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Chapter 7, A Most Extraordinary Garden. Part 4
“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 the 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, lifedraining 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. 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.