeling that even more time was slipping away.'

   'How did you respond?'

   'I cursed the traffic,' I said with complete honesty. 'I was actually shouting out loud inside my car. Do you want to know what I said?'

   'I don't think that would be the kind of thing that would nourish the garden of my mind,' Julian responded with a soft smile.

   'But it might make for good fertilizer.'

   'No thanks. Maybe we should stop there. Just take a second and look at your day. Obviously, in retrospect, there are at least a few things that you would do differently if you had the chance.'

   'Obviously.'

   'Like what?'

   'Hmm. Well, first, in a perfect world I would get up earlier. I don't think I'm doing myself any favors by hitting the ground running. I'd like to have a little peace in the morning and ease myself into the day. The Heart of the Rose technique you told me about earlier sounds like it would be fun. Also, I really would like to have the family around the breakfast table, even if only for a bowl of cereal. It would give me a better sense of balance. I always seem to feel that I never spend enough time with Jenny and the kids.'

   'But it is a perfect world, and you have a perfect life. You do have the power to control your day. You do have the power to think good thoughts. You do have the power to live your dreams!' Julian observed, his voice rising.

   '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.'

   'Seriously?'

   '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.'

   'Who knows?'

   '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.'

   'Sounds important.'

   '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.'

   'Self-talk?'

   '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.'

   'How so?'

   '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.'

   'Like what?'

   '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.'

   'Precisely.'

   '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.'

   '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 


The Virtue            Practice Kaizen


The Wisdom        • Self-Mastery is the DNA of life mastery

                              • Success on the outside begins within

                             • Enlightenment comes through the consistent cultivation of your                                       mind, body and soul


The Techniques      • Do the Things You Fear

                                 • The 10 Ancient Rituals for Radiant Living


Quotable Quote      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.



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