In a Midwest town I once lived in, there’s a pretty little store called The Peace Haven. It is the kind of an “alternative” place that sells incense, meditation music, anti-war bumper stickers, books on spirituality, soy milk, and little statues of Buddha. It is full of charm and character, and, of course, has the Ringing Cedars Series on a special shelf. If you’ve ever been to a shop like that, you get the image.
As you enter the hallway, there’s a big banner stretched wall to wall, which reads: “Down with Corporations.” While this may be a faithful expression of a popular sentiment, it always made me wonder just why the corporations get so much heat in a society that quite willingly uses their goods and services, and which is itself both the creator and the product of “corporate culture.”
There is no arguing that corporations are so powerful that they have subdued half the world. And while so many people oppose them, they keep gaining more and more power! But if they are that efficient and resilient, cannot we learn from them to achieve our own goals? I just love the chapter in Co-creation where Anastasia beautifully explains how you can actually use the “devices of dark forces” to do a lot of good!
But what could we possibly learn from these horrible, abominable corporations that supply us with hamburgers, petroleum, weapons, trucks and a slew of technological gadgets that we so happily keep buying? As it turns out, we could learn a whole lot! Just think about it: if the “peace-makers” were every bit as successful and efficient as those who brew conflict, would there be any wars? And where would be all the “financial power” of those who control world’s monetary supply if someone came up with a motivating force stronger than money?
The way I see it, corporations have perfected one thing that many a self-help book or teacher often fail to impart: creating a clear vision of what you want to achieve, and then moving efficiently to achieve it! In fact, the word “corporation” means just that: “embodiment” – the embodiment of a vision. They are the ones who embraced and mastered the “Science of Imagery,” as Anastasia calls it (see Book 4, Co-creation).
So should we really put our blame on corporations for being successful in creating their version of the world? Or should we rather ask ourselves just why we are not nearly as successful in manifesting the more radiant world we’d like to see around us? Anastasia brilliantly put it in the second book, The Ringing Cedars of Russia (chapter “The Answer”): if humanity does not follow the enlightened people, is there something wrong with humanity? Or may it be that the enlightened ones are not convincing enough and cannot find the right way to get their point across?
Over time I’ve witnessed over and over again that the primary reason why we are not always successful is that we do not know what we want! There’s even a Russian folk tale where the hero, Ivan the Fool, has to procure for the Czar a Fire-Bird and then a jewel from the depth of the sea – but do you know what the most difficult of his trials was? Going I-don’t-know-where and bringing I-don’t-know-what! In the end Ivan coped even with this task, but in our life it is not nearly as easy: it’s darn difficult to achieve something when you don’t know what it is that you want to achieve!
You may object that it’s not nearly as difficult a question. “I want to be happy!” Or: “I want to have more money!” Or something else as simple as that. But how many genuinely happy people do you know among the rich? And what is happiness, anyway? Every time I watch my goats munching away on poison ivy, I know that something that makes one being happy, may be fatal for the other! So we need to be more specific, if we are to draw a roadmap from where we are now to where we want to be. And this is where Anastasia’s advice comes so useful.
In Who Are We? (Book 5 of the Ringing Cedars Series) there’s a great chapter “Do we have freedom of thought?” If you read it, you may remember that Anastasia offers Vladimir a simple exercise: summing up the amount of time spent on different things (like sleeping, watching TV, eating, commuting etc.) over the course of one’s lifetime. Anastasia concludes that in our life, we may spend over 20 years sleeping, 10 years working, 7 years eating, 8 years watching TV and… only 15 minutes pondering the meaning of it all!
Inspired by these straightforward and insightful – yet unsettling! – statistics, I developed a simple exercise which we enjoyed at Ringing Cedars workshops on four continents and which I would like to share with you today. I know from experience that it has helped very many people to get a clearer image of what brings them joy in life – and what robs them of joy! Once we have clarity on that, all it takes is cultivating what makes you happy, and avoiding what makes you unhappy. It may sound simplistic, but it really is as simple as that. And it works! I can vouch for that, as I’ve done it myself.
Determine Your Life Priorities in Eight Easy Steps
Here are two documents you’ll need for the exercise (PDF files):
a Blank Worksheet (print 2 copies), and
an Example of how to fill it out.
Let me walk you through this exercise, using the Example.
Imagine a typical day of your life. I do understand that for most people a weekday will be different from the weekend, and a summer vacation will be different from the rest of the year, but for the sake of this exercise, imagine an “average” day that you can say about: “Yes, this is what my life is, most of the time!”
Now take this day – midnight to midnight – and in Step 1, mark what you do during this day, hour by hour. In our Example, a person sleeps from midnight to 8 am, then quickly grabs something to eat (15 min) and works from 8 am to 9 pm with two breaks to take food. Then he reads for a couple hours and goes to bed at 11 pm. In this Step 1, as in the rest of the exercise, one square represents 1 hour. Now you can fill it out for yourself on the blank worksheet.
In Step 2, “Action,” take the day that you’ve just described in the previous step, go over it hour by hour, and for each hour that you do something, shade out a corresponding square on the chart in Step 2. In our Example, the person sleeps for 9 hours, works 13 hours, spends 1 hour taking food, and 2 hours – reading. Note: if there’s an activity that makes part of your day but which is not listed in Step 2, feel free to add it at the bottom of that box.
A question: what if you routinely do two things simultaneously, e.g., you watch TV over meals? There are two possibilities here: you can either split each hour accordingly (assign 30 min of this hour to watching TV and 30 min to eating). Alternatively, you can count this hour as a full hour for each activity (in this case the total number of hours will end up being over 24, but it’s OK).
Are you done with Step 2? Great! Let’s move on.
In Step 3, go over your day again, hour by hour, but this time record who and what you come in contact with during this hour. For the sake of this exercise, we split it in five groups: nothing, humans, machines, nature, and dead matter. The “nothing” category will mostly apply for the hours of your sleep (unless you sleep with another person and are continuously aware of his or her presence – like a mother with a nursing child by her side). Again, if you come in contact with something not on the list, add it in the “Other” category (e.g., if you have intense experiences in your inner world – like vivid dreams). Important note: for the purposes of this exercise, describe what or who you come into immediate contact with. For example, if you spend an hour talking to your friend over the phone, account for it as an hour spent with a machine (the phone) – because it is, of course, very different from having a face-to-face interaction.
In Step 4, record what you think about during each hour of your day. Pay close attention to what you really think about: if you are at work, but your thoughts are elsewhere (e.g., you think about your girlfriend) – record it as “family/relationships” rather than work!
In Step 5, do the same for your feelings over the course of the day.
Step 6 – record the purpose – what you do it for, hour by hour. Please record the immediate purpose of your action. For example, if you work to earn money, record the purpose of your hours spent working as “money” – even if you intend to spend the money to support your family. Again, if an action fulfills two functions (e.g., you work to earn money, but you also just love your work) – split the time between the two (e.g., money and pleasure).
Step 7 is a bit more abstract, but still try to answer the question: what you do during each hour of your day – does it contribute to creating and supporting life on this planet, or to destroying it? Again, use the immediate outcome rather than a more distant goal. For example, active consumption of Earth’s resources is usually destructive. For example, if you are typing up a book intended to enlighten and save humanity – consider that the immediate outcome is that you are using electricity for your computer; the resources that went into manufacturing your computer; printing paper; even lighting and air-conditioning in the room you sit in – all of which are quite destructive on the planet. In this sense, even when you are asleep, you continue to consume the resources to heat and cool the room you are in, etc.
Finally, in Step 8 take one or two categories that received the highest rankings (largest number of shaded squares) in each of the Steps 2 through 7, and insert these champions into the sentence. I do hope that your result will be brighter than that of our hard-working Example friend! But if not – do not despair. This exercise is not about “how bad it all is”, but rather about how to make it better! So:
Where Do We Go From There?
When you are done, take another blank worksheet and fill it again, but this time, instead of describing your typical day as it is now, picture – step-by-step – what you would like it to look like, in the ideal! Don’t be concerned about being unrealistic – just go ahead and tell yourself what kind of life you would like to have, in as much detail as you can. What do you want to do? What and who do you want to be surrounded with? What do you want to think about? What do you want to feel? What purpose do you want to guide it all – and to what outcome?
Admittedly, your “wish day” may look quite different from what you have now. But, you know, if you’ve done the above exercise, you might have already spent more time on determining your life purpose and finding a path to happiness than most people do over their entire lifetime!
Now that you have a clearer image of the source of your joys and sorrows, ask yourself a question: how do I go about eliminating what brings me down, and bringing in more of what makes me soar? The rest depends on no one but you!
Of course this exercise is not “the” way or the only way. I know many people who arrive at similar results through ways of their own. One of them is the owner of The Peace Haven, Dave – a cheerful, sharp, and easy-going guy. I remember how he saw me staring at his “Down with Corporations” sign and said with a wink:
“There’s more to it than you think, Leo!”
And he proved to be right! I thought I knew exactly what he meant, but the real meaning of his remark did not become apparent until much later, when I discovered it totally by chance. He sent in a payment for the Ringing Cedars books sold at his store. I opened the envelope and read his company name on the check:
“Down with Corporations, Inc.”