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Chapter 13, The Timeless Secret of Lifelong Happiness. Part 2
“Yogi Raman had quite a vivid imagination, I’ll agree. But you have seen that his story has a purpose and that the principles it symbolizes are not only powerful — they are highly practical.”
“True,” I agreed without reservation.
“The path of diamonds, then, will serve to remind you of the final virtue for enlightened living. By carrying this principle with you through your daily work, you will enrich your life in a way that is difficult for me to describe. You will begin to see the exquisite wonders in the simplest of things and live with the ecstacy you deserve. And by carrying out your promise to me and sharing it with others, you will also allow them to transform their world from the ordinary into the extraordinary.”
“Will this take me a while to learn?”
“The principle itself is strikingly straightforward to grasp. But learning how to apply it effectively in all your waking moments will take a couple of weeks of steady practice.”
“Okay, I’m dying to hear it.”
“Funny you say that, because the seventh and final virtue is all about living. The Sages of Sivana believed that a truly joyful and rewarding life comes only through a process they called ‘living in the now.’ These yogis knew that the past is water under the bridge and the future is a distant sun on the horizon of your imagination. The most important moment is now. Learn to live in it and savor it fully.”
“I understand exactly what you are saying, Julian. I seem to spend most of my day fretting over past events that I have no power to change or worrying about things to come, which never do arrive. My mind is always flooded by a million little thoughts pulling me in a million different directions. It’s really frustrating.”
“It tires me out! I guess I just don’t have peace of mind. Yet I have experienced times when my mind is fully occupied on only what was in front of me. Often this happened when I was under the gun to crank out a legal brief and I didn’t have time to think about anything other than the task at hand. I’ve also felt this kind of total focus when I was playing soccer with the boys and I really wanted to win. Hours seemed to pass by in minutes and I felt centered. It was as if the only thing that mattered to me was what I was doing in that very moment. Everything else, the worries, the bills, the law practice, didn’t count. Come to think of it, these were probably the times when I felt the most peaceful as well.”
“Being engaged in a pursuit that truly challenges you is the surest route to personal satisfaction. But the real key to remember is that happiness is a journey, not a destination. Live for today — there will never be another one quite like it,” stated Julian, his smooth hands coming together as if to give a prayer of thanks for being privy to what he had just said.
“Is that the principle that the path of diamonds in Yogi Raman’s fable symbolizes?” I asked.
“Yes,” came the succinct reply. “Just as the sumo wrestler found lasting fulfillment and joy by walking the path of diamonds, you can have the life you deserve the very moment you start to understand that the path you are currently walking on is one rich with diamonds and other priceless treasures. Stop spending so much time chasing life’s big pleasures while you neglect the little ones. Slow things down. Enjoy the beauty and sacredness of all that is around you. You owe this to yourself.”
“Does that mean that I should stop setting big goals for my future and concentrate on the present?”
“No,” replied Julian firmly. “As I said earlier, goals and dreams for the future are essential elements in every truly successful life. Hope for what will appear in your future is what gets you out of bed in the morning and what keeps you inspired through your days. Goals energize your life. My point is simply this: never put off happiness for the sake of achievement. Never put off the things that are important for your well-being and satisfaction to a later time. Today is the day to live fully, not when you win the lottery or when you retire. Never put off living!”
Julian stood up and started pacing back and forth across the living room floor like a seasoned litigator releasing his final kernels of reason in an impassioned closing argument. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you will be a more loving and giving husband when your law firm takes on a few more junior lawyers to ease the burden. Don’t kid yourself into believing that you will start to enrich your mind, care for your body and nourish your soul when your bank account gets big enough and you have the luxury of more free time. Today is the day to enjoy the fruits of your efforts. Today is the day to seize the moment and live a life that soars. Today is the day to live from your imagination and harvest your dreams. And please never, ever forget the gift of family.”
“I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean Julian?”
“Live your children’s childhood,” came the simple reply.
“Huh?” I muttered, perplexed at the apparent paradox.
“Few things are as meaningful as being a part of your children’s childhood. What is the point of climbing the steps of success if you have missed the first steps of your own kids? What good is owning the biggest house on your block if you have not taken the time to create a home? What is the use of being known across the country as a red-hot trial lawyer if your kids don’t even know their father?” Julian offered, his voice now quivering with emotion. “I know whereof I speak.”
This last comment floored me. All I knew of Julian was that he had been a superstar litigator who hung out with the rich and the beautiful. His romantic trysts with nubile fashion models were almost as legendary as his courtroom skills. What could this former millionaire playboy possibly know about being a father? What could he possibly know about the daily struggles I faced in trying to be all things to all people, a great father and a successful lawyer? But Julian’s sixth sense caught me.
“I do know something of the blessings we call children,” he said softly.
“But I always thought you were the city’s most eligible bachelor before you threw in the towel and gave up your practice.”
“Before I was caught up in the illusion of that fast and furious lifestyle that I was so well known for, you know that I was married.”
He then paused, as a child might before telling his best friend a closely-guarded secret. “What you do not know is that I also had a little daughter. She was the sweetest, most delicate creature I have ever seen in my life. Back then, I was a lot like you were the first time we met: cocky, ambitious and full of hope. I had everything anyone could ever want. People told me I had a brilliant future, a stunningly beautiful wife and a wonderful daughter. Yet, when life seemed to be perfect, it was all taken from me in an instant.”
For the first time since his return, Julian’s eternally joyful face was enveloped in sadness. A single tear began to slide down one of his bronzed cheeks and dripped onto the velvety fabric of his ruby red robe. I was speechless and gripped by the revelation of my long-time friend.
“You don’t have to continue Julian,” I offered sympathetically, placing an arm around his shoulder to comfort him.
“But I do, John. Of all those I knew in my former life, you showed the most promise. As I said, you reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger. Even now you still have so much going for you. But if you keep on living the way you’re living, you are headed for disaster. I came back to this place to show you that there are so many wonders waiting for you to explore, so many moments left for you to savor.”
“The drunk driver who killed my daughter didn’t take away only one precious life on that sun-soaked October afternoon — he took two. After my daughter’s passing, my life unravelled. I started spending every waking minute at the office, foolishly hoping that my legal career might be the salve for the pain of a broken heart. Somedays, I even slept on a couch in my office, dreading to return to the home where so many sweet memories had been laid to rest. And while my career did take off, my inner world was a mess. My wife, who had been my constant companion since law school, left me, citing my obsession with my work as the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. My health deteriorated and I spiralled into the infamous life that I was engaged in when we first met. Sure I had everything money could possibly buy. But I sold my soul for it, I really did,” Julian noted emotionally, his voice still choked up.
“So when you say ‘Live your children’s childhood,’ you are basically telling me to take the time to watch them grow and flourish. That’s it, isn’t it?”
“Even today, twenty-seven years after she left us while we were driving her to her best friend’s birthday party, I would give anything just to hear my daughter giggle again or to play hide-and-seek like we used to in our back garden. I would love to hold her in my arms and softly caress her golden hair. She took a piece of my heart with her when she left. And though my life has been inspired by new meaning since I found the way to enlightenment and self-leadership in Sivana, a day doesn’t pass without me seeing the rosy face of my sweet little girl in the silent theatre of my mind. You have such great kids, John. Don’t miss the forest for the trees. The best gift you could ever give your children is your love. Get to know them again. Show them that they are far more important to you than the fleeting rewards of your professional career. Pretty soon they will be off, building lives and families of their own. Then it will be too late, the time will be gone.”
Julian had struck a chord deep inside of me. I guess I had known for some time that my workaholic pace was slowly but steadily loosening our family’s ties. But it was like a smoldering ember, burning quietly, slowly gathering its energy before revealing the full extent of its destructive potential. I knew my kids needed me, even if they might not have told me so. I needed to hear this from Julian. Time was slipping by and they were growing up so quickly. I couldn’t remember the last time my son Andy and I had stolen off early on a crisp Saturday morning to spend the day at the fishing hole his grandfather loved so much. There was a time when we would go every weekend. Now, this time-honored ritual seemed like someone else’s memory.
The more I thought about it, the harder it hit me. Piano recitals, Christmas plays, little-league championships had all been traded for my professional advancement.
‘What was I doing?’ I wondered. I really was sliding down the slippery slope that Julian described. There and then, I resolved to change.
“Happiness is a journey,” Julian continued, his voice rising once again with the heat of passion. “It is also a choice that you make. You can marvel at the diamonds along the way or you can keep running through all your days, chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that ultimately reveals itself to be empty. Enjoy the special moments that every day offers because today, this day is all you have.”
“Can anyone learn to ‘live in the now’?”
“Absolutely. No matter what your current circumstances might be, you can train yourself to enjoy the gift of living and fill your existence with the jewels of everyday life.”
“But isn’t that a little optimistic. How about someone who has just lost everything they own due to a bad business deal. Let’s say that not only are they financially bankrupt but emotionally bankrupt as well?”
“The size of your bank account and the size of your house have nothing to do with living life with a sense of joy and wonder. This world is full of unhappy millionaires. Do you think the sages I met in Sivana were concerned with having a well-balanced financial portfolio and acquiring a summer home in the South of France?” Julian asked mischievously.
“Okay. I see your point.”
“There is a huge difference between making a lot of money and making a lot of life. When you start spending even five minutes a day practicing the art of gratitude, you will cultivate the richness of living that you are looking for. Even the person you spoke of in your example can find an abundance of things to be thankful for, notwithstanding his dire financial predicament. Ask him if he still has his health, his loving family and his good reputation in the community. Question him as to whether he is happy to have citizenship in this great country and whether he still has a roof over his head. Perhaps he might have no assets other than a masterful ability to work hard and the ability to dream big dreams. Yet these are precious assets for which he ought to be grateful. We all have much to be thankful for. Even the birds singing outside your windowsill on what looks like another magnificent summer’s day appear as a gift to the wise person. Remember, John, life doesn’t always give you what you ask for, but it always gives you what you need.”
“So by giving daily thanks for all of my assets, whether these are material or spiritual, I will develop the habit of living in the moment?”
“Yes. This is an effective method for putting far more living into your life. When you savor the ‘now,’ you kindle the fire of life that allows you to grow your destiny.”
“Grow my destiny?”
“Yes. I told you earlier that we all have been given certain talents. Every single person on the planet is a genius.”
“You don’t know some of the lawyers I work with,” I quipped.