BY DEEPAK CHOPRA, M.D.
There exists within each of us a natural state of simple and open awareness. In this state we feel light, happy, and at peace. In contrast, the state of suffering is complicated. Complications take many forms, including an imbalanced lifestyle, toxic relationships, stress, hidden emotional debts, resistance, indecision, addictions, and negative conditioned beliefs. When our life is overly complicated, we’re weighed down by superfluous things at every level.
We can begin to let go of the complications that cause us to suffer by working toward a simpler state of awareness each day. In this process, tiny steps yield big results, in part because simplicity is nature’s default position. Suffering and the complications that fuel it are unnatural – it wastes energy to maintain complexity.
LETTING GO OF COMPLEXITY
Meditation will help you let go of whatever is no longer serving you and help you return to your inherent state of wholeness, happiness and well-being.
To begin, ask yourself, “Is there anything in my life that is causing me to feel a sense of unease, discomfort or pain?” You can choose a persistent issue that has bothered you for years or it may be something that has recently occurred. While it’s fine to focus on a chronic physical disorder, don’t approach this exercise as a cure – we’re focusing on patterns of perception that encourage us to hold on to suffering.
The most common complications:
Disorder: Consider your physical environment. Is your house a mess? Is your desk buried under stacks of work? Are you letting other people leave clutter and messes in the space you share?
Stress: While the pressures of life are inevitable, if at the end of the day you are unable to completely let go of events during the day and return to a calm, centered inner state, you are overstressed. I suggest to make a list of the major stressors in your life, then brainstorm ideas of ways to either eliminate or change the impact of the stressor.
Toxic Relationships: Are you in relationships with people who don’t have your well-being at heart? Make a list of these and consider what you can do to protect yourself from their toxic influence. Sometimes setting better boundaries and practicing the tools of conscious communication can be transformative. In some cases, ending a relationship may be necessary. At the same time, focus on nurturing your healthy relationships so that they are even more loving and fulfilling.
Negativity: Health and well-being are the natural state of the body and mind. By dwelling on negativity, we prevent ourselves from living in the simple state of well-being. Do you find yourself enjoying to gossip, in company with friends who like to criticize and complain, or focus on every disaster or catastrophe unfold on the evening news? Remember, whatever we put our attention on expands in our experience, so consider where you are focusing your time and energy.
Inertia: When you passively give in to old habits and conditioning, dwell on what’s “wrong” in your life yet make no effort to change – you are stuck in inertia. To get out of this rut, start by thinking of the smallest possible action you could take to change – then act on it. Then choose another, and do that. Gradually you will build momentum and break free from old patterns of inertia.
Energy and sensations: Our body is always sending signals of comfort or discomfort, and many of us have learned to interpret these signals in ways that confirm our own suffering. We have the ability to move beyond conditioned thought patterns by stripping away the interpretations from our sensations.
Try this simple meditative process for tuning in to the body:
• Sit comfortably and take a long, deep breath. Now scan through your body from the crown of your head to your feet, feeling whatever sensations arise.
• Feel the sensation with no judgment or analysis. Just connect.
• Allow any feelings, thoughts or energies to arise. Let the voice of fear, anger, sadness, or any other feeling speak. Listen to what the voices say and see if your understanding deepens.
• Watch the energy of whatever sensation you’re experiencing disperse. Instead of trying to force your body to completely discharge, know that your body will let go of as much stored energy as it can in the moment.
• Repeat the process again in a few hours or the next day.
For the next month, sit by yourself for at least five minutes each day with the intention of clearing away complications. In the time you set aside for this clearing, determine your area of focus and work on that. It may be one of the complications mentioned above or a different area that is preventing you from experiencing a state of peaceful simplicity.
MEDITATION OPENS US TO CLARITY AND PEACE
Deliberately incorporating new behavior, new ideas and new approaches into your everyday life habits gives your mind the opportunity to adopt fresh perspectives. This can help release you from the old conditioning. In this regard, having a regular meditation practice is invaluable.
When we meditate, we begin to gain some distance from our thoughts and emotions. We observe them and gently return our attention to our mantra, breath, or whatever object of meditation we prefer to use. As we witness our mental activity without attempting to resist or change it, there is a spontaneous calming of inner commotion. We start to see that there is more to who we are than our moods or thoughts, and we may also observe that the sensations associated with the negative state dissolve altogether.
How wonderful to know that we don’t have to repress what we feel in order to experience this inner peace! In fact, repressing emotions never leads to emotional freedom but only adds to the accumulation of emotional toxicity and complications in our lives. By releasing these emotions, they can move through and out of our bodies. With a regular meditation practice, pure awareness and the sense of spaciousness and ease in our daily lives grows, and it becomes easy to let go of old patterns of thinking and feeling.
DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE
Several times a year the Chopra Center offers a meditation and yoga retreat called Seduction of Spirit, where I guide hundreds of participants from around the world in timeless tools and techniques for expanded awareness. I will admit, this is one of my favorite events, because if we want greater peace and well-being in our lives and in the world, the first step is transforming our awareness – and one of the most powerful ways to do that is through meditation.
As you focus on simplifying your life, make sure your approach to the process is a loving and accepting one. Know that you are now doing all that you can do right now, and that is all anyone can do. When you stay in the moment, you have all the time in the world, and whatever needs to be done will be completed in the exact right time.
At the Chopra Center we recommend people learn meditation from a certified instructor that can guide them in the fundamentals, answer any questions, and eliminate frustrations and confusion that lead many beginners to abandon their meditation practice.