It's that time of year -- a time, we are reminded, for giving, gratitude, celebration and reflection. It's also a time when most of us can't help but create our own wish list of the things we want. Some of the things on our personal wish list will be fulfilled and, if you are like most, some won't. The truth is that this time of year is in part no different than any other: We look outward for our happiness as much as inward, and wind up hoping that unseen forces will intervene on our behalf and provide us with more of the things we desire and less of the things we don't. All of which reminds me of a fable from the yoga tradition...
Many, many centuries ago, God was looking for a place to hide. You see, in those days She was receiving any and all who wanted to have an audience with Her. God's doors were open 24/7. All you had to do was knock on Her palace doors, wait your turn, and you would be received. It should be no surprise that there was an endless line of devotees, seekers and even more people who simply wanted stuff and who wanted to deliver their requests directly to Her.
As was Her policy back then, God felt obliged to listen to each appeal. Thus, you can imagine that neither God nor the angels nor any of their attendants had a moment's rest. There were far too many people to constantly respond to and too many requests to be heard. Some people were asking for their next child to be a girl, others were asking for a rich harvest, or for it to rain or stop raining, for more money, to heal a sick relative, for happiness, help to see the future or to attain some other extraordinary power or perhaps to be relieved of grief and fear. It got to be so much that God didn't have any time to attend to any godly business.
Having determined that things had to change, She convened all the wisest sages to discuss how to stem the constant flow of those looking to Her to fulfill their desires and solve all their problems. The first sage suggested that they build Her a new palace on Mount Everest, the highest peak in the Himalayas. "No one has ever scaled Mount Everest," the sage said, "you will be undisturbed for eternity and thus the natural order will be restored."
God shook Her head. "No," she said. "In a day or two [the ancient teachings tell us that a day in God's life is equivalent to 100,000 years in ours], human beings' desire and determination will allow them to get to the top of Everest. We'll need a different plan."
A second sage offered, "Let's build your new castle on the moon. Human beings will never get to the moon. There you will have all the quiet and peace you can imagine and the order of things will be restored."
God just sighed and said, "No. In two or three days, human beings will find a way to get to the moon."
At a loss, all the sages fell silent.
"I have the answer," God said, "I'll put a small part of myself inside every person's heart. It will be the last place they look."
The message of this fable, that a small piece of God is "inside every person's heart," is echoed in countless scriptures from every tradition. For instance, in the yoga tradition we find:
The Source is hidden in every heart...
All your desires will be fulfilled in Him
Who is One who is without a second.
Know Him to be enshrined in your heart always.
Truly there is nothing more in life to know...
At first glance this can be interpreted to mean: Learn to quiet your thoughts so you can settle into your heart and, once there, you will uncover a sense of contentment and wholeness that is inherently blissful and the equivalent of having "all your desires fulfilled."
This simple yet profound wisdom is the basis for being able to enjoy the fruits of living in the world while never becoming enslaved by it. Knowing that unconditional and boundless joy permanently resides in your heart is the foundation for living your life with true lightheartedness, freedom and fearlessness.
However, as I describe in my book The Four Desires: Creating a Life or Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity and Freedom, there is a second interpretation, one that is deeper, more mysterious, and that helps shed even more light on why the ancient teachings ask us to seek out and learn to rest in our own heart. According to the tradition, just below the heart center there is something called the kalpa vriksha or "wishing tree." The teachings suggest that by learning to access your heart and bringing your desires with enough resolve to it, this "tree" will gradually but certainly guide you to the fulfillment of the desires you bring to it.
How do you place your desires at your wishing tree? I describe the process in great detail in The Four Desires, but this is an outline of the seven steps to accomplish it:
1. Know that the world and everything in it -- including you as well as your trials and tribulations -- are inherently sacred.
2. Honor your place in it by respecting yourself and committing to becoming what you truly aspire to be.
3. Understand that there is a truth that lies within you and it can only be known by a still mind.
4. Resolve to discover it by looking inward and regularly set time aside to do it -- be it through meditation, prayer or contemplation.
5. Once you glimpse or begin to feel this inner dimension, essence, source or spirit, ask what desires it would have you fulfill.
6. Then, set out in service of these desires and the greater good.
7. Consistently and in full faith, take the loftiest of these desires back to your "source," which dwells in your heart, and listen to what it tells you. Stay open so that it can lead you to the fulfillment of those desires.
These seven steps allow the wisdom and goodness that is your heart to show you what and who you really are. It enables your heart to guide you to fulfill these aspirations that have been in it (re: you) all along.
Make these steps your life's practice. In time, you will be rewarded and experience fulfillment in every aspect of life and you will discover that for every step you have taken toward fulfilling your dreams, your dreams have taken a step toward you.
With the new year approaching, my upcoming posts will examine the science of how destiny unfolds and the keys to shaping the future of which your heart truly longs.
Excerpt adapted from The Four Desires by Rod Stryker. Copyright © 2011 by Rod Stryker. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.