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Chapter 9, The Ancient Art of Self-Leadership. Part 4
“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.”
“If you like that, then you will love the Third Ritual of Radiant Living,” said Julian.
“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.”
“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.
“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 a sattvic, 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.”
“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 rereading 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?”
“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. 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.