The first thing about this book that grabbed my attention was its semblance in appearance and title to the famous Psycho-Cybernetics. I was at a thrift shop hunting for books, and for 50 cents, it seems like an obvious choice. This book is an amazing mix of spirituality and standard self development. Very inspirational and a light read, too.
Like Maxwell Maltz, the author of Psycho Cybernetics, Vernon Howard suggests visualization for self improvement. Here’s exactly what Howard’s take on visualization is:
“This enormous secret was known and used by all the great teachers of history. The New Testament presented mental pictures by means of parables. Zen Buddhism did likewise with its anecdote and analogies. Ancient wise men like Socrates and Plato, taught with stories and legends. Moderns, like Emerson and Thoreau, made full use of illustrations in their lectures and writings.
Why? Because mental pictures speak a language that everyone understands. All of us are capable of forming images and drawing meaning from them. The great teachers have therefore always entrusted Truth with the most confidence to parables, which, because of their simplicity, picturesqueness, and association with everyday life, are a thought form most likely to be remembered and least likely to be corrupted. Each man, then can perceive that depth of Truth to which he has a capacity to respond.”
With that said, I am going to present my 5 favorite mental images that Howard includes in his book (there are 94 in total). So let’s get into it…
“Let’s suppose that our man is willing to take the first hesitant step away from the familiar ground toward the castle that he cannot yet see. Suppose he willingly walks just far enough to catch his first glimpse of the castle. Maybe he sees only a tiny top corner. That is enough! He has seen something that makes him excited, curious, eager. Everything within him responds to that first grand glimpse with new vitality. So now he takes a few more forward steps, then some more until he finally possesses the castle. It is his to occupy and enjoy.” (Mental Picture 4)
The paradox is that the man will not walk toward the castle until he sees it, but he cannot see it until he walks toward it. In any aspect of personal development, momentum plays a huge factor. The hardest part of transformation is the initial movement. If you are fat and out of shape, how hard is it to get in shape? It’s freaking hard because you can hardly walk on the treadmill without getting out of breath. You can’t eat healthy because your eating habits are so deeply a part of you. Momentum has pulled you in this direction and with each unhealthy day, your habits become more deeply ingrained. This process is true for any aspect of self development. You want to read more, but you’ve watched too much TV, you have a short attention span, and you are accustomed to a lot of mind numbing stimulation. You pick up a book, and it’s boring and slow. You set it down after a few minutes. The first step towards your castle, whether it is more money, health, knowledge, etc., is the hardest because you cannot see the benefits, but you feel tremendous pain as you fight against habits that you have lived for years. The out of shape person who finally gets to the gym will only experience pain, extremely sore muscles, lack of energy, and agitation from not eating their normal foods. They must keep going though! They haven’t seen the castle. In fact, most people will quit before they see the castle, but if you can hold onto that faith that the castle is there, you will keep going until you can see a little piece of it. Your aching body now is accustomed to working out and instead of tremendous pain you feel a little tighter and lighter. You think more clearly. You can see the benefits! That is all it takes! You have reversed the momentum, and now you have the knowledge that this castle exists. It is real to you. It is now more than a distant belief. Getting to the castle is still going to be a journey, but its much more fun and easy now. You stand a much better chance of finishing the journey and claiming your castle.
“During a battle of the Middle Ages, a king’s life was saved by an archer in the ranks. In gratitude, the king declared to the soldier, ‘Climb up the mountain trail for a period of six hours. All the land that is viewed from the top-most height shall be yours. The higher you ascend the more you possess.’
The archer hiked upward, pausing at intervals to rest. At each halt, the king’s officers gazed across the countryside, making note of the most distant landmark. The higher the solider climbed, the more territory the king’s men claimed for him. Finally, the soldier possessed a vast area of land with all its natural wealth.” (Mental Picture 23)
Your level of mental awareness attracts the life you lead. I would guess that most people don’t believe that they can be rich. If you grew up in a middle class home, surrounded by middle class people, some went to college, some didn’t, then normal for you is middle class, and 100k per year would be the ultimate achievement. People are too willing to throw their hands in the air and say, “Well that’s just the way things are.” People are too willing to let social conditioning run their lives, and you can’t blame them, we are social creatures that are just trying to do the right thing. If we see something over and over again, we accept it. Evolutionary, it makes sense. People are too willing to be consumers, and how can you blame them, after a long hard day they don’t really want to research their shit, so they believe an advertisement whose main goal is money in their pockets, it may not necessarily be the best option for the consumer, but they probably won’t figure it out or they don’t want to figure it out. They want the quick fix or the product that their favorite athlete uses. The average person hasn’t climbed up the mountain at all.and his view is very narrow and short. The nature of man is to climb up that hill, and I think that forces like social conditioning and the media keep him from climbing up by only showing him select slices of reality. The first step it to realize that you’re standing right next to the highest mountain in the world. It will go as high as you are willing to climb. But you must recognize this. Elevate your mind through study, reflection, and action. Gain experiences that disprove the norm, think thoughts that challenge the generally accepted answers, and study people who achieved massive success by doing things that everyone else said they couldn’t do.
“Suppose you decide to walk up the stairs of a ten story building. You pause at the first floor to look out the window. At this fifth story level, you can see a certain amount of the city. When you climb to the tenth floor, you see much more. You know that you are in a superior position because you can compare the two levels. Because you have changed your position, you increase the amount of the city to be enjoyed. This is observable success.” (Mental Picture 38)
The concept of observable success is key because in any aspect of life, really mastering something is a long process. For instance, if you are learning to play guitar, after a couple months of practice, you might only be able to roughly play the basic chords. This is a long ways away from where you want to be. In fact, you probably suck compared to where you want to be, and if you focus on the negatives, it can be discouraging. However, if you view your progress like this building metaphor, then you know you are in a better position now than you were a couple months ago. You are learning a skill and you are better today than you were a couple months ago because of it. Let’s say you are working on being a more confident person. After months of effort, you feel that you could be better, but if you look back to your previous self, you realize you have made progress. This knowledge fuels the motivation to keep going, whereas looking ahead and considering your shortcomings will hold you back.
“It is like a mountain climber who has scaled certain peaks but wants to go higher. To do this, he must alter his thinking toward himself, not toward the higher peak. He must strengthen his muscles from the longer climb, he must gather additional supplies, he might need special equipment, and so on. If he wants to climb to a higher peak while using lower peak equipment, he makes defeat and frustration necessary.” (Mental Picture 42)
I love this one. To do more, be more. Any life success is like this. You will need to upgrade equipment, you will need to strengthen yourself, and you will need more resources. You will only go as high as these factors permit. I think a lot of people realize this, and instead of getting amped up about the climb, they stay where they are at. The countless excuses given for not rising to a higher level are so common and transparent, and I don’t think people really believe them. It’s just too much work. While setting a huge, awesome goal is important, small more consistent goals are essential. This way the peak that you are climbing is not too treacherous and doesn’t require much more gear. It isn’t intimidating. Now, you can take action and build momentum toward that ultimate peak.
In conclusion, I leave you with one more:
“Picture a green oasis in the middle of the desert, rich with cool water and refreshing shade. It offers a peaceful and healthy life.
A mile away, out in the hot desert, a man is lost. But he is close enough to the oasis to catch a glimpse of it. He can see the difference between the greenery of the oasis and the gray sands around him. Because he can see merely that much, he is encouraged to find more. And so he heads for the oasis, growing closer, richer, with each step.
But take another wanderer, three miles distant from the oasis. Because he is father away he is less likely to look and be encouraged. So he turns in the wrong direction and wanders even farther and farther away. Because he can see nothing of the oasis he wanders in despair and bitterness. In that state he is likely to see an illusionary oasis, a mirage. And so his life is wasted in stumbling toward one illusion after another.
The point is this: The closer we come to the truth the more we value it. Then, because we value it more, we come even closer. That is why the rich get richer. They earn it with their own effort.
Any wanderer can change direction at anytime. No one needs to be lost. Any man or woman, through right action, can find the oasis.” (Mental Picture 50)
What does it mean to you?
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