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The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO / , C (by Robin Sharma, 2018) -

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The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO / , C   (by Robin Sharma, 2018) -

The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO / , C (by Robin Sharma, 2018) -

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The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO / , C (by Robin Sharma, 2018) -
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2018
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Robin Sharma
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Grant Cartwright
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upper_intermediate
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07:21:10
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63 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO / , C :

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audiobook (MP3) .


: The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO

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The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO A Remarkable Story About Living Your Hearts Desires By Robin Sharma Introduction This book is a work of fiction. Its a story about a man named Jack Valentine, whose path in life was in many ways similar to my own. Feeling very incomplete as a human being, he set out on a search for wisdom to live a happier, healthier, and more beautiful life. Through a series of meetings with three remarkable teachers, Jack discovered a powerful philosophy to reshape his reality and access his destiny. The lessons Jack learned through his extraordinary adventure will cause you to create wonderful changes in your life as well. How do I know this? Because theyre the lessons that have transformed mine. Ive experienced many setbacks along this journey through my days. And yet, each stumbling block has eventually presented a stepping-stone that has brought me closer to my hearts truth and my best life. A number of years ago, I was a lawyer, chasing success and all the material trappings that went along with it, thinking that this was the way to lasting fulfillment. But as I worked harder and achieved more, I realized that nothing ever really changed. No matter how many material possessions I gathered, the man I saw in the bathroom mirror every morning was the sameI wasnt any happier and didnt feel any better. The more I reflected on the state of my life, I began to become aware of an emptiness within my heart. I started paying attention to its silent whispers, which instructed me to leave my chosen profession and begin some serious soul-searching. I started to think about why I was here on the planet and what my special mission was. I wondered why my life wasnt working and what deep changes needed to be made to get me on track. I looked at the core beliefs, assumptions, and filters through which I saw the world, and I committed myself to cleaning up the less-than-healthy ones. During this time of intense transformation, I read books on self-help, personal leadership, philosophy, and spirituality. I took personal-development course after personal-development course. I changed my diet, my thinking, and my behaviors. Eventually, the person I evolved into was someone more authentic, harmonious, and wise than the person I once was. Ill be the first to tell you that, in many ways, Im still just a beginner on this journey of self-discovery. The top of one mountain is the bottom of the next for me, and my human exploration is a never-ending process. Even now, as I write these words, Im moving through yet another period of massive personal transformation and reassessing my most fundamental values, along with the way I view the world. But I try to be gentle with myself. I remind myself that I must be patient and not push the river. Each day brings greater clarity, more certainty, and new blessings. And to me, thats what this beautiful unfolding of life is all about. I hope The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO touches you at a deep level. If you really want to own this material, its very important that you teach it. I suggest that within 24 hours of completing the book you sit down and share the philosophy youve learned with someone you care about. This will clarify your understanding and assist in integrating the lessons into your life. I also hope that you have fun living the knowledge of this book. Bringing a childlike sense of wonder and passion to what youll discover on the pages that follow is one of the best ways to grow into the person I know youre meant to become. Thank you for giving me the privilege of sharing this work with you. I wish for you a life rich with possibility, joy, and peace. And I hope that youll do your part to help in the building of a new world. Robin Sharma Chapter 1: New Beginnings All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between the average person and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of this and stays alert, deliberately waiting, so that when this cubic centimeter of chance pops out, it is picked up. Carlos Castaneda I had never felt so much pain in my life. My right hand was quivering uncontrollably, and blood was spilling all over my crisp white shirt. It was a Monday morning, and the only thought filling my head was that this was not a good day for me to die. As I lay motionless in my car, I was struck by the silence of the scene. No one in the truck that had just crashed into me even so much as twitched. The onlookers who had gathered at the scene looked horrified. And traffic had come to a complete standstill. All I could hear were leaves rustling in the trees that lined the road next to me. Two of the bystanders came running over, telling me that help was on the way and not to make any movements. One of them grasped my hand and started praying: Lord, help this man. Please protect him. Within minutes, a cavalcade of ambulances, fire trucks, and police cruisers surrounded the accident scene with sirens blaring. Everything seemed to slow down, and a strange sense of peace passed through me as the rescue workers methodically began their work, shining examples of grace under pressure. I felt like a witnessalmost as if I were watching the entire scene unfold from a high perch above. The next thing I can recall is waking up in a hospital room that smelled like fresh lemons and bleach. Ill never forget that smell. My body was wrapped in various bandages, and both of my legs were in casts. My arms were covered with bruises. I was greeted by a pretty young nurse. Mr. Valentine! I cant believe youre awake! Let me call the doctor, she said while frantically dialing the intercom stationed next to my bed. When she got off the intercom, I croaked out, Call me Jack, attempting to be casual in what I knew was a serious situation. Where am I? Youre at Lakeview General Hospital, Jack. This is the Critical Care ward. You had quite an accident last week. To be honest with you, youre very fortunate to be alive. I am? I asked sheepishly. Un-huh, the nurse replied with a forced grin while she looked at the charts at the foot of my bed. You fell into a coma after a pickup truck crashed into you. The paramedics who brought you in here couldnt believe you survived the crash. Anyway, the only thing you need to worry about now is healing those nasty wounds and your broken legs. Youll be just fineas I said, youre an incredibly lucky young man. Lucky was not a word I would have ever associated with myself but, under the circumstances, I could see her point. I was blessed to be alive. Why am I all alone in this room? I wondered aloud as I looked around. I wouldnt mind some company. Youve only been awake for a few minutes, Jack. Relax and give yourself some time to breathe. Be still. Your doctor will be here shortlyhe was extremely worried about you. As the hours of that day passed and the barrage of doctors and nurses probed, checked, and encouraged me, I began to fully appreciate how serious my accident had been. The driver of the pickup truck had been killed instantly, and my doctor candidly informed me that he thought Id never regain consciousness. Never seen a case quite like this one, he stated matter-of-factly. But I had a knowing within me that this had all happened for a reason. Everything happens for a reason, and there are no accidents in lifeI know youve heard that before. But Ive personally come to know that this breathtaking universe of ours is not only strikingly intelligent in its operation, its also a very friendly place. This world wants us to live great lives. It wants us to be happy. And it wants us to win. A quiet voice inside (which first appeared in that hospital room but would go on to comfort me during my most difficult and vulnerable times) informed me that something big was about to happen and that what Id experience over the coming days and weeks would not only revolutionize my life, it would affect the lives of many others as well. It told me that my best was yet to come. My guess is that many of us fail to listen to this quiet yet wise voice within us. Theres a place deep inside every single one of our hearts that knows all the answers to our biggest questions. Each one of us knows our truth and what needs to be done to create extraordinary lives for ourselves. Most of us have simply lost the connection to this natural source of pure wisdom because too much noise and clutter dominates our days. But Ive found that when Ive made time for silence, stillness, and solitude, the voice of truth begins to speak. And the more Ive trusted its guidance, the richer my life has become. It was about 9:30 that night when an orderly wheeled another patient into my room. I was grateful for the company and immediately raised my head to catch a glimpse of my new companion. He was an elderly man, probably about 75 years of age. He had thick silver hair that was slicked back in a stylish way and brown spots over his face from what appeared to be many years of sun exposure. I detected from his frail appearance and his labored breathing that this man was quite ill. I also noted that he was in some painhe kept his eyes closed and moaned softly as the orderly transferred him into his new bed. After about ten minutes, the visitor slowly opened his eyes. I was spellbound: His eyes were dazzling blue and revealed a clarity and brilliance that sent a shiver up my spine. I immediately felt that the man before me had a depth of wisdom that was rare in this world of quick fixes and fast lives. I felt I was in the presence of a master. Good evening, he softly whispered in a dignified way. Looks like were in here together for a while. Yesits not the greatest place to spend a Friday night, is it? I replied with a warm smile. My names Jack, I said, raising my hand as a greeting. Jack Valentine. I was in a pretty serious car accident about a week ago, and the verdict is that Ill be in this bed for a while. Ive felt alone all day, so Im glad to meet you, sir. Good to meet you too, Jack. Im Cal. Ive been in this hospital, in various wards, for the past seven months. Ive been tested, treated, and tracked more than I ever could have imagined. Im afraid that the way things are going for me, Im never going to get out of here, he offered quietly, his eyes darting up to the ceiling. He paused for a moment. I came in here with a stomachache, which I thought was caused by something I ate. Six days later they had me in chemotherapy. Cancer? I asked, trying to be as sensitive as possible. Yes. By the time the doctors detected it, they saw that it had spread throughout my body. Its in my lungs, its in my gut, and its now even in my head, he said as he shakily passed his right hand through his mop of hair. Anyway, he continued in a reflective tone, Ive lived a pretty great life relative to most people. I grew up dirt poor, raised only by my mom. And what a noble woman she was. Same as mine, I interjected. I think about my mother every day, Cal replied. She was sensitive, feisty, and strong as freshly forged steel. She believed in me like no one else Ive ever met and encouraged me to set great goals and dream big dreams. Her love for me was truly unconditionaland thats the only kind of love thats real, Jack. Makes me think of what Victor Hugo once wrote: The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. And boy, did I feel loved by that extraordinary woman. You dont mind if I share my story with you, do you? No, not at all, I replied. Actually, Im intrigued. Good. Well, my childhood was simple yet fun. Summers spent skinny-dipping at the swimming hole and winters spent in front of a roaring fire telling stories and reading great books. My mom taught me to love books. I love books, too, I offered. I really didnt enjoy school that much, but I cherished my books. I was a lot like that. As the great thinker Judah ibn-Tibbon observed so wisely: Make thy books thy companions. Let thy cases and shelves be thy pleasure grounds and gardens. Lovely words, Cal. He continued. School bored me, but I found great stimulation from books. Ill never forget my mother saying that one idea read in one book had the potential to transform my life. The real thing, she said, was that we just didnt know which book contained that one idea that would lead to our awakening! My duty, she would tell me with obvious love, was to keep searching for that book; once I found it, I had to have the personal courage to act on the idea so that results were brought into my life. Jack, since you love to read, too, Ill share a another quick quote on the power of reading with you. By all means. The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity, and this passion is the only thing that raises us above the beasts that perish. Its from A. Edward Nortonhad to learn that one in high school, Cal mentioned as he repositioned himself in his bed. Anyway, once I got a little older, I went off to a military academy for further education and training. Mom never wanted me to leave, but I received a scholarship and it really was my ticket out of the poverty that I grew up in. After that, I went to college, and there, on my very first day on campus, I fell in love with an 18-year-old sweetie with golden hair and ivory skin. I met her in history class, and it truly was love at first sight. I just knew we were meant to be together. My God, I loved Graceshe was so innocent and kind. I couldnt have imagined a more splendid person for me to journey through life with. My mothers name was Grace, too, I remarked. Beautiful name, isnt it, Jack? Yes, it is. After Grace and I were married, we had a child, a boy. I loved that kid so much. It was a very special time for us. We had fun, laughter, lovethe best stuff of life. About that time I also decided to try my hand at business, starting a lumber concern that supplied many large contractors. It was during a time of great economic prosperity, and the construction boom was upon us. Over a period of years, I made a ton of money millions of dollars, in factand the life that Grace, our son, and I began to lead was something right out of a storybook. Pure fantasy, Id have to say, Cal noted, shaking his head as if he couldnt believe it himself. But, as I made more money, I became more consumed by work. I grew distracted and less attentive to my family. Its been said that as we move through life, we have to juggle a number of different balls. Some balls, like the one that represents career, are made of rubber. If we drop them, they have the ability to bounce back. But some balls are made of glassfamily is like that. If you drop that ball, it doesnt come back. Thats the mistake I made. Money just complicated things for me and sent me down the wrong path. I lost sight of my deepest values and my truest priorities. I moved farther away from my family rather than closer to them. The richest person in the world, Ive since discovered, isnt the person who has the most but the one who needs the least. It took me a long time to get that lesson. And boy, did I pay a hefty price for it. I listened intently, engrossed in the story of this man who was sharing his lifes experiences so openly with me. I had also grown up without a father, so I was fascinated to hear Cals perspective on the importance of a strong family life. I longed for a connection to the father I never really knew and had always felt that a big piece of my life was missing because of this incompleteness. I also felt some sadness surfacing due to the fact that although I was a relatively young man, I still hadnt met a woman I felt I could share my life and start a family with. It was a longing I hadnt detected before. Anyway, Cal continued, his enthusiasm flowing, hard times hit our industry, as they always do, and I lost every penny of my fortune. Im not saying I lost some of the money and some of our belongings, Jack. Im telling you that we lost it all in a matter of weeks. Grace took it very hard and worried endlessly about our dire straits. But we were strong people, and together we tried our best to rebuild. The business was scaled down considerably, and Grace and I retreated to a much simpler lifestyle. It was also a time of great internal reflection for the two of us. Failure often does that for people. It reawakens us to who we really are and to what we truly want, and it shakes us out of our complacency. And so, even though we were uncomfortable from an economic point of view and our relationship still faced its challenges, I grew immensely as a human being. In fact, the distress of that period started me on a path of self-discovery and personal growth that I still travel on this very day. It totally changed my life. So what happened next, Cal? I asked with genuine interest, unconcerned that it was getting late and the lights in the hospital had all been turned off. I became a philosopher, came the straightforward reply. A philosopher? What about your business? And what about Grace and your son? Philosophy simply means love of wisdom. What Im telling you, Jack, is that I came to love wisdom just as much as I loved life itself. Id spend entire days pondering lifes meaning and meditating on its deep issues. The things that I used to spend my days focusing on began to look trivial. Sadly, Grace and I began to drift apart even further and eventually we separated. Some people believe that relationships come to us as assignments. Some last for weeks, some for a lifetimebut they all come to teach us big lessons that are meant to spur our growth as people. All I know is that I learned so much from the time we had together. Unfortunately, she took our boy with her, and I never saw the two of them again. That crushed me, Cal said, his voice trembling. A piece of me died when that happened. I still have trouble forgiving myself over what I did to destroy my family life. And God, how I missed that child. Last I heard, Grace moved across the country and tried to raise our son with the limited resources she had. I tried to remain in contact with her and help her out, but I knew her heart had been broken, and proud as she was, shed have nothing to do with me. It truly was the greatest mistake of my life, losing my family. My wife and son brought me such extraordinarily happy moments, which I didnt see until it was too late. But our greatest mistakes also carry our largest lessons. Im wiser now. I guess the real trick in life is to turn hindsight into foresight that reveals insight. Nice way to put it, Cal. What I really hear you saying is that its important in life to let our past serve us. Is that right? Very well put. Thats it exactly. Theres nothing wrong with making a mistakethats how human beings grow. Were designed to make mistakes, for mistakes carry growth. We just shouldnt keep repeating the same one. Turn a wound into wisdom, or, as you said, let your past serve you. Anyway, after Grace and our son left, I, in turn, went even deeper into myself, closing myself off from the world for a period of years, and becoming deeply involved in selfexamination and internal questioning. My passion became my quest to discover who I was as a human being and why my life had unfolded as it did. In a world where most people live on the outside, I lived within. In a world where people run away from their fears, I ran toward them. And what I saw within the deepest parts of me was incredible. Can you share what you saw within yourself? I inquired eagerly, hanging on Cals every word. Ill let you find that out for yourself, son, he replied, deepening my already burning sense of curiosity. You know, we all have to do our own interior work. Its our highest responsibility. To examine yourself and get to know the real youyour true selfand all you are as a human being is the central aim of life. To know more about yourself so you can be more for the world is the ultimate journey. Genuine success in life is an inside job, you know. I understand completely. What Ive found is that the best treasures a person will ever discover are those hidden within their heart. The greatest gifts of life are the inner gifts that are only revealed to those with the courage to look beyond the surface of their lives. I thought about what he said for a moment. Unfortunately, Cal, Ive never been one for personal development. I work for an ad agency, so I spend my days in the corporate world. Its all about making money and looking good. Im not proud of the way my world operates, but Ive learned to play the game. And I play it fairly well. Ive got a slick car, or at least I had one. Ive got a hot apartment and cool friends. But at the end of the day, I still dont feel happy. Somethings missing. I really get what youre saying about success being an inside job. If I felt good about myself, I know Id feel a lot better about my life. So where could I start with this interior work, as you call it? You can begin by connecting to your mortality, Jack. Thinking about death is very life affirming, you know. Really? Sure. Its only when we deeply and emotionally connect to the fact that our lives are short and our hours are limited that we can fully live, and give every bit of ourselves to our waking moments. If you had only one year left to live, I bet youd live very differently than you do right now. Youd make certain that you lived without regrets; youd take chances; youd risk opening your heart for love; and youd live with total passion, great gusto, and a lovely focus on the worthy. What do you mean by a focus on the worthy? I asked. Cal slowly sat up and reached for the pencil that rested on the table beside him. Live like this pencil and youll have a fine life, he offered in a confident tone. Too many of us live our lives like a rounded edge. We need to sharpen our focus and live to the pointjust like a pencil. This is how you design and then build an extraordinary experience of life for yourself. The writer Michel Eyquem de Montaigne put it this way: The great and glorious masterpiece of human beings is to live to the point. All other things are at most but inconsiderable props and appendages. You see, Jack, most of us live our lives as if we had all the time in the world. We deny ourselves our passions and we postpone our dreams. But life really is a fragile gift, and it needs to be lived right now. Neither of us knows how many tomorrows we have left. Please trust me on this one. I will, I said sincerely, sensing how important this lesson was for my new friend. Focus on the things that truly count in your life. Now that Im older and wiser, Ive discovered that the things I once believed to be the big things in life are actually the little things. And all those things that I believed to be the little, insignificant things early on have turned out to be the big thingsthe things that actually matter the most. And how would I go about connecting to my mortality? Ask yourself The Final Questions, came the clear reply. The Final Questions? Im not familiar with these, Cal. What are you talking about? I sat up in my bed, completely transfixed by what I was hearing from this unique and somewhat mysterious man. When you lie on your deathbed taking your last breaths, there will be only three questions that will be at the forefront of your mind. These are what I call a persons Final Questions. And since theyll be the most important considerations at the end of your life, why not exercise the personal bravery to make them your most important considerations today. And the questions are? I asked, sensing that what I was about to hear just might change my life. Theyre simply: Did I live wisely? Did I love well? and Did I serve greatly? Could you please explain each of these? I asked eagerly. I know its late, but this information could really change everything for me. Jack, even though I need to get some sleep, I appreciate your enthusiasm. Theres no doubt in my mind that you and I have been brought together for a reason. Thats just the way the world works. Everyone who enters your life comes to you at precisely the time that you most need to learn the lesson theyve come to teach. I believe that. Our world is a very wise place, and our lives unfold according to a series of natural laws that are nothing less than brilliant. We human beings think that our lives are governed by random events and that the people who enter and exit do so purely by chance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Theres no chaos in our world, only order. There are no coincidencesever. Our lives arent run by good or bad luck, but by an intelligent process designed to help us evolve into our best selves. How do you know this? I just know. And so will you, Cal stated with certainty. Interesting, I replied, deep in thought. You were born to present your gifts to the world. But the way its set up is that before you can shine as a personand I mean really shineyou must do that interior work I spoke of earlier. You must get to know yourself; you must look at your limiting beliefs and recreate them. And you must analyze the false assumptions you have about what you can be, have, and do as a person and then set about correcting them. You need to become aware of your historical patterns of reacting in the different scenarios of your life and re-create them. And you must tackle your fears and move through them. Then you can open up your heart and be more concerned about the happiness of other people than about the happiness of yourself. And once you do, ironically, youll become happy. So its all set up in a very methodical way, I said, summarizing the knowledge Id just been exposed to. The world has a grand design and order to it. I guess the first thing I must do is understand the natural laws its governed by? Yes, son, Cal replied, clearly pleased by my openness to his philosophy on life. Once you align yourself with these laws, youll access your authentic power. Youll become a force of nature, and your life will move from a place of struggle into one of ease and flow. All that youve ever dreamed of being you will become. Youll naturally draw into your life all that your heart has ever desired without effort. Your life will begin, to work, almost as if guided by magic. I absorbed what he said for a moment, and then said, Im wondering exactly where I should start, though. Ill confess that this is a time of genuine struggle for me. I dont really know who I am anymore, and Im just itching to make my life better. I recently ended my relationship with my girlfriend. I cant stand my job. I never have much money at the end of the month, even though I make a good salary. And I seem to have this deep ache within me that never leaves. Trust that ache, son. What? I asked, unsure that Id heard him correctly. Trust that ache, Cal repeated. Ive learned from my teachers that only when we go into the feelings and longings that most of us run away from will we find our greatest answers. Our feelings grant us immense wisdom and carry the knowledge of our subconscious minds. And our subconscious minds are our link to the wisdom of the universe. Our conscious thinking is so limited, but our subconscious thinking is infinite. You know, most of us deny our feelings. Society has taught us to do that. From a young age, we divorce ourselves from the way we feel. Were told not to cry, were told not to laugh too loud, and were told that its wrong to feel sad or even to experience our anger. But our feelings are neither right nor wrongtheyre simply our feelings, and an essential part of the human experience. Deny them and you begin to shut down parts of yourself. Keep doing that and youll lose the connection to who you truly are. Youll begin living completely in your head, and youll stop feeling. Cal stopped for a moment and looked me in the eye. Id be willing to bet, Jack, that all you do, all day long, is think, think, think. Your mind is a nonstop chattering machine, and you have no inner peace. Youve stopped living in the present moment and feeling what its like to be fully aliveyoure too busy living in the past or in the future. Did you know that the mind rarely lives in the present moment? Its always worrying about the past or thinking about the future. But that stuff isnt real. All thats real is the moment right in front of you. Dont miss that moment, because thats where your life is. So true, I remarked, letting out a deep sigh. This mans words reflected the truthI felt it in my body. This is all starting to make perfect sense, I noted. I wish more people would hear the wisdom youre sharing with me and open up their eyes to it. The world would be a better place. Theyll get it when theyre ready to get it. As the old saying goes, When the student is ready, the teacher appears. You cant push the river, you know. I guess theres just too much cynicism in the world today, I answered. We dont believe in the great dreams we had as kids anymore. We dont believe we have the power to create the lives we want. We dont think that we can really make a difference by the things we do. Cal nodded. And thats exactly why so many of us are stuck. We have phenomenal power within us; weve just lost our connection to it. Part of the reason for this is fear. The possibilities available to us in our lives are truly miraculous. The wonders we have the potential to create in our lives, once we align with the force of nature, are astoundingthey really are. But all this potential also brings with it certain responsibilities . . . and this frightens us. So we dont believe in ourselves. We deny our power and set up blocks to the achievement of the extraordinary lives that were meant to lead. Its almost like we sabotage ourselves. We run away from the very thing we want the most. Thats exactly what we do. We pretend we dont matter, and we act as if were not special. We close our eyes to the way the world really operates, so we dont trust in these natural laws that govern it. And these laws only come alive in your life once you invest every bit of the trust you have as a human being in them. They dont work if you dont believe they will work. To access our best lives, each and every one of us must make some fundamental shifts of the mind. Maybe even more important, we each must make some fundamental shifts of the heart. And that begins by trusting these laws of nature Ive been telling you about. So first I should trust that these laws workand then they will? Correct. Its set up a little like a fireplace. You need to put the logs in before you get the heat. Sitting in front of a logless fireplace just doesnt get you any warmer. Most people dont trustthey have no faith in the brilliance of the universe and their lovely role within it. Thats why theres no magic in their lives. Its because they fail to understand the way the world operates, and its also because theyre no longer leaders. I was puzzled by that remark. What do you mean by that? The starting point of enlightenment, a goal that every person should strive for, is inner leadership. Leadership is far more than something businesspeople do at work. Leadership is all about personal responsibility, self-discovery, and creating value in the world by the people we become. Too many people spend their time blaming others for all that isnt working in their lives. We blame our spouses for our unhappy home lives; we blame our bosses for our distress at work; we blame strangers on the freeway for making us angry; we blame our parents for keeping us small. Blame, blame, blame, blame. But blaming others is nothing more than excusing yourself. Blaming others for the current quality of your life is a sad way to live. In doing so, all youre doing is playing the victim. Really? Definitely. Because, in living like that, what youre essentially saying is that youre powerless to lead your life. What youre saying is for your life to change, your spouse must change or your boss must change or the strangers on the freeway must change. Thats a very impotent way to live. Wheres the leadership in that philosophy of life? Cal observed, his voice growing louder as his intensity increased. The only way to lift your life to the next level is to act like a leader and assume real leadership over your life. The moment you look in the mirror and say to yourself, from the deepest place within you, For my life to change, I must changethats the moment youll grow up and walk through a doorway that will lead you to your best life. Why is that so, I wonder? Because, Jack, thats when youll take your life into your own hands, Cal said passionately as he raised his hands into the air with dramatic flair. Youll assume responsibility for the destiny that has been presented to you. Youll stop resisting your life and accept what is. Youll align yourself with those immutable laws of nature that Ive been sharing with you, laws that have always governed the way the life works, from the beginning of time. Youll get your power back. Cal stopped and looked deep into my eyes. Point your index finger at me, son, he said. What? Just do it, he replied firmly. I raised my hand and pointed directly at my uniquely eccentric roommate. What do you notice? he quizzed. My skin seems to be peeling, I replied honestly. No, son. Think more deeply, which is something we all need to do more of as we journey through life. Reflection is the mother of wisdom, you know. Okay, so you have one finger pointing at me, but who are the other fingers pointing toward? I was struck by Cals simple yet powerful demonstration. His point was clear: for every finger we point at another, we have three pointing back at us. I shared this realization with him. Now youre getting it! he exclaimed joyfully. Stop blaming others for everything you dislike about your life. Look in the mirror and regain some accountability over your life. Thats how personal change and life leadership begins. I smiled at him. Okay, I see where youre coming from. I took a moment to let Cals wisdom and lessons integrate. Then I said, You dont think like most people. I know. Thats because I see more than most people. And its not because Im better than anyone elseits because Ive been taught by the best, Cal responded humbly. What do you mean by that? Well, it makes me think of what the father of classical physics, Isaac Newton, said: If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. You see, Ive been blessed by having some extraordinary guides in my life. The wisdom Im sharing with you isnt mine. Its not? No, not really. I learned it from my three teachers, three extraordinary human beings that transformed my life. I owe everything to them. Can I meet them? I asked excitedly. Of course you cansooner than you think, actually. Theyll be the ones to explain to you the meaning of the Final Questions I alluded to earlier. Theyll be the ones to really give you the answers youre looking for. Theyre the best resources I know of on what it means to be a true leader of your life and live congruently with the natural laws of the world. Theyre the masters. Im only the student. Just then, Cal began to cough. It started off in a mild way but quickly grew acute. His face became red, and a line of sweat drizzled down his forehead. My God, Cal! Should I call the nurse? I asked with concern. No, Ill be okay, he replied, wheezing and looking deathly pale. I really think I need to get some sleep now. I promise that tomorrow will be a very big day for youit may even be your biggest day yet. It just might be your new beginning, he added with suspense, his blue eyes sparkling like stars on a cold winters night. Its been really great meeting you, Jack, Cal continued. As I say, it was meant to be, this beautiful connection weve made. We entered each others lives tonight for a reason. Thats just the way the world works, he said with a smile as he rolled over and pulled the covers over his shoulders, chuckling to himself. Thats just the way the world works, he repeated. Life truly is beautiful. The room was silent for a moment. Oh, and by the way, son, he added gently, I love you. Chapter 2: Getting Onto the Path To Live In Hearts We Leave Behind Is Not To Die. Thomas Campbell I awoke the next morning with bright sunlight streaming onto my face. I felt much better, and although I knew it would be a while before I would be completely recovered, I had a newfound sense of hope. I realized that, no matter what happened, Id be okay. The conversation Id had the previous night with Cala most unique and intriguing manhad left me feeling a joy that I hadnt experienced in years. His wisdom and philosophy about the way our lives unfold was nothing short of remarkable. And I couldnt wait for him to introduce me to the three teachers who had transformed his life. Although I thought it was odd that hed told me he loved me as he drifted off to sleep, I assumed it was simply another of his practices for living a richer life and showing authentic leadership. I couldnt wait to continue our dialogue and learn more from this man Id quickly developed a deep respect for. Good morning, Cal, I said enthusiastically as I stretched like a cat in my standard-issue hospital bed. This is going to be a great day for us, my friend. Cal was facing the other direction and did not respond. Hey Cal, its already ten oclocktime to wake up. Dont make me come over there and get you, I offered playfully. But Cal didnt move. A cramp quickly knotted my gut, my head started to spin, and I feared the worst. Nurse! I yelled. Please, I need some help fast! Three nurses sprinted into the room. I think somethings wrong with Cal! He was okay last night until he started to cough. He told me hed be okay, but now it doesnt seem that he is. Cal remained still as the nurses tended to him. I really hope hes okay, I said, filled with worry. Cals dead, the most senior of the three nurses stated. Im sorry, she added with a little more gentleness. Cals been very sick for a very long time, Jack, remarked another of the nurses. His cancer had spread through his body, and we just couldnt do anything for him. He specifically asked to be brought up here last nightnone of us really knew why. It was his final request. And we were more than happy to comply with it. He just said he knew you from a long time ago and he wanted to meet you, the senior nurse stated. Cal was always a pretty mysterious man, you know. I know, I replied. I felt true sadness in my heart over the loss of a person I knew had come into my life as an angel of sorts, guiding my life into a new direction and offering me the new beginning that Id so longed for. Cal was an amazing man, I said with respect. I cant believe hes deadin a short time he changed me in a way Ive yet to fully appreciate. Thats just the way the world works, all three nurses said in unison, using one of the pet phrases of my departed roommate. They smiled at each other. We loved Cal, one of them offered. By the way, she added as the other two covered Cals face with a sheet and tenderly wheeled him out of the room, he left a package for you. We were instructed to give it to you this morning. It was almost as if he knew he would die last night, she said softly, tears welling up in her eyes. Let me get it for you. Within minutes the nurse returned. She passed me the package, which was covered with ornate wrapping paper that depicted little children swimming and frolicking in the sand. These images had been expertly drawn by hand and colored with crayons. And they were fantastic. Would you mind if I open this alone? I asked the nurse. I just feel that this is a personal moment for me, and Id like to experience it by myself. Itll be my way of honoring Cal. Of course. No sweat, she replied. Were all very sad about Cal, but just let us know if theres anything we can do for you. Well just be down the hallway at the nurses station. Thanks. I carefully unwrapped the package. I had to remove several layers of tissue paper to get to the gift within. And once I reached it, I was astonished by what I saw. Neatly placed, one on top of another, were three airline tickets. As I looked more closely, I saw that they were first-class passages to three of the most remarkable places in the world: Rome, Hawaii, and New York City. Along with the plane tickets was a map of each destination, with directions scrawled in red ink and an x with a circle around it, showing the location I assumed I was to reach. The final element of this gift was a handwritten note from Cal. It read: Dear Jack, Sorry to leave you so quickly, son. I knew Id go soon. Youre a fine young man with great potential, and I know that youre destined for a life of honor, joy, and beautiful growth. I leave you not feeling sad but immensely happy and fulfilled. You see, Ive lived a great life, enjoying more than my fair share of celebrations under the stars and special moments under the sun. Ive traveled down through lifes valleys and experienced deep sadness. And Ive journeyed high along its peaks, feeling more happiness than Ive had any right to. Yes, Ive made more than my share of mistakes. But son, Im a practical manalways have been. So Ive learned that its better to risk and fail than to not risk at all. I know that youre at a crossroads in your life right now. While this might seem like a difficult time, as you seek the answers to your largest questions, know that its also a wonderful time. Human beings are most alive when living in the unknown, for its in this place where anything and everything is possible. Youre opening up to the world, and so the world will now begin to open up to you. I cannot teach you all that you need to learn. While Ive grown wiser along the path of my life, there are other teachers whose feet you need to sit at and whose powerful wisdom you need to learn from: three in particular. And as soon as you fully recover, I urge you to visit them. Theyre honorable, giving people. They each have discovered how to create an extraordinary life. And theyve agreed to be your guides. Ive provided you with three plane tickets. First, go to Rome. Follow the directions on the map and meet your first teacher. Its all been arranged. Once there, youll learn about the first of The Final Questions: Have I lived wisely? Youll find out how to conduct your life so that its lived in a noble and enlightened way. From this first teacher, youll learn the importance of discovering the gifts on the inside of your life so you can live with immense peace on the outside. Youll discover how to go deep as a person. Then travel to Hawaii. The guide youll meet there is quite a character. But dont be deceived by his simple appearance and playful behavior. This teacher is a genuine master. Hell explain a splendid philosophy around the second of the Final Questions: Have I loved well? With him youll learn how to love life itself and each of the moments that occur within it. Hell inspire you to experience your bliss, live with a wonderful sense of adventure, and open your heart to an entirely new reality. And then, to complete your personal transformation, youll journey to New York City. There youll meet a truly exceptional human being who will take you through the third of the Final Questions: Have I served greatly? With this teacher, youll be shown how to be a leader on the planet, not only in terms of your career but also in terms of your life. This entire process will take you three months, but I promise that youll fundamentally change as a result of it. How do I know this? Because I changed at a core level as a result of what they taught me. Please dont let the inner critic that might be starting to awaken in your mind at this moment take over. This gremlin always starts to chatter when were presented with an opportunity to grow as people. Its nothing more than the voice of fear. And it isnt your truth speaking. It isnt you. Simply trust in the process Im lovingly offering to you. Release any concerns that you have about this path youre about to walk on, and just go into it with the curiosity of a child, knowing that youll come out on the other side as a new person, or to be more accurate, far more of the person who you truly are and have been created to be. I wish I could guide you through all this, but this is a solitary journey that you alone must take. So I wish you well, son. I bless your life. I pray for your success. And I give you all my love. Your father, Cal Valentine I was astonished by this note, especially the way it ended. Could Cal have really been the father I never knew? Many questions remained unanswered as a barrage of thoughts rippled through my mind. Where had he been all these years? Why hadnt he tried to contact me? Why didnt he tell me who he was in his remaining moments? Should I feel love for him, or anger over the fact that hed abandoned my mother and me so many years ago? I was completely confused. And I felt all my ancient wounds opening up again. I then looked down at the package, wondering whether the plane tickets were real and if the instructions Cal had provided could be trusted. Would this journey he recommended be safe? But then something within me began to shift. Cal had been so very kind to me during our brief time together. I sensed that all he wanted to do in his last hours on Earth was to help me, guide me, and teach me. I felt his love and I knew it was true. His wish was for me to take this trip, and I felt compelled to do so. Id deal with my hurt as the days went bybut I knew Id be just fine. As I sat alone in my hospital bed, one word dominated my consciousness at that time: trust. And so I did. I didnt have to figure everything out right this second. My life was opening up, and I was just going to enjoy the ride. Id spent far too much time trying to work it all out in the pastplanning, thinking, and worrying. The world had presented me with a glorious opportunity, and I felt free to seize it. I told myself that if figuring things out in my head was the way to find the answers I needed to create the extraordinary life Id always wanted, then Id have those answers by now. A voice within me said, Theres another way to live, Jack. And its a far more powerful way to operate. It has nothing to do with figuring things out in your headit has everything to do with listening to the whispers of the heart. Stop being so busy doing and begin to spend more time just being. Set an intention to align your life with the natural power that runs the world. Its there that your answers lie. I once read a quote from the respected psychologist Abraham Maslow that has never left me. His words were most appropriate for the journey I was about to embark upon. Id like to share them with you: We fear our highest possibilities. . . . We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, under times of great courage. We enjoy and even thrill in the possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments and yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and fear before these very same possibilities. As I closed my eyes, I felt the sunlight on my face and the rhythmic beating of my heart. I had a knowing inside the core of my being that my lifemy best lifewas moving toward me. I felt my destiny coming to get me. Part I: The Saint Chapter 3: Opening Up to the Way the World Really Works Those who live nobly, even if in their life they live obscurely, need not fear that they will have lived in vain. Something radiates from their lives, some light that shows the way to their friends, their neighbors, perhaps to long future ages. Bertrand Russell Remember who you are, she said. Youre a master. Aniesa Thames It was springtime, and I was in Rome. It was a beautiful time to be alive. Id recovered completely from the accident and had never felt better. Id taken a three-month sabbatical from my position at the advertising agency and had rented my apartment to an old college friend who couldnt have been happier with her good fortune. I gained completion in the relationship with my former girlfriend, and Im happy to say that we parted as friends. I was feeling good about my life for the first time in years. And I was ready for an adventure. The experience Id had with Cal never left my mind. Ever since our magical meeting, not one day had passed when I didnt think about him and his wisdom for at least a few moments. His knowledge had sunk deep to my roots, and Id gained fresh insights on his unique perspectives each and every day since his passing. And I discovered that he proved to be completely worthy of my trust: The first-class ticket to Rome was legitimate, and as he promised, everything about the trip had been arranged splendidly. Cal had clearly given a lot of thought to my personal transformation and had put great care in getting all the details of this unique voyage just right. I could feel his love for me right now. I cant believe ithere I am in Rome, with all the time in the world, and nothing but a backpack with a few items of clothing in it to worry about, I thought as I strolled along the narrow cobblestone streets in the older section of the city. There was a sweet smell in the air that made me smile and relax amidst this new environment. I felt as if I were meant to be in this incredible place, where my journey of self-discovery was set to begin. It was almost as if fate had attracted Cal into my life, and destiny had led me to where I stood now. All I could do was stay fully present in the moment and open up to whatever was meant to unfold for me. This was a completely different modus operandi for me, a far cry from the planned and rigid lifestyle that had characterized my days up until the car accident. And yet, a part of me knew that this new way to be was far more powerful than the old one. My life now seemed to be leading me, and I was ready to enjoy the gifts and savor the surprises. To be even more specific, it was almost as if a set of hidden hands or an invisible force was guiding me in the direction of my highest and most authentic life. It really is hard to explain how this all felt at this time of my life. But I will say that I felt completely at ease and profoundly at peace. Ive since come to understand that this force, this invisible power, is the force of nature. Its the same power that created the stars and gives rise to the sunset. It pulses through every living being and is available to anyone with the awareness to detect it and then align themselves with it. It all begins with a commitment to remove the blinders that most of us have placed upon our worldview and seek out the truth. And the truth became clearer to me as I went deeper into myself. I believe thats what real leadership as a human being is all about. Its nothing more than an individual quest for the truththe truth about what weve experienced in the past and what we can become in our future; the truth about why were here and how we got to where we are. Discovering the truth and then leading our lives by it is what sets us free. Through my experiences and personal lessons along the way, Ive learned that leadership of my life is also about releasing the tight grasp Ive kept on my current reality. We all need to dispense with this addiction so many of us have to knowing how our lives are meant to turn out in advance. The fact of the matter is that we grow into our most powerful selves (or at least start the process) the moment we let go of all the control we so fearfully cling to, and open ourselves up to all possibilities that this glorious universe of ours presents. This is a great act of humility because it requires us to let go of the belief that we know whats best for us. It requires us to realize that what we think is needed in our lives to make us happy might not be what we need at all. And I say that this release of control is a great act of humility because it really does insist that we surrender ourselves to the much more powerful intelligence of the world we live in. I know its scary stuff at first, but Ive found that on the other side of our biggest fears resides our greatest fortune. I guess its all about having the faith that even if our lives dont unfold according to our best-laid plans, theyre going to turn out just fine. And its all about believing in a higher success well beyond the scope of what we can currently see. Arthur Shopenhauer almost had it when he observed: Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world. But a few do not. Join them. Id been following Cals directions for about an hour when I drew near to the place marked on the map with an x. His handwritten scrawl stated cryptically: Find the stained glass window and youll see the world through new lenses. As I continued up the road, looking for the building marked on the map, I saw something that took my breath away. Directly in front of me was an incredibly beautiful cathedral, with its doors wide open and bouquets of roses lining the steps. Baroque music spilled out of its entrance, and splendid sounds poured out into the street. Stone markings covered the pillars that stood at its front and, sure enough, standing proud and tall at the center of it all was the most spectacular stained glass window Id ever seen. I just stood there in awe, listening to the music and soaking up the brilliance of the moment. Tears actually began to form in my eyes, my heartbeat started to quicken, and my palms started to sweat. Our lives, Ive realized, are nothing more than a series of momentsif you miss the moments, you miss your life. Thankfully, I had the wisdom to enjoy that special moment, which in some way connected me to something larger than myself. The feeling I had reminded me that I wasnt alone, and that I never had been throughout my life. It reminded me of the famous Footprints story written by Margaret Fishback Powers, in which a man had a dream that he saw himself walking on a beach alongside God. Across the sky flashed various scenes from this mans life, and for each scene, the man could see two sets of footprints in the sand. One set was his own and the other belonged to God. Suddenly the man noticed something fascinating as he surveyed all the scenes of his existence: During certain times, there was only one set of footprints in the sand. And this single set of footprints only appeared during the most difficult and painful times of his lifes journey. So the man confronted God with this observation, expressing his disappointment that he was left alone when he most needed help. God lovingly explained that during the painful times, he carried the man. I was thinking about this very special dream that changed the way the man viewed the world when a powerful voice bellowed from inside of the cathedral: Jack, you made it! Great to see you here! A priest came running out to greet me. He was dressed in his traditional clothing of worship, with a rosary in one hand and a book tied with a bright red bow in the other. He sauntered down the steps and stopped directly in front of me, grinning. This is for you, Jack, he said as he handed me the book. Cal told me youd be coming. Were all set up for your stay. I hope you enjoy this giftits a journal for you to record your insights in. Journaling is a powerful practice for self-change, and I know that youll have many observations to note over the course of your stay here. My stay? Yes, my young friend. Youll be with me here at the cathedral for the next four weeks. Ill be your life coach, helping you access your highest and best self. Ill teach you about things such as destiny, authenticity, and integrity. Ill show you how to access your true power, and Ill get you to your spirit. Well have a great time together! he exclaimed energetically. Thanksbut to be honest, Im not really a religious person, I admitted frankly. What I have to teach you has nothing to do with religion. Being a spiritual human being is really about being an authentic human being. Its about living under your noblest personal values, being true in the way you conduct your life, and seeing the world in a more evolved and enlightened way. Okay, Im definitely into that, I replied, placing my knapsack on the ground and taking a sip from my water bottle. I couldnt be more ready for changes in my life. Perfect. Cal asked me to arrange everything for you, and I gladly obliged. Im going to teach you about the meaning of life. Ill explain exactly how to awaken your highest talents, how to access your deepest wisdom, and how to leave a legacy. Basically, Ill show you how to live with wisdomhow to live a wise life. The first of the Final Questions, I noted, remembering the three important questions of life that Cal had explained to me during our unforgettable night in the hospital. Yes. Ill see to it that when the time eventually comes for you to ask yourself, Have I lived wisely? your answer will be, Absolutely! I want you to live so wisely that youll die happily. Welcome to Roma! he yelled with all the emotion and enthusiasm of an Italian opera star. Forgive me for not introducing myselfIm Father Michael Antonio Di Franco. My friends call me Father Mike, he said with a wink. Great to meet you, Father Mike. I appreciate your warm welcome, I stated sincerely, feeling completely comfortable in the company of this small man with the round face and slicked-back hair. You knew Cal? Oh, yes. Your father was a great man, Jack. A very special human being in so many ways. He told me all about you. Even though youre a grown man now, you still look much like the young boy in the photo he used to carry around with him. Thats why it was easy for me to recognize you today. I still find it unbelievable that Cal was my father. Do you know why he left my mom and me? Why didnt he ever try to contact me? If the man was my father, youd think he would have tried to find me, I said with anger welling up within me. Fathers just dont forget about their kids. I dont know a lot about what caused your parents to separate. All he told me was that he and your mother drifted apart after his business fell on difficult times. The sense I get is that your father began to go inward after he lost his fortune, and the way he experienced the world began to shift. I think a time came when the two of them just realized that they were moving in different directions as people. Cal told me that he still loved your mother, but I guess they just decided they had to move on. I cant imagine how painful that must have been for you, Jack. But you should know that your father was a very loving man. He really cared immensely about peopleand he cared the most about you. Thanks for telling me that, I said quietly. Id spent so many sleepless nights as a child wondering about my father. Hed missed my Christmas concerts, my school plays, and my soccer games . . . I felt some solace in knowing that he really did love me. Your father nicknamed me The Saint because Ive devoted my life to living in a very noble, wise, and authentic way. He came to me many years earlier to learn the very lessons youll soon discover. Cal was a philosopher in the truest sense of the word. He loved to learn and was very committed to deepening himself. And as far as Im concerned, thats the best thing a human being can do. Did you know that he took the very journey that youve now embarked on? Like father, like son, he chuckled. Anyway, Im so happy that youre finally here. Im really excited to be here, too, Father Mike. But to be honest, Im a little unsure about all of this. Actually, Ill admit Im feeling nervous. This has all been a lot to take in a short period of time. I hear you, Jack. I hear you completely. Youre about to learn something new, so its natural that your fears are starting to come up, manifesting themselves as this uncertainty and nervousness. But you must trustafter all, isnt it all about trust? Trust that Cal appeared when you most needed to meet him. Trust that you and I have connected for a special reason. Trust that theres no better place for you to be than where you are now. And trust that the next four weeks with me will reveal an entirely new way of thinking and being. We can change the way we see the world in an instant, you know. One single shift that takes place in a single second just might be all it takes to awaken a new reality for you. So youre one of the great teachers that my father spoke of? I asked as he put his arm around me and walked me up the stone steps of the cathedral. Yes, thats correct. Your dad really was a wonderful man. I know he made mistakes in his life, such as not knowing you and showing you his love, but Ive yet to meet a perfect human being. The very condition of the human being is one of imperfection, yet Ive come to understand that were actually perfect in our imperfection. If we didnt have our weaknesses, wed have nothing to work on as we journeyed through life. As the mystics have said: The path has no value when you have arrived. Our less-than-ideal traits are actually precious treasures that offer gateways into higher versions of the people that we currently are. This last point intrigued me. Could Father Mike be right? I thought about my own lifes journeythe challenges I faced in childhood and the stumbles Ive had along the way; my string of failed relationships; and the fact that, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldnt seem to find work that fit who I was. Maybe all this imperfection in my life was perfecteverything had unfolded exactly as it was meant to, and there was some kind of a larger plan at play that I was missing. And perhaps all of my imperfections as a man were opportunities to grow. These thoughts made me relax and brought me an immediate sense of relief. Our imperfection gives meaning to our lives, Father Mike continued. It gives us a central mission: to make the journey back to the original and ideal selves we were born as, and reclaim the people we truly are. If it werent for our human failings, there would be no inner work for us to do on ourselves. And its this very interior work that reconnects us to our personal magnificence. You see, Jack, to have more of what you desire in your life, you must first become more of who you really are. To become a success, its not really about doing more, its about being more. Id agree with that for sure. Im getting pretty tired of feeling that, no matter how much I do and no matter how many toys I gather, its never enough. Father Mike didnt seem to be surprised by my sentiment. You dont like your old life, do you? No, not really, I replied. Actually, I hate it. I never seem to have any fun anymore. Everythings become so serious and routine. God, I never thought life would be so hard, to be totally honest with you. Well, then, to have a new life, you must first think, feel, and act like a new person. In life, we ultimately dont really get what we want, we get what we are. To have new things in your life, such as a new relationship, new levels of joy, and new experiences of fulfillment, you must begin to do new things. Such as? Such as really getting to know your weaknesses. Thats a great place to start; in fact, its where I started. Clearing up your weaknesses is one of the primary reasons were here. The purpose of our lives, in so many ways, is to come to terms with our darkness so that we can live in our light. We all have our blind spotswe need to acknowledge them and bring them into the light of awareness, where theyll be healed. And we need to reconfigure our false beliefs and work through our blocked emotions. Ironically, in moving ahead, were essentially going backback to the beautiful and perfect creatures we were at birth. Father Mike surveyed the cathedral and then smiled. I used to be one mean character, he admitted. I really didnt care about anyone but myself in my youth. In my relationships with other human beings, all Id focus on was what I wasnt getting. Then one day while I was studying in France, I got a phone call informing me that my kid brother had been killed in a nightclub shooting. That event devastated me and changed everything. I began to pray for guidance and the courage to get through that period of my life. It was so rough at times that I thought about taking my own life. But the more I prayed, the more I started to see that my life had meaning and that I was needed in the world. I eventually began to study theology and finally ended up here as a priest. And now, in my relationships, I dont think about what Ill get from someone else. Instead, all I care about is what I can give. And that, my friend, has made me a very happy man. He paused and then yelled once again: Welcome to Roma! I couldnt help but laugh at his somewhat eccentric behavior. Jack, let me tell you something: What you dont own about yourself owns you, Father Mike continued as we entered the main room of the cathedral. I wasnt aware of this. Its true. If you dont own that dark part of you thats selfish, for example, it will own you. If you dont own that part of you that feels that youll never be good enough, to use another common example, it will own you. If you dont own up to a dark part of yourself that mistrusts other human beings, it will own you and in various ways runand then ruinyour life. It wasnt until I owned my selfishness when I was younger that I began to change, you know. This makes sense. I wonder why Ive never learned this stuff. I guess Ive been so busy with the trivial things in life that Ive missed out on the larger picture, I said thoughtfully. Its a common thing to do. Many people in the world are asleep to their lives and this wisdom, but now youre ready to get to the next step. You werent ready for this step before, so it wasnt meant to be. But now, the time to access your greatness and to stand up for your best life has arrived. Your life wouldnt have led you here were you prepared to settle for anything less. I agree. Okay. Anyway, most people deny and avoid connecting to their disowned, shadow selves. Wise people know these parts even better than those that they present to the world. Only when you understand this essential principle will you be able to find the inner peace and outer joy that you deserve. Because its only when you know and then accept all of yourself that you can truly love yourself. And without self-love, there can be no peace; and without peace theres no joy. Paradoxically, though, the more you discover your light as a human being and let it beam brightly out into the world, the more the unimpressive parts youve hidden away from yourself start to reveal themselves. Thats so true, I responded. Ive seen that happen in my intimate relationships. For instance, Id fall in love and open up like I never had before. Id be more caring and passionate than ever before, but then all my ugly stuff would also start showing up. It actually happened in my last relationship. I felt more love for Jane than I ever thought I could experience. A fantastic part of me came to life with her: Wed dance for hours in her kitchen and sing under the full moon. Wed tell each other our deepest secrets well into the night, and wed support each others dreams in a way Id never thought possible. But with all that love, for some reason my worst traits appeared, and it really got messy at times. I guess it was because I felt so safe with her. And when we feel safe, it seems that our true selves peek through the social armor most of us have constructed to look good to the world. Perfectly put, Jack. Ill add this to what youve so perceptively noticed: If you study how nature works, youll know how life works. The laws that govern nature are the same laws that run our lives. For example, have you ever noticed that its when the sun shines the brightest that our shadows appear the biggest? Sure, I replied. Well thats true for us as human beings as well. Nice metaphor, Father Mike, I said appreciatively. Its so easy, when we havent done much interior work on ourselves, to believe that were highly evolved and operating at our best. When something negative happens, we think its anothers fault. This is because all of the limiting beliefs, false assumptions, and emotional baggage that keeps us small has been conveniently hidden within a deep, dark place within us. We dont even know its down there, running our lives and sabotaging our dreams. We begin to believe that were ideal in many ways. We buy our own propaganda so that we dont have to face our weaknesses and do the work involved to turn them into strengths. It takes tremendous internal strength to go into that darkness that keeps us small in our lives. It takes great inner power to take a serious look at the way were living and make the midcourse corrections that will set us back on track. How so? Because looking at our human failings provokes the awareness that we must change, and human beings are naturally change resistant. Theres actually hardwiring in our brains that wants us to remain in our routines. Science has shown that theres an ancient part of our brains known as the amygdala that craves routine and resents any personal change. It seeks nothing more than constant safety and control. This tendency served our earliest ancestors and helped them survive in primitive times, but it no longer serves us in our current world. So how do we overcome the tendency of this part of the brain? I asked with curiosity. I suggest that, on a daily basis, you set your intention to consciously make changes. Ive learned in my own life that my intentions shape my reality. Look for ways to stretch yourself: Teach your brain that change is good and keep blazing a path that no one else has walked, in terms of the way you show up as a person. At this point, Father Mike did something that startled, and then amused, me. He started running past the empty pews in the grand room we were in and ducked into a small room off to the side. The next thing I knew, Frank Sinatras classic song My Way was blaring, and Father Mike was dancing happily with his eyes closed. I just watched the man, unsure of what was really going on. After the song ended, Father Mike opened his eyes. I used to be so scared to dance, he stated. Now I love it! It helps me keep my heart open. What I just did was take a risk, Jack. Ive been so afraid to dance in front of people, so now I make it a point to confront my fears and chase my demons. Interesting, was the only reply I could muster. I constantly look for ways to put myself into situations that challenge me to heal my greatest fears. This strategy has worked amazingly well. By the way, what do you think of my moves? he asked with a big smile. Am I ready for MTV? Not quite, I laughed. All Im really suggesting is that you dedicate yourself to constant and never-ending selfdiscovery. Thats the only way to reclaim the fullness of your light, as far as I can tell. As Erich Fromm once stated: Mans main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. And when you do, the most beautiful vision of reality you could ever experience begins to unfold for you. This is for certain. Anyway, your dad spoke of you with great love while he was here. So I know quite a few things about you. Like what? I know that you loved to swim as a child. I know that you had great dreams when you were younger. And I know that you love chocolate, he said as he pulled out a candy bar from his pocket. Here, take a bite, he insisted. It tastes bittersweet, I said as we walked through the magnificent cathedral. Yes, just like life. You see, Jack, life has its highs and its lows. Most of us get caught up in the drama of it all. When things are good, we feel happy. When things go bad, we feel sad. This kind of approach to living is a weak way to live. You become like a piece of driftwood floating with the tides. You shift according to the current: One minute youre moving in one direction, the next youre moving in another. A far wiser way to play the game is to let go of any judgment. Stop labeling the experiences of your life and simply accept them without resistance. The next step is to then understand that life is nothing more than a growth school, and everything that happens to you is beautiful. Everything? It seems hard to accept that the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship that brought so much happiness is a beautiful thing. Its only our limited human thinking that makes a thing right or wrong, Father Mike responded. An occurrence in our lives has no natural right or wrong to itit simply is. But in our human tendency to control things, we rush to label it. As either good or bad, I broke in. Yes. But there really are no good events, nor are there any bad events when you really go deep into the thick of the way the world works. Everything that happens to you is simply an opportunity to grow and heal a part of you thats in need of healing. The wise see this and then seize these opportunities to flourish into more of who they truly are. And thats why I say that life is a growth school. I wondered about this concept, still uncertain about the whole notion. Could our lives actually be designed for this purpose? Father Mike continued. Every day, as you go out into the world, youre really going off to school. And just as in a traditional school, theres a curriculum with different courses that offer different lessons. Once you pass a course by learning its lesson, you move on to the next course. And if I dont get the lesson? Ah, then you repeat the courseof course, he noted seriously. Its called recycling. Every experience that intersects with your life comes to you to teach you the lesson you most need to learn to rise to the next platform of your life. When the student is ready, the teacher always appears. Cal told me that, I said softly, feeling some sadness coming up over the loss of the father Id only briefly known. Thats because I told it to him first, Father Mike replied with a smile. Anyway, if you get this process and realize the opportunity for a lesson in every situation, you can move on to the next course. And as you move on from the old course, you also move on from your old life because, interestingly enough, once you get the needed lesson, the type of person or situation that the lesson came wrapped up within never visits you again. Its almost as if we shed an old skin each time we get a new lesson, pass a new course, and move on to the next, higher parts of our life paths. A very brilliant setup, the way it all works, I reflected. It is. But if you dont accept the learning that the experience represents, lets say because you blame the other person involved for whatever transpired, and fail to see the point of wisdom that you were destined to learn, the circumstance will continue to repeat or recycle in your life until you finally get it. And the more you miss the lessons being presented, the more painful each event that carries them to you becomes until a time eventually comes when youre suffering so much that your only option is to get it. Remarkablethe working of the world is more extraordinary than I ever imagined, I said excitedly, feeling more comfortable with this unconventional philosophy of life I was being exposed to. Yes, Jack, thats true. These natural laws that govern all things never cease to amaze me. Anyway, what Im really saying is this: Your current reality is nothing more than a complete reflection of the lessons you most need to learn. Thats a very powerful statement, Father Mike. Revolutionary, as a matter of fact. Yes. And since you learn far more from whats not working in your life than from what is, all thats not working is a gift. Milton Erickson wrote: Life will bring you pain all by itself. Your responsibility is to create joy. Since you discover more about yourself through failure than through success, make failure a friend that you value and learn from. Create joy through it. What do you mean by make failure a friend? Well, every single thing that you hate about your life, every single thing that irritates you in your days, and every single thing that causes you stress is a very important teacher. The things that press your buttons offer your best clues about what needs to grow and evolve within you. The things that you dislike about your lifeyour irritations and your stressorsare all nothing more than vehicles that carry the lessons you need to learn to pass the course youre currently in and move on to the next one. In doing so, Ill move on to the next part of my life? Exactly. So all the things I dont like about my life are actually my best friends and greatest teachers because they help me get to my destinationmy ideal life, I summarized. And your highest self. Ill talk more about all this later, but for now, just know that life is this extraordinary growth school and everything that happens to you is quite divine. It is a very amazing setup, really, the way this intelligent universe of ours works, Father Mike observed. He paused and looked deeply into my eyes. Any questions? Well, Id love some examples of recycling. I think this would help me spot the process when it occurs in my life. Sure. If the lesson you most need to learn at a certain stage of your life is acceptance, you might notice that a constant stream of people who drive you crazy are entering your life. Or, if your lesson is to be less controlling, you might notice many controlling people surfacing in your day. Reminds me of what Buddha said so many years ago: Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion. Great wordsbut Im surprised that a priest would be quoting Buddha, I said. Well, Jack, ultimately my quest is the quest for truth. And all of the great religions of the world speak of the same truth. So if Buddha arrived at a point of wisdom thats worthy of my sharing, I feel compelled to share it with you. Good answer, I said playfully, clapping my hands and mimicking a game-show host. So back to the process of recycling, Father Mike said as he began to arrange a stunning bouquet of flowers that had been placed on a small table at the front of the room we were in. If you dont have the awareness to know that this is whats happening and deny personal responsibility for your role in the scenarios youre drawing into your life, then these types of peopleor should I say teacherswill keep appearing in your life. Theyll continue to recycle, and in progressively more painful ways, until you see your role and your opportunity for advancement in each interaction. So its not until I take some real responsibility in every instance of my life that I can grow and my life can improve. Is that the real message? Right. And thenand this is the amazing partthose kinds of people and situations will stop showing up in your life. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Well, its actually not as black-and-white as that, I must admit. Once you get the lesson, a few things could happen. These kinds of people may just stop appearing with the frequency they used to because they came to you as teachers and now their work has been done. Okay. Whats another possibility? The behavior of these people might change dramatically, and all of a sudden, theyll appear to be the kindest, most loving souls youve ever met. How could they change so immediately? One explanation is that, in shifting from blaming them, as most of us tend to do in such situations, to working on yourself and clearing up the blocks that need to be cleared within you, you powerfully create a space for them to become their best selves in the situations that previously caused them to be difficult. People are essentially good, you know. And if you shower them with unconditional love and understanding rather than attack and blame, they cannot help but respond in higher and more enlightened ways than theyve historically acted. In the face of true love and deep caring, no human being can stay out of their hearts. All shadows die in the light. Another explanation is this one: We do a dance with each and every person whos important to us in our lives. Oh, not more dancing, I said with a quick laugh. This is different. This is the dance of relationship and, again, we all do it. You could actually draw a flowchart of the dance you do with each of the significant people in your life if you wanted to get really clear on it. Lets say, for example, that the woman youre dating tells you to clean up the dishes after youve had dinner. This might be the triggering event that sets the dance into motion. Your reaction might be to feel controlled by her and get irritated. She then gets her buttons pushed, so her step in the dance might be to feel guilty and small for hurting your feelings, which she manifests as anger. And so it goesthe two of you do an elaborate dance of one reactionary step after another that youre not even aware of. Each of you pushes the others buttons, which are nothing more than old hurts from the past that have never been resolved and healed. Actually, most of these wounds are from childhood and have nothing to do with the person youre with now. In many relationships, the same dance repeats itself for decades. And because both partners are unconscious of it, and have no commitment to doing the inner work required to become aware of the pattern at play, it continues. Now heres the point Im getting to: You can change the entire dynamic of any relationship the moment you stop dancing. As soon as you recognize that the dance has started, just stop doing the move you always dojust opt out of the whole pattern and take the higher road. How would I do that? I asked. Well, in the scenario Ive given you, just before you go into your regular reaction of getting irritated when you feel controlled, catch your thinking and choose a higher alternative. Each time youre just about to go into your old, self-defeating behavior, make a wiser choice. When you do this, the energy that the old behavior had over you will be transmuted into positive personal power. And each time you do this, youll actually create new pathways in your brain, which will then make way for new behaviors to express themselves in your life. This is the best way to grow more powerful as a human beingjust keep choosing the highest, most loving possible response in every situation. Itll get easier in time, and the results will be astounding. So in the scenario were discussing, lets say that instead of getting irritated with your date, you dig deep into yourself and realize that shes really not trying to control you at all. You realize that youre simply projecting the controlling behavior your mother used to visit on you onto your date. In other words, this irritation you feel is not about your current partner at all, but about something youve never resolved around your mother. Your date asking you to clean up the dishes was simply the triggering event that sent you back to childhood. You realize this, and in doing so, youve just stopped dancing. And when you stop dancing with someone, what does that force them to do? Well, they cant keep dancing alone, can they? I guessed. Exactly. So by changing your behavior, they must necessarily change their behavior. Thats why its so much more powerful to work on changing yourself rather than wasting your energies in trying to change the other person. And thats why seeing the opportunity for growth in every single situation of your life and then taking personal responsibility rather than blaming someone else is actually the best way to influence the other person to change. What youve just shared with me will transform my relationships! I exclaimed. And of course there will be situations where your partner has done something wrong, Father Mike continued. In these situations, just remember that the antidote to fear is love. When you step back from a challenging situation and see that a person whos acting harshly is really crying out to you for help because theyre either frightened or hurt at their core, then you can easily give them love. Never forget that immediately prior to any person reacting with anger or in a less-than-loving way, they experienced hurt. Thats a big point. People who lash out angrily have done so because theyve just been hurt. They need your caringnot your condemnation. Remember, when you give them the love that every human being craves, their best selves will peek through because youve created a safe space for them to shine. When you change, others automatically change because youve given them room to bloom. What Father Mike had been telling me was extremely potent. And it made complete sense. The more I reflected on his theory about the way the world operates, the more I saw how the process of recycling had been playing out my entire life without my awareness. I went through the same kinds of experiences and people over and over. For example, I kept attracting sales clients at work who would promise big deals but theyd never come through, causing me endless disappointment and costing the agency a ton of cash. I also seemed to run across more than my fair share of people I felt were rude to meoften everyone I interacted with in a single day seemed to have a chip on their shoulder and a negative attitude. If what Father Mike was saying was true, these were not random events. Rather, they were part of a script that had been written for me, part of a growth school Id been attending since birth. And the only reason these people kept coming and these events kept repeating was because I wasnt getting the life lesson that I was required to learn. I began to think even more deeply about the people that filled my life. For some reason, I kept on attracting girlfriends who wanted a deeper relationship than I was ready for. The more they expressed their need for this, the more aloof I became, fearing the loss of personal freedom I perceived a truly intimate relationship would cause. Maybe, just maybe, this kept on occurring for a reasonthere was a lesson for me to learn in this scenario that kept on recycling itself throughout my life. What could the lesson be? Perhaps it was time for me to open my heart and let another human being in, evolving into a kinder, more loving person in the process. Was I replaying a pattern Id picked up unconsciously from my parents relationship? Well, maybe it was time for me to stop being so afraid of losing my freedom and discover that the true joy in life appears once its shared with someone you love. Id never done this kind of self-reflection before. Id never made the time in my life to go deep and look at my negative traits and behaviors. It was kind of like doing detective work, bringing awareness to the lost parts of myself. But now, I could see that it was one of the most important activities that a person could perform. A person who doesnt truly know themselves really knows nothing. And perhaps the reason for my tragic accident was to cause me to go within. When life is smooth and steady, Ive come to realize, we tend to live it on a superficial level. When life gets tough and we experience a crisis, we always end up doing some internal reflection and introspection. And so I think that the mystics and sages of the past were right when they observed that lifes greatest difficulties are actually lifes biggest blessings, for they serve to deepen us and open us up to a wider experience of living. Breakdowns always lead to breakthroughs. The more I thought, the more I saw the patterns that kept recurring in my life. I seemed to draw an inordinate number of people into my life who expressed things in a way that often hurt my feelings. Maybe this was all unfolding in this way because I was to learn a life lesson here. Perhaps, as I reflected, my self-worth needed to improve and I had to take things less personally. Suddenly, the skeptical side of me spoke up, wondering if life really did work this way. Maybe Father Mike, well intentioned as he was, was a dreamer, great at voicing intriguing theories but detached from the real world. Then that word flashed across my consciousness again: trust. In my gut, I knew that he spoke the truth. And that was all I really needed to know. Okay, my young friend, Father Mike said, breaking my reverie. He took my knapsack from me and led me up a circular staircase. Enough for one day. Let me show you to your roomI know youll love the view. It looks out over the whole city of Rome. At night, you can watch the shooting stars. This will be your home for the next month. Oh, before I forget, let me give you the key. Father Mike handed me a golden key attached to a metal tag and then walked me into the guest room. It was small and sparsely furnished but meticulously clean. A single gerberathe flower of happinessrested in a silver vase on the nightstand. And the view was, as promised, spectacular. As I turned to thank Father Mike for his generosity of spirit, I realized hed left. Then I looked at the tag attached to the key. It had a quote inscribed on it. Heres what it said: The only devils in the world are those running in our own hearts. That is where the battle should be fought. Mahatma Gandhi Chapter 4: To Thine Own Self Be True We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when an adult is afraid of the light. Plato Behind all seen things lies something vaster; everything is but a path, a portal, or a window opening on something other than itself. Antoine de Saint-Exup?ry I slept more deeply than I had in a long time and dreamed a wonderful dreamthat I was a child again, full of joy, passion, and innocence. I was dancing barefoot in a small mountain meadow, surrounded by snowcapped peaks and flower-filled valleys. I could hear other children laughing and playing as I danced, caught up in the wonder of the moment. My heart felt happy, my mind was quiet, and I was completely at peace. I was awakened by a gentle hand. It was Father Mike nudging me to wake up. He was smiling, and his eyes twinkled as he expressed his gratitude for the beautiful morning that had unfolded outside. Its another great day out there, Jack, he said. Lets not miss a moment of it. I have so much to share with you. Why dont you get ready and meet me downstairs? We can have a quick breakfast and then go sit on the front steps. Perfect, I replied. I have a few questions that Id love to ask you that have come up since our conversation yesterday. Perfect, Father Mike echoed. It truly was a magnificent morning, and the steps of the cathedral were a great place to sit. The smell of the roses that rested alongside us was enchanting, and watching all the people walk by on the street deepened my connection to the ancient city of Rome, where so much of the worlds wisdom had been created. Yesterday you told me that life is a growth school, Father Mike. Every person and every experience comes to us to teach us the lesson we most need to learn at that particular point of our journey. We can either awaken to this act of nature, or we can turn a blind eye to it and, in doing so, keep repeating the mistakes of the past until the pain becomes so great that we have no choice but to change. Nice summary, Father Mike said as he munched on a freshly baked piece of bread topped with Gorgonzola cheese. Soon the student will become the teacher, he added encouragingly. Well, Im wondering, does everyone have to follow the same curriculum youve spoken of? I mean, do each of us have to learn the same lessons and take the same courses in this growth school? Very good question, Jack. Youll do well here with methats for sure, Father Mike said as we relaxed in the sunlight. It was one of those days where, even though the sun was blazing, one could still see the moon in the blue sky. In answer to your question, each and every person on the planet has a different curriculum assigned to themits customized learning, if you will. The lessons I need to learn in my life, for example, are probably very different from those that are destined for you. My curriculum might be designed around teaching me to be less critical and more accepting. And my life lessons might be about becoming more giving, releasing any thoughts of scarcity, letting go of any need for control, and surrendering to the flow of life. On the other hand, Father Mike continued, your curriculum might be designed to teach you to get out of your head and live more in your heartto live in the moment and feel rather than to think all the time. It might be about letting go of any self-centeredness and considerations around competitiondedicating yourself to supporting others selflessly. Your learning path might be about seeing the good in everyone rather than focusing on their weaknesses. It might even be about knowing your personal value and not letting anyone ever make you feel inferior. How perceptive, I thought. It was as if this man knew my deepest issues and my most personal inner struggles. The way he operated was masterful. My mother had a similar giftso much of the way she lived was run from her intuition. She just knew the right thing to do in any given situation and trusted this knowing with all her heart. Id always made my choices in life based on reason and logic, while I suddenly saw that Mom had come from a deeper, wiser place. In any event, Father Mike continued with a mouthful of bread, all I was really trying to convey yesterday was that each event and every person that enters our lives does so for a reason. Remember, there are no coincidences. The world is a giant radar, detecting our growth needs and then sending us the corresponding people and events for the promotion of this growth. A point of wisdom related to this is that the people in our lives are mirrors, reflecting the brightest as well as the darkest parts of ourselves. Are you serious? I asked. Yes. You wouldnt be able to see the great quality of another person unless you knew that quality in yourself. I guess that makes sense. I wouldnt be able to recognize something good in someone else if I had no idea what it was. Correct. If youve never seen what caviar looks like, you wouldnt be able to recognize it on someones plate at a fancy dinner party. Similarly, if you havent recognized and owned a talent or positive trait within yourself, its impossible for you to see it in another. If you dont know what its like to truly love someone, for example, youd have no way of knowing when someone showers you with love. If you havent owned a personal gifta strong intellect, for exampleyou wont be able to appreciate it in someone else. To see something great about another person is to see that greatness within yourself. I should mention that this principle also holds true for the negative qualities you cant stand in others. What do you mean? Well, Father Mike replied, for you to see another person as angry, you must first have to know what real anger looks like. For you to call someone angry, you must have anger within you. For you to perceive someone as selfish, youd have to have some selfishness in you. For you to call someone manipulative, youd have to have a manipulative side, too. Otherwise, there would be no way in the world you could recognize these qualities. All of life is nothing more than a projection. Like a huge movie projector, we project into our outer worlds who we are in our inner worlds. We collect what we project. Fascinating, I responded. Could you give me a quick example? Of course. Lets say youre in a record shop. Youre at one of those stations that allows you to listen to the latest recordings, and youre enjoying the tunes youre hearing. All of a sudden, one of the store clerks walks up to you and asks you to stop listening to so many at a time. He makes this request loudly and rudely. If you respond by yelling at him, to me it means that theres something within you that needs to be looked at and healed. But he was rude to me! I exclaimed. I didnt start it. Jack, you cant get something from nothing. All that can come out of you is whats within youafter all, you cant get tomato juice from a lemon. The very fact that this man drew anger from you by pressing your buttons means you must have had some preexisting anger within you, right? I have to admit that makes sense. So this man triggered a part of you thats angry. If you dont own that fact, it really will keep owning you. That old anger was there before he even entered your lifeit was what I call a preexisting condition. You need to see that and take responsibility for that rather than blaming him. He was just a catalyst. Its like what the French philosopher Antoine de Saint-Exup?ry once wrote: No single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born. So the enlightened way to look at this event in the music store is to see this rude sales clerk as a great gift. Theres a huge opportunity to grow and evolve from this situation if youre wise to it. He has, by his rude behavior, introduced you to a part of yourself thats been hidden from your conscious awareness. Father Mike took a breath and then continued. Carl Jung once wrote that everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. Now, have the courage and maturity to do the inner work required to release your preexisting anger and shift into a space of love. Thats the goal we all need to aim forto be nothing but pure love. Because a person whos nothing but love incarnate can only see pure love when they look at another person. I know this isnt a process that can be done quickly in many ways, its an ideal to strive for, and for many, moving out of anger and fear into complete love and acceptance can take a lifetime of inner work. Actually, this is what the journey of life is all aboutspotting our weaker areas and healing them so that we eventually find our best selves. This is the only path to walk if your objective is to find lasting peace and freedom. Theres no other option. Suddenly, Father Mike stood up and said, Cmon. Todays a fun day. All learning and no play is no way to do things. Ive discovered that self-discovery and personal growth are best accomplished in a spirit of fun and adventurelifes too short to be overly serious. Today well play tourists. I want to take you to the Colosseum and some of the other famous sights of Rome. And for lunch, well have a picnic. I even brought a little Italian wine for you, he said with a wink. With that, this miraculous man of the cloth ran down the steps of the cathedral, smelling the roses as he descended. I couldnt wait to follow him. I knew that all his teachings were leading me home. As the days passed, I grew more and more fond of Father Mike. He was a brilliant man, offering me insights on life that Id never heard before, and coaching me on how I could lift my life to its highest level. But even more important, he was kind. He understood human nature, and I felt he understood me. He knew that personal change brings up our oldest and deepest demons. As we grow more into our light, our dark sides really do surface and a part of us fights to stay small, clinging to our old ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. As we get closest to love, our greatest fears come alive. Father Mike gently supported me as I embraced his philosophy and walked toward my best life. He reminded me of my magnificence and the power that each and every one of us has to shape our destinies in the moments of our days. My time with him was heaven-sent. One morning, as we ate breakfast out on a veranda located in one wing of the cathedral, Father Mike said something that surprised me. It was during the second week I was with him, and I was feeling very happy with all the improvements I was making as a result of the ideas and tools hed shared with me. A deep inner peace had grown within me, and Id begun to look at all of my less-than-ideal traits and accept them for what they were: a dark side of me that needed to be healed so my light could shine. I felt happier and healthier than Id ever felt and began to believe that this world of ours really did unfold according to a larger plan, one that had my best interests in mind. I was becoming a solid student in the growth school of life and shedding my old ways like a caterpillar sheds its cocoon once it becomes a butterfly. You know, Father Mike, I stated cheerfully as I bit into a fresh croissant, this selfimprovement stuff really works. Ive always thought it was a waste of time. But I must admitIm really feeling some amazing changes within me. The term self-improvement is nonsense to me, Father Mike replied as he stared out over the still sleeping city. It suggests that people are broken and need to be fixed. But nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing! Each one of us is perfect at our core we just need to work through the layers to get back to our perfection. I thought that as a priest and my life coach, youd be all about encouraging me to improve myself, live more nobly, and exist more wiselyto be a better, kinder, and more loving human being. What could possibly be wrong with the notion of selfimprovement? I asked, playing devils advocate. Its wrongthats whats wrong with it, he responded with even greater conviction, his voice rising passionately. The journey of life is not about improving oneself, Jack. Ratherand this point is extremely importantits about remembering oneself. Those of us who seek to find our best life and manifest the desires of our heart must walk the path of inner discovery, not outer change. The real goal in life is self-revelation: revealing your best self to your current self and then seeing the world through a new set of eyes in the process. But if no one needs to improve, why is the world in such poor shape? Why is there such evil in the world? Why are there wars and homeless people and starving children? Why is there so much hatred and so little love? Slow down, Jack. All Im saying is that no one needs to improve upon what they already are. That kind of thinking just makes people feel more guilty than they already do. For example, you, my young friend, are already perfect. Really? Yes. Then why am I here as your pupil? For self-discoverynot self-improvement, he stated emphatically. Thats why were all here on the planet. Its a subtle distinction, but an essential one. Im not going to tell you to change or improve or start acting like someone else. Id never do that to you. My whole focus over our time together is to help you reveal your true self to yourselfto get to know yourself for the first time. This path youre traveling isnt a journey to some distant land. Rather, it leads back to a place you once knew but forgot along the way, as those around you socialized you out of your essence. Actually, its a journey back home, to the natural greatness and perfection that you had when you were born. T. S. Eliot made the point so well when he wrote: We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time. Meaningful words. And accurate ones, Father Mike noted. Life really is nothing more than a journey back home. You know, Jack, in so many ways, greatness as a human being is about nothing more than the recovery of the gifts you lost as you grew up. Living your best life is really mostly about recapturing what you gave up. Neat way of looking at it, I offered. Its true. As a child, you were aware of all your gifts. You were innocent and pure. You were immensely creative and wildly passionate. Your imagination knew no boundaries and your dreams knew no limits. You trusted others and had faith in yourself. You didnt have this need we adults have: to have everything all figured out. You expressed your truest essence as a person without fear of reprisal, and you freely let your light shine. You lived totally in the moment and savored every simple gift that each of our lives brings to us on a regular basis. You loved snowflakes and spiders, singing and dreaming, a good hug and a steaming cup of hot chocolate. The world was abundant, a place of boundless possibilities, and a ready partner for your authentic success. But then something happened. What? I ask pointedly. Well, to put it bluntly, you committed a crime. Actually you committed the most serious crime any human being could commit. I felt uncomfortable. Father Mike looked at me with intense seriousness, and said, You began to betray yourself. You disowned your true self in favor of buying into the beliefs of your tribe. My tribe? Yes, Jack. Society is your tribe. You see, you started to adopt other peoples beliefs about the way the world works and the nature of your role within it. You shut down your beautiful feelings and began to live in your mindspending your days rationalizing, judging, and worrying rather than skipping, dancing, and playing. You became a pleaserthinking, acting, and conducting yourself in ways that were not of your own choosing but of the choosing of those around you, such as your parents, teachers, and friends. And so the process of socialization took over and your personal magnificence began to be hidden. You did what you were told, acted as you were instructed to act, and thought the way people taught you to think. And in doing so, I began to live in a small box, so to speak, I added. Precisely. After you die, there will be plenty of time to be in a small box . . . so why live in one while youre alive? Good point, I responded, getting the graphic picture my very wise teacher had painted. But surely youre not saying that its wrong for parents to teach their kids manners and to be responsible in the world. Or do you have a problem with teachers showing discipline and adults setting limits? Yes and no. Of course its important for parents to be leaders and wise guides for their children. Without discipline and healthy boundaries, a child would be lost. But life is all about balanceand thats one of the most important principles I can teach you. Sure, a child needs to be schooled on what good behavior looks like, and no doubt a child needs to be taught about limits. Certain limits placed on a childs behavior are essential, but any limits placed on a childs spirit are not. I get your point. May I borrow your childhood experience for a moment? Sure, Father Mike, I said as I sat up in my chair. Ill bet that, after the age of three or four, most of the way you conducted yourself was done simply to make your mother or your father or your teachers proud of you. Every child needs love and craves approval, so you began to betray yourself and act in inauthentic ways for the sake of making the people you loved as happy as you could. You believed that the best way to secure their love was to act as they wanted you to act. Rather than singing at the top of your lungs at the supermarket and letting your genuine self be revealed to the world, you sang softly so that your mother wouldnt feel embarrassed and get annoyed with you. And Ive been singing softly ever since, figuratively speaking, I responded, gaining a deep appreciation of the wisdom I was hearing. Right. What did Thoreau once say? Most people die with their music still within them. He also said, If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured and far away, I added, remembering the words of this great American philosopher whose life I had studied in school. Lovely, said Father Mike with his eyes closed, soaking up the knowledge conveyed in the rich words Id shared. All of us need to give all of the people around us permission to be their true selves. We must, as you suggest, let people march to their own beat and feel safe to be real around us. Thats what unconditional love is all aboutbeing an encourager of peoples passions, loves, and dreamseven if you dont agree with them. And those powerful words you just shared, in turn, make me think of an ancient Sanskrit verse that says: Spring has past, summer has gone, and spring is here. And the song that I meant to sing remains unsung. Most people do die with the great song of their lives remaining unsung. They fail to live the gorgeous lives that they were meant to. And this isnt only a great disservice to ourselvesits a great disservice to the world. Father Mike sipped his cappuccino for a moment, and then resumed speaking. When we live our best lives, our true lives, our authentic lives, we become all of our brilliance. And when we show up in the world this way, the world benefits by the things that we do. Its like what Paolo Coelho, author of the incredible book The Alchemist wrote: The world will be either better or worse depending on whether we become better or worse. My God! Thats a great way to look at it, I said passionately. Father Mike went on. Unfortunately, most people never get this. They never realize that their lives mean too much to the worldthey must have the bravery to become who they truly are. And so, Jack, their once-beautiful lives become a charade. Far too many of us dont live in a way thats true to ourselves. We live our mothers life, our fathers life, or even our priests life, rather than having the courage to live the lives that were uniquely meant for us. To me, that is the ultimate sin. I hear you, Father, I said respectfully. He continued his discourse. Rather than dreaming of becoming an astronaut or a poet or a statesman, Id be willing to bet that as you aged you resigned yourself to becoming something that your teacher told you was more practical to become. Rather than being authentic and saying what you really meant to say in any given situation, you began to wear a social mask and think, feel, and act according to what others told you was the proper way to think, feel, and act. You began to deny yourself, to yourself. You became A Great Pretender. Essentially, you stifled your self-expression and lost your voice. So true, I admitted. In not expressing yourself and your truth, you lost the voice that expresses the real you to the world. And a person without self-expression is a person without personal freedom. A person who doesnt genuinely show who they are to the world also becomes invisible, mere figments of their real selves. I committed self-betrayal, I agreed, declaring my understanding the concept. Father Mike nodded. And the more you lost sight of your natural magnificence and who you truly are, the more you grew into being someone you werent. And the more you acted that way, the more you lost respect for yourself. Your self-worth began to diminish in deep ways. And day by day, the deepest part of you began to shut down and disconnect with the true you. We forget that a great life is an authentic life. As the poet David Whyte has said, The soul would rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone elses. And yet we forget this truth. That kills a person, Jack. A part of them begins to die. Then why do we do it? And why dont we remedy the problem? I asked. Because of fear. First we fear being different. We want to fit into the tribe and be a part of the community. Theres a huge value placed in our world on doing what everyone else is doing and thinking as everyone else is thinking. What will my friends think if I walk my own path and dont buy into their ways? we wonder. What will the neighbors think if little Johnny wants to become a poet instead of a doctor? our parents ask themselves. And in thinking this way, as parents ourselves, we play God with our childrens lives, which is a sad thing to do to any human being. Rather than trusting in them and creating a safe environment to allow their best selves to grow, we tell children what they should do when they grow up so we can impress the people next door. The truth of the matter is that parents do this because of their own fears. Parents tell their kids that they must be doctors or lawyers or marry into the right families because of their own fears of looking like failures if their children dont become successful by the definition of success in our society. But what is success anyway? To me, success is nothing more than living your life according to your own truth and on your own terms. Its adhering to the values that speak to the best within you, regardless of the external pressures of society. Success is living your life in the process of creating and realizing whats most important to younot whats most important to anyone else. Thats how the spiritual heavyweights whove walked the planet before you have lived. And thats my recommendation to you. Trust me on this. This point of wisdom alone, if integrated into each and every one of the days that you have left, will cause you to live an extraordinary life. Father Mike paused, looked up to the sky for a moment as if to seek guidance from the heavens, and then continued. The second reason we betray ourselves and borrow someone elses life path is because we fear our own light. What do you mean by that? Jack, every single person on this planet has more power slumbering within us than we could ever imagine. If we only knew how powerful and magnificent we were, we really would worship ourselves daily. Wed go to the altar of our lives and honor ourselves constantly. Wed love ourselves completely and would be the hero and idol of our lives. We wouldnt have the fears we have, and we wouldnt limit ourselves in the way we do. But sadly, the power we have within us also scares us. With great talent also comes great responsibility. At a deep level within ourselves, we wonder whether we can handle the dazzling potential that exists within us, and were afraid of the guilt that well feel if we mishandle or squander our natural power. So we deny it, I observed. And in doing so, my guess would be that we also deny our destinies as well. Very good, young Jack. Very good, remarked Father Mike, clearly impressed with my participation in the conversation. We go into what psychologists call denial. This is a coping mechanism every human being employs to avoid feeling the pain of the truth. What we all do is create a story or use even stronger languagewe lie about something and then we fool our conscious minds into believing its true, even though our souls know its a lie. Wow. Denial operates at a level below the conscious mind, so we dont even know were doing it. Yes, as you say, we deny our light. But just as tragic is the fact we deny our darkness as well. Each and every one of us has this hidden part of us, this shadow self Ive been alluding to over these past daysa segment of ourselves that we dont want to acknowledge, for doing so would make us feel ashamed. This is the part of us that feel jealous when others succeed; that seeks to hoard when another is in need; that acts critical when we should offer love; that acts in a controlling way when we should be acting in a supporting way; and that feels competition when we should see that all of us are connected and when one of us wins, we all win. Every single person on the planet has a portion of ourselves that we hide from the world. In our endless quest to appear perfect, we put it away in a dark box. We actually deny its very existence and in doing so, we deny a part of ourselves. Ive been thinking a lot about this concept since Ive been with you, I said. Great, Jack. But theres more. Because we deny a part of ourselves, we can never be fully alive. Showing leadership in your life involves having the inner strength to accept every part of yourself, the parts that please you and the parts that dont. Once you do, youll develop an appreciation of self that will connect you to your best life quite quickly. Youll become whole againand to become whole is to become healthy. But so few people do this. Its so much easier to deny our imperfect parts, to present ourselves to the world as flawless and wear the mask of perfection. And even though deep down we know its a lie, we do it anyway. So this concept of denial youve mentioned keeps us trapped in a lie, in a sense. Thats exactly what it does. Thats precisely what denial is all aboutlying to yourself to avoid the pain of owning up to the truth. At a deep level, you just may be out of integrity. Sure, you know how to talk like someone who has high integrity, and you tell yourself that youre a good person who has high moral standards. But if you really get truthful with yourself, you might start to see your denial. You might start to notice all the times you tell little lies or cut ethical corners. You convince yourself that youre impeccably honestbut are you? And you think no one notices, but someone does see every thought, act, and feeling. And that someone is you. Every one of us has a soul within us that knows what it means to be a decent, loving, and noble human being. We all have a deep place inside of us that knows. When you do something wrong, you can try to fool yourself by rationalizing what you did at a conscious level. You can create a whole story about how the world is out of integrity and youre the victim. You can build a case that the other person deserved what they did to you and you acted harshly with them to teach them a lesson. But its not your responsibility to serve as policeman of the universe. Your job is to show up as a leader within your own life by getting the lessons that this growth school is delivering to you, and by doing so, evolve into your authentic and best self. Okay, I said, trying to take this all in, would it be fair to say that this war is one of authenticity? Or more accurately, its a battle for integritysince when we act in ways that arent congruent with who we truly are, were out of integrity? Most definitely, Jack. Theres an extremely powerful concept I call The Integrity Gap. Simply stated, the greater the gap between who you are on the inside, or your true self, and the way you occur on the outside, or your social self, the greater the unhappiness youll feel in your life. As Ashley Montague noted so many years ago: The deepest personal defeat suffered by human beings is constituted by the difference between what one was capable of becoming and what one has in fact become. You see, the main reason so many millions of people in our world today have this spiritual malaise that they carry around with them every waking moment is because of The Integrity Gap. Theyre betraying themselves and not letting their true essence shine in the world. And the deepest and best parts of them certainly know it. My mother used to tell me, Jack, who you are as a person speaks so loudly that I cant hear what youre saying, I said. Wise woman. And she was rightwe all must let our lives speak for themselves. Who you are as a person and the way you show up in life says it all. And you need to be true to yourself, otherwise it all catches up with you. Its so beautifully set up, Father Mike said, and then he chuckled. Why are you laughing? Because the world operates with such extraordinary intelligence and the design of the universe is so perfect that I can only laugh at how we, as human beings, think were in control of it all! I mean, look at the way this is all orchestrated. Just think about it for a minute, he said, his eyes boring into mine. You have all this potential slumbering inside of you. You have certain values you hold dearest to you. You have certain ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are part of what make you unique on this planet. You have certain passions and preferences that make you happy. And certain dreams for your life that are encoded in you as deeply as your DNA. All these things are aspects of your true self. And as you move away from living a life that reflects these aspects of your true selfby not shining in the world, doing the things you love, living according to your most important values, feeling your feelings, or speaking your truthyou slowly close down. Your self-worth plummets, and your soul begins to wrinkle. The amount of unhappiness you experience increases. You have less energy, your creativity diminishes, and you have no passion. So the malaise I feel is a gift, I said, deducing a big insight. You are smart, Father Mike said as he clapped his hands proudly. Thats it! All the dissatisfaction you feel is really nothing more than your best lifeyour destiny knocking at the door of your current life. The ache you feel in your inner core is your spirit telling you to wake up and get back on trackto become congruent and authentic and be the person that you truly are. As Hermann Hesse wrote in Demian: Each man has only one genuine vocationto find the way to himself. . . . His task was to discover his own destinynot an arbitrary oneand live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of ones own inwardness. The sad thing is that most people pay no attention to this malaise, this emptiness, this inner longing that exits within them, this universal prompting to awaken and discover their best selves. They believe that their unhappiness is natural. So how do I align my outer world with my inner world? I wondered. You should consciously begin to take steps every day to close the integrity gap, Jack. By doing so, youll reclaim the person that you truly are. And when that happens, greatness infuses every dimension of your life. Where do I start? First, you need to go deep inside and begin the process of knowing yourself. Selfknowledge is the starting point of personal excellence. Detect your largest values, define how you really wish to conduct your life, and think about what makes you happy. Clarify what standards you feel you need to live your life under in order to be true to yourself, then articulate how youd occur in the world if you were really thinking, acting, and feeling in authentic ways. What would it all look like? What things would you no longer tolerate? What activities would you no longer participate in, and which people would you consciously choose to remove from your life? Interesting questions, I remarked. I suggest that you actually write down what you discover in that journal I gave you on your first day here so that you can form an ongoing dialogue with yourself. Its very important to have conversations with yourself so that youll get to know who you really are. Then the next step is to take action each day to reveal the true you to the worldto close The Integrity Gap. Start to live your life on your own terms. Close the gap, I echoed. Yesbe authentic, be real, and be yourself. And the moment you do, your self-esteem will grow by leaps and bounds, and youll unleash a remarkable degree of confidence. You wont even know whats happening, as this all will take place at a very deep subconscious level. But youll start to see big changes in the way you operate when your social self becomes a mirror reflection of your true self. Youll have incredible amounts of energy and will find that youre more creative than ever. Youll notice that you have a deep sense of joy and peace within you. Being true to yourself lifts your life to a whole new level and awakens your best self. From a metaphysical viewpoint, when you align your outer world with your inner world, the universe throws its winds beneath your wings and send you more of its treasures. Father Mike stood up. Meet me in the Grand Room tomorrow morning at seven. I need to show you something, he said with a hint of mystery. Thats it for today. Ive given you a lot to think about, so I suggest that you retire to your room and do some journaling. Record what youve learned from me and what youve discovered about yourself. I know this practice will be most helpful to you. And with that, he was off, leaving me with a mind full of thoughts and a sense of hope that I hadnt known for many years. Chapter 5: The Stained Glass Window The level of thinking that got you to where you now are will not get you to where you dream of being. Albert Einstein There is a giant asleep within everyone. When that giant awakens, miracles happen. Frederick Faust Come with me. I want to show you something, said Father Mike when he and I met the next morning. I followed him as he walked to the center of the largest room in the cathedral. He pointed to the remarkable stained glass window that was the stunning highlight of the entire space. The sun radiated through its different colored pieces, creating a rainbow that filled the room with spectacular light. Each and every one of us sees the world through our own personal stained glass window, Jack. Your life can change once you really understand this point. Mine did. Really? Yes. We see the world not as it is but as we are, Father Mike observed. Each one of us walks out into the world every day and thinks that the way we experience the world before us is the experience of truth. But thats more of our arrogance peeping through and our denial at play. The truth in any situation is colored by our internal stained glass window, which acts as our filter on the world. And just as that glass up there takes the light striking it and colors it, every belief, fear, assumption, and bias we carry with us colors our experience of the moment. We think we all see life through the same set of eyes as everybody else, but we dont. Thats just a big lie that we fool ourselves into believing. Each one of us views the world through the lens of our personal context, which has been shaped by the unique experiences of our lives. And since no one on the planet has had exactly the same experiences, no one on the planet has the same personal experience of any given situation. Your life takes on a whole new sense of meaning the moment you truly get this. This is a very important point of wisdom Im offering to you, Jack. Fascinating knowledge. I guess Ive never stepped out of my own thinking and wondered whether it accurately reflected the truth or not, I admitted. Each one of us sees the world through our own unique set of filters, which represents our mental model. This stained glass window of the mind colors how we see the world and what we believe about ourselves. Leadership of our lives requires us to realize that the way we see the world isnt necessarily a true reflection of the facts. Were not always seeing things unfolding the way we think we are. Thats a very scary thought, Father, I stated. It kind of makes me feel uncomfortable to believe that its true. It makes me worry. Thats good, Jack. Youre feeling fear again, which is a natural human reaction thats certain to come up when were stretched to think or do something new in our lives. And fear is manifested in the form of stress. Once you become aware of this natural process, the fear will have no hold on you and youll transcend it. The best way to release your fear is to feel and experience itsurrender to the fear and stop fighting it. Just sit with your fear and actually try to melt into it. When you do, something amazing will happen: Your fear will vanish. But remember that fear is nothing more than a feelingit isnt real. Never run away from your fears; always run toward them. The place where your greatest fears live is also the place where your greatest growth lies. And since the purpose of human life is all about growth, embrace the glorious opportunity fear presents. As I mentioned earlier, the things you fear in life offer you a very fertile ground of self-discovery. But is it really true that each and every one of us is perceiving our reality in an incorrect way? I asked. Im not saying that we all see the world incorrectlysometimes we do, but sometimes what we actually think is happening reflects the truth. My point is simply that for your life to change, you must change. And one of the best ways to do that is by getting the simple fact that we see the world not as it is, but as we are. With that, Father Mike led me back to my room and left me alone for the night. My mind was spinning with all Id learned in the span of such a short period of time. There was so much new information to integrate. Here I was in Rome, being coached by a priest who was sharing with me a view of the universe, one that would revolutionize every area of my life if I adhered to it. I really did feel fear when I thought about what this incredible monk said. To live my life according to these new beliefs would mean that Id have to see the world through a completely new set of eyes, and so few people in the world I knew lived like this. Yet as I gazed out over the city and stared at the stars sparkling in that magnificent Roman sky, a peace deeper than anything Id ever known welled up within me. And a single word flashed across my mind: trust. Over the past few weeks, Id grown accustomed to a very pleasant routine at the cathedral: waking up at dawn and meditating with Father Mike for about an hour. This discipline was extremely difficult for me at first, but after only a few days, an interior power began to surface within me, and the practice became easier. I started to change even more quickly and started to operate on a whole new level. I began to identify less with my thinking and access a higher level of awareness. The deeper I went, the more I came to see that I was not my thoughtsI was the thinker of my thoughts, and the more I simply became a witness to them, the more my chattering mind would be silenced and stilled. I knew in my core that I was growing as a human being as I never had before. More than ever, I agreed with Father Mikes view that this path were all on is not about improving and attempting to become more like someone else, such as our heroes, for instance. Instead, I felt so deeply that this journey of life is really about reclaiming who we truly are. It is a process of remembering. But I didnt just believe thisI actually came to know this. After our morning meditation, Father Mike and I would eat a simple breakfast of fruit and grains and then stroll out into the garden behind the cathedral where hed spend the next few hours coaching me and teaching me the fundamental lessons of living a wise and noble life. On a few of the mornings, he offered his wisdom in the form of sermons, standing next to a beautiful rosebush and speaking with a passion and intensity that connected with the most profound place within my heart. On other days, hed be more relaxed and make me laugh while he revealed his breathtaking knowledge to me in the form of humorous stories. Every evening, Id walk up to my tiny room and open the windows, peering out at the sky and growing in my self-knowledge. Each day Id have remarkable shifts in the way I saw the world and in my understanding of the design of this gorgeous universe of ours. I quickly came to see that every one of us is connected. There is an order to the seemingly random events of our lives, although most of us never recognize this. All the dots in our lives are connected, and everything that happens to us happens for a reason. Life really is a growth school, and each of the circumstances of our lives promote our personal growth if we have the awareness to find and then live by the lesson offered. Each one of our lives, I realized, has a gracious beauty to it. The sad times improve us and lead us to the good, while the good times show us the fullness of our possibilities and offer us the blessings to be appreciated. And I also realized that nothing very good or very bad ever lasts for very long. Chapter 6: The Pursuit of a Cause In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy. Karl Reiland One morning, Father Mike sat me down on a bench in the lush garden behind the cathedrals back entrance. This was the place where he spent much time in silent contemplation and prayer. Keep believing that this universe is a friendly place, he told me. The world really does want you to win. Let go of the control that most of us live the best years of our lives under, and choose to be curious instead. Youll find that if you live in this way, then a force more powerful than yourself will lead you to your best life on a daily basis. Youll literally be led to your calling. Ive often wondered what my true mission in life is, Father Mike. Deep down, Ive always known that each one of us has something special that were here to do in the world, I said. Heres a big lesson: The secret of passion is purpose. Once you find your callingthat compelling cause that you can give your life over toyour heart will begin to sing, and youll have more passion, power, and inner peace than you ever could have imagined. Discovering a powerful dream that you can live your life by will give you immense power, drive, and energy. A powerful dream gives you hope, Jack. Focus will flood your days because youll know exactly what youve been placed on the planet to do. Fascinating. One of the main reasons to discover and establish a personal vision or a central cause for your life is to focus on your highest priorities. As Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton said: The man who succeeds above his fellows is the one who early in life clearly discerns his object and towards that object habitually directs his powers. Even genius itself is but fine observation strengthened by fixity of purpose. Every man who observes vigilantly and resolves steadfastly grows unconsciously into genius. Ive never thought of genius like that, I mused. Its all about focusing on your highest goals, Father Mike replied. When you know whats most important in your life, then you can be more selective about what you do and what you dont do. Good point. And when you find the primary vocation of your life, he continued, no adversity will ever hold you back, no matter how severe it is. Articulating a personal vision for your life is the single best way to move through problems and maximize your satisfactions. Da Vinci said it so well when he observed: If you fix your course upon a star, you will be able to navigate any storm. You see, Jack, the deepest need of the human heart is the need to live for something higher than ourselves. We all have a deep craving to show up in the world in a way that makes a difference in the lives of others and connects us with a purpose that transcends the boundaries of our lives. We all have a human hunger to know at the end of our lives that we havent walked the planet in vain. The moment you find your calling, your main aim, your vital destinythats the moment youll step into a whole new way of being. Youll stop worrying about making money or being famous or climbing the corporate ladder, and youll start concerning yourself with doing your part to create a new world and make it a more loving place. And thats when the best part within you will start to feel happy. At a deep level, youll feel better about yourself as a human being. Youll start to feel fulfilled, that your life matters. And this is when your life will takes on the quality of greatness. Thats fantastic, I replied. Let me put it this way: When you shift from a compulsion to survive toward a commitment to serve others, your life cannot help but explode into success. How do I find this destiny of mine? You really dont discover your destiny, Jackit discovers you. Really? Yes. The more you recover your authentic self, the more your destiny will unfold before your eyes. As I told you before, my young friend, just keep doing your inner workthats the most essential thing. As Dutch philosopher Benedict de Spinoza said: To be what we are and to become what we are capable of being is the only end in life. The more you find your essential self and present it to the world for all to see, the more youll move into the flow of life. And by doing so, your destiny will find you. I was skeptical. Its that simple? Yes, actually it is, Father Mike answered. Just be more patient and open. Thomas Merton made the point well when he observed: We have what we seek. It is there all the time, and if we give it time it will make itself known to us. The more you get to know the person that you truly are, the more youll see that you have all the wisdom, power, and capacity that youve desired all your life. You already are what youve always dreamed of being. You just need to know that. And when you do, youll then be able to access the possibilities that are meant for you. Just keep going deeper and working on yourself. And keep trusting and staying open. Father Mike paused for a moment, and then went on. Jack, youve done well here. Youve been one of my best students. But our time together is over. Youve been with me for four weeks, and the shifts Ive seen in you have been wonderful . . . but the best is yet to come. Ive planted some seeds within you that have only begun to grow. Its been an honor to meet you, the son of my dear friend Cal. Youll do well in the world and blaze quite a path, Im sure. Stay true to yourself, Jack. Keep seeking the truthand always trust. With that, Father Mike gave me a warm hug. He then briskly turned around and walked through the garden into the cathedral that had been his home for so many years. The sun shone brightly, and I just stood next to a rosebush, reflecting on the past four weeks and what Id experienced. I thought of the words of Louisa May Alcott: Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow them. From the place within me that knew, I felt that I was truly on my way. Part II: The Surfer Chapter 7: A Meeting with a Master of the Heart There is a wick within you that is waiting to become the light of your soul. When this inner flame burns brightly you will feel a magnificent awakening in your life. Bradford Keeney Every year that I live I am more convinced that the waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the powers we have not used, the selfish prudence which will risk nothing, and which, shirking pain, misses happiness as well. Mary Cholmondeley My eyes had never seen such a beautiful sight. Id been to many beaches before, but this one stood out from all the rest. It looked like a tiny slice of Nirvana. And so, as I paid the cab driver, I told him that Id find a way home. Are you sure about that, pal? he asked. Were miles from the nearest town, and this is the most isolated beach on the island. I could come back for you in a few hours if you want. No . . . but thanks, I replied. I have a feeling Ill be fine here. The universe is a friendly place, you know, I added with a knowing smile. The cabbie just stared at me, shook his head, and drove off. I couldnt see anyone in sight, but that didnt matter. I slowly made my way down from the road to the sand and took off my sandals. The scene was nothing less than spellbinding: The ocean reflected a brilliant azure blue; the sand was fine and white; and the sun, though strong, caressed my body and filled me with peace. I sat down, giving silent thanks for all the gifts that had begun to fill my life since my meeting with Calmy fatherseveral weeks before. After about 20 minutes of joyful sunbathing, I noticed some movement on the far end of the beach. As I concentrated more, I could see what appeared to be a man doing some kind of a tribal dance in the sand. His hands were flailing, his knees were knocking, and his head was shaking. I grew frightened. I was alone here and, for a moment, I questioned my safety. Then something wonderful happened. The word trust flashed across my mind, and I remembered what Father Mike had told me one day in Rome: Behind each of your fears, youll discover your fortune. I reached deep within myself and found the new sense of courage Id been accessing more and more of over the past four weeks as I connected to my power. I then boldly began to walk toward the figure. As I grew closer, I saw the man more clearly. He was still moving oddly, as if in a wild trance, and he didnt seem to notice that he was no longer alone on the beach. Soon I was near him, yet he kept on doing his dance. Finally, he broke the silence and opened his eyes. Welcome to my beach, Jack. What took you so long? he asked with a toothy grin. I was stunned. How could this man possibly know my name? Trust flashed through my mind once again. You know my name? I asked, surprised and still somewhat afraid. How? Yep, I know your name all rightCal told me all about you. Quite a guy he was. And boy, could he party. You partied with my dad? I wondered in disbelief. Oh, it was all good, clean funnothing to worry about, he said, wiping the sweat off his chest. I studied this mysterious character for a moment while he lifted his face to the sun. I guessed he was about 45 years old. His skin was bronzed and his body was in almost perfect condition, with lean muscles rippling out from beneath his supple skin. His eyes were a striking blue, and his hair was bleached blond from his exposure to the sun. And he only wore a necklace made of seashells and a pair of tattered nylon shorts that seemed to have every color of the rainbow splashed over them. My names Moe. Moe Jackson, he said as he extended his hand. Welcome to Hawaii. This is my beachbest place on the island to surf, and Ive got it all to myself. The locals say its haunted out here, so theres no chance of any company. Fine by me, he drawled. I get to surf out here all day, all by myself, which suits me perfectly. Youre a surfer? I asked. You got it, brother, he replied joyfully. Just like Cal. He was pretty darn good at it, tooalmost as good as me, he grinned. And what about that thing you were just doing? That little jig? Oh, I was just havin some fun. I love to danceit keeps me in the flow of life and reminds me not to take things too seriously. In the flow of life? Sure, Moe said. I live my life moment to moment. Im dedicated to living in a state of continuous grace. I try to stay completely present to everything that unfolds for me. The past is overlong gone. So my philosophy works like this: I never let my yesterdays take up much of my todays. And what about the future? I questioned. The future isnt real, man. Its just an illusion as far as Im concerned. The only thing that I really focus on is the enchantment of each minute. I live in the flow and take things as they come. I follow my heart. And I love it! he offered with immense enthusiasm. Here, this is for you, he added as he handed me an envelope that he took from the pocket of his shorts. Read the page inside. I pulled out a crumpled piece of paper and read its words carefully. It said: Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in my pillow or stretch myself taut or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return. Mary Jean Iron I guess thats true, I said reflectively. So many of us complain about not having enough time in our lives, and yet we waste much of the time we already have. And we spend our lives chasing this elusive pot of gold, only to discover that our best treasures were the simplest ones that we always had but never knew. You got it, Moe said, nodding his head in agreement. Most people are always running toward this fantasyland that they think will solve all their problems and fill them up with joy. They tell themselves, Once I achieve this or that, Ill be happy. But I believe that happiness isnt a place you get toits an inner state you create. Anyone can be happyits available to everyone and is available right now. We just need to stop and pay more attention to the treasures that already surround us. So now I live my life full out. My eyes are open. Ive awakened. I love every single moment of this grand adventure. And where do you live? I asked with curiosity. He pointed to a tiny thatched hut at the edge of the beach, where the shore jutted out like a finger. There was a small garden filled with flowers next to it, and a rusty old bicycle leaning against the side. Thats my palace, Jack, my home. And I love it! he proclaimed proudly. Interesting, I replied, not quite knowing what to think. Its more than interestingits perfect. Ive got nothing to worry about, no one to bother me, and Im next to those waves that make my heart pound. Im in heaven as far as Im concerned. So welcome to paradise! This will be your home for the next four weeks. Sounds great to me. I know Im in for a real treat, I answered with a smile. Its all been planned for you, Moe continued. You already know that, Im sure. And Ill be happy to have the gift of your company. Ill be teaching you all about the second of The Final Questions. Did I love well? I recalled. You got it. Great. But right now, Moe, to be completely candid with you, I need to focus on my inner work more than falling in love. Im going through so much internal growth that every element of my life seems to be changing. My whole stained glass window is transforming, so to speak. Father Mike taught you that, I know. Brilliant man, Moe said sincerely. You know Father Mike? Of course. Hes been a friend for yearsscared of the water, though, my companion noted with a chuckle. I could never get him near a surfboard, no matter how hard I tried. His loss, he shrugged. Anyway, to respond to your point, Moe continued, there are many types of love: erotic love, self-love, love of family, and love of life itself and its miraculous unfolding. The last of these is what you and I will be focusing on, my friend. Our work together will be all about opening up your heart so you can then open up to life and all its delights. Ill bet you never dreamed of having a personal heart coach, right? A heart coach? Never heard of it. Yeah, I know, said Moe. Its a little corny, but Cal wanted it that way. He set up all this life training for you and asked us to be your coaches. He really wanted to help you, Jackthe guy truly loved you. But let me continue. Ive found a way to live a life thats rich and amazing. I mean really rich and really amazing. Im the happiest guy I know, here on this empty beach. I wake up every morning with deep joy in my heart. I surf. I dance. I paint during the morning, and sometimes late at night, I watch the stars as I fall asleep. I write poetry as the sun sets. I feel Im the richest man in the world. And the beautiful thing is that Im really no different from you. You can have what I haveif you want it. Moe went on. It all happened when I stopped living my days in my head and begin to open my heart. Thats been the real trick for me. Carl Jung said it best: Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. Great line, I said, feeling a wave of peace and comfort wash over me as I took in those words. Well, its wonderful to meet you, Moe Jackson. Im genuinely looking forward to our time together, I expressed with utter confidence. Great! he said. Jack, I hear you when you say that youre in a period of deep transformation. Thats goodbest place to be in life. I know it can be terrifying at times, but just hang in there. Try to be fully present in this process youre going through. Its the most important time of your life . . . so far. So just ride this waveyoull be glad you did. In fact, Ill bet that after your stay with Father Mike, your heart is already starting to open up to your inner wisdom. Youre right. Im getting all these insights Ive never had beforeand Im not really sure where theyre coming from, I noted, hoping for some guidance. Youre getting out of your head and moving into your heart, which is where all your answers live. Living in your head is playing it safe with your life. You try to figure things out. You plan and worry and fret about your past, your present, and your future. You spend so much time analyzing what could be and what would be that you miss out on living the life that you need to live. The ideal way to learn from life is to be present to every moment presented to youand you cant do that if youre caught up in your thoughts. Moe stopped for a second, and then continued. I used to be like you, Jack, living in my mind. I actually used to be in the same industry youre in. Advertising? Yes, advertising. Ever heard of MJ Group International? Of course. Theyre one of the top-five ad agencies in the world. Based in Chicago, 23 offices around the world, hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues. Guess who founded that baby? Moe asked as he patted himself on his back lightheartedly. Dont tell me! I replied. MJ is you, Moe Jackson? Yes. He beamed. Unbelievable. Really? I couldnt believe that this surfer I was casually chatting with had been one of the most famous marketing minds in the world only a decade ago. His firm had pioneered many innovations and was widely known for its ruthless tactics and winat-all-costs mind-set. MJ International was a world-class company, and it was difficult to fathom that this extraordinarily peaceful-looking man standing in front of me on this gorgeous beach in the middle of nowhere was who he said he was. Trust me, its true, Moe replied. My ride to success was a fast one. I seemed to have the Midas touch when I was in the business. I was unstoppable for many years, making millions in the process. I just had this sixth sense about how to get ahead. By the age of 40, I had most of the material possessions that any person from your world could ever dream of: a private jet, a home in the Caymans, a place in Aspen, a couple of hot Porsches in the driveway, and a trophy wife. And after all those years spent chasing money, fame, and acclaim, guess what I discovered? Tell me, I asked as I looked deep into Moes eyes, which had become filled with a look of sadness and regret. I learned that I still saw the same person in the mirror every morning. I still felt the same way I had when I was hungry and broke. I still had the same demons plaguing me and the same baggage Id hauled around with me since I was a kid. I still had the same limiting beliefs about myself and what I could be. So I learned that no matter how beautiful your outer world looks, its whats on the inside thats important. And if your inner world is messy and unhealthy, nothing that you get on the outside will ever make you happy. On the other hand, if your inner world is healthy and complete, the simplest and most basic of things in your outer world will fill your heart and soul. The greatest treasures of life truly are the inner ones, my friend. As Emerson noted: Without the rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar. Im learning that as I go deep, I added reflectively. No matter how much we collect, nothingnothingcan ever make up for any incompleteness we feel within ourselves. As human beings, we all have these holes within us that crave to be filled. Some of us have holes created by parents who didnt care for our emotional needs as children; others of us have holes created by uncaring schoolmates who couldnt see our true worth. Still others of us have holes created by educators who taught us that we were never good enough, no matter how much we achieved. And as we grow into adults, we unconsciously look for other people and things to fill our holesto complete us. And when they dont, we move on in search of the next solution. Its an endless pursuit, and it empties usas human beingsof our inner peace. So whats the lasting solution? I asked as Moe and I strolled along the beach, with a gentle breeze caressing our faces. Go within, came the reply. Do whatever it takes to complete yourself. Fill your own holes. And remember that the gateway to fulfillment swings inward, not outward. Thats why the first priority of every human being, as far as I can tell, is to do the deep inside stuff, the inner work you just spoke of. Thats a fascinating way to look at it, Moe. Its true. Going within means that you address the things that are limiting you from knowing how fantastic you truly are. Such as my incorrect beliefs, false assumptions, fears, and personal biases, I piped in. Yes, those things and more. By dealing with these things in a very real way, you then can feel much better in your external world. The more you clean up your inner world, the more beautiful your outer world will be. It all begins within, I summarized. Yes, Moe said. And one of the main elements of that inner work is to open up the heart. Opening up your heart is about living with lovebeing open to human possibilities, trusting in the perfect unfolding of your life, and being more alive. Begin to live in the wonder of your life, Jackbe present to all of the brilliance around you. It really is a choice you have the power to make. And with a little practice, youll master these skills. As Helen Keller said: No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit. Be more courageous with your lifethats what worked for me. Opening your heart is also about trusting your instincts more often and being open to the surprises that weave in and out of our lives. Its about welcoming the unexpected and being available for all the miracles that have been awaiting you. I dont know if I believe in miracles. Im more open to things than ever before, but believing in miracles is a stretch for me, I admitted. Just then, Moe began to run. At first it was more of a jog, but then he began to sprint. Follow me! he instructed. I began to run, too, giving myself over to this experience and trusting that some lesson would come from it. Moe led the way along the beach for what seemed like 15 or 20 minutes, all the while remaining silent and staying focused on his goal: a sandy hilltop at the very end of the beach. Finally, as he approached his destination, I caught up with him. Sweat streamed down my cheeks, and I struggled to catch my breath. Too much of that rich Italian food, I can see, joked Moe as he pointed the way to the path up the hill. Where are we going? I gasped. Youll see, he replied. At the top of the hill was a lush, grassy mound. From this perch, I could see other islands, passing steamships, and strikingly beautiful coral formations. Look over there, said Moe as he pointed to what appeared to be ancient ruins a little way off into the distance. What are those? I asked. Well, responded Moe as he played with one of the shells on his exotic necklace, at first glance they probably look like historical ruins or a rudimentary series of walls and roadways. But Ill tell you something really cool about what youre looking at. If you were to fly high above these ruinswhich were created by the earliest inhabitants of Hawaii many, many years agoyoud discover something that scientific researchers found out recently as they surveyed this site from helicopters and airplanes. Im all ears, I said eagerly. What appears to be a random series of paths and walls is actually a sophisticated and enormously complex series of highways and systems that lay at the foundation of a rich civilization when viewed from a higher, more complete perspective. The point is really this, Moe explained. When you see things from a higher perspective, you can see that seemingly unrelated things are actually related. And to me, thats a miracle. You see, a miracle is nothing more than a shift of mind that helps you see things in a new way. By going up to this hilltop, you can see things differently than you would down on the ground. And by constantly staying open to viewing your life in new ways, youll eventually see the miracles that are taking place. The more open you remain, the more youll see that all of the seemingly unrelated things that have happened to you during your life have been part of a larger coherent system. This is what I see as a miracle. Moe then dropped to the ground. Within seconds, he was doing push-ups at a furious pace. What the heck are you doing now? I asked with surprise. Just keepin in shape, he replied. He continued his teaching as sweat poured down his forehead. Jack, theres so much more waiting for you out there than you ever could have guessed. The key is to trust. There was that word again. I knew I had to trust that everything that had happened to me in the past, and that all that would happen to me in the future was part of a perfectly orchestrated program to lead me along the path of my destiny and highest truth. Stop living in your head, Moe said. Youve tried that method of operating your whole life, and where has it gotten you? Im still stuck, even after all these years, I admitted. Maybe its time for a new operating system, to live more of your moments out of your heart. Be more love, and I promise that the golden gates to a whole new world will open up for you. Once you begin living your life fully from the deepest place within you and loving who you are, all things will change for the better. Live your life as a meditation on lovelove of others, love for yourself, and love for the world. Thats what Im really saying. So how did you end up here? Whats your story, Moe? We all have a story, dont we? Well, I eventually decided to drop out of my life because it grew out of control. I gave away everything I owned and traveled the world with a backpack for a few years. I met fascinating people and immersed myself in various cultures. I went to personal-growth seminars and spent months alone in the wilderness. I learned to meditate in India and fell in love with surfing in Australia. As I did more and more work on myself, I came to a point where I began to find answers to the biggest questions of my life. I began to evolve into an entirely new person in many ways. Then on a visit to this incredible island, I discovered this beach. In doing so, I found my home. I just felt that this is where I belonged. And Ive been here ever since. Incredible. I thought for a moment, and then asked, Is it important to be alone to find oneself? No, not at all, Moe responded. Actually, being alone for long periods of time might actually be a form of running away from what needs to be looked at. It almost might be a kind of distraction from going deep into what really needs to be dealt with. When I was in India, I saw many monks who I heard spend the best years of their lives alone, up in the mountains, with nothing more that a loincloth and a rice bowl as their possession. I never thought those people were all that enlightened. That surprises me. Well, its pretty easy to be peaceful sitting alone on a mountaintop with nothing to do but contemplate your thoughts. It isnt hard to be happy and stress free all day when youre all by yourself and theres no one around to press your buttons and bring up your deeper issues. To me, growth comes from being in the real world. We discover who we are as people in relationship to others. In my experience, Ive found that its only when we surround ourselves with other people that we know over true selves. Ill give you a metaphor. Lets say that you found yourself completely alone in a white box. There are no windows or doorsjust you. Okay, Im visualizing this, I said with both eyes closed. Good. Now do you see what Im getting at? Without anything else to view yourself against, you cant really know much about yourself. Its just you alone in the box. I see exactly what youre getting at. I need another thing in that box for me to compare myself to. Well, I dont know if compare is the correct word, but youre on the right track. If I put a surfboard in that white box with you, there would now be a relationship in play. You could look at the board and then look at yourself. There would now be a way you could get information about yourself, relative to the surfboardin relation to it. You might notice that youre taller than the board, or more intelligent, or that you move more. So its only in relationship that we come to know ourselves. Very cool point, I replied. Bring that metaphor into the discussion about the monk and the rice bowl. Up on the mountaintop, he isnt in relationship. And given this, theres no real growth and selfdiscovery. But the moment we bring him back to the real world . . . Moe trailed off. Hes in relationship to other people, I interjected. He can see himself against others in the world. Yes. And as he goes through his days, the highs and lows of the world cause him to respond in certain ways. If someone treats him poorly, he may get mad. The anger that surfaces is nothing more than an opportunity to heal a deeper wound. If something frightens him, this is another chance to learn something more about himself, and in doing so, raise his consciousness to the next level. If a challenge he experiences frustrates him, then this raises yet another vehicle for him to bring it all back to himself and seek out what within him needs to be strengthened and improved. If a challenge he experiences frustrates him, this raises yet another vehicle for him to bring it all back to himself and seek out what within him needs to be strengthened and improved. Do you see how living in the real world, going to work, paying bills, and essentially experiencing the human condition is the only way to move toward enlightenment? I do. I get it clearly. But then, and I hope you dont mind me asking this, why are you living all alone? Moe fell silent. After pondering my question for a few moments, he smiled. Thats a great point. I dont know the answer to that one, Jack. All I can say is that I know that Im exactly where Im supposed to be. Ive lived in the world my whole life, and now my path has led me to this place. My intention is to remain here, but our lives unfold in ways well beyond what we expect. Who knows where Ill be a year from now? Im enjoying where I am right now. Im just playing in the present moment, open to all possibilities and potentials. My heart feels so happy here. And until it tells me otherwise, this is where Ill be. I wasnt quite satisfied with Moes answer, but I didnt call him on it. This man with the look of an Adonis and the peace of the Buddha clearly knew something I didnt. There was no doubt in my mind that he was living his life according to a philosophy that was far more enlightened than mine. Until I met Father Mike only a few weeks ago, my life was a mess. By embracing his unique wisdom, my life was flying forward. Who was I to judge the way Moe lived? Yes, his approach was unconventional. But if we all only lived according to the conventional thinking of the masses, our society would have remained in the Dark Ages. Its only due to the novel and bold thinking of the visionaries of our world that any progress has been made. And on top of that, what Moe was teaching made sense. Jack, Ive shared a ton of knowledge with you todayI hope its been helpful, Moe said. But well have lots to discuss over the next month. And while youre here, youll be staying in my guest house. Guest house? I wondered aloud, not seeing any structure other than his hut on the beach. Yeahits over there, came the reply as Moe pointed to an old bed with a wooden frame that sat just behind his palace. Youll be sleeping under the stars while youre here in Hawaii. Itll be great for you. With that, Moe climbed down onto the beach, grabbed his surfboard, and hit the waves. Chapter 8: Walking into the Mystery That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet. Emily Dickinson As Moe and I ate a breakfast of papaya and oranges on the sand the next morning, I was bursting with curiosity. So I asked him if he could share some specifics on the subject of the heart. My life was transformed when I began to follow my heart, he began. Its so important to follow your heart because it contains a higher intelligence than that contained within your head. Accessing the wisdom of the heart connects you with the larger wisdom of the world and opens up a doorway into the heart of the universe. I dont mean to sound too mystical, but thats what Ive found to be true. I totally trust the wisdom my heart offers to me. So I need to live in my heart? No, its actually a balancea partnership. To live your highest life, as best as I can tell, the trick is to have the heart and the mind working together in harmony. Some people live completely in their heartstheyre pure emotion and feeling. These people often have trouble operating in the real world, appearing as love-struck fools with poor judgment and no practical awareness. Other people live totally in their headstheyre all reason and logic, leaving no room for intuition and passion to guide them. Kind of like Mr. Spock on the old Star Trek television show. Yes, Jack, thats a good example. And like Spock, such individuals appear cold as stone. My belief is that lifes all about striking a balance: Get the head and the heart working as teammates, as life partners. Live in a way thats wise yet kind, practical yet spontaneous, courageous yet caring, responsible yet passionate. It takes effort and time to get this balance rightI still struggle with it myself on many days. But with commitment and patience, it will all come. How can I open up my heart, Moe? I really want to feel more and discover the joy in life, to live with more festivity and happiness, I said. My sense is that my life will open once my heart doesjust as you saybut telling me to open my heart is a little like asking me to chat with you in Hawaiian. I dont know where to start. I hear you completely, replied Moe with what I felt was genuine empathy. I experienced the same thing as I journeyed along my path. And thats why Im the perfect coach for you, if you dont mind my saying so. We teach what we most need to learn, and the biggest lesson of my life has been making the gifts of my heart more available to myself. And Ive learned so much that I can share with you. In fact, Im reminded of an old story about what lies within the heart. May I share it with you? Go for it. In the East, many thousands of years ago, it was believed that every person on Earth was a god. But humankind abused their powers, so the Supreme Lord decided that hed take it all away. The question then became where he would hide the godheadthe source of all human talent, potential, and glory. The first advisor said, Why dont you dig a hole deep in the ground and place the godhead in there? No, replied the master, eventually someone will dig deep enough and find it. The second advisor then spoke. I have an idea, he said. Why not put this source of all human power on the top of the highest mountain? Again the master refused. No. Someone will eventually scale that mighty mountain and find it. Finally, the third advisor commented, What if you place the godhead at the bottom of the worlds deepest ocean? The master replied, No, someone will dive down into the ocean and discover it. The master then paused and reflected. After a few moments, he spoke knowingly: I have the solution. I will place this source of extraordinary power, magnificence, and glory inside the heart of every man, woman, and child on the planet, for theyll never think to look there. Thats a great story, I said. You see, Jack, your heart contains a lot more wisdom and gifts than you give it credit for. You may think your mind has all the answersthat if you could just think more, youll have more. You might imagine that if you simply gathered more information and learned more, youd win at the game of life. And you may believe that if you could just figure out whats not working in your life, youd know how to get things working again. But I dont think thats how life works. I need to shift into my heart a little more? I guessed. A lot more, Moe stated in a relaxed tone. But please be gentle with yourself. The path from head to heart is not a short one. It may take weeks, months, or even years for you to completely open up. The main thing is that you get on the path. And exactly how do I do that? Youre on the path now, Moe replied. The very fact that youve been brave enough to come here and seek me out shows me that the place within you that knows is ready for your broken heart to be healed. I knew what Moe meant when he referred to my broken heart. I feel that everyone in this world of ours has had a broken heart at some time or another. Im not just referring to the broken heart that occurs when we lose someone we loveI mean the breaking of our hearts that happens when we begin to realize that our dreams have faded and our deepest longings have never been fulfilled, when we see the current state of our world and the less-than-loving values that run it, and when we sell ourselves short in life and minimize our destinies. I thought about what Benjamin Disraeli once said: Life is too short to be little. Moe continued to speak. This beach is a good metaphor for your life, Jack. Life is a beach in so many ways. It reflects a journey that has its sandy parts as well as its rocky areas, and it has its curves and its straightaways. Sometimes you see the crashing waves when you wake up in the morning and feel the fury of the ocean; other times theres a blissful calm and not a thing stirs. As Ive lived my life out on this beach, Ive come to understand that the laws of life are really nothing more than the laws of nature. Study the way nature operates and you can figure out how life, at its truest level, works. Father Mike had taught me this as well. Ill give you an example, said Moe. Ive spent many nights alone out here on this beach. Sometimes Ill stay up all night, just breathing and thinking and soaking up the majesty of this place. It never ceases to amaze me how the brightness of the dawn always comes immediately after the darkest part of the night. And thats the same in our lives. Each and every one of us has to endure darknessbut it always passes, and the light always returns. Its actually at the moment when youre most into your problems that youre closest to your solutions. And when youre experiencing the deepest pain, your greatest peace is running toward you. Id never thought of life with this perspective before. Moes wisdom had a certain grace and elegance about it and was similar to the teachings Father Mike had so lovingly shared with meboth spoke to an extraordinary intelligence of the world we live in. According to both of these masters, each human beings life seemed to unfold according to a precise planeverything happened for a reason, and life was nothing less than a miraculous gift. Let me give you some practical advice now, Jack. One of the first things you can do to reconnect with your heart is to rekindle the passions that have died within you. Start doing the things that, in the past, filled up that big heart of yours. Begin to do what speaks to the passionate kid within you and makes you laugh so hard your belly hurts. Rediscover the things that move you and bring tears to your eyesafter all, the place where tears are brought to your eyes is the place where the universe wants you to be. I wonder why its taken me so long to get to the point where Im ready to experience a love for life itself. To be honest with you, Moe, I feel bad that its taken me so many years, I said as my gaze fell down to the sand, and regret welled up within me. Stop beating yourself up, Jack. Its like I told you earlieryoure exactly where youre supposed to be. Stop questioning your path, and enjoy the place youve come to. Everything thats happened to you along the way was meant to be. Acceptance is the key here. Now is a special time in your lifesavor it. Youre getting your original life backthe one that was meant for you before other things got in the way. Suddenly Moes face broke out into a huge grin. Its time for you to have fun in life again, he said. When I was a kid, my mother and father used to tell me that my eyes shined. Theyd tell me that there actually was a twinkle in them. Now I see what they were saying: A child at play has eyes that shine. Well, I used to be a pretty excited little kid, too. I want you to get that twinkle back. And as you do, your heart will open more and begin to whisper its truth to you. Id love for that to happen, Moe. And it will. My advice to you is to begin to do more of the things that make you the happiest. Follow your bliss, and start doing more of the things that made your heart sing in the past. As we grow older, we lose sight of the things that used to make our pulses quicken. I cant even remember what my passions were anymore, I sadly admitted. No problem. Theyll find you again once you start seeking them out, Moe reassured me. Ask yourself questions, for the very act of engaging in creative self-questioning will elicit many of the answers youre seeking. Ask yourself questions such as, What did I do in the past that made me feel good about myself? or If I didnt have to work, how would I spend my days? And I also suggest that you begin to listen a lot more. To what? To those inner calls, Jack. Pay more attention to those silent and gentle promptings that speak from the deepest places within you. Theyre there, they have a voice, and theyre crying out to be heard. You knew them when you were a kidget to know them again as an adult. Im so detached from this kind of thing that Im afraid Ive lost any kind of a connection to this deeper part of myself. I know Im shut down, and I really do live in my head. But Im willing to start listening for these inner calls you speak of. Wonderful, Moe replied. Your intention to begin listening to your heart more is a giant step toward opening it and benefiting from the enormous gifts it has to give you. Intentions alone are like huge waves that cascade throughout the universe, and they inevitably return bearing wonderful presents. Just keep listening and observing. Jack, remember that our hearts speak to us in the silent spaces of our lives. Make time to reflect and sit with things. And trust that a time will come when all the changes youre hoping for will appear in your life. The universe is a friendly place, I added, repeating what had become a mantra of sorts for me as I journeyed into the uncharted waters of my life. You got it, brother. By trusting that it will all work out okay, then no matter what happens, your new reality will move toward you. Its like what the Sufi poet Rumi said so many years ago: Keep knocking and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see whos there. These promptings will lead you in certain directions theyre the voices of your heart guiding you in the direction of your destiny. Have the courage to stand in the mystery of your life, and youll be advancing nicely along your path. Live in the mystery? Thats a pretty neat way to put it, Moe. Well, Ive found in my life that the only thing you can really count on in life is the unexpected. The magic that is your life awakens when you jump into the mystery of it all. We should all spend more time in the fantasy that our lives were meant to be. I love the words of T. H. Huxley, which speak to this point: Sit down before fact like a little child and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. With that, Moe sat down on the beach and motioned for me to join him. He began to build an elaborate sand castle, complete with turrets and a bridge fashioned from a shell. He worked silently for some time. Finally, he continued our discussion. Our hearts want us to be free, he said as he put the finishing touches on his work of art. One of the biggest desires of our hearts is for us to be explorers, traveling through life with a sense of wonder and awebut it wont happen if were closed to the possibilities of life. We really do need to give up all of our preconceived notions of what our lives must look like and what it will take for us to be happy. I really do try to follow humbly wherever and whatever nature leads me to. Who am I to play God with my life? What a profound statement, Moe. Youve obviously done a lot of thinking on this subject. A lot of feeling is more like it, was the reply. An even more profound statement on this point comes from Albert Einstein, who once observed: The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. So were most fully alive when were living with a sense of wonder and awe. Sounds like a very free way to live, I said. Just open up to the mystery of it all. I think I could do that. This way of operating as a human being will bring up your fears from time to time thats only natural. But feel those fears, and then do it anyway. Just stand with your fears and let them wash through you. Eventually theyll pass. Heres the real key on this point: For your life to be great, your faith must be bigger than your fears. Its only when you have faith in the fact that, as you say, the universe is a friendly place and its bigger than the fears that have limited youonly then will your brightest life come calling. Your faith in the fact that this world has your best interests in mind but often send its miracles disguised as difficulties must be far bigger than your fear of those difficulties ruining your life. Your faith in the intelligence of the universe must be a lot larger than your fears that youre all alone. Theres a much bigger plan unfolding, and you must trust in it. Once you do, the enchantment of your life will be given permission to rise to the surface. Moe scratched his stomach and stretched a little. Anyway, back to my point about recovering your passions, he said. When we grow up in environments where there isnt a lot of personal autonomyin other words, when were told what to do all the timewe lose touch with the true desires of our hearts. We lose that connection with our preferences and the things that make our hearts sing. We lose a sense of what we love, and then we grow into adults who dont even know what our true desires are. Consequently, we dont know how to get our hearts beating and savor that experience of being fully alive, engaged, and in the now. And so, our true passions become buried within us. Buried? Yes. I dont know if you know this, Jack, but the respected painter James McNeill Whistler studied at West Point Military Academy. While he was in an engineering class, the teacher asked the students to draw a picture of a bridge. Whistler drew a marvelous image of a stone-arched bridge and placed two happy young boys fishing on it. The instructor saw the two children, grew annoyed, and angrily instructed Whistler to remove them from the bridge. Whistler redrew the sketch, this time placing the boys on the river bank. The teacher grew even more agitated and screamed at Whistler to remove the children from the picture entirely. Whistler did so, but in the final version of the sketch, he replaced the figures of the two boys with something that made the teacher shudder. What did Whistler do? He drew two small tombstones along the rivers edge that had the childrens names on them. I get the point of wisdom, I said. When we lose our connection to our hearts, we essentially lose the connection to that spirited child within us. Yes, Jack. And it takes real practice to reconnect with those things that speak to us most deeply and recover our childlike spark. It takes a lot of work to get back to knowing who we truly are. What kind of work? Once again, its inner work. Start by reflecting daily on the kinds of things make you happy. For instance, what pursuits energize you and put a smile on your face? Write all this down, as noting your reflections on paper deepens your understanding of them. These are the longings of your heart that must be fulfilled if you hope to create an extraordinary life. To use the words of Joseph Campbell: If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say follow your bliss and dont be afraid, and doors will open where you didnt know they were going to be. Thats an incredibly rich statement, I observed. It is. When you follow the longings of your heart and listen to the desires of your true self, a universe of possibilities will open up and youll step through a doorway into a completely new reality. Meaningful coincidences will begin to occurfor example, the right job will come along at the right time. Youll seem to have an almost magic touch, attracting the right people and the best opportunities into your life. But these kinds of happenings will be nothing more than confirmation from the world that youre now on your authentic path. As Moe was speaking, a huge waved crashed against a collage of rocks and sprayed us with the freshness of the ocean. I felt irritated rather than exhilarated, but Moe began to laugh. Whoooeeee, that felt good. Hit me with some more of that! he yelled to the ocean without a hint of self-consciousness. He then continued his sharing. Its also really important to stop the struggle, he remarked. What do you mean by that? I inquired. Stop struggling and start being. Struggle breeds stress, and stress is a great barrier to living in a state of grace, ease, and flowthe kind of state you need to be in to attract your best life to you. When I was in the corporate world, all I saw were people struggling, pushing, and trying. There was too much doing and not enough being. The laws of nature dont work that way. To grow a flower, theres no struggle or tryingit just happens. Its a lovely, natural unfolding that takes place. To try to push the flower to grow just kills the thing. And yet thats what were inclined to do in our lives. You cant push the ocean, Jack. You need to let it flow. And if you dont get this point and you stay in the struggle, youre basically going against the rules of nature. And thats asking for trouble, I assume? Well, I dont know if Id word it so strongly, but Id say that in going against the rules of nature, youll definitely set yourself up for a lesson or two. Agreed. So all Im saying is flow through life more, man. And then life will flow through you. Live in a state of calm surrender, going with what life has in store for you. Stop fighting your life, making your happiness conditional on things looking a certain way. Ironically, when you do so, your life will begin to improve and true happiness will flow to you. Stop trying to analyze every event as good or bad and just experience it. Thats the path to mastery: detachment from outcomes. Dont let the best hours of your life escape you. Get out of the struggle and get into the energy that really runs the world. The same energy that created that powerful ocean out there created you, too. So, rather than fight it, unite with itstop trying so hard to get what you want in life. Thats one of the paradoxes of the world: Those things that you run toward will run away from you. The more you stop worrying about the way your life should turn out, the more your life will turn out just fine. Okay, Moe, I get it. I guess I need to stop living the frantic life Ive been living. I need to get out of the struggle of it all and just be with all thats unfoldingknowing that Im exactly where Im meant to be. I guess what youre really telling me is that I should stop trying to run my life and just embrace it, trusting that no matter what it currently looks like, its all part of a grander plan for me. Yes. Your life, my life, every life is so beautiful. We just fail to make the time to take that in. Thats why its so important to slow down. Why are you always rushing? Where are you running to? Ive never really thought about it. But youre quite right. Until a few weeks ago, my life was nothing more than one long race. The funny thing is that Im beginning to realize that I didnt even know where the finish line was. I was running just for the sake of running. Maybe I was trying to be so busy to look important. Moe nodded. That was probably part of it. I think I was also doing it to complete myself and fill in one of those internal holes you spoke of. Probably. But the point is really this, Jack: Enjoy the process, the grand unfolding of your life. Become more present to your lifeshow up more fully and savor the moments. Thats all that really matters. The road is better than the end. Moe was right. Life was nothing more than a series of moments. If I missed them, Id miss out on life. It was time for me to change in a big way. Now when it comes to working on myself as a human being, shouldnt I work hard and fast so I can change as quickly as possible? Nice question. Again Ill ask, Whats the rush? Lifes a process, Jack. And its also full of paradoxes. Heres another one: By going too fast, youll actually slow down your progress. Father Mike taught me the same thing. Well, he was right. Rushing your personal transformation will move you backwards. You need to give your learning some breathing space. Learn, do, and then bethats the masters path. Learn, do, and then be? Yes. In learning any skill, especially the skill of living a life based on loving your journey and living in the moment, theres a three-step process to get to mastery. First you learn what you need to learn, which might be accomplished by reading the right books about the skill you aim to master. Then you need to allow the learning to settle in and integrate within your life. This happens by experiencing what youve learned in the laboratory of your days. Thats the do part of the formula. Once that happens, and it might take a long time, youll eventually get to the being part of your life. Thats where the masters live. They dont try to live, they just live. And they dont try to be fully present, they just are. Really interesting ideas you have, Moe. Simply profound in so many ways. And profoundly simple. Ill tell you another way to express what Ive just taught you. There are four stages that one must pass through in moving from living like a beginner to living like a master. The first is unconscious incompetence. Sadly, this is where most people spend their lives. In this introductory stage, we dont know what we dont know. Were essentially unconsciouswere asleep to who we truly are and what our lives could become. But once we open our eyes and wake up by taking some responsibility for our lives and the creation of our destinies, we rise to the second stage, which is conscious incompetence. Here, we develop a sense of awareness about what we dont know. In other words, we become conscious of our incompetence in the way we run our lives? Exactly. Once here, if we stay conscious and keep doing the inside work to open up, well get to the next stage: conscious competence. This place is characterized by wonderful results starting to appear in life. Were consciously creating an extraordinary existence. The only problem is that were still trying. Theres still struggle. And that breeds stress, I interjected. Right. Were consciously competent in the way we conduct your life. Thats a good place to be, but not a truly great place to live. We all should aspire to get to the final and highest stageunconscious competence. This stage in life is the stage of mastery. And its not about learning any longer or doing any moreits simply about being. I understand, I said. I love the way you explain the process. So, in many ways, thats the journey of life that we should all aspire to? For me it is. Anyway, all thats important for you to know now is to be cool. Relax, man. Hang loose, as we say here in Hawaii. Perfect speed, my son, is being there, said the wise author Richard Bach. Its time to be there in your life again. Moe then walked into his palace and brought out a lunch of tuna sandwiches and more fresh fruit. We ate silently for what seemed like an hour, just taking in the beauty of this dazzling place of nature and enjoying the sun kissing our faces. Yes, living in your head and away from your heart is a pretty stressful way to go, my friend, Moe finally said, still looking out at the ocean. Its not an elegant way to live. Theres a better way to experience your lifes path. Maybe the best way to put it is like this: Shift from trying to control your life to becoming curious about your life. And what exactly does that mean? Rather than trying to know and figure it all out, live in the curiosity of it all. You dont have to know where youll be a year from nowyou dont even have to know what youll be doing a month from now. Move away from this need for certainty that we all have, and move toward the curiosity that we all need. Just be. Live in the moment with every bit of your life force, and enjoy the gift of the present. The treasures of your life will present themselves to you only if you really are open to them. But surely you arent saying that theres no need to ever do anything. I mean, how can we create an extraordinary life if theres no trying at all? You cant be telling me that its wrong to set goals and make plans and work hard? Good point. Its all a balance, isnt it? All those things you mentioned flow from the head, and thats fine. Now, for you, its time to bring in the heart. Stop trying to control your life and the ways of nature. You dont know whats best for you. You really dont. I guess my intelligence cant possibly be more powerful than the intelligence that runs the world, I recognized. Brilliant insight, Jack. So open yourself up more. Theres a much larger world out there than you know. Live in the curiosity. Live in the awe. Live in the wonder. I loved the sound of that. Begin to grow more aware and conscious, Moe continued. Look for clues, spot the patterns, and connect the dots. Detect the synchronicity and the serendipity, and know that these beautiful coincidences are nothing more than your best life coming to get you. You can practice awareness by simply paying more attention to whats happening around you. Become more mindful of the dance of life. As you walk to work, for instance, rather than getting caught up in your internal dialogue, train your mind to detect whats going on in the outside world. Notice the color of the sky and the shapes of the clouds. Observe the leaves falling from the trees and way the sun feels as it warms your face. Feel the soles of your feet meet with Mother Earth. I even suggest you begin to pay attention to the way your heart beats. By practicing being more mindful, youll get out of your head and move into your heart. Youll experience more living in your days. And youll have a lot more fun. An even more powerful way to get out of your head and into your heart and body is to simply . . . get out of your head and into your body. Huh? I said, confused. One of the most effective ways to get out of your head and away from all of that mental chatter that prevents us from living in the present moment is to spend more time in your body. How do I do this? Pay attention to the sensations of your body, came the reply. On those days that your mind is running at a frenetic place, consciously ask yourself, How do I feel? What sensations are going on in my body right now? Is there a tightness in my chest or a twitch in my foot or a pain in my heart? This powerful little technique will immediately pull you out of your mind and draw you into your heart. And when you live in your heart more, youll notice that you enjoy the journey of life more. The struggling ends, I added. It really does. You really dont have to figure it all out, Jack. Thats all your fears at play. Life is a great mystery novel that contains the story of your life. What fun would it be if you knew how it all unfolded and how it ended before you got to the final chapter? What would happen if someone told you how a hot new movie ended before you even went to see it? I wouldnt be amusedthe fun would be gone. Right. As you say, The universe is a friendly place, and no matter what happens, its happening for the best. Your destiny will unfold as its meant to unfold. In the meantime, enjoy the present. Live it fully. Live it authentically. Live it joyfully. Live it from the core of your heart. Life will take care of itself. But enough teaching for another day. Lets go surfing! And with that, Moe Jackson, the millionaire-advertising-genius-turned-hippie-surfer jumped up, grabbed his trusted surfboard, and headed out to sea. Chapter 9: Growth on a Beach The process of life should be the birth of a soul. This is the highest alchemy, and this justifies our presence on earth. This is our calling and our virtue. Henri Fr?d?ric Amiel The first two weeks with Moe were some of the most amazing days of my life. Wed get up early, have a fresh fruit breakfast together, and then spend the next few hours walking along the beach while he shared his wisdom on opening the heart and feeling love for life. I grew enormously fond of this wonderful man who taught me the ways of the heart and the value of being more playful, spontaneous, and spirited. I admired what hed doneleaving the material world to chase his heartsong. And I respected the person hed grown into. Like Father Mike before him, Moe was gentle, kind, and full of love. One of the best ways Ive found to live out of your heart more is to shift from condemnation to compassion, Moe began telling me one morning as he tanned himself on the beach. The very act of building some mindfulness around being a more loving person will open up your heart beautifully. Pay more attention to the way you treat other people. Spend more time focusing on their strengths rather than noting their weaknesses. Remember that on your deathbed, youll never regret having been the most loving person you knew or having been someone who trusted people and showered them with unconditional love. Actually, at the end of your life, you just might find that that was the best, most fulfilling thing you ever did. By growing more deliberate and intentional in terms of the amount of love and kindness you deliver to other people, youll strengthen your heart. It seems like an obvious technique to build up your heart muscles, yet its easily overlooked. But isnt being more mindful living in the head once again? I asked as I sliced a watermelon on a wooden bench that sat next to Moes garden. Fair question. Yes and no. Being mindful does happen in the head, but it serves to help you create a bridge to the heart. Okay. Then how can I build some mindfulness around being a more loving person? Well, one of the things that helps me is to meditate on being the loving person I want to be. Ive been hearing a lot about meditation these days. Whats it all about? I inquired. Meditation is nothing more that using your mind and its imagination to create a better inner life, Moe answered. Its all about envisioning the way youd like to be in certain circumstances. Meditation is glorified visualizationnothing more than mental concentration with a personal-development twist to it. But by doing it on a regular basis, youll actually open up new pathways in your brain and soften up your heart. Youll also begin to access the love within you. You goal is to be more loving in the world, right? I nodded. Right. Great. So when you get up in the morningand Id like you to try this over the next few daysfind a serene place along our beach and sit in a comfortable position. Then close your eyes and start breathing deeply. To breathe properly is to live properly, and breathing slowly and deeply will calm you. It will move you out of your head and into your body, into your heart. So some of my mental chatter will leave? Of course it will. Now please stay with me here, Jack. As you grow more and more relaxed, youll grow more and more open to suggestion. This is when you can begin to rescript the way you behave in your life and create a template for being a more loving human being. Its almost as if, in this state, you become an architect creating your ideal drawing. And once that drawing is done on the canvas of your imagination, the external world can manifest it according to your personal design. Great way to put it, Moe. So if I meditate every day and paint these pictures of being more kind and caring in my mind, Ill translate it into my reality? You cant help but do soits one of the most important laws of nature. Meditate on how you wish to treat the people in your life, Jack. Actually see yourself acting in a more compassionate way in the difficult situations that regularly present themselves to you. You can also do open heart meditations, such as imagining your heart to be a flower, and then watching it open up and pour its love out into the universe. Neat. And doing this kind of exercise on a daily basis will help you shift from condemning and finding fault with the people close to you to seeing them in their light, with compassion and authentic love. Youll be able to see their innocence, and love them for who they truly are. Another important way to open up the heart is to be more helpful. This strategy also sounds like common sense, but common sense is anything but common these days, Moe remarked as he adjusted his sunglasses. I agree. I once heard a speaker say that the easiest things to do are also the things that are easiest not to do. True enough. You can make some quantum leaps in your heart work by getting good at selflessly serving. The best way to reduce your personal suffering is to reduce the suffering of others, you know. The more you genuinely help other people, the more your heart will begin to beat to a new rhythm. The more you give to others with the sincere intention of lifting their lives to a higher level, the more the world will reward you by uplifting you. Its not hard stuffit just takes commitment and an understanding of how it all works. And I should emphasize that giving with the expectation of a reward is not really giving. Antoine de Saint-Exup?ry put it perfectly when he wrote: Real love begins where nothing is expected in return. Just think about it, Jackwhen you open your heart to another human being and genuinely help them, how does that make you feel? It makes me feel great, I replied as I reflected on those rare occasions of the past where Id been more interested in the welfare of another than in my own personal gain. Right. Every time you do something good for another personand this point is really importantyou not only improve their lives, you also improve your own self-worth. The more you serve other people, the better youll feel about yourself at a root level. Your self-esteem will rise and youll feel better about yourself as a human being. And at a deep level within, something will begin to shift and grow. You know what that is? No? Its your self-respect, the amount of love you have for yourself. Moe took a sip of water from his canteen and offered it to me. Want some? No, thanks. Im fine for now. Whats mine is yours, Jack. I knew he meant it. Ill bet you think I never leave this beach, right? Moe asked, shifting gears in the conversation. I wondered about that. But its a pretty stunning placeI wouldnt blame you if you never left. Well, let me share something with you. Every Friday morning, my friend Samantha drops by in her beat-up old pickup truck, and we head into town. We spend the rest of the morning cooking at the local shelter for the homeless and the displaced. Thats one the most important activities in my lifeit adds deep meaning to me and makes me feel like Im a contributing member of society. Happiness comes from devoting your life to helping othersId read that concept in books before, but as I started living it, I realized just how true it is. I personally believe that service and acts of kindness to others is the rent we pay for tenancy on this planet. Please remember that the hand that gives is the hand that gathers, and giving begins the receiving process. So when I return home, I could pay more attention to helping others, I told him. I could be more of a friend to my friends and really think about being there for them when they need me most. I could make some time every week to volunteer or do some form of community service. I could really support the people I care about in achieving their dreams and living their highest truth in life, rather than worrying so much about whats in it for me. Come to think of it, I could practice being more giving by simply performing acts of kindness and love with strangers on the street. It would be fun to pay the toll for the person behind me on the bridge I go over on the way to work each day. It would be so great to buy a coffee for someone at the caf? I frequent. It would be amazing to share a little more of myself with the people around meI could let people go in front of me in traffic jams and smile more as I go about my days. I really feel the value of this, Moe. Those are excellent ideasespecially supporting the dreams of others and the performance of good deeds to strangers. Doing good things for people each day sounds like such a simple strategy, yet its one of those things that we all forget to do. Ive always believed that a great life is measured not by decades but by deeds. But I should say that by far, the best way Ive grown into a place where I can show boundless love for others is by growing into a place where I show boundless love for myself. Jack, I promise that your life will shift to a whole new plane once you practice the art of selfloving. I really want to love myself more, I said. So youre saying that I cant give love to another if I dont feel true love for myself? He nodded. Yes. Self-love is the fuel that drives personal change and helps you grow into a more loving person for others. Ive been thinking a lot about self-love over the past few days, Moe. I thought I loved myself, but the deeper I go, the more I realize that there are so many parts of myself that Ive denied. I think I have a lot of anger within me over some of the things that have happened to me over the course of my life. And Im just becoming aware of it and how it seeps into every interaction I have with others, as well as the way I live with myself. Well, you need to work through that. Most of us have a ton of unfelt anger that we project out into the world, which colors everything we do and who we are as people. It even attracts people into our lives who exhibit their own anger as they relate to us. So you need to clear the anger thats hardened your heart; then you need to move through the sadness that will follow. Next youll need to work through the fear and regret that are the next layers covering your heart. And only then can you find the forgiveness required to move on with your life. You know that forgiveness is something you do for yourself, dont you? Really? Yes. All of your past hurts that remain to be forgiven ride on your back, dragging you down as you try to advance through your life. When you do the inner work involved to work through those hurts by feeling your anger and then experiencing your sadness en route to moving into forgiveness, youll get those monkeys off your backonce and for all. A huge weight is released, a new lightness enters your world, and then you can move forward and bring the light you are to the world. Remember, you cant get to second base with one foot on first, and staying stuck in your past wounds is nothing more than staying stuck on first base. Keep going deeper and deeper, Jack, and release more of your past. Soon youll get to second base, then to third. A day will eventually come when you reach home. And the journey of life is really a journey back home, I said. Father Mike taught me that one. Once again, Father Mikes right. I also love what Mark Twain said: Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it, Moe said with a grin. Oh, thats a great one! I replied enthusiastically. You see, Jack, forgiveness isnt about condoning what someone did to you in the pastits about accepting it and realizing that they only hurt you because they were in some form of fear. As I do my own inner work around accepting some of the things that have given me pain in my life, I often refer to the Serenity Prayer, which says: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thats a pretty evolved way to live, Moeseeing someone who has hurt you as being in a state of fear. But I feel its true. In life, youre either in a state of love Or in a state of fear, I interrupted. Yes, howd you know that? Father Mike again? Father Mike again, I smiled. Well, he knows what hes talking about. If youre not acting out of love for another personand it could be anyone from your mother to a strangeryoure acting out of fear. So someone who hurts you does so because theyre in some fear at a deep level. I think an example would help me here, Moe. This is a tricky concept, and Im finding it hard to wrap my head around it, I admitted, as I joined him on the sand to sunbathe. No sweat. Lets say that you run a business and one of your employees rips you off for a lot of money. That would be difficult to forgive. But hes done so out of fear, so why wouldnt you forgive him? How has he acted out of fear? The guy took my money! A person is either acting out of love or hes acting from fear, right? Moe asked pointedly. Fear doesnt have to mean fear of personal safety. Thats just one kind of fear. There are many other forms that control us at deep levels. We might have a fear of being taken advantage of. We might have a fear of looking stupid. We might have a fear of being abandoned. We might have a fear of being unsupported. We might have a fear of being betrayed. So what fear might have been motivating this thief from your example? I inquired, intrigued by the philosophy I was hearing. It could have been a fear of scarcitymaybe he has no awareness of how incredibly abundant our world truly is and how its riches flow into life when one lets go of the fear that theres not enough. Maybe he has a deep-rooted belief that hes unable to live a prosperous life if he works hard and treats people wellso he stole your money. Or he might have a fear of not being competent as a human being and as your employeeso hes afraid of being fired. He needs money to feed his family, so he steals your money. His actions are clearly wrong, and his behavior is not to be condoned, but hes in fear. He is, and again this is happening at a deep psychological level, frightened. Do you punish a frightened child? No, I guess not. Well, what would you do? asked Moe. Id give the child loveId support her, console her, and help her. Exactly. And thats what you need to do the man who steals your money. You forgive him, help him, and show him love. I show him love? I asked in disbelief. Yes, ideally you would. And if you could, youd be operating at such an extraordinarily high level of enlightenment and personal power that your life would be nothing but joy. In this state, the most amazing treasures would be attracted to you as you moved through your days. In the case of our thief, at the very least, youd need to forgive him if you wanted to move forward in your life. It would be important to work through how he hurt you, accept that the event happened, and then release it from your system. To truly move forward, youd have to let it go and understand that this occurrence carried with it some corresponding gift. There was an opportunity and a lesson in the pain you enduredget the lesson and move on. Lifes a growth school, right? It really is, replied Moe. I need to do more of this letting go you speak of because I seem to replay the things people have done to me in the past over and overits like an obsession. It tires me out and drains my energy. Sometimes I just want to go to sleep and forget about all the things Im worrying about, I offered with honesty. I have a sense that you really dont know how blessed you are, Jack. I suggest that you get some perspective on all the good thats in your life. Makes me think of that old proverb that says: I wept because I had no shoes on my feet until I saw the man without any feet. Those words struck my heart. I felt emotion welling up within me. Our lives can change when we become more aware of all the positives we live with, Moe continued, when we start living with a greater sense of perspective and a greater appreciation of the truth. So few of us really know the truth about our liveswe get caught up in our own stories. Like we were just discussing, we get caught up in things that happened to us a year ago or two years ago or ten years ago. Jack, I also used to spend entire days worrying about things people did to me many years before. Id make the slights bigger than they were. Id think about getting revenge and how I could make people pay for what they did to me. It was a really small way to conduct a life, Ill tell you that much. I really am very much like you used to be. I do the same thing, but Im going to stop. Confucius once said: Before you set out to seek revenge, it is best to dig two graves, Moe laughed. Brilliant point, Moe. God, we take ourselves seriously! Were all so self-absorbed that we think were at the center of the universe. We fool ourselves into believing that our troubles are the biggest and only troubles in the world. But were not as important as we think we are, are we? Stephen Hawking, the great physicist, is reported to have said that were on a minor planet of a very average star located within the outer limits of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies. Given this, I really see how our problems and frustrations arent so big. We walk this planet for a very short time, and yet were so serious about it all. Yes, we do, Moe agreed. We all need to develop a greater appreciation for the gifts in our lives. And by appreciating whats good in our lives, those good things will grow. How so? Think in terms of economics: When something appreciates in value, lets say your house, what happens to it? Well, to say something appreciates means that it goes up in price. It becomes worth more. Okay. The same holds true for things you appreciate in your life: If you appreciate the sunrise, it will become a more valuable part of your life, and youll attach more worth to it. If you appreciate your friends, their friendship will go up in value, and it will be worth more to you. If you appreciate your good health, it will become more valuable in your life, and youll see it as being more important. Wow, thats a very intelligent way of looking at things, I remarked energetically. I guess the real point is this: Living in a state of constant and never-ending gratitude will make the experience of life far more valuable and worthwhile. The way you see the world will changeyoull enjoy lifes little pleasures so much more and savor the tiny blessings each day delivers. You must practice gratitude more often. And doing so is yet another way to open up your heart and love your life. Practicing gratitude daily is nothing more than practicing love daily. So how can I practice gratitude? I asked. One of the things I do each day is bless my food. Before each meal, I give silent and sincere thanks for the meal Im about to enjoy: I thank the farmers who grew the produce, the fisherman who caught the fish, and the sellers at the market for making it all available. And I give thanks to the world for granting me the privilege of having food on my table in a world where millions upon millions of people dont have enough to eat. This is a simple little technique, but it will create profound shifts in you. Trust me on this one. Sounds powerful. I guess by appreciating your food, you increase its value in your life, and you begin to stop taking it for granted, right? Right. And in performing this ritual, my heart opens up and I see the world as a more beautiful, giving place. Like I said earlier, doing this will help you begin to gain perspective on how fortunate you really are. Good point, I replied. In this part of the world, we really dont realize how much we have. We dont count our blessings. Yup. I love writing blessing lists. They keep me centered on all the good I have in life. Whats a blessing list? Its simply a recording of all of the things, no matter how small, that I love about my life. I write down the fact that I live on this beach. I write down the fact that Im in wonderful health. I write down the fact Im a great dancer. I note the fact that I get to sleep under the stars every night. And, as I say, I remember that Im blessed to have food in my belly every day. I could go on and on. The point is simply this: Each and every one of us has a ton of things to be grateful for, yet most of us focus on lack rather than abundance. And the funny thing is, the more you focus on whats good about your life, the more good youll seem to attract. Any other practices I could do to create an attitude of gratitude? I wondered. I strongly suggest that you develop a daily prayer. This has nothing to do with being religiousthats your personal business. The prayer Im speaking of has everything to do with being thankful. Create a short, emotionally charged prayer that expresses your heartfelt appreciation for all you have. Recite this prayer first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Once again, the results you see will be spectacular. Moe studied me for a moment. Jack, these tools Im giving you might seem a bit odd. But the main thing is they work. Oh, there are two more ways to really build your personal gratitude muscles. One is to send love letters. But Im not in love with anyone. You dont have to be. These love letters are of a different sorttheyre not about romantic love, theyre about human love. Heres an example. Lets say that you go out to dinner and the meal is exquisite. The next morning, I recommend that you send a love letter to the chef expressing how much you loved his meal and commending him on his exceptional talents. Hed feel so happy. And Id feel great. Right. This would increase your self-worth, youd feel better about yourself, and youd feel more blessed in your life. If you take your car to get serviced, and the person who cares for you does a masterful job, send a love letter to his boss telling her that you loved the service and appreciate the kindness. Constantly be on the lookout for people you can send such letters to. In fact, I recommend that when you return home you go out and buy a package of 100, or even 200, cards. Im always keeping my eyes open for those with great quotes or inspirational messages on them. When I find ones that I like, I buy them in bulk. Then, whenever someone does something nice for me, they get my love letter. But you hardly ever leave this beach, Moe. Well, for the past few weeks, Ive been here with youbecause I have a mission to help you, as I promised Cal I would. But I generally make it into town every few days. And when I do, I hunt for opportunities to express my gratitude. You mentioned that there was a second thing to do. Right. The final tool to show gratitude is to give every person you meet a gift. That could get expensive, I observed earnestly. I dont mean a formal gift, Moe said. It could be as simple as giving someone you meet a true smile. It might mean giving someone a hug or a sincere compliment in a world where weve forgotten the importance of genuine praise. You could bring someone a single, fresh flower from your garden or a hot muffin you just baked. Even listening to someone with complete attention and a wide-open heart is a gift that will touch people in places you cant imagine. Moe moved closer to me. He began to stare deeply into my eyes, with a gentle smile on his face. He didnt say a wordhe just kept on looking into my eyes with total concentration. After a few moments, something incredible happened. I felt as if something in my chest opened up. I also felt the same sense of comfort and security I used to feel as a little boy when my mother would hug me before Id go to sleep. What are you doing to me? I asked Moe. Im having these amazing feelings. Im doing what I always try to do when Im in the presence of another human being, Jack. Im sending you love. My heart is wide open, and Im just appreciating all that you are as a person. My heart is speaking to your heart, and youre feeling that. When we interact with others, theres a lot more going on than were consciously aware of. Its extraordinary to feel all the love youre sending me, I replied. I know, remarked Moe. This is my greatest gift to you. Moe then reached over and gave me a big hug. I noticed that his eyes were brimming with tears. Youre a good man, Jack, he said. I pray that you put all youre learning and growing to good use. Our world so desperately needs people who are more caring, understanding, and loving. You can be a leader to so many if you become a model of these qualities in your own lifeI just know it. Trust in the fact that the more love you give to others, the more love youll feel for yourself. And trust that the more you open up your heart, the more your best life will reveal itself to you. Moe began walking toward the water. He then dipped one foot in before moving in deeper. Soon he was swimming gracefully and staring out at the horizon. I could hear him laughing and singing while he splashed away. As I watched this wise teacher enjoying the gift of the moment, something deep within me began to change . . . and for

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