A VISION OF FULFILLMENT
Rituals are tools to access your hidden riches. They can take you to the heart of your problems as well as to the heart of their solutions. This may be a new message for many of you, yet one of the purposes rituals have served for centuries is healing. They also served as the sacred connection to a higher reality. Why should you take such a journey yourself?
Rituals are all about reconnecting. When mind, body, and spirit are truly connected,
You feel more energetic.
You feel centered and powerful.
You are in the flow.
You emanate a glow, inside and out.
When you are connected, your life energy doesn’t flow aimlessly like a river overflowing its banks. It’s not like a jolt of electricity or a super-energy drink loaded with caffeine. Life force is integrating; it infuses the body and mind with exactly the right amount of energy to create flow, so that you are “in the zone” when doing what matters most to you. It guides your life when you are attuned to it and leads you on the path to fulfill your unique and special purpose for being alive. A vision of these energies is vitally important. In ancient India they were called shakti. In the Chinese tradition they were referred to as chi, and they go by other names in other ancient traditions around the world. Specific rituals were performed to increase these energies.
The words “shakti” or “chi” may sound esoteric, but what really matters is that everyone was born with it--you can see how vital, happy, curious, and vibrant a baby is. By contrast, when a grown‑up feels dull, lethargic, anxious, or depressed, their life force is at low ebb. It only makes sense that maximizing your vital energy will improve your life.
Our aim is to modernize this ancient vision. The rituals that originated in ancient cultures can be adapted to our lives today. They are all about reconnection. When you are fully connected in mind, body, and spirit, you will be whole. This is our model of the ideal life.
THE DESIGN OF YOUR LIFE
If you look around, you can easily tell which person is leading a life with high fulfillment and performance. How? It’s a state all of us would like to be in. Performance psychologists like Jim Loehr spend their careers helping multinational companies and Olympians connect with this life-force energy, creating breakthroughs, triumphing over crippling challenges, and achieving unusual success--all with the help of conscious, positive, consistent rituals. You can fashion the same kind of life for yourself.
It is the formal structure of ritual that allows participants to connect with the deepest aspect of their own inner nature. Look at the yoga movement, based in ancient ritual yet adapted to modern life to create connection among body, mind, and spirit. Or consider pilgrimages of the kind depicted in the popular movie The Way, which is about the famous pilgrimage route in Spain, Camino de Santiago. The lead character, played by Martin Sheen, discovers that making a pilgrimage isn’t solely about the holy place at the end. It’s about finding yourself, connecting with your inner peace, and hopefully touching a sacred place inside you.
These are a few examples, but there’s a much larger design that rituals fit into. Imagine if there was a built‑in structure to your life that, when you align with it, will automatically create every day the experience of flow, ease, peace, and success. Imagine this as a structure that connects you with your unique purpose and role, immersed in a sense of belonging, at peace with yourself and the world. We call this structure your Life Design.
It’s no accident that you love the things you love. What you are drawn to, what you are passionate about, what you are good at, are all part of the unique design of your life. When you are aligned with the design, you feel joyful, fulfilled, and purposeful. When you are out of alignment, you start to get unhappy, to suffer and become miserable. This discomfort is a sign that your life is off track from fulfilling your unique purpose. Something needs adjustment.
Through the life energy that sustains you, your Life Design is constantly unfolding within every cell of your body and every part of your being. Every cell is structured in a dynamic way, bubbling with thousands of chemical reactions per second. It’s not a static structure like a blueprint or the schematics of a computer chip.
Because the structure of a cell is dynamic, it can respond to every change in the body--how much you’ve just eaten, how well you slept, whether your mood is elated or depressed. There’s a tiny energy shift in every cell that reacts to these changes. Thus, every cell displays the perfect balance between order and spontaneity.
The same should be true in your life as a whole. Everyone knows the famous elevator scene in Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise turns to a hopelessly smitten Renee Zellweger and says, “You. Complete. Me.” (Really? Tom Cruise looks like a guy who only needs some cool shades and a Maserati to be complete.) How is life made complete? By love, certainly, but also by investing in the things your hidden riches want to express. If every cell in your body yearns for something, that thing will make you complete. You were designed that way biologically.
Your cells thrive by exquisitely controlling the flow of energy that they use, extracted from the air and food they take in. In ancient wisdom traditions, the use of vital energy was carefully mapped out on every level. This provided an objective way to understand why being aligned with one’s life energy produced an optimal flow while being out of alignment produced struggle. The infinite potential at the center of every life was expressed through five levels, from the most subtle to the most physical.
From your transcendent center, or spiritual core, the infinite potential that exists there radiates out through five layers. Life energy transforms into new forms before finally flowing through what are traditionally called “the four gates” of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual expression. All of this activity represents your inner life. You also lead an outer life, as represented by the ring that would encompass your social role and the appearance you give to others. Even those who know you best can’t be fully aware of your inner life, and yet when you uncover your Life Design, inner and outer begin to match much more closely. There is no question of wearing a mask or assuming a public persona that is far from the real you.
The five layers through which the potential of your life expresses itself are:
The level of Bliss--This is the place from which the joy, the aliveness, the pure delight of being alive arise. Shakti flows from this invisible source.
The level of Knowingness--This is the part of you that can “feel” whether something is right or not without having to think it through. It is from here that intuition arises.
The level of Mind--This includes both thoughts and emotions and is where many of us stumble. When our thoughts and emotions are self-destructive, they block access to the levels of bliss and knowingness.
The level of the Energetic--It is the energetic level that attracts or repels. Ever meet someone and feel instantly attracted, or instantly repelled? You’re responding to the energetic field that person is projecting. When someone is dark and depressed, you feel it. When people are loving and happy, you feel that as well.
The level of the Material Form--This is the physical expression of the previous levels. You will be able to see distortion in a person’s Life Design by their physical condition. When people are well-aligned, they look vibrant, healthy, and happy.
When you are aligned with your Life Design, the two outer rings--one representing your Inner Life, the other your Outer Life--are perfectly symmetrical. Now we have a template for the ideal life. The laws of nature and the organizing power of your life force are structured within your transcendent center. Depending on your spiritual tradition, you may refer to this transcendent center as God, Allah, Jehovah, or Brahman, but we feel more comfortable using a value-neutral term: the source of infinite potential. The flow of energy that begins here travels and transforms into body, mind, emotions, and on through every level. Since this flow is natural and effortless, the ancient seers affirmed that life as a whole can be effortless.
This is such a sweeping claim that we need to unfold it in detail. We want to show that the key to turning struggle into ease, which includes every aspect of your life, is a set of rituals that reconnect you to the flow of your life energy. Let’s consider exactly what that means.
WHY IS LIFE SUCH A STRUGGLE?
You may agree with the saying that everything happens for a reason, but do you actually see the reason behind the things that happen to you? From the first shock of having a beloved pet die when you were five to hearing your parents fighting behind a closed bedroom door, from standing by helplessly when a family member contracts cancer to watching a grandparent suffer from Alzheimer’s, there are random traumas you have no control over. They don’t seem to happen for any reason at all. To get anywhere in life requires personal power and inner strength that enable you to weather the storms.
This brings us directly to the mind. Imagine a huge warehouse whose doors are open. You step inside and look around. The space is empty, and in the dim lighting it seems to run on forever. The warehouse is so vast that anything and everything could be stored inside it.
This warehouse is your mind. The vast space waiting to be filled is your potential. No one told us as kids that filling this warehouse isn’t voluntary--it’s a requirement for every single person. Every experience, good or bad, from the moment of birth, has been adding to your mind. Now that you’re an adult, you’ve gone a long way toward filling your mind with thoughts, feelings, memories, and all kinds of things. Nobody fills the mind in exactly the same way.
The most fortunate, happy, and successful people have discovered a secret about the mind. For these people, the mind isn’t just a warehouse for random thoughts and feelings, impulses and desires. It’s a place of hidden riches. All the love you will experience in your whole life--past, present, and future--is experienced here. Your hopes will be fulfilled here. Joy is here in abundance, once you know how to uncover it. The most valuable thing anyone can learn is how to find these hidden riches.
Failing to uncover these riches results in a life marked by disorder and confusion. Many people have turned the warehouse into a teenager’s bedroom. Everything’s a jumble. The floor is littered with whatever got picked up and tossed back down. The walls are cluttered with posters, stickers, perhaps a stolen stop sign, or sports logos. A teenager enjoys the luxury of a disorganized bedroom because his mother will usually get exasperated enough to come in and straighten out the mess. Unfortunately, if you keep filling your mind this way, no one is around to straighten out the jumble for you.
Your first reaction will probably be, “My mind’s not like that.” But we know lots of people who live their lives hoping to find success and fulfillment, yet who have no idea that their inner world is keeping them from reaching their goal. They have developed the habits of a disorganized mind, and the evidence can be seen in their typical day.
There’s never enough time to get everything done.
Accidents and distractions crop up unexpectedly, pulling them this way and that.
At work and at home there’s too much random activity.
Stress mounts up.
Deadlines keep pressing down on them.
Other people constantly drain their time and energy.
If you recognize this picture, it’s not the outside people and events that are robbing you of your hidden riches. Your riches are getting lost in mental clutter, like a wedding ring dropped in a patch of weeds. It’s hard for most people to see this. They work incredibly hard to get external rewards like money, the right job, a beautiful home. But despite the best planning and motivation, they feel frustrated. Too much of their inner potential has gone wasted or undiscovered.
This makes us think of Jonathan, now in his mid-forties, who followed his vision of being a self-made success. Jonathan knew as a teenager that he was a born salesman. He could talk to anyone. His outgoing personality quickly lowered social barriers, and he had tons of enthusiasm for any project he started.
And he started a lot. His mind was always whirling with the next bright idea. Having skipped college to start selling land in Florida, he quickly became restless. As much as his co-workers and bosses liked him, Jonathan gained a reputation for not following through. Contracts bored him, and so did seeing to all the nitpicking details of punch sheets and the complaints of renters. He moved on--to land sales in Colorado, car sales in California, then back to real estate. His restlessness ended only when he settled down with Karen, a loving wife.
A good period followed, in which Jonathan was able to start his own boat business, with a dream of one day selling yachts. “If you’re a born salesman,” he told his friends, “try and sell the biggest-ticket item you can. It’s no harder than selling used VWs.” But with all this enthusiasm and personal gifts, Jonathan never made his dreams come true. The telltale signs were always there:
He was impulsive, always following the next bright idea.
He hated being tied down to an orderly routine.
He left follow-through to others.
His financial affairs were always a mess, leading to money shortages and tax problems.
Above all, Jonathan’s life didn’t teach him any valuable lessons on which he could build a better future. Now divorced and falling back on low-level sales jobs, Jonathan is an example no one wants to imitate. But we feel a lot of sympathy for him, because millions of people are victims of mental messiness, lack of impulse control, and the inability to really develop their natural gifts.
In many cases this is a result of failing to discover and understand their own genius (yes, we all have genius) embedded in their Life Design. Discovering that genius allows you to connect with and partner with others whose genius is complementary, so that each of you is able to focus on your strengths--just as we (Janet and Chris) have done.
The things that block success and fulfillment aren’t a mystery (although it feels like one when you’re inside the chaos). Fulfilling your potential happens in the present. Here and now you must meet daily challenges, find solutions, and move forward. That’s where the benefit of rituals begins, at the practical level.