Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter 3 "Planning"

Waking from a restful sleep Lister placed his belongings into a pack, which could be slung over his shoulder. He said his farewell to the ever patient Wanda then headed towards the South road to the old mill where William lived. The early sun was warm on his cheek while the slight breeze ruffled his hair and caused him to remember a time when there was a lot more of it to ruffle.

He had chosen to travel light to rely on his wits and the charity of others to give him a lift when possible and shelter where necessary. Oh to be on the open track again. What a change from the confines and routine of ‘The Office’. A feeling coursed through his veins that he thought he had lost forever. While experiencing the freshness of the morning, he considered the conversation with his sister the night before. Her words had been, ‘A stranger that he had known all his life yet never met,’ now that was an enigma. Still he was used to those sorts of puzzles. They had faced so many together, starting with the time they went in search of Tung Fu, the Balance of Business, and the Ethics of Relationships. All these adventures had fuelled his desire to learn more and more about the seemingly complex aspects of the human existence. Everything he and Speck had discovered, they openly shared with as many people as would care to listen, who in turn were encouraged to do the same. Had not his entire empire been based on the principles that they had discovered together. He laughed to himself… how strange it was, setting off this morning on a brand new journey of exploration, without his sister by his side. Even though he was physically stronger and larger, he enjoyed her protection and felt very vulnerable without her. She always seemed to have the answers and showed an inner strength when a crisis occurred. He felt he could always rely on her for the answers and support, when he felt doubt or was plagued by indecision.

But as she had firmly put it to him last night, this was one conquest he must undertake alone and without her help in any way. She said the Journey was more than worthwhile but at times, even she was struck with the question ‘Was the doing worth the outcome.’ This caused concern for Lister, but he had taken on hostile markets and won. He’d experienced his own territory being threatened by cheats and rogues. His trade caravans had been attacked by thugs and robbers. He had been badly wounded on one such trip in the East whilst his caravans, carrying silks and perfumes, were ambushed and his goods ransacked. He was beaten and left for dead next to his bleeding horses, yet he had survived. He had travelled that route more than once and had not had any similar instances again. Courage had eventually returned yet with a healthy dose of respect for his surroundings. He took extra precautions in the form of more guards both in and out of various countries.
‘That was interesting,’ he thought, ‘for that’s how I came to employ William, the very man I am on my way to see.’ There had been a time when vandals were wrecking other merchants’ premises on ‘Closed Trading Days’ and that lead Lister to enquire if Michael knew of anyone that would be interested in some work but would be reliable to be called on at short notice. Come to think of it, Michael didn’t hesitate in putting Williams’s name forward for the position. Lister thought for a moment and asked himself, ‘What do you know of this old man that you’ve had in your employ? Not much apparently.’ It had only been on the few odd occasions he had spent time with him, and always left feeling better about himself, with a strong feeling of kinship towards the old man. It was as if he had known him for most of his life but hadn’t. Strange!

As Lister’s thoughts returned to the present, the breeze was still gentle on his face and the sun now overhead, requiring him to squint at the horizon. He could just see the sails of the old mill shimmering in the midmorning haze, the torn pieces of cloth flapping as the huge arms of the mill slowly but effortlessly continued on its rotary course of perpetual motion. ‘At least’ thought Lister ‘I have the ability to travel in a straight line if I choose to and not end up going around in circles like that windmill, or for that matter like some people I have met.’ That last thought brought a chuckle from his parched throat, making him realize he had not had anything to drink for several hours. Quickening his pace in the direction of the mill, he allowed himself the luxury of imagining the taste of clean fresh cool water from the millrace. His imagination took hold even before he could hear the sound of the tremendous round stones crunching and grinding as they went about the business of transforming hard course grain into soft powder for flour and meal.

The placebo effect of his imagined drink sustained him, until he was within earshot of the working massive stones. His nostrils were full of the pungent odors of freshly ground grain and if he were not mistaken, it was corn.

Urgency now quickened his pace. He was enthusiastic to get the real taste of water to lubricate his dusty throat and rinse his mouth. He was about to meet the man he had come to see to begin his new quest. As was the custom, he quenched his thirst first before looking for anyone who could direct him to where William could be found. His thirst satisfied, he entered the mill and asked one of the workers where he could find William. The worker did not seem surprised at the request but instead of sending Lister in a particular direction he told him to go and sit at the storage shed where they were stacking sacks of newly crushed corn meal.
“You just go over there and wait. I’ll tell the master that you are here,” said the workman with very little humour in his voice.
Lister did as he was told, although he felt put out by the way the worker had dismissively directed him. Didn’t that servant know who he was? Where was the respect he was used to? Over many years of being a pillar of society and a well-respected businessman, he had earned the man’s respect. ‘Oh fuffle’, thought Lister, ‘look at me… dressed in workers’ clothes, road dirt on my face and dust on my shoes. No wonder I wasn’t recognized for who I am. What was the harm anyway? Who was that man really? Just a worker at a mill… no one important.’

Putting these thoughts to the back of his mind, Lister positioned his pack on the ground to use it as a cushion. He settled back to enjoy the sunlight and sweet smells that permeated his surroundings. ‘Just lay here and enjoy the peace while you can,’ he thought. 

He must have dozed off for quite a time because, on opening his eyes, he noted the spot where he was sitting was now in shadow yet when he had arrived it was in sunlight and was warm. Now he was aware of the air’s coolness. The workmen had disappeared and the shed seemed to be full of the results of their day’s work. Feeling the aches in his legs and back Lister straightened up and stretched. Stooping down to pick up his pack, he felt his annoyance increasing to become full-blown anger. How rude! He was told the master was to be informed of his arrival and that he would be seen soon. Here it was, the best part of the day spent and much travelling to be done and he had just wasted an entire afternoon lying around waiting for who knows what, that never materialized. Feeling his blood ready to boil, Lister set out to find the irresponsible underling that had wasted so much of his precious time by not carrying out a simple instruction. The insolence of the fellow! If he had his way, he would have him horse-whipped and then thrown off the property.

He entered the door of the mill, his anger obvious and there in front of him was his quarry, the lazy sluggard, his back towards Lister. With difficulty he controlled the urge to pick up the nearest implement and thrash the fellow within an inch if his life.
“You there!” he shouted with authority. “What sort of a game are you playing, is this a joke to you? I have come a long way with an important purpose to speak with your master and all you can do is tell me to go and wait in a stinking cold shed until you let him know that I am here. What sort of a man is he anyway? He must be hard up for good staff or think very little of his customers by putting you in charge. Well… answer me man. What are you playing at?”
Just then Lister saw some movement out of the corner of his eye and at the same time heard a familiar peaceful voice. “The sort of man he is, is of no concern to you Lister, and as far as being hard up for good staff, Carl is one of my best. He knows his job and more importantly he does what he is told without question, which is more than I can say for some of the present company.”

Lister was immediately reminded of the words Michael and Speck had said. They had told him he would feel out of his depth when next in the company of William. He felt confused and then ashamed of his actions and apologized to Carl for the words he had spoken. Sadness struck at his heart as he saw the pain that was evident on Carl’s face.
“I think it would be appropriate if you were to apologize for the thoughts you had about him also, as sometimes thoughts do more harm than spoken words. Carl, as I have said, is one of my best workers and has been with me for several years. He is a good provider for his family and has many challenges to face on a daily basis. None of these things you know anything about, yet you judged him on what you wanted him to do. “What right have you to expect everyone to fit into your timetable?”
Lister by this stage was feeling more ashamed than ever before in his life. Here was a good, honest and decent man going about his daily work following his master’s orders. He was possibly having thoughts about when the day was over enjoying some time with his family and sharing their experiences of the day. He would probably tell his family of this oaf of a man who came in and abused him because he didn’t get his own way Genuine tears of regret filled his eyes that only moments ago were full of fire.
“Please accept my deepest apology for my inexcusable behavior. If there is anything I can do for you in the future, please accept my offer of help. William will know how to contact me should the need arise.”
Carl looked uncomfortably down at the ground and shuffled his feet uneasily, creating patterns in the corn dust on the floor as he moved.
“Thank you sir, I appreciate the offer, but the apology will be of more value to me at the moment.”
“Can I go now please?” he asked directing his gaze towards William.
“Yes, and thank you for the extra effort you put in. You’re a good man Carl and thank Glynis for letting me keep you a little longer today. See you tomorrow.” Carl turned, nodded his head towards Lister and walked towards the door.

As he disappeared outside into the ensuing gloom Lister was sure he noticed stiffness in one of his legs, which gave him an awkward sort of gait. William, seeing the look of concern on Lister’s face, said, “Poor Carl was in a nasty accident three years ago which left him paralyzed down one side of his left leg. He has overcome much but I think he still suffers great pain as a result. Not that I have ever heard him complain. I think he is more concerned with the wellbeing of his youngest son, Thomas, who has birth defects. He’s a lovely bright energetic young boy with a smile that would melt a winter’s morning. But the poor lad is unable to share his feelings in the normal way because he is both deaf and dumb with poor eyesight to add to his trouble. He is only able to walk with the help of his other brothers and sister but he’s unable to do most things other boys experience such as fishing, running and climbing trees. I feel for the boy and his family. In spite of it all, Carl tells me he really feels blessed with the family he has. Others may see him as being unfortunate but he feels the love his family generates for each other, is worth all the pleasures money can buy. It really makes you look at your own set of values doesn’t it?”
It was a very pensive Lister that sheepishly asked William why he thought Michael had suggested his visit.
“Michael told me he had recommended you see me because he knows I have helped many others on the road you are now travelling.”
“What are the secrets to Inner Peace and Fulfilment?” Lister wanted to know.
“There are no secrets, only things you don’t know, and just because you don’t know something does not make it a secret, only undiscovered knowledge. People of wisdom have shared these gifts with humanity over thousands of years! They have been written in books on tablets and carved in stone on walls of lost caves and the sides of great canyons for anyone to see, if only they took the time to look for them. So, they are not secrets, only truths that are ignored or undiscovered by the masses. I say they are gifts but not gifts in the way you imagine. These are special gifts
that can only be given to you by yourself. I can show them to you, but it is up to you to create them in your own mind and give them to yourself as the most precious of all gifts, other than life itself. When in possession of all seven you will be able to experience love, to give and receive unconditionally, to feel for others while protecting yourself from the negative energies and wickedness others send you. To see beauty in all that is around and enjoy every breath you take, to give to others what they lack themselves at no expense to yourself. To prosper and grow within your own heart and expand as the universe is expanding, to create and give joy to all who come in contact with you, throughout this life and the next.”

William fell silent, allowing Lister to digest what he had said. Breaking the silence Lister had a burning question.
“I have a feeling that you are not going to share the Seven Gifts with me but only suggest that I find them for myself. I have no clue where to start. Would you at least give me some indication?”
“You’re right. I’m not going to tell you because these are things you have to experience, not hear. For example I could tell you that those millstones behind you are smooth and heavy, you may believe me, or you may not. However, once you have run your hand over them and tried to pick one up you would know what I’ve said is true. Until that has happened you only have my word for it and not the internal knowledge. Words without experience are just words. Experience without words is just an experience. When both come together, the experience and the words that describe it, you have knowing. That Knowing is what you are in search of. Once you have the knowing, you will understand what I’m talking about but until then you have to have faith in what I say and trust in what your sister has told you.”
William smiled at the look on his companion’s face.
“You wonder how I know about your sister Speck? She was through this way several years ago and yes, we spoke of you at the time. She told me of the many adventures both you and she had been on, the great things you have discovered and brought back to share with many people. As a result of that I knew one day you also would seek me out and start on this path.”
Lister, at first was taken aback. He soon rallied and responded with a little more enthusiasm than necessary. “Well then if you knew I would one day be here, why did you keep me waiting as long as you did? Why was I not led straight to you so I could be on my way?”
William studied Lister for some time before answering. “Did you have an appointment? Did you let me know you were coming? Did you know when you would be here? Judging by your defensive posture I would say ‘no’ to these questions. Yet you expected me to interrupt my schedule and planned day to fit your timing that has neither form nor direction. Arrogance springs to mind but I am a fair man and will put your actions down to exuberance for the road ahead.”

If Lister had felt uncomfortable when Carl was with them he now felt down right embarrassed, and could only manage a barely audible “huh-rummph.”
William acknowledged his expletive and continued as if the interruption had not occurred. “So Lister, you have emerged from your zone of comfort. You are no longer the Sir in control of businesses, in charge of people and places. For the first time in a long time, (possibly the first in your entire life,) you are alone with no Sister to make the decisions or sort out situations you may find yourself in. Lister, I make these observations not as a tyrant or bully but as a friend. Someone you have never met before, well at least in this capacity, because I will tell you the truth, not what you want to hear! A true friend is secure enough in their relationship that they feel it’s their duty to tell it, as it is regardless of what effect the telling may have on the recipient. Tell me, why did you feel such antagonism towards Carl and yet not towards me?”
There was hesitation from Lister.
“Well speak the truth. Why?” William prompted.
“I felt that Carl was beneath me and therefore should have shown me more respect. I felt with you I was at your home, therefore you were more important than a mill hand and I didn’t want to appear rude” replied Lister.
“Yet you don’t think that it would appear rude to question my selection of staff or say you felt that I must have no regard for my customers? Lister this has been your first lesson and one of the greatest challenges you will encounter along the way. If you are to succeed, as I have no doubt you will, you must, and I earnestly stress MUST, bring this first lesson to the forefront of your consciousness and hold it close to your heart, because without it you will achieve nothing.” William stopped and observed Lister’s mood.
Lister was quite agitated by this stage with his mouth twitching and eyes darting from one side of the barn to the other. William, to Lister’s dismay, carried on in an even voice. “Are you aware of what I’m speaking about Lister? You are in great need of it at present?”
“What I am in great need of at present,” snarled Lister through gritted teeth, “is patience, because it appears to me you are talking in riddles and I am not a patient man when it comes to idle gossip or talking in riddles. If you have something to say man, then get on with it and say it. The hour is late and frankly I feel you have wasted enough of my time today and I want to be on my way!”
“My dear Lister, you have, as I anticipated, answered your own question,” smiled William. “Answer me in one word, what it is you require more than anything right now?” William calmly continued.
“TOLERANCE! With you and your endless meandering of words and contorted patterns of thought” snapped a heated Lister.

William reached out his rough-hewn arms and with the ends of his corncob like fingers grasped at Lister’s shoulders and pulled him into a bear-like embrace. Lister, shocked by this unprovoked and unexpected action, soon became aware of the strength and presence of the man that had just enveloped his entire frame. He felt a real sense of peace and calm pervade his body, as if his heart had been lightened. His stomach now felt placid, where just before had been a raging torrent of bile and acid. His whole being seemed to melt into the arms of the one embracing him and a feeling of something that he had never experienced before cascaded over him. It was a feeling he could not describe but knew he would never forget.

After what seemed an age the older man released his grip and stood back to look deep into Lister’s eyes.
“Once you can give yourself the gift of Tolerance you will find the journey more bearable and enjoyable.” Then William added thoughtfully, “I have to deliver some grain to a village that is several days travel from here. It is a delivery I make because few other people welcome or care to take the trip. I feel you would benefit greatly from the excursion. It will also be a practical starting point for your search. So would you like to accompany me?”
Lister nodded his agreement.
When this arrangement was confirmed Lister was invited to dinner and offered a bed in the guest room… the last bed he would sleep in for a long time though he was unaware of this at the time. He slept with the thoughts of Tolerance running through his mind.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chapter 2 "The Stranger"

As Lister left the building that evening he was happy with the way the meeting had gone and the level of support the attendees had given him. He hadn’t shared the exact reasons for his declaration of stepping down from the head position of the Company for an indefinite time. He simply alluded to the fact that he had not been away from the business world for quite some time. He had a mind to see other places and seek out new challenges. Lister was confident his empire was in capable hands… hands he trusted implicitly and with people he had picked for various roles over the past quarter of a century. They were good at their jobs and had pride in their position. It would be interesting to see how well his holdings flourished in his absence. He knew he didn’t want to be chained to the business all his life and this was a good opportunity to let the new bloods spread their wings and get a taste of what true entrepreneurship was all about. This change would enable them to try new ideas… ones that may not be put forward whilst he was at the helm. This was going to be good for all… even great for all.

He decided to walk instead of riding in his coach that was waiting outside the building.

Was this new feeling within himself, or was it something beyond him? This was a feeling of freedom, mixed with apprehension… no, not apprehension, perhaps, anticipation. That was it, a euphoric feeling of freedom… the anticipation of the new tomorrow. The unknown, the stimulation that only comes from the start of a new adventure, whether a physical or spiritual one. On this occasion it seemed both.

He walked for three miles over the cobbled roads and deserted countryside until the sight of his sister’s beautiful house came into view. It was built on a knoll overlooking golden fields of ripe wheat. The property was bordered by a crystal clear stream that bounced orange light from the dying embers of the day as it smudged itself into the grayness of the northern summer night. What a wonderful sight. What a wonderful feeling and what a glorious day it had been. With renewed vigor, he strode up the hill and on approaching the front of Speck’s house was distracted by the sounds of singing and an unidentified rhythmic beating. Curiosity getting the better of him, he diverted his steps and sidled to the rear of the house from where the sounds came. Rounding the corner all was revealed. There was his sweet loving sister, Speck, in full voice and with equally full heart in her swings as she beat the living room rugs. Through the clouds of dust he was able to see her happy face contorted with effort as she went about her three-monthly rituals. ‘Quarterly cleaning’ she had jokingly called it. Not wishing to cause her alarm, Lister stood at the corner of the house until the frantic session had finished. As Speck stopped she jumped with fright, not expecting anyone to be watching her. She was suddenly self-conscious of her seemingly unladylike appearance and also that she may have been overheard in full voice. This was a pleasure she rarely let others hear her enjoy. She hastily smoothed out the front of her dusty smock and ran a delicate dirt encrusted hand through her damp matted hair.
“Oh it’s you,” she said with a chill in her voice. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Not long” her brother lied. He knew she would be embarrassed if she realised he had been standing there watching for the past 10 minutes or so. But the love he had for her was one that went back so many years. The strengths she had displayed in the past, when he was on hard times, her love and support had been the catalyst that held him together. There was a time when life seemed almost unbearable. He had entertained thoughts of suicide and she had shown him there was light at the end of the road, a reason to go on! She was the strong one, no doubt about it. Without her he would not be the man he was today, yet people of the city referred to him as a self-made man. If only they knew the insecurity he had felt, the indecision that plagued him on a daily basis and the feeling of anxiety that gripped his gut constantly. Yet through it all, here was his sister doing her ‘Quarterly cleaning.’ How bizarre life was. The calm were content yet the achievers were not. There must be a lesson to be learnt there surely, he thought. Lost in his inner world of thoughts and feelings for what seemed an eternity, although in reality only a few seconds, he was told to get his weary ageing body into the kitchen for some food and much needed liquid refreshment.

Once inside the sprawling house, Speck went to freshen up and change from her dusty clothes whilst Lister changed from his travelling attire. She called him into the kitchen as she prepared some food.

Lister wondered why Speck hadn’t bothered with a cook or housekeeper after all the wealth he had created and shared with her. All the other influential citizens of the city had them, why not his Sister?’ As if she was once more reading his thoughts, (as she tended to do when they were children), she announced, “it’s much more fun to cook your own food, because it gives one a feeling of earning it, instead of just eating.” She placed a large portion of peeled potatoes into the cooking pot and wiped her wet hands on the clean apron she wore over her expensive blue silk dress.

She sat on a stool opposite him and with her familiar directness asked, “What’s the dream this time, oh brother of mine. I have seen that look in your eyes too many times to think this is just a social call. Are you planning more business expansion? Wishing to open new markets, or is there a new line of merchandise you have been made aware of that you want to track down and import?”
“Neither… as a matter of fact this is something so new and so elusive that I’m not even really sure where or how I should start. I have been given some direction by Michael, a starting point at least. I’m not sure where it will lead or if it will lead anywhere at all, but at least I am willing to pursue it.”
Speck was thoughtful as she drank in her brother’s words, “You are right, it doesn’t sound like a business venture to me… sounds more along the lines of a personal search for something.”
She thought for a while then continued. “Has this anything to do with your change of mood over the past few weeks? I have noticed that you have lost the usual zest and vitality you always exude while around your staff and acquaintances. It’s as if someone has pulled a cork from your mind and allowed the energy to simply drain out, leaving the man, but not the motivation.”
Speck thoughtfully rose from the stool and absent-mindedly prodded the vegetables that were by now simmering on the kitchen fire.
Half out loud she uttered, “I think I know what you are seeking and what you are looking for, but it can only be found within, In order to go within, you will have to start your journey by going out.”
Realizing she was muttering, she turned from the pot and returned to the seat opposite her brother. The look on his face was enough to tell her that not only were her mutterings audible enough for him to hear but they were also accurate.Apologetically she cleared her throat and made small talk about the ramblings of a silly old woman.

“On the contrary sis, you are as always, accurate,” replied Lister as he warmed, once more, to his sister and the subject of their discussion.
“I have, as you observed, been somewhat low on excitement for what I am doing lately. It used to be that I would wake up early each morning, full of joy and enthusiasm for what lay ahead. Each day seemed like a new adventure, a miracle waiting to appear. Each moment was filled with anticipation for the next. But, recently I’ve been waking up later, getting out of bed slower, arriving at the office the same time but leaving earlier. I am experiencing restlessness and dissatisfaction in the world around me, but unable to pin- point the cause of it. On the surface, nothing has changed and the companies are all growing with natural expansion. My family seem content and my wife wants for nothing either. To use her own words ‘she is as contented as a cow in the meadow with a calf in tow.’ She has security, love, affection and a real sense of fulfilment.”

Speck interrupted Lister gently, “and that is what you are seeking isn’t it Lister, that feeling of fulfilment. To feel that away from the busy hectic world of finance and economical banter you still have a place where you belong, a place where you have value, yet no pressure, a place where you can simply BE.”

As she gazed into the tired eyes of her brother she felt a lump come to her throat as she saw tears brimming in his reddened eyes and trickling down his sagging cheeks, dissolving into the soft fabric of his elegant jacket.
“Lister you can find what you are missing, but it will be like no other journey you have ever undertaken. There will be highs and lows. You will experience things that you cannot see. You will see things you cannot explain, you will feel feelings that you do not know and lose feelings that are familiar. It is an odyssey that anyone can encounter, but few have the strength to endure the trials and challenges that must be faced and overcome. The victory will be sweet and the pain soon forgotten as you embrace this complete way of living. Till now you have been living as only half a person. Don’t look so alarmed. Most people don’t even live as much as that. You are an incredible human being, full of love, compassion and passion itself for the things you have done. There have been lives you have changed; the hope you have given to others, the opportunities you have created and the empire you have built. Now is the time for you to create for yourself that which you have done for others.”

Wiping the tears from his face and dabbing at his jacket sleeves, Lister in a quiet voice said. “Why is it that you know so much about the things I am searching for? It’s as though you have already been through the process yourself…Have you?” he enquired.
Smiling now, Speck nodded in agreement saying, “Remember several years ago when I said I needed a change of scenery and that I just wanted to get away for a while?” Not waiting for a reply she continued, “I was at the stage you are now. Looking for more than I knew at that time, not knowing what there was, only knowing there must be more. I found other people that in the past had felt the same way and asked for advice as to where I could begin to discover the secrets of Inner Peace and Fulfilment. It was a journey that took many months and many more miles to complete and that was only the physical aspect of the discovery. The real tests came when I had to journey inwardly and that, my darling brother, is something that only you can do for yourself. Compared to the physical side of the pilgrimage, it is tougher and far more draining and at times terrifying. But here I am telling you what you will discover for yourself and possibly painting a dismal picture into the bargain. So enough of this idle chatter. I don’t know whom it was that Michael suggested you visit, but if they are not able to assist you, might I suggest that you contact William the old man you had working for you a while ago.

There was stunned silence as Lister digested the shock announcement his sister had just delivered and grappled with its implications. Stammering, he looked up through glazed eyes and asked her how she knew about William. He informed her that it was in fact William, who Michael had said he should seek out before setting out on the Journey.
Nodding her head in agreement she said, “Good, he will be of great assistance to you in the beginning. Interestingly you only know him as a watchman. When you meet him again however, you will feel you are the one that is out of your depth and you will see William in a different light. At the same time he’s a familiar friend, someone you have known for many years but you’ll feel you’ve never met before.” She ended with, “There I go prattling off again. What have you told your wife and family, and how did they react?”
“Wanda has been wonderful about it. She knows something is troubling me although she doesn’t at this point know the full extent of what I’m proposing. She will stand by whatever I decide to do as she always does. The children… well they are not young anymore and are so involved with their own lives that I doubt they will miss the old man, as they refer to me behind my back. So I will have my lovely wife’s blessing to go for as long as it takes and return when I have discovered the cryptic clues (as she fondly calls them) to the riddle of Inner Peace and Self-Fulfilment. I needed to see you before I made any final plans and I wanted your input. You are my last call before the great unknown,” Lister chuckled, “and very pleased I am that I called. You have me intrigued and I admit, a little anxious about the undertaking. More than anything, I am excited about meeting the stranger that I have known all my life, very mysterious indeed. It was my wish that I could persuade you to join me, but evidently a hollow desire as I find you have already undertaken this journey. The journey of ‘self discovery’. Tell me one last thing sis, was it really worth it?”
“More than I can say Lister, though at times I did wonder whether the end was worth the doing. And as to your request… even if I had not been on the journey before you, I feel my adventuring days are over as I’m approaching sixty. I now want to enjoy my grandchildren, nieces and nephews. There is so much I can share with them as a result of our other adventures together. Thank you for the thought, but I’m happy to stay put for this one and in any case, this is one adventure you have to do on your own. If I came along you would only find me a hindrance. “Now let’s eat and you should get some rest before you start your new journey of discovery.”

Chapter 1 "The Crisis"

Business was booming, profits were up, shareholders, customers and employees were content. A magnificent position to be in, surely he must be the envy of his competitors, considered to be a worthy role model for young and old aspiring entrepreneurs. Having had such an impoverished start, lacking in all the skills and knowledge displayed by others in the field of business, he had grown rich and powerful by being bold in his decisions. He became prudent with his risk-taking by employing the 7 Disciplines of Tung Fu that he and his sister Speck had discovered more than 30, no 40 years ago.

Surely it was not that long ago… but yes it had to have been, for at the time he was not even in his teens. Now in his fifties with a wife and grown up family of his own he was older than his father had been when they left on their first great adventure. Speck and he determined to find the meaning of the document they had found earlier that same year. Now 40 years had elapsed. Where had the time gone? He mused as he gazed into the reflection of his older face, the receding hairline, the furrowed brow and the sad eyes that gazed back at him from the silver tray lying on his desk with the remains of his morning refreshment; a cup of lemon scented tea and a soft round cake that he could never remember the name of but the taste of which he enjoyed nonetheless. No doubt about it, Mrs. Fleming was indeed the mistress of her domain. The bake-house was at the end of the laneway behind the impressive store where he now sat pondering. What was wrong? All that he had just been thinking about, the success of his business ventures, the closeness he had with his family, the health that he enjoyed? In fact he should be the happiest person alive.
“Well why aren’t I?” He remonstrated out loud.

Just then the door to his palatial office silently swung open to reveal Michael, his personal assistant and constant work companion.
“Everything all right Sir?” he enquired in his familiar neutral tone.
“Fine, fine. Just having a quiet chat with myself” answered Lister with a grin, adding, “Well maybe it wasn't as quiet as it should have been, eh Michael?”
With that the silhouetted form of Michael entered the hallowed hall known as ‘The Office’.
Michael, once out of sight and earshot of other employees, lost his reserved air and began in a much more familiar and personal tone.
“What’s up Lister, you’ve been out of sorts for the past few weeks, is there anything I can do to help?”

“Oh, I don’t know Michael. You’ve been a great friend over the past 10 or so years as well as an excellent employee but it’s your friendship that I value most of all, but in this
instance I don’t think even you can help me, because I don’t know if there are any answers to what bothers me.”

Lister sighed and drained the remains of his tea placing the cup thoughtfully back on the tray, the tray that seemed to have started his present train of thought. Michael was right; he had been feeling a little lost for the past few weeks. Nothing seemed to give him pleasure anymore, not that he was depressed. No, it just seemed that the sparkle had left him, the vitality for what he was doing. He was in no way ready to die but just seemed to have nothing worthwhile to live for. He had achieved so much and it appeared that even though he was loved by his family, they no longer seemed to need him, as they had done in the past.
“What’s next? What’s the point of anything anymore?” These questions were intended for him only, but as before he had verbalized them audibly. Realizing his mistake he looked straight into the eyes of his faithful friend
Michael, who replied. “What’s the point of what anymore, are you talking about living or breathing?”
Lister was taken aback. “What’s the difference, aren’t they both really the same in the end?”

“Not really,” Michael smiled. “Breathing is a function, living is an experience. You can have the function without the experience, but never the experience without the function. It seems to me that you want the function to continue, but need something to give the experience new meaning.”

“Michael you have clarified it with rapier precision as always, but how do I find this new experience? There is nothing I cannot have, see, or do, that money can buy. There is nothing. So I ask you. What is it I can do?”
“Conquer the world within ” was the prompt reply.
“Conquer the world within what? What does that mean?” protested Lister.

After a brief pause he once again looked into Michael’s eyes, grinned then continued.
“You mean search inside me for a peaceful world where I can live in harmony with all that is around me, no matter how chaotic it may seem?”

“What do you think?” was the brief yet gentle reply. Michael smiled once more then turned and headed towards the huge doors he had entered by.

Just as he reached for the handle he looked at his employer. In a low voice, so others, who may be outside would not hear, asked Lister if he remembered the old man they previously employed. His job had been to keep an eye on the building when it was shut, such as public days, celebrations or when festivals were in progress.
“You mean old William that lives out by the mill on the South road? Of course I remember him, he was a very quiet fellow but he always made me feel better about myself whenever I spent some time with him. What about him?”

“Well, rumor has it that he is more than he appeared to be when he was with us. It may pay you handsomely to take a trip to visit him and share the discussion we have just had. Now I must get back to the records I was completing before you startled me with your cry for help.”

As Michael slid through the gap in the separated doors, Lister felt a pang of indignation, ‘Cry for help indeed;’ he thought. Why should he, Lister, of all people be so vulnerable that he would cry out for help. As he sat there ruminating, he conceded that perhaps the cunning old fox Michael was right. He was indeed crying out for help, help that he himself was not aware he needed.

Being brought back to the present, Lister heard the jangling of a bell, one that was fitted behind his desk. It was used to announce the start of his weekly meetings with the directors of his vast commercial empire. That was the 10-minute warning bell. Wonderful he told himself, I have just enough time to formulate a plan that I can present, to enable me to take some time off, and once again search for the secrets I now need to discover… the answer to the riddle of inner conquest.

He made some brief notes on his personally embossed parchments and made a mental note to call on Speck before he set off on his new quest.
Even though he was much older now, he felt the same sense of excitement and urgency in his heart, stomach and legs he had felt when he and his sister had set out all those years ago on their adventures. To his surprise, and with delight, he noted a new spring in his step and eagerness in his walk as he left his office. He made his way through the back corridors to the meeting hall where the expectant group was gathered.

Preface and Contents

The Awakening
by Stephen K. Hayles

This is a Book which hopefully many can enjoy and possibility be Inspired.
Any Publishers Interested please email the address in my profile.

Many Thanks 

There comes a time in life when we ask. ‘What is it all for, why am I here and where will it end?’
Lister, the main character of this book has reached such a stage. He is at that point in his life where he has achieved everything he thought would make him happy. He has wealth, power, prestige and a loving home life. Still he feels there is something missing. What is it? How can he obtain it? Where will he find it?
He is led by several turns of events to make yet another Journey of discovery. This time he is alone, without the aid of his sister, his travelling companion on all his other adventures. Only he can uncover the mysteries that hold the secret to a better way of life for himself, family, associates and business interests.
Spiritual as well as physical hardships await him as he has to confront ghosts from the past and allay fears about the future. Grappling with long held beliefs and prejudices, he unravels conundrums that have haunted men and women from the very beginning of time. Meeting and mixing with people not from his world, he learns much and is touched by many.
At the end of his quest, armed with new knowledge, he faces his greatest challenge of all. Does he have the courage to change?

1. The Crisis 1
2. The Stranger 9
3. Planning 21
4. Clearing the Past 39
5. Muse 49
6. Visions 59
7. In search of the Soul 67
8. Discovering the present 79
9. Shimmering Lake 89
10. Lost Direction 99
11. Inner Voice 111
12. The Messenger 119
13. Faith 123
14. Sacred Triangle 135
15. Victory 151
16. Inner Peace 161
17. The Purple Veil 171
18. Parcels and Pillows 185
19. Restart 193