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Chapter 3, The Miraculous Transformation of Julian Mantle. Part 3
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.
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?
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.
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.”