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Chapter 7, A Most Extraordinary Garden. Part 2
“Are there some exercises I can do to unlock this mind power? Being able to slow down my heartbeat would definitely make me a hit on the cocktail-party circuit,” I suggested cheekily.
“Don’t worry about that now, John. I’ll give you some practical techniques that you can try later that will show you the power of this ancient technology. For now, what is important is that you understand that mental mastery comes through conditioning, nothing more and nothing less. Most of us have the same raw materials from the moment we take our first breath of air; what separates those people who achieve more than others or those that are happier than others is the way that they use and refine these raw materials. When you dedicate yourself to transforming your inner world your life quickly shifts from the ordinary into the realm of the extraordinary.”
My teacher was growing more excited by the moment. His eyes seemed to twinkle as he spoke of the magic of the mind and the wealth of goodness it would surely bring.
“You know John, when all is said and done, there is only one thing that we have absolute dominion over.”
“Our kids?” I said, smiling good-naturedly.
“No, my friend — our minds. We might not be able to control the weather or the traffic or the moods of all those around us. But, we most certainly can control our attitude towards these events. We all have the power to determine what we will think about in any given moment. This ability is part of what makes us human. You see, one of the fundamental gems of worldly wisdom I have learned in my travels to the East is also one of the most simple.” Julian then paused as if to summon up a priceless gift.
“And what might that be?”
“There is no such thing as objective reality or ‘the real world.’ There are no absolutes. The face of your greatest enemy might be the face of my finest friend. An event that appears to be a tragedy to one might reveal the seeds of unlimited opportunity to another. What really separates people who are habitually upbeat and optimistic from those who are consistently miserable is how the circumstances of life are interpreted and processed.”
“Julian, how could a tragedy be anything but a tragedy?”
“Here’s a quick example. When I was travelling through Calcutta, I met a schoolteacher named Malika Chand. She loved teaching and treated her students as she would her own children, nurturing their potential with great kindness. Her perennial motto was ‘Your I can is more important than your I.Q.’ She was known throughout her community as a person who lived to give, who selflessly served anyone in need. Sadly, her beloved school, which had stood as a silent witness to the delightful progress of generations of children, succumbed to the flames of a fire set by an arsonist one night. All those in the community felt this great loss. But as time passed, their anger gave way to apathy and they resigned themselves to the fact that their children would be without a school.”
“What about Malika?”
“She was different, an eternal optimist if there ever was one. Unlike everyone around her, she perceived opportunity in what had happened. She told all the parents that every setback offers an equivalent benefit if they took the time to search for it. This event was a gift in disguise. The school that burned to the ground was old and decrepit. The roof leaked and the floor had finally buckled under the strain of a thousand little feet scampering across its surface. This was the chance that they had been waiting for to join hands as a community and build a much better school, one that would serve many more children in the years to come. And so, with this sixty-four-year-old dynamo behind them, they marshalled their collective resources and raised enough funds to build a sparkling new school, one that stood as a shining example of the power of vision in the face of adversity.”
“So it’s like that old adage about seeing the cup as half full rather than half empty?”
“That’s a fair way to look at it. No matter what happens to you in your life, you alone have the capacity to choose your response to it. When you form the habit of searching for the positive in every circumstance, your life will move into its highest dimensions. This is one of the greatest of all the natural laws.”
“And it all starts with using your mind more effectively?”
“Exactly, John. All success in life, whether material or spiritual, starts with that twelve-pound mass sitting between your shoulders. Or more specifically, with the thoughts that you put into your mind every second of every minute of every day. Your outer world reflects the state of your inner world. By controlling the thoughts that you think and the way you respond to the events of your life, you begin to control your destiny.”
“This makes so much sense, Julian. I guess my life has become so busy that I have never taken the time to think about these things. When I was in law school, my best friend Alex used to love reading inspirational books. He said that they kept him motivated and energized in the face of our crushing workload. I remember him telling me that one of them said that the Chinese character for ‘crisis’ is comprised of two sub-characters: one that spells ‘danger’ and another that spells ‘opportunity.’ I guess that even the ancient Chinese knew that there is a bright side to the darkest circumstance — if you have the courage to look for it.”
“Yogi Raman put it this way: ‘There are no mistakes in life, only lessons. There is no such thing as a negative experience, only opportunities to grow, learn and advance along the road of self-mastery. From struggle comes strength. Even pain can be a wonderful teacher.’ ”
“Pain?” I protested.
“Absolutely. To transcend pain, you must first experience it. Or to put it another way, how can you really know the joy of being on the summit of the mountain unless you have first visited the lowest valley. Get my point?”
“To savor the good one must know the bad?”
“Yes. But I suggest that you stop judging events as either positive or negative. Rather, simply experience them, celebrate them and learn from them. Every event offers you lessons. These little lessons fuel your inner and outer growth. Without them, you would be stuck on a plateau. Just think about it in your own life. Most people have grown the most from their most challenging experiences. And if you meet with an outcome you did not expect and feel a little disappointed, remember that the laws of nature always ensure that when one door closes another opens.”
Julian started to raise his arms in excitement, much as a Southern minister might while preaching to his congregation. “Once you consistently apply this principle to your daily life and start to condition your mind to translate every event into a positive, empowering one, you will banish worry forever. You will stop being a prisoner of your past. Instead, you will become the architect of your future.”
“Okay, I understand the concept. Every experience, even the worst, offers me a lesson. Therefore, I should open my mind to the learning in every event. In this way, I will grow stronger and happier. What else might a humble, middle-class lawyer do to improve things?”
“First of all, begin to live out of the glory of your imagination, not your memory.”
“Run that one by me again.”
‘All I’m saying is that to liberate the potential of your mind, body and soul, you must first expand your imagination. You see, things are always created twice: first in the workshop of the mind and then, and only then, in reality. I call the process ‘blueprinting’ because anything that you create in your outer world began as a simple blueprint in your inner world, on the lush picture screen of your mind. When you learn to take control of your thoughts and vividly imagine all that you desire from this worldly existence in a state of total expectancy, dormant forces will awaken inside you. You will begin to unlock the true potential of your mind to create the kind of magical life that I believe you deserve. From tonight onwards, forget about the past. Dare to dream that you are more than the sum of your current circumstances. Expect the best. You will be astonished at the results.
“You know, John, all those years in the legal profession I thought I knew so much. I spent years studying at the finest schools, reading all the law books I could get my hands on and working with the best role models. Sure, I was a winner at the game of law. Yet I now realize I was losing in the game of life. I was so busy chasing the big pleasures of life that I missed out on all the little ones. I never read those great books my father used to tell me to read. I haven’t built any great friendships. I’ve never learned to appreciate great music. Having said this, I really think I am one of the lucky ones. My heart attack was my defining moment, my personal wake-up call, if you will. Believe it or not, it gave me a second chance to live a richer, more inspired life. Like Malika Chand, I saw the seeds of opportunity in my painful experience. More importantly, I had the courage to nourish them.”
I could see that while Julian had grown younger on the outside he had grown far wiser within. I realized that this evening was more than just a fascinating conversation with an old friend. I realized that tonight could be my own defining moment and a clear chance for a new beginning. My mind started to consider all that was wrong in my own life. Sure I had a great family and a stable job as a well-regarded lawyer. Yet in my quiet moments I knew there had to be more. I had to fill that emptiness that was starting to envelope my life.
When I was a kid, I dreamed such great dreams. Often, I visualized myself as a sports hero or as a business tycoon. I really believed that I could do, have and be whatever I wanted to be. I also remembered the way I used to feel as a young boy growing up on the sun-splashed west coast. Fun came in the form of simple pleasures. Fun was spending a glorious afternoon skinny-dipping or riding through the woods on my bicycle. I had such a curiosity for life. I was an adventurer. There were no limits on what my future could bring. I honestly don’t think I have felt that kind of freedom and joy for fifteen years. What happened?
Perhaps I lost sight of my dreams when I became an adult and resigned myself to acting the way adults were supposed to act. Maybe I lost sight of them when I went to law school and started talking like lawyers were supposed to talk. In any event, that evening with Julian at my side, pouring his heart out over a cup of cold tea, made me resolve to stop spending so much time making a living and to spend far more time creating a life.
“Looks like I have you thinking about your life also,” Julian observed. “Start thinking about your dreams for a change, just like when you were a little child. Jonas Salk said it best when he wrote: ‘I have had dreams and I have had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.’ Dare to dust off your dreams John. Start to revere life again and celebrate all of its wonders. Awaken yourself to the power of your own mind to make things happen. Once you do, the universe will conspire with you to work magic in your life.”
Julian then reached into the depths of his robe and pulled out a little card, about the size of a business card, which had tears along its sides, apparently the result of many months of constant use.
“One day, while Yogi Raman and I were walking along a quiet mountain path, I asked him who his favorite philosopher was. He told me that he had many influences in his life, and it was difficult for him to single out any one source for his inspiration. There was one quotation, however, that he carried deep within his heart; one that encapsulated all the values he had come to cherish over a life spent in quiet contemplation. At that glorious place, deep within the middle of nowhere, this learned sage of the East shared it with me. I too etched its words into my heart. They serve as a daily reminder of all that we are — and all that we can be. The words came from the great Indian philosopher Patanjali. Repeating them aloud every morning before I sit down to meditate has had a very profound influence on the course of my day. Remember, John, words are the verbal embodiment of power.”
Julian then showed me the card. The quotation read:
When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.