What Is the Promise? Life is not a desperate, fearful affair of struggle, ill health, and death. Life is an eternal flow of nurturing that cannot be lost. You do not even have to search for it, because it is utterly given. You are loved and cared for completely
ONE NIGHT ABOUT FORTY YEARS AGO, I WAS STANDING on a rooftop in a country thousands of miles from my home in the South Pacific, when I suddenly experienced a sense of wonder. It was sublime: a deep, spontaneous feeling of well-being, of bliss, of love. I felt completely nurtured, my whole body fully integrated with everything in the natural world and with everyOne around me.
What had caused this wonder-full feeling? There was no external reason: no girl, no drugs, no hit on the head with a peacock feather from Swami Knowitallananda. Yet there I was, under a full moon and infinite stars, blissfully alive and certain of the simplest realization.
“This body loves its breath,” I whispered to the night crickets.
Like a man loves God, like a woman loves a man, like a bee loves nectar. “This exhalation completely loves the inhalation,” I said aloud. “And it’s so easy!”
I’d traveled a great many miles, looking for answers outside of myself, before coming to this realization. Having lived through the usual troubles of a Western teenager, growing up in New Zealand and attending a church-run school, I knew that there had to be something better than what society was dishing up at the time. Our parents had won the last world war and given us free speech and a free life, for which I was profoundly grateful. But I couldn’t shake the feeling in my bones that there had to be more than the commercialism I saw around me, and the academic system that was merely preparing us for the universities. And so I took off around the world in search of wisdom—or something—among the great traditions that I’d heard and read about.
Landing on the subcontinent of South Asia, I sought out the masters of the ancient traditions. There was no Internet back then, and no books had yet been published about their teachings, so I had to conduct my search by a combination of intuition and trial and error. The first thing I discovered was that “spiritual life” was a major industry there. The wisdom teachings that I was seeking were available, in most instances, for a price. “That’s all right,” I thought, “everyone needs to earn a living.” But I found out over time that doing business was more important to most of these “holy men” than the well-being of the people who came to them for teaching—not only Westerners but also the local seekers.
Among the shoddy spiritual goods being sold in the marketplace, I found little that was useful. I had to sift through a ton of sand before I located any jewels. But the painstaking search was worth it. I was able to find a handful of teachers who were as appalled by these spiritual hucksters as I was.
The foremost among these men became my friend as well as my teacher. Indeed, he told me that the true teacher is “no more than a friend and no less than a friend.” In the end, there was no need for a teaching at all, he said, because the universe knows exactly what it is doing with each and every person.
“I have nothing to teach,” this extraordinary man said to me. “I have no message for mankind.”
a teaching!” I thought.
“The whole world has been seduced by enlightenment,” this man said.
In a single stroke, he undermined the spell—the hoax—that my search for wisdom had cast over me. I’d been determined to know what was really
going on, what worked and what did not. What was the key? What was the essential information that I needed—and that the world needed? I had been seduced by the idea that you could attain permanent happiness, and that’s what I was looking for: in a word, enlightenment! Now this man was telling me with authority that looking for enlightenment was itself the problem, because it implied that I didn’t already have it.
“Stop looking and start living,” he told me. “The whole idea of trying to become
something is a denial of who you are.”
Having said that, he showed me a physical practice that he followed every day. He also mentioned a word that I had previously associated with a series of acrobatic postures that you do on a rubber mat while wearing a leotard or a loincloth. But I instinctively knew that he wasn’t talking about some system of aggressive exercise for weight loss! His practice consisted of simply participating in the movement of Source Reality through his body and breath. (By Source Reality I mean the power of the universe that moves everything.) It wasn’t about some abstract concept of enlightenment. It was about discovering the natural intimacy of body, breath, and movement. He would move and breathe on the floor with me to show how to participate in life instead of attempting to manipulate life with physical contortions or meditation, like spiritual gymnastics. He would laugh and gossip about the ordinary delights of life, and was always helpful in the most practical ways.
He demonstrated his practice with no sense of effort or strain. Watching him, I realized that the forcible teaching of postures and meditation that I had encountered elsewhere is an imposition on the human system. He was emphatic that most teachers were just in it for the business. Since I had already begun to sense that, I was drawn to his “nonteaching.” This man was so adamant that truth could not be bought or sold. Truth did not belong to anyone in particular or, in other words, it belonged to everyOne and every thing. It could not be found, because you never lose it—and the very act of looking for it implies its absence. Whereas truth really is intrinsic, and always present in your innate, natural state.
So it’s the act of looking for it that is the problem. All we need do in life is to participate in it. To emphasize this point, he would say bluntly, “Don’t turn my words into a teaching, or me into one of those teachers exploiting the gullibility of the people to look for something they have never lost.” He would refuse to allow people to copyright his words in books so they could be used to make money and exploit people. Sometimes I expressed my wonder at something especially mind blowing that he had said, adding that I wanted to let the world know what he was teaching me. But he used to joke, “Don’t tell people I said these things. Tell them you said it, and you’ll make a lot of money.” He would also say things like, “To be yourself requires extraordinary intelligence. You are blessed with that intelligence; nobody need give it to you, nobody can take it away from you.”
After having wasted my time, my money, and not a little of my faith in humankind, I had finally found a spiritual master I could believe in.
“Now,” this man said, “life begins.”
• • •
I began at once to make this practice an essential part of my daily routine. It wasn’t difficult to do; it required very little time or effort. In about twenty minutes, I’d been taught how to link my breath to my whole body movement. At first I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right or if there were any real benefits to be gained. I wasn’t getting a sweaty workout, my heart wasn’t pounding, my muscles weren’t pumped or strained. Yet by doing this easy practice every day, naturally and not obsessively, I gradually experienced something that I had never been conscious of before:
My body and my breath were connected—intimately.
That intimacy fully awakened as I stood on that rooftop, in love with life under a full moon. My teacher (I considered him a teacher, even if he did not) had passed on to me the primal wisdom of the ancient world—a physical practice that had almost been lost and forgotten. It was a lifeline, I realized, that linked me not only to my inner self but also to the outside world. Intimacy between the body and its breath tangibly reveals every kind of intimacy with the natural state, including the absolute Source that sustains and nurtures all creation.
The next day I asked my teacher about my rooftop insight. “I think I’ve discovered the secret,” I said. “It is the breath moving in the whole body. It is the whole body participating in the breath.”
“Yes,” he said. “But I wanted you to discover this yourself, not just tell it to you like another abstract fact to learn.”
By writing this book, I am passing on this ancient practice to you, and I want you
to discover it for yourself the same way that I did.
By doing it.
By making a Promise to yourself: to do a daily practice that I call Your Seven-Minute Wonder. For that is all that’s required to enrich the intimacy in your life: a minimum of seven minutes every day. Coming Down from the Mountain: Giving It All Away
The Promise that you hold in your hands is truly giving it all away. I’m not holding on to information but giving to you now what I’ve learned with others. Having spent years learning their wisdom, I then spent many more years extracting and refining the core of it in a way that Westerners—and other Easterners, for that matter—could easily apply to their daily lives. Back in New Zealand, I had been a college teacher, and my father a dedicated professor of history, so I knew I had within me the capacity to learn and to pass on what I’d learned to others. Later I became a telecommunications guru and an information technology consultant, suddenly aware that we now had the capability of spreading this jewel of intimate human wisdom to the entire world. We could, at the speed of light, pass it on to everyOne to be nurtured—starting today.
The Promise I offer you in this book is the missing link. It is the distillation of the ancient wisdom of the body that I learned from my teachers. It represents the practical means that allow you to realize the sublimity of your inspiration and all your desires. This truth was always there in the founding of doctrine but lay forgotten within the twists and turns and power struggles of abstract belief systems.
Yet what exactly is
the truth that I discovered? That intimacy with all ordinary conditions reveals the Source of all conditions, because the Source and the “seen”
. This is the grand announcement of all traditions. In simpler terms: the Creator and creation really are One. What you see all around you and what you experience inside you are identical with the Source of all life. There is no difference. That being true, then it follows that intimacy with the ordinary is full and sufficient, and reveals all that we need to know. The realization of this—and the practice
of it—is what I mean by the Promise.
The Promise is not religion. It is a practical means for realizing the Source of all truth. I am back from the mountain, back from my meetings with the hidden masters, and have found a way to synthesize what they gave me to give to you in this pithy, easily understood formula. It simply works
Take the pill, and you will feel great. It’s logical, even mathematical: 2 + 2 = 4. We had caring teachers at school who insisted that we know our math, that we be able to read and write and think—dear friends who would never let us out of school without that precious knowledge. But they never told us what we actually need most of all. No one had ever given them this gift for a hard time so that they could pass it on to us.
Yet I am about to tell you. It will help you in all your endeavors, and it is universal to all cultures, nationalities, faiths, lifestyles, and people everywhere. And it’s no exaggeration. If you promise me to practice these easy breath and body movements for seven minutes a day, I promise you a wonder-full result that will be a catalyst for you to enjoy your wildest dreams. Love, bliss, sex, and intimacies of every kind will be realized, including the mystery source of civilization and the abundance of all life. Why Seven Minutes?
The practice that I am asking you to do is called Your Seven-Minute Wonder. It is a physical practice that is pleasurable and invigorating, and if you choose to extend it beyond seven minutes, please do. But commit to at least seven minutes. It’s the minimum amount of time you’ll need in order to enjoy the many benefits described in this book.
I came up with Your Seven-Minute Wonder by simple trial and error. I used to encourage my friends to do twenty
minutes of moving and breathing practice daily, and they never would! Or they would for a while and give up. Some would do an hour obsessively as a novelty, but when the novelty wore off, they also gave up.
I whittled it down to fifteen minutes. This still didn’t work. Down to ten minutes. They were still
too busy—or so they said. Then one day, sitting outside the Sydney Opera House, I asked a friend at a conference, “Would you do this practice for seven
minutes each day?”
There was a long, pregnant pause. The world seemed to stop. I could see in my friend’s face that she was thinking about those seven minutes, and that she couldn’t find a reason to refuse them.
I waited, and finally she said, with an easy smile, “That’s doable! I will. I promise.”
The sky grew golden, there was a crack of thunder and a lightning bolt, and the universe appeared to open up—or at least that’s how excited I became. I knew in that moment that seven minutes was the right amount of time to ask of people. My friend there in Sydney was my evidence: she was happy
to practice for seven minutes a day. She could easily fit it into her full and busy life.
And she did! She made a promise to herself that she could keep.
That very week, I created the iPhone app called iPromise! Here was Your Seven-Minute Wonder in the palm of your hand. I also began at once to teach Your Seven-Minute Wonder in classes and workshops. My students readily made the Promise, as if seven minutes were the magic number. And those who kept their Promise (I’m pleased to report that most people do) have experienced many positive results.
Some of those experiences have been included throughout this book, and the practice itself, Your Seven-Minute Wonder, which I also refer to as “the Promise Practice,” is described with simple instructions in the second half of the book. On pages 265–268 I’ve also included video links describing the steps of the practice. You’re welcome to jump ahead and learn the practice now if you’d like. In fact, I recommend it. It will enrich your reading experience if you do.
Seven minutes a day. And if you keep it up for at least forty days, I promise you this: you will establish a positive, permanent habit that will enrich your life, and the lives of everyone around you.