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Book Review: The Life We Are Given

"The Life We Are Given is a synthesis and culmination of seventy years’ combined experience by two of the wisest and most pioneering explorers and teachers of the possibilities of human transformation. I recommend it highly.” Dean Ornish, MD, President and Director, Preventive Medicine Research Institute


The first thing that fascinated me about The Life We Are Given is the authors themselves: George Leonard and Michael Murphy.

I have always loved George Leonard in a special way ever since I read his beautiful book The Ultimate Athlete. The book has remained an obsession with me and ideas from it have enriched a large number of my training programmes for corporate executives, to whom I invariably recommend the book. The ultimate athlete Leonard speaks about is not really an athlete in the normal sense of the term, though it can include athletes too. He means by the term every person who performs at his best in any field – in athletics, in other sports, in singing, in dancing, public…

Mind Power: Can It Move Machines?

We have all heard about people bending spoons and stopping clocks using their power of concentration. But does it really work? Can mind power really influence mechanical things?

I was recently reading The Life We Are Given by George Leonard and Michael Murphy, my review of which appears elsewhere on this blog. While reading the book, I came across something interesting about mind power there. Here is the short passage from the book that speaks about it:

From 1973 through 1975…a researcher named Duane Elgin conducted a remarkable series of exercises at Stanford Research institute, attempting to influence a sensitive, heavily shielded magnetometer by his intentionality alone. The magnetometer measures changes in a magnetic field and records these changes on a moving sheet of paper.

The first few exercises generally followed the same course. Elgin would sit or stand a few feet from the magnetometer, where he could see the recording device, and would focus all the force of his will on the in…

A Short Exercise in Miracles

Affirmations are statements we make about the changes we want to see in ourselves. These are statements made in the present tense and are usually used in conjunction with visualizations. An affirmation for an obese person, for instance, could be: I have a slim and fit body. An affirmation for a person who suffers from lack of confidence in public speaking could be: I am confident about speaking in public, and I speak relaxed and with full assurance. Neuro-Linguistic Programming [NLP] makes use of affirmations and visualizations to effect several of the changes it brings about at the body, mind and spiritual level of individuals. Ancient Yoga and modern psychology both believe in the enormous power of affirmations to transform ourselves. Several meditations and meditation traditions make use of the power of affirmations to bring about transformations and events that appear miraculous.

The Life We Are Given by George Leonard and Michael Murphy[i], a book teaching what the authors call In…

Destiny

I have always loved the rainy season. Maybe it is because I spent all my growing up years in Kerala, where it rains incessantly for months when the monsoons come. There too, I remember, I used to sit and watch the rains, sometimes for hours at a stretch. Nature would be at its most beautiful and most powerful, with thunderstorms and torrential rains, the trees would get into wild dances, and I would sit in my veranda and watch it all for hours. The most beautiful thing to watch would be the bamboos, which were everywhere in my village and gave my village its name. They loved the storm taking possession of them, they loved surrendering themselves to the wind. And together, the rainstorm and the bamboos would go into screaming raptures – bending and stretching, quaking and shivering, shrieking and howling, clutching and letting go, every bamboo in each thicket filled with unending throes of ecstasy.

Rains have come to my city too, almost a month before it is due this year. This is probab…

A Little Corner for Yourself

During the Stress Management workshop I conducted last week for the Confederation of Indian Industries, a young man came to me with a problem. He was trapped in a job he not only did not love, but positively hated. What could he do, he asked me. His job paid well, he has been working for his organization for many years now, but he hated every moment he worked and now that hatred had begun to spill over to his life – poisoning his relationship with his friends, with his family, even with himself. What should he do?

Choose the profession you love, and you won’t have to work a single day in your life, they say. Absolutely true. Work is no more work then. Work is no more a drudgery then, no more a chore. Work becomes pleasure. Work becomes fun. Work thrills you. It fills your life with excitement. Work becomes growth. The money you make is no more the real reward then; the real reward is the fun, the excitement, the thrill and the growth that comes through these. Then money becomes the bon…

Rama: A Study in Self-Mastery

[This study is based exclusively on the Valmiki Ramayana. Other narrations of Rama’s story, which frequently differ from Valmiki’s narration, have not been taken into consideration.]

It was the Greek Historian Xenophon, I believe, who said, “A king should not only prove himself better than those he rules, he should cast a spell on them.” That is, cast a spell on them by the excellence of his thought and action, by the totality of his commitment to his vision and mission, and by the quality of his living and being. A close look at Rama’s life shows us that he, a man from a period much earlier than that of Xenophon, fully believed in this. That is one of the reasons why his life gives us so many invaluable lessons even for our age separated from his from a few millennia.

One of the most important lessons Rama’s life gives us is in self-mastery, at which he frequently falters, as all human beings do, but invariably triumphs. To look at how Rama falters again and again and eventually master…

Retelling the Ramayana: How Padma Purana Does It

The voluminous Padma Purana, essentially a Vaishnavite text, makes fascinating variations in its retelling of the Ramayana story.

It is one of the largest Puranas, with around 55,000 verses, which is more than twice the size of Valmiki Ramayana, with only the Skanda Purana among the Puranas being bigger than it. The Padma Purana is thus the third largest book in Indian literature, after the Mahabharata, with 100,000 verses, and the Skanda Purana, with 84,000 verses. It consists of seven books, each called a khanda. These are the Srishti, Bhumi, Swarga, Brahma [also called Swargottara], Patala, Uttara and Kriya Khandas, in that order. The text is also divided into six khandas in some recensions, leaving out the Brahma Khanda, and into just five in others, leaving out the Kriya Khanda too.

The Srishti Khanda of the Purana has a small section dealing with Rama’s killing of Shambuka and a couple of other things. Uttara Khanda too deals with Rama’s story in a few chapters which tell the stor…