A Mosque From "Live-by-Design" Prospective

09/14/2010 05:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain is most renowned for its abundance of over 856 (of an original 1,293) columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. These are made from pieces of Roman temples that originally occupied the site and the vicinity. If the pillar was too long, it was sunk into the ground and reshaped to fit in with the others. The result is a mysterious space with rows after rows of columns often described as a "forest of stone."

The construction of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, or the Mezquita begins in eighth century A.D. when a Christian Visigoth church is refashioned as a mosque under the supervision of the emir Abd ar-Rahman I, who uses it as an adjunct to his palace. Under Abd ar-Rahman II, it holds an original copy of the Quran and an arm bone of the prophet Mohammed, making it a major Muslim pilgrimage sight.

The Mezquita is a record of frequent invasions, as each conqueror wants to leave his own mark on the architecture. However, prolific augmentation by the efforts of various rulers is accomplished quite seamlessly. Numerous alterations are made possible with the help of the individual load-bearing element which could be added or subtracted at will, subdividing the enormous complex into small demarcated parts with relentless flexibility. In fact, this fascinating building can be thought of as a metaphor for resilience. We can learn from it and use as inspiration.

According to John Homer Miller, "Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens."

Suppose you were terribly neglected as a child, constantly blamed for mistakes your parents made. You were never able to utter a word in your own defense and often were punished, regardless of how hard you tried to be compliant. Your childhood memories haunt you to this day. No wonder you still stutter. But do you really need to rehash history for the rest of your life? Probably not. Instead, stimulated by the lesson of the Mezquita, you endeavor to construct your world-view differently.

A strategy of treating a functional post as an essential design ingredient that can be multiplied at will and in any desired direction allows uninhibited progress. The same strategy can be applied to your life! A single column of the Mezquita upholds, embellishes and organizes. Similarly, the architect-in-you can design an appropriately flexible system that monitors and modifies your perception on your path toward integrated life.

Essentially, a night class "Public Speaking 101" at a local community college is the next column to serve the function of upholding your confidence. Who cares that most students are decades younger than you! You need to sustain your effort; it is part of who you are. Before delivering a 5-minute informative speech about setting goals based on your life's intentions, you practice and practice. A vision of the alluring Mesquita helps you focus. Indeed, your sense of self-reliance is bolstered by the image of that adaptable space.

Turns out, your professor thinks that you have a lot to say and can follow the Aristotelian model precisely. Your confidence grows in the process. It is really all up to you. You ask questions during class and participate in discussions. When it comes time to do a two-minute impromptu presentation on any topic you like, you decide to share some personal details with the audience. You confide in your fellow classmates:

"Since I was not able to make a convincing argument, my proposal was not accepted by the client. That's all right. I just have to present it as many times as it takes risking rejection again and again."

The sketch of the Mezquita's interior is by Miller Yee Fong, Architect

To find out more about "The Architect-in-You" online workshops, go to: