As the New Year begins, you may be filled with fresh energy and inspiration for everything you want to experience, create, and achieve in the months ahead. Perhaps you are dreaming about starting a new business, going back to school, traveling to Bali, or spending more time with your family. Maybe your heart longs for a romantic relationship or the chance to express your creativity. Just for a moment, take this opportunity to ask yourself:
What do I want? What do I truly, deeply desire? Let the answers drift effortlessly to the surface of your mind without rejecting any as impossible or impractical. Now choose one of your desires and ask yourself: Why do I want what I want? If you want to lose twenty pounds, ask yourself why you have that desire. You may answer, “I want to look more attractive, fit into fashionable clothes, be healthier, have more energy” and so on.
Now let’s dig even deeper. If you want to lose weight to look more attractive, ask yourself why you want to look better. For many people, cultivating an appealing physical appearance is part of a larger goal – perhaps they want to attract a romantic partner or create a confident image that will help them get a promotion or new job. If you keep asking the question, “Why do I want what I want?” sifting through the layers, you’ll see that although the number of desires you can have is infinite, the ultimate goal of all goals is happiness. No matter what we want, we want it because we think that in the end it will make us happy. Yet social scientists such as Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and Dr. Ed Diener have found that the opposite is true. People who are happy are more likely to enjoy loving relationships, health and vitality, higher incomes, and successful careers.
Choose joy over willpower
When you ask yourself, “What do I want?” notice whether your desire feels relaxed and loving. Is it coming from a place of enthusiasm, inspiration, joy, and inner fullness? These are signals that your desire is coming from your true self, which is already happy. On the other hand, if your desire is dominated by feelings of frustration or fear and rejection of your present circumstances, then it is more likely to be ego-based. You can manifest an ego-based desire through sheer willpower, but it takes a lot of effort and you may not feel as fulfilled when you attain it as you imagined you would. Since willpower is a limited fuel source, you may also find yourself giving up in frustration long before you reach your goal. This is the reason why most New Year’s resolutions are abandoned after a few weeks – because they are usually ego-based desires rooted in fear or a sense of obligation. When we stray from the diet we really didn’t want to go on or we fail to stick to our budget or clean out the garage, we may then experience more self-criticism, guilt, and doubt, which only moves us further away from our ultimate goal of happiness. However, if our desires and intentions come from a place of joy and wellbeing, instead of relying on our limited willpower and energy, we harness the infinite forces of the universe.
Rather than trying to create from the level of the ego, or intellect, we need to connect to our deepest self and desires and allow transformation to flow from the inside out. This is why it is so important to spend a little time each day in the inner quiet of meditation. In the silence, we can hear the still quiet voice of our true self, which so often is drowned out by the ego’s loud insistence and echoing fears. You recognize that you are connected with all that exists and that the consciousness behind your thoughts is also the consciousness behind all the intelligent activity of the universe. In this state of expanded awareness, you let go of limiting beliefs and fears, allowing the infinite field of infinite creativity and intelligence to fulfill your desires with
effortless ease. If you want to cultivate more joy, creativity, and love in your life, the principles that follow will help you shift your internal reference point from the limitations of the egomind to the freedom of spirit.
Laughter is the healthiest response to life
While we all experience loss and sorrow, in the end, joy and laughter dispel suffering like so much smoke and dust. When you feel momentary happiness, or you want to burst out laughing, or you smile for no apparent reason, you are glimpsing eternal reality. For a fleeting moment, the curtain parts and you experience something beyond the illusion. In time, these moments of joy will begin to knit together. Instead of being the exception, the primordial state of joy will become the norm.
There is always a reason to be grateful
The purpose of gratitude is to connect yourself to a higher vision of life. You have the power to choose where you focus your attention, and whatever you focus on will grow in your experience. If you pay attention to those aspects of spirit that demonstrate love, truth, beauty, intelligence, and
harmony, those aspects will expand in your life. Bit by bit, like a mosaic, disparate fragments of grace will merge to form a complete picture. Eventually this picture will replace the fearful or limited images created by your ego.
Your soul cherishes every aspect of your life
Your worth is absolute, and everything that happens to you − whether it feels good at the time or not − is part of a divine plan unfolding from the level of the soul. In the conventional view, self-worth comes down to having a strong ego. People who possess strong egos feel self confident and enjoy asserting themselves against obstacles. They meet challenges and in return life gives them money, status, and possessions – external rewards for external accomplishments. Yet in reality, your worth is the value of a soul, which is infinite and never varies. Since every event in your life isn’t happening just to a person but to a soul, everything in life should be cherished.
Your life has a purpose
Even when you feel lost or confused your life has a purpose. You determine that purpose at the soul level, and then that purpose unfolds in daily life as part of the divine plan. The more deeply you are connected to the plan, the more powerful it becomes in your life. Ultimately, nothing can stop it. As you spend time meditating and engaging in other practices that expand your awareness, you will become more and more certain of your true purpose.
You are safe
Many people live in a state of chronic anxiety, feeling isolated and threatened by all the potential threats of modern life. While fear feels very real, our true self can never be hurt or threatened. That’s why the ancient sages said that all fear is born of duality. When we know ourselves to be one with the ground of all existence, then nothing is separate or foreign to our nature and therefore nothing can truly threaten us.
You can gradually begin to let go of unhealthy fear by questioning your thoughts and opening your awareness. When fear arises, just observe yourself. See yourself, notice what your body and breath are doing, watch your behavior, your tone of voice − all of it. Then ask yourself, “Who is it that is observing all this?” The observer is your core self, your quiet center that exists outside of and independent of your fear. Shift your center of identity to that authentic self, and from that place you can be with fear without being in its grip. The fear is then only a disturbance within your larger field. This settled presence of your awareness will allow your fear to dissipate as you experience the joy and peace within.
Obstacles are opportunities in disguise
Obstacles are signals our true self sends us to let us know that we need to change directions or take a new tack. If your mind is open, it will perceive the next opportunity to do so. The secret is to abandon rigidity and trust in spontaneity. You can’t plan in advance how to meet the next challenge, yet most people try to do just that. They cling to a small repertoire of habits and reactions and they narrow their lives.
Sticking to the familiar may feel comforting but it will completely shut out the unknown, which is the same as hiding your potential from yourself. How will you know what you are capable of if you don’t open yourself to life’s mysteries or usher in the new? Whenever you catch yourself reacting in an old, familiar way, simply stop. Don’t invent a new reaction; don’t fall back on the opposite of what you usually do. Instead, ask for openness. Go inside, be with yourself, and allow your next response to come of its own accord.
There is a creative solution to every problem
Every question includes its own answer. The only reason a problem arises before its solution is that our minds are limited − we think in terms of sequences, of before and after. Outside the narrow boundaries of time, problems and solutions arise at the same instant. While you might think that heroic efforts are required to face the problems and the world, in fact the reverse is true. When you’re living in a state of expanded awareness, you act without effort, you feel joy in what you do, and your actions bring results.
You are a co-creator with the universe
You are a co-creator with the universe and infinite energy is available to you. To claim your creative power, you need only connect with the primal energies that play within you. The kind of energy you can call upon at any given moment depends on your level of consciousness. Most people rely on the superficial energies generated by the ego: anger, fear, competitive drive, the desire to achieve, and the yearning for approval. There is no right or wrong in the domain of energy, but the ego falls prey to the illusion that only anger fear, the drive to achieve, and so on are real. It ignores the higher energies of love, compassion, and truth. On the path to happiness, we proceed to subtler and subtler realms of the mind, and with each step, new levels of energy become available. At the highest levels of consciousness, all energy becomes available. At that point, all of your wishes and desires are in alignment with the universe, God, or spirit. You are able to create with effortless ease and you experience the spontaneous fulfillment of your desires.
Finding fulfillment in meditation
Meditation is one of the most powerful practices for expanding your awareness of your true self and your essential spiritual nature. In meditation, you go beyond the ego-mind’s restless, confused state into a higher state that is clear and steady. This process is known as transcending. Countless traditions of meditation originated in India and China before spreading throughout the East, but they have in common the same notion of how reality works. Reality flows from finer to grosser states. First there is stillness and silence, then there are subtle objects of the mind (thoughts, emotions, sensations), and finally there are solid objects and the material world itself. When you meditate you move back upstream, so to speak, going beyond the material world, then beyond the mind full of thoughts, emotions, and sensations, finally to arrive at stillness and silence. In the inner silence of meditation, old conditioning and thought patterns dissolve with effortless ease, revealing the shining radiance of your true self.
Here are three simple meditation practices that can help you awaken to your true self:
Meditation on the breath
Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Gently put your attention on the tip of your nose. Breathe in and out normally, and as you do feel the air flowing through your nostrils. envision your breath as a faint cloud of pale golden light going in and out of your nose. Feel the soft energy being carried by your breath. Let it relax you and still your mind, but easily, without forcing anything to happen. The process will take care of itself. To help keep your attention from wandering, you can add the sound hoo when you exhale.
Meditation on the heart
Sitting quietly with your eyes closed, rest your attention on your heart. You don’t need to be anatomically precise. Simply find a place in the center of your chest where your attention can rest easily. As you breathe in and out naturally, keep your attention there. Allow any feelings and sensations to arise and pass. If your attention wanders, gently bring it back to rest on your heart.
Meditation on the light
Sitting quietly with your eyes closed, envision a soft mixture of white light tinged with gold flowing through your body. See the light come up from your feet and fill your torso. Watch it continue up through your chest and head until it comes out through the crown of your head and goes straight up until it disappears from view. Now envision the same sparkling light descending back down, first entering through the crown of your head. It reverses the upward path from head to chest to torso, exiting the body through the soles of your feet. Once you have mastered this visualization, time it with your breathing. On the inhale, slowly draw the light up from your feet and out the top of your head. On the exhale, draw the light in through the top
of your head and out through your feet. Don’t force the rhythm. Breathe slowly and naturally in a relaxed state as you perform the visualization.
Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a modern-day health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization. www.chopra.com