The Joy of the Deeper Mind at Work


Joy awaits us all. When we work with the ordinary levels of our mind, everything's harder that it could be. When we clear away the clutter and get beyond the chatter of the normal conscious mind, joyous magic can happen.

I recently posted on social media that I had, a few days ago, finished the final major editing of the eight books that now exist in a series of novels that I've been working on for five years, since February 2011. It's the first experience of writing where I wasn't working hard in my conscious mind to think and compose. It was all a gift of the deeper mind, a layer of mentality or soul, if you will, that we all have, but that we don't often enough draw on, day to day.

These books and the stories they convey came to me, as I've said before, like a movie in my head, a translucent screening of an action and adventure story far beyond anything I could ever have created out of my ordinary operating resources. In fact, when I first started reading the manuscripts out loud to my wife, she interrupted to say, "Who are you and what have you done with my husband?" It was all that different from my nineteen previous books, all non-fiction.

One reviewer of the prologue to the series, The Oasis Within, suggested that a series of conversations between people crossing the desert wasn't that big a stretch for me, and not that far out of my comfort zone as a philosopher who is always talking about life wisdom. And he was right. But there are all these little details and plot points in Oasis that I never would have thought to develop. And there's a reason that The Oasis Within is a prologue to the new series and not a numbered volume of it. It's mostly great conversations. It prepares one of the characters for the action that's to come. And it prepared me for it, as well. But a younger reader, or a reader who just loves action can start with Book One of the series, Walid and the Mysteries of Phi, the book that's now recently out by the title The Golden Palace, which is full of action, adventure, mystery, and intrigue and brings us philosophy in an entirely new key. And all the other books are like that one in this regard, too. It's like slowly walking up to a door, and opening it, and what's inside takes you completely by surprise and launches you into an adventure that just won't stop.

A Leadership Book!


I just got an email from a neighbor passing on the comments of a friend of his in India who recently read The Oasis Within and praised it as a wisdom book, a relationship book, and a leadership book. That last category made me pause. Hmmm.

In the shower later where philosophy often takes place, I came to realize that it is indeed a leadership book. Seventy-year-old Ali is preparing thirteen-year-old Walid for leadership. I started rerunning each of the chapters in my mind, with their themes. How to keep calm, how to stay balanced, how to deal with a sudden challenge and learn from it, the way our actions create danger or delight, how we approach opportunity, the importance of wisdom and sharing it, the different types of people we live and work around, risk management, the elements of success, the gift of uncertainty and how to deal well with it ... the topics do add up to an amazing leadership primer that I didn't realize was resulting from the conversations in the book.

And here I am the author, who wrote it years ago, and returned to it to edit again and again, rereading, pondering, and imagining. And I hadn't seen this hugely important thing.

That's why I write books. And that's why we should all share our ideas with other people. They may see aspects of what we're doing that we might have missed ourselves.

So, now I have a new sales pitch: If you want a great leadership book (Who knew?) go get The Oasis Within. On Amazon. Or Or any online bookseller. Or ask your local store. And write me and tell me what else you discover in it that I may have had NO IDEA about!

A Most Remarkable Book Signing


I recently had the great joy of speaking to nearly 600 Indiana judges, hosted by their Chief Justice and the Indiana Supreme Court, pictured above. After a lively hour of philosophy, a lot of the honorables stood in line during their lunch hour, trading food for philosophy, to buy a copy of The Oasis Within and have me sign it. The conversations we had as a result were amazing.

Judges confront daily the most troubling problems of our society, and most often the people causing those problems. They face difficulty, tragedy, and the entire range of human emotions played out in their courts. It has to be emotionally exhausting. And the workload never lets up. They don't have a hard week followed by a light load. It's endless. And the wonderful irony is that, surrounded by the greatest threats to societal disorder, they play such a crucial role in maintaining the order that allows for a flourishing culture. And, as you can imagine, it's never an easy job. Then, in their spare time, as if they have any, they do volunteer work in their communities. I was inspired just being with them.

One man recalled having heard me speak 21 years ago. He said the meeting occurred at the lowest period of his career and life, and that the hour had been just the inspiration he had needed. And now here he was, all those years later, flourishing and loving his work.

Another remembered that same event, all those years ago, and thanked me for in that talk having gotten him excited about philosophy, which he has read now for over twenty years. He works with addicts and tries to impart to them the best wisdom for living. He snatched up a copy of the new book as perhaps just the thing he needed to share with those he counsels.

The judges' enthusiasm for the new book was great to see. The Oasis Within is about inner resilience, outer results, and so much of the wisdom we need in navigating a challenging and often gratifying world. I look forward to hearing from the judges as they begin to read, ponder, and use the ideas in the book. It's a rare book signing where you see so many new books go out the door with so many avid readers who are in a position to use its ideas for great good in their communities and in their lives.

If you have a chance, thank a judge for all that they do! I sure took the opportunity I had to do so.

The Diary of Walid: Inner Peace


From the Appendix at the end of The Oasis Within, these are excerpts from a diary kept by the thirteen-year-old Egyptian boy, Walid, as he's crossing the desert in 1934 with his uncle Ali. At the end of the day, by the light of a candle or lamp, he writes down things he's learned from what he's heard, seen, and experienced. I'll provide some early samples here, and then comment.

An oasis is fun, safe, and relaxing. We can carry an oasis within us wherever we go, an inner place of calm and refreshment, by using our thoughts well.

We all have in our minds something like an emotional telescope. If we look through the end everyone uses, things will seem bigger than they really are. But we can flip it around and look through the other end. That will make things appear smaller and less threatening. So whenever anything looks big and overwhelming, say to yourself, “Flip the telescope!”

Almost anything needs interpretation. That’s where freedom begins.

Whether something is a big deal or not often turns on how we see it. If you think it’s a big deal, it is. But you can change your mind on many things and shrink them down to size.

Wisdom for life is about seeing things properly. It’s about perspective. This gives us power, because it brings peace to our hearts, and then we can think clearly, even in difficult times.

If I live most fully with my heart and mind in the reality of the present moment, I will feel better and be more effective.

Things are not always what they seem. In fact, they often aren’t.

Whenever life brings us a storm, we should use what we have, stay calm, and move quickly to respond well.

An oasis within us is a place of peace and power in our hearts.

We can learn the most from the most difficult things.

We can’t control the day, but only what we make of the day. We should always try to make the best of whatever comes our way.


Originally, The Oasis Within did not include Walid's Diary. A man I often see at the gym read the first draft of the book and he said, "It's amazing how many good ideas are in this book, really vital perspectives we all need. It would be really nice if there was some way to summarize the main points at the end, to help the reader remember all the great concepts."

I thought that was an interesting suggestion. But I had seen many books with summaries of chapters, or even of the whole book, that weren't very helpful, and were naturally very repetitive. I didn't want to add anything artificially to the book that had come to me, as if from outside me. So I waited. And then a little voice told me that Walid was keeping a journal during the trip across the desert. Sometimes he would record or summarize the wisdom he had gleaned from his uncle that day. Other times he would ponder it a bit more. And he would even have his own insights to add. And the journal began revealing itself, just as the chapters of the book had. Now, each novel in the subsequent series also has a diary at the end. To get these, I had to go into a zen meditative state and allow it to come to me. And it did.

The Oasis Within - The Story Behind the Story


Today I have a great official announcement, unofficially posted on Facebook and Twitter yesterday. A new era has come! And a new way of being a philosopher has arrived with it.

In February of 2011, after a breakfast of toast and coffee, I suddenly had the most vivid daydream of my life. An old man and a boy were sitting under a palm tree, at a beautiful desert oasis, talking. They were in Egypt. It was 1934. And their conversation was really great. I was intrigued. It was all so real, and so different from anything I had ever experienced. I have a robust imagination, but nothing like this. As the movie played in my head, I ran up the stairs to my study to start writing it down. The boy, age thirteen, was with his much older uncle, and it seemed that they were crossing the desert with friends from a small village in western Egypt, on their way to Cairo. I wrote until the vision passed, and I posted the few pages I had written out, as a transcription, on The Huffington Post. Right away, I got lots of enthusiastic emails. "What is this? This is great!" I didn't know what it was.

The next day, the movie started up again. And I wrote down everything I saw and heard. This went on for weeks, and then months. The characters talk about such things as inner peace, the challenge of change, the dynamic nature of balance, how things can help or harm us, the true power of the mind, the hidden structures of our world, the importance of wisdom, the elements of human nature, the necessity of love, the requirements of success, and the world’s strangest gift of all - uncertainty. I could be almost anywhere, doing almost anything, and I'd have to grab a pen and paper and start writing. Pretty soon, I realized that I had an entire book. It was called The Oasis Within. I knew that because I woke up with the title seared in my mind. Yeah, it's all strange. But interesting strange. And it was the most fun, by far, that I've ever had writing - or doing anything as a philosopher.

The story continued. A second book, much bigger, appeared, as if it were already fully formed in every detail and I just had to get it in that movie form so I could write it down, as well. I never had to make up anything. And I never did. It all just came to me, in a rush. It was like drinking out of an open fire hydrant. It was all I could do to type fast enough. Egyptian names, historical references, stuff I didn't know anything about at all - but at the end of each day, I began to research what I had seen in the movie, and all sorts of odd details turned out to be true of the time and the place. How was this happening? I had no idea. The first book, it turned out, was a fascinating conversational prologue to what was now obviously a much longer action, adventure, and mystery novel full of comedy, romance, politics, crime, and, most of all, philosophy. I was seeing a deep worldview developed by the characters in what they did and said.  It really blew me away.

The second book was more than twice the length of the first one. Then, the movie picked up again - there was a third, even bigger, book, and a fourth one, and on and on. Book eight came to a wild culmination, and the movie projectionist, whoever it is, then took a break. I was nearly a million words into the most unexpected adventure of my life, and what I now think of as the culmination of my work as a public philosopher interested in understanding as much as I can about what we're doing in this world, and how we can do it best. I learned more from the movie than I had at Yale, UNC, and Notre Dame combined. But they had all prepared me well for this wild and unexpected journey.

One friend, a former student, who is a highly acclaimed novelist, read the first two books in draft and said, "This is The Alchemist meets Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones." That was encouraging. And the first edition of the first book just came out in its first form - a really beautiful paperback. The hardcover version, and an ebook, are due out within a week or two. But the paperback is now there, waiting for you, at Amazon, hoping you're curious. The hardcover and the ebook will be available through any bookseller, and also very soon. But if you want to see the opening chapters in the new adventure right now, the journey that has changed my own life for the better, please go, click here, The Oasis Within, and read and tell me soon what you think!

To quote one of the characters, "Much is yet to be revealed."