What I am about to share with you can have a huge impact on your life. It will improve your life greatly if you think about it and let the idea seep into your head and take hold of your mind.
I came to America in the Fall of 1972 to begin my Ph.D. in Marketing at Columbia Business School. I had a tiny studio on the eighth floor of a dingy building on the corner of 113th Street and Broadway. I had a small refrigerator with a miniscule freezer that could barely contain a packet of frozen pizza. The freezer was encrusted with a thick slab of ice and the refrigerator had cockroaches that somehow were able to enter back each time I cleaned them out.
In those days the Upper West Side was not the gentrified and desirable locale it is today. It was grungy. Remember the original Death Wish starring Charles Bronson as the architect who turned vigilante after his wife was killed and his daughter left comatose in a robbery that went bad? Much of that movie was shot in Morningside Park and the general area where I lived.
The girlfriend of one of my professors came to business school one day. Her head was bandaged but it was soaked in red, and blood was dripping on her clothes. She was bicycling through Central Park when a vagabond hit her on the head with an iron bar and rode away on her bicycle.
Muggings were so common that I decided on my plan of action early. If I was accosted with a gun, I would hand over everything I had and pray. I always had a $20 bill with me as ‘mugger money’. If I was threatened with a knife, I would run like hell. I could really sprint in those days.
Despite the surroundings, I was always buoyant. I was in the US. I was doing a Ph.D. at one of the top business schools in the world. I was in New York – the greatest metropolis on earth. Back in India I had watched a James Bond movie that showed a panoramic view of the Big Apple with iconic structures like the United Nations Headquarters and the Pan Am building. And I dreamed of being there. Both were now just a subway ride and fifteen minutes away.
Today I like coming to Manhattan but there is no thrill in it. The United Nations Headquarters looks run down. The Pan Am building is now the Met Life building and could use some maintenance. And I am not buoyant at the thought of being in the city.
I recommend The Way of the Pilgrim to my students and coaching clients. The Pilgrim roamed about in Siberia in the late nineteenth century. All he had was a torn woolen coat, a knapsack with some bread and his copy of the Philokalia. Yet he was in a state of such exaltation that his description of his inner state is enough to bring about horripilation in the reader.
So I tried an experiment. I vividly reimagined my early days in New York and consciously decided to feel that same sense of excitement I once had.
It worked somewhat. I then added the spiritual longing and ceaseless prayer of the Pilgrim. And it worked in spades. I was – straightaway – transported to a world of radiant joy and deep well-being.
And I realized a great truth that many sages have proclaimed.
If you seek peace, you do not have to travel to exotic locales. Tahiti and Aruba and the Galapagos are both far away and expensive.
You can simply look at the world with new eyes. It will seem as if you are playacting.
But, if you persist, you will soon occupy a different emotional domain.
Am I advising you to fake it till you make it?
It is not all that easy to fake it well. I will have more to say about this later.
In the meantime, here is a two-minute clip from an old Mary Tyler Show that will help you understand the concept.