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Chapter 9, The Ancient Art of Self-Leadership. Part 3
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 breathtaking 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.”