THE BLOG
11/19/2014 02:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Ultimate Power

Paul Bradbury via Getty Images

There is a series of "wisdom fiction" books I've enjoyed over the past few years by the late philosopher Syd Banks which follow the basic format of "seeker meets guru; seeker argues with guru; seeker eventually shuts up long enough to gain insight into the nature of life."

While I have gained immeasurably from my repeated reading of these books, I, at first, took exception to what seemed to me to be an overreaction on behalf of the seeker when at some point the guru points out that the source of all our problems can be traced back to the fact that people think.

As Syd says in myriad ways throughout his works: "We think, and then we experience our thinking as though it were real. But it's not WHAT you think that matters - it's THAT you think."

Exactly why these characters' lives underwent such profound changes from simply seeing that fact was a mystery to me -- until one day, I was talking with a client and I watched them create an entire imaginary world out of thought and then suffer through it as though it had always existed.

Then I watched my next client do it, then the next, then my wife, then my son and so on until I sat slackjawed as the man behind the counter in the sandwich shop created a world where "we" had to watch out for "them" lest they run off with our wives and children (and had it occurred to him, I suppose our clients would have been next).

"Oh my god," I heard myself think, "people think. This explains everything!"

And then it occurred to me that if all of those other people were creating their realities through their thinking, odds were that I might be doing the same. And like a character in a Syd Banks novel, my life has never been the same.

Here's a story I wrote about it (adapted from an old parable) in Supercoach:

Once upon a time there was a young stonecutter who looked with envy upon the rich merchant who employed him. One day he was muttering to himself about what it would be like to have such freedom and power when, to his amazement, an angel appeared and spoke the words "You are what you have said." In an instant, the stonecutter had become the merchant.

He was very happy with his lot until he saw the king of the land ride by with his coterie. "Now that's the way to live," he thought. Almost before he had asked, the angel had granted his wish and the merchant had become the king.

All was well until one beautiful summer's day when the king began sweating in his heavy royal garb. "What freedom and power the sun has," he thought. "It can float through the sky and call forth water from a king. That is what I would truly like to be."

As the thought appeared in his mind, the angel appeared to grant it.

Now the king had become the sun, and he reveled in his freedom and power as he floated high above the earth. But after a time, a cloud appeared and blocked the land from his view. When he watched the lightning burst forth from the cloud and heard the roar of the thunder, he knew that he was witnessing true freedom and power. Before he even realized what was happening, the angel had transformed him into a cloud.

What fun it was to pour rain forth upon the land! Wherever the man-cloud went, forests were washed away, and puddles became oceans in his wake. But no matter how hard he tried, there was one huge mountain made of stone that stood immovable and unaffected by his rain.

"Surely that is the ultimate power," he thought. "To stand tall in the face of any circumstance--that is true freedom and power."

In an instant, the angel had made it so, and the man could feel the incredible power of being an immovable object in the midst of any storm. Yet even as he was delighting in his immense strength and resilience, he could see a small man chipping away at his base with a pick and a chisel and a hammer.

"That man is even more powerful than I," he thought. "See how he is able to take stone away from me with just a few blows of his mighty tools. That is the kind of freedom and power I have always longed for."

The angel appeared and once again spoke the words "You are what you have said."

And with those words, the older but wiser stonecutter continued on his journey.


Have fun, learn heaps, and enjoy your "ultimate" power!

With all my love,

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For more by Michael Neill, click here.