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Chapter 10, The Power of Discipline. Part 2
I needed to hear this. Through the course of this strange yet inspiring evening I had gone from being a skeptical litigator carefully studying a hotshot lawyer-turned yogi to a believer whose eyes had been opened for the first time in many years. I wished Jenny could hear all this. Actually I wished my kids could hear this wisdom too. I knew it would affect them as it had me. I had always planned on being a better family man and living more fully, but I always found that I was too busy putting out all those little brush fires of life that seemed so pressing. Maybe this was a weakness, a lack of self-control. An inability to see the forest for the trees, perhaps. Life was passing by so quickly. It seemed like just yesterday that I was a young law student full of energy and enthusiasm. I dreamed of becoming a political leader or even a supreme court judge back then. But as time went by, I settled into a routine. Even as a cocky litigator, Julian used to tell me that “complacency kills.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had lost my hunger. This wasn’t a hunger for a bigger house or a faster car. This was a far deeper hunger: a hunger for living with more meaning, with more festivity and more satisfaction.
I started to daydream while Julian continued to talk. Oblivious to what he was now saying, I saw myself first as a fifty-year-old and then as a sixty-year-old-man. Would I be stuck in the same job with the same people, facing the same struggles at that point of my life? I dreaded that. I had always wanted to contribute to the world in some way, and I sure wasn’t doing it now. I think it was at that moment, with Julian sitting next to me on my living room floor on that sticky July night that I changed. The Japanese call it satori, meaning instant awakening, and that’s exactly what it was. I resolved to fulfill my dreams and make my life far more than it had ever been. That was my first taste of real freedom, the freedom that comes when you decide once and for all to take charge of your life and all its constituent elements.
“I will give you a formula for developing willpower,” said Julian, who had no idea of the inner transformation I had just experienced. “Wisdom without proper tools for its application is no wisdom at all.”
He continued. “Every day, while you are walking to work, I would like you to repeat a few simple words.”
“Is this one of those mantras you told me about earlier?” I asked.
“Yes it is. It is one that has been in existence for over five thousand years, although only the small band of Sivanan monks have known about it. Yogi Raman told me that by its repetition I would develop self-control and an indomitable will within a short period of time. Remember, words are great influencers. Words are the verbal embodiment of power. By filling your mind with words of hope, you become hopeful. By filling your mind with words of kindness, you become kind. By filling your mind with thoughts of courage, you become courageous. Words have power,” Julian observed.
“Okay, I’m all ears.”
“This is the mantra I suggest you repeat at least thirty times a day: ‘I am more than I appear to be, all the world’s strength and power rests inside me.’ It will manifest profound changes in your life. For even quicker results, blend this mantra with the practice of creative envisioning I spoke of earlier. For example, go to a quiet place. Sit with your eyes closed. Do not let your mind wander. Keep your body still, as the surest sign of a weak mind is a body that cannot rest. Now repeat the mantra aloud, over and over again. While you do so, see yourself as a disciplined, firm person, fully in control of your mind, your body and your spirit. Picture yourself acting as Gandhi or Mother Teresa might act in a challenging situation. Startling results will surely come your way,” he promised.
“That’s it?” I asked, astonished by the apparent simplicity of this formula. “I can tap the full reserves of my willpower through this simple exercise?”
“This technique has been taught by the spiritual teachers of the East for centuries. It is still around today for one reason: because it works. As always, judge by results. If you are interested, there are a couple of other exercises I can offer you to liberate the strength of your will and cultivate inner discipline. But let me warn you that they might seem strange at first.”
“Hey, Julian, I’m absolutely fascinated by what I’ve been hearing. You’re on a roll, so don’t stop now.”
“Okay. The first thing is to start doing the things you don’t like doing. For you it might be as simple as making your bed in the morning or walking rather than driving to work. By getting into the habit of exerting your will, you will cease to be a slave to your weaker impulses.”
“Use it or lose it?”
“Exactly. To build willpower and inner strength you must first use it. The more you exert and nurture the embryo of self-discipline, the more quickly it will mature and give you the results you desire. The second exercise is a favorite of Yogi Raman’s. He used to go an entire day without speaking, except in response to a direct question.”
“Kind of like a vow of silence?”
“Actually that’s exactly what it was, John. The Tibetan monks who popularized this practice believed that to hold one’s tongue for an extended period of time would have the effect of enhancing one’s discipline.”
“Basically, by keeping silent for a day, you are conditioning your will to do as you command it to do. Each time the urge to speak arises, you actively curb this impulse and remain quiet. You see, your will does not have a mind of its own. It waits for you to give it instructions that will spur it into action. The more control you exert over it, the more powerful it will become. The problem is that most people don’t use their willpower.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Probably because most people believe they don’t have any. They blame everyone and everything except themselves for this apparent weakness. Those who have a vicious temper will tell you, ‘I can’t help it, my father was the same way.’ Those who worry too much will tell you, ‘It’s not my fault, my job is too stressful.’ Those who sleep too much will say, ‘What can I do? My body needs ten hours of sleep a night.’ Such people lack the self-responsibility that comes through knowing the extraordinary potential which lies deep within every one of us, waiting to be inspired into action. When you come to know the timeless laws of nature, those that govern the operation of this universe and all that lives within it, you will also know that it is your birthright to be all that you can be. You have the power to be more than your environment. Similarly, you have the capacity to be more than a prisoner of your past. To do this, you must become the master of your will.”
“Really, it’s a very practical concept. Imagine what you could do if you doubled or tripled the amount of willpower that you currently have. You could get into that exercise regimen you have dreamed of starting; you could be far more efficient with your time; you could erase the worry habit once and for all; or you could be the ideal husband. Using your will allows you to rekindle the drive and energy for living that you seem to be saying you’ve lost. It is a very important area to focus on.”
“So the bottom line is to start using my willpower on a regular basis?”
“Yes. Decide to do the things you know you should be doing rather than walking the path of least resistance. Start to fight the gravitational force of your bad habits and weaker impulses just as a rocket rises above the force of gravity to enter the realm of the heavens. Push yourself. Just watch what will happen in a matter of weeks.”
“And the mantra will help?”
“Yes. Repeating the mantra I gave you, along with the daily practice of seeing yourself as you hope to be, will give you an enormous amount of support as you create the disciplined, principled life that will connect you to your dreams. And you need not change your world in a day. Start off small. The thousand-mile journey begins by taking that first step. We grow great by degrees. Even training yourself to get up an hour earlier and sticking to this wonderful habit will boost your self-confidence, inspiring you to reach higher heights.”
“I don’t see the connection,” I admitted.
“Small victories lead to large victories. You must build on the small to achieve the great. By following through on a resolution as simple as getting up earlier every day, you will feel the pleasure and gratification that achievement brings. You have set a goal and you have realized it. This feels good. The trick is to keep setting the mark higher and raising your standards continuously. This will then release that magical quality of momentum that will motivate you to keep exploring your infinite potential. Do you like to ski?” Julian questioned abruptly.
“I love skiing,” I replied. “Jenny and I take the kids up to the mountains whenever we can, which isn’t very often, much to her dismay.”
“Okay. Just think of what it’s like when you push off from the top of the ski hill. At first you start off slowly. But within a minute you are flying down the hill like there’s no tomorrow. Right?”
“Just call me Ninja Skier. I love the rush of speed!”
“What gets you going so fast?”
“My aerodynamically contoured physique?” I quipped.
“Nice try.” Julian laughed. “Momentum is the answer I’m looking for. Momentum is also the secret ingredient to building self-discipline. Like I said, you start off small, whether that means getting up a little earlier, starting to walk around the block every night or even just training yourself to turn off the television when you know you have had enough. These small victories create the momentum that excites you to take larger steps along the path to your highest self. Soon you are doing things that you never knew you were capable of doing with a vigor and energy that you never thought you had. It’s a delightful process, John, it really is. And the pink wire cable in Yogi Raman’s magical fable will always remind you of the power of your will.”
Just as Julian finished revealing his thoughts on the subject of discipline, I noticed the first rays of the sun peeking into the living room, pushing away the darkness like a child pushes away an unwanted bedcover. “This will be a great day,” I thought. “The first day of the rest of my life.”
Live with Discipline
Discipline is built by consistently performing small acts of courage
The more you nurture the embryo of selfdiscipline, the more it will mature
Willpower is the essential virtue of a fully actualized life
Mantras / Creative Envisioning
The Vow of Silence
Wage war against the weaker thoughts that have crept into the palace of your mind. They will see that they are unwanted and leave like unwelcome visitors.