Happiness is something everyone desires. Yet how to find happiness-or even if we deserve to-remains a mystery. Still more mysterious is the secret to a lasting happiness that cannot be taken away. In The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, bestselling author Deepak Chopra shows us seven keys to uncover the true secrets of joy in the most difficult times.
The goal of life is the expansion of happiness, he contends. But in today's demanding world, that goal seems elusive, if not impossibly out of reach. Society reinforces the belief that fulfillment comes from achieving success, wealth, and good relationships. Yet Chopra tells us that the opposite is true: all success in life is the by-product of happiness, not the cause.
So what is the cause? The Ultimate Happiness Prescription shares spiritual principles for a life based on a sense of your "true self" lying beyond the ebb and flow of daily living. Simple daily exercises lead to eliminating the root causes of unhappiness and letting a deeper level of bliss unfold.
After all avenues to happiness have been explored and exhausted, only one path is left: the journey to enlightenment. In The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, the daunting and exotic challenge of finding enlightenment becomes accessible step by step. We are taken on an inspiring journey to the true self, the only place untouched by trouble and misfortune.
On the way we learn the secrets for living mindfully and with effortless spontaneity. Now happiness is no longer hostage to external events but an experience we carry with us always. As Chopra inspiringly concludes, "Everything we fear in the world and want to change can be transformed through happiness, the simplest desire we have, and also the most profound."
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November 16, 2009
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Excerpt from The Ultimate Happiness Prescription by Deepak Chopra
Your first and most reliable guide to happiness is your body. The body is designed to support the mind, and working together they create the state known as happiness. When you're deciding whether or not to act, ask your body, "How do you feel about this?" If your body sends back a signal of physical or emotional distress, reconsider the action. If your body sends a signal of comfort and eagerness, proceed. Together, mind and body form a single field. It is artificial to separate them as we usually do. Every experience has a physical component. If you're hungry, the mind and stomach are hungry together. If you have an incredible spiritual experience, your heart and liver cells share in it. You cannot have a single thought, sensation, or feeling without your body responding.
The first key to happiness tells us that by being aware of your body, you are connecting to the underlying field of infinite possibilities. Why do mind, body, and spirit feel separate when they are not? Because of lack of awareness. Awareness has tremendous power. It tunes into every cell. It regulates the body's countless interactions. Awareness is the invisible, silent agent that lets your body know what your mind is thinking, and at the same time it sends feedback from the body so that the mind feels supported and understood. Ideally, when you experience being loved, your mind will grasp that you are loved, your cells will be nourished by that love, and your soul will rejoice that you have reached deep enough to find the source of love. Every good thing in life saturates your whole being.
When mind, body, and spirit are in harmony, happiness is the natural result. Signs of the absence of harmony, on the other hand, are discomfort, pain, depression, anxiety, and illness in general. Unhappiness is a form of feedback. It signals that disharmony has entered the field somewhere--either in mind, body, or spirit. Awareness has become disconnected. Only when we look at the situation in this holistic way can we link health, wholeness, and holiness, for all three share the same root word, and all three share the same state of harmony or disharmony. You may have heard the saying "The issues are in the tissues." This refers to the fact that psychological issues such as anger, depression, neurosis, hostility, and free-floating anxiety are not simply psychological. They have a correlate in the brain, and through the central nervous system the brain makes every cell and tissue in your body aware that you have an issue.
The entire field quivers at the slightest twinge of pain or pleasure. In other words, the field is aware. When you consciously pay attention to what your body is telling you, this awareness is tremendously increased. Awareness isn't the same as having a thought. A mother is aware of how her child feels without having to think "A is bothering him" or "B has gone wrong." Awareness is intuitive. All you have to do is pay attention, and awareness grants you access to every corner of the infinite field. This is like being plugged into the cosmic computer, because when the field organizes the smallest thing in creation, it organizes the whole.
The opposite is also true. When you withdraw awareness, disruptions occur on many levels at the same time. Feedback loops no longer operate as they should between mind and body. The flow of energy and nourishment needed by every cell begins to diminish. By not paying attention to your body, you are putting it in the same predicament as a neglected child. How can a child be expected to develop normally if the parents pay no attention, if they ignore its cries for help, and remain indifferent to whether their child is happy or unhappy? The same question applies to the body, and it leads to the same answer. The body doesn't stop developing around age twenty, an arbitrary time we call maturity. Constant change is always taking place, all the way down to the level of genes. Change is never neutral. Either it leads to growth, development, and evolution or it leads in the opposite direction, toward decline, decay, and disorder. The difference depends on how you pay attention, because attention is your connection to the field of infinite possibilities.
The field has certain qualities or attributes that support mind, body, and spirit. There are three qualities that contribute to happiness most significantly. Intelligence is the first. When you listen to your body, you eavesdrop on the mind of the universe. This involves many tasks at once. A human body can think thoughts, play a piano, secrete hormones, regulate skin temperature, kill germs, remove toxins, and make a baby all at the same time. That is a miraculous display of intelligence. This intelligence also allows you to make choices that lead to fulfillment.
Fulfillment seems mysterious to many people, but we can break it down into its simplest parts. Fulfillment is the result of right thought, right feelings, and right action. Each area involves the body. We don't have to create artificial boundaries between a liver cell that makes a right choice and the mind making a right choice. Intelligence embraces both. If it makes a mistake at the chemical or genetic level, the cell dies or becomes malignant. The mind discriminates right from wrong at a different level, the level of ethics and morals. The emotions have their own level, discriminating between nourishing and toxic feelings, or between loving and harmful relationships. When you are consciously aware of your body and what it is telling you, the quality of intelligence is amplified. Its reach is infinite. While the human body performs countless physical processes, it tracks the movement of stars and planets, because your biological rhythms are actually the symphony of the whole universe. That's why we call it the universe--"one verse," "one song."
The second attribute of the field is creativity. Creativity keeps the flow of life fresh and new. It prevents inertia; it dispels habit. Much of the time the body seems stuck in routine. One breath is the same as another, one heartbeat repeats the action that came before. Simply to process food and air, your cells must endlessly repeat the same chemical processes with tremendous accuracy; no improvisation is allowed. But miraculously, the body also has complete flexibility to adapt to new situations. When you decide to do something new--have a baby, run a marathon, or climb a mountain--billions of cells adapt to your intention. This flexibility isn't mechanical. It's not like your car accelerating because you push down on the gas pedal. Rather, your body adapts creatively.
You can observe this in how creatively you can think and speak. No two thoughts are required to be exactly alike; no two sentences demand exactly the same words. The brain displays a pattern of neural activity to match any thought or sentence, even if that thought or sentence has never before appeared in the history of the universe. The ancient Vedic wisdom tradition in India identified creativity with Ananda, or bliss. Bliss is usually described as intense joy, but cells have their own bliss in the form of vitality, flow, and infinite dynamism.
To be most alive is to be in bliss. When you are in that state, everything feels possible. Your body is no longer a burden; you feel light as air. Nothing is old or stale. Instead, your creative potential is ignited. Creativity depends on the constant ability of life to refresh itself, and that ability is founded on bliss. You don't have to force yourself to be blissful--you couldn't if you tried--but only to be aware. Bliss is innate in awareness, which by its nature is lively, alert, effervescent, and joyful. The absence of those things can be corrected simply by accessing deeper awareness.
The third attribute of the field is power. Although cells operate on a microscopic level, they contain the power to survive, thrive, and evolve in an environment that erodes entire mountain ranges and dries up vast ancient seas. Power doesn't mean aggression. The power you don't see or feel is the greatest power of all. It organizes a thousand billion cells into one smoothly operating organism. It defends against every virus and germ that could harm the body, and monitors outbreaks of cancer inside the body itself.
Once again, it is entirely artificial to put boundaries around this quality of the field. Mind, body, and spirit express power in their own ways. The mind expresses power as attention and intention, turning wisps of thought into outward achievement. The body expresses power through physical strength and endurance, but also by organizing infinite processes into a coherent whole. Spirit expresses power by turning pure potential into reality. In the Indian tradition, spiritual power, called Shakti, is the most fundamental. When you possess Shakti, you can turn the invisible into the visible. Whatever you imagine manifests as reality. There are no obstacles between your desire and its fulfillment.
Shakti isn't mystical. It's an innate quality of awareness, without which invisible molecules of oxygen would drift randomly through the atmosphere. Apply awareness, and those same molecules carry life to every cell in the body. Going even deeper, Shakti allows you to cocreate the universe. You are not a passive observer in the cosmos. The entire universe is expressing itself through you at this very minute. It knows itself through you as awareness folds back on itself. Like a transformer that steps down the massive voltage running through high-tension power lines, your body steps down the energy of the universe to human scale. But it remains the same power. The infinitesimal electric charge emitted by a single brain cell is exactly the same as the firestorm of electromagnetism in an entire galaxy. This power is channeled through awareness, which means that when you become aware of anything, inside or outside yourself, you are increasing your share of power in the universe.
I want you to see that this one simple act--being aware of your body--unleashes intelligence, creativity, and power. Being aware isn't trivial, and it isn't optional, either. Once you withdraw your awareness by being distracted, depressed, restless, unhappy, or anxious, the flow of intelligence, creativity, and power is broken off. Most of the "natural" decay and disease seen in old age is actually the unnatural outcome of decreased awareness, which is felt by every cell and damages every cell.
One of the most basic ways to be aware is by grounding yourself in the body. There is no mystery to this. Simply tune in to the feelings in your body whenever you've been distracted. Let's say you're driving a car and somebody cuts you off. Your normal reaction is to be agitated or angry; when you feel this way, you lose the calm, relaxed focus that connects you to the field. So try this: instead of being disrupted by this disruption, just go within and feel the sensations of your body. Take a deep breath, since that is an easy way to come back to body awareness.
Keep your attention on these distracting sensations until they disappear. What you've done is break the chain of stimulus-response by creating a gap, an interval of nonreaction. This stops the reaction from fueling itself. It reminds the body of its natural state of harmonious, coordinated self-regulation. And that grounds you. Harmonious self-regulation is the body's ground state. Stress pulls you into another state, of heightened biological responses that trigger a flow of hormones, increase heart rate, stimulate hypervigilance of the senses, and many other linked reactions. But these are all temporary; they are emergency measures only. If you allow the stress reaction to become a habit, however, disharmony enters the field. The normal state of relaxed awareness tries to coexist with the agitated state of the stress response, but the two don't mix; they aren't meant to exist at the same time.
Anytime you're feeling distracted, overwhelmed, stressed, or overshadowed, there's a tendency to escape. Denial is a form of escape. Distracting yourself through overwork is an escape. Altering your mind with drugs and alcohol is an escape. What they all have in common is absence of awareness. You numb or distract yourself under the false belief that being too aware will only increase your pain. In reality the opposite is true. Awareness heals, because awareness is truly whole, and healing is fundamentally a return to wholeness.
Science is just beginning to understand the phenomenon of healing. Over millions of years our bodies evolved to regulate thousands of microscopic processes simultaneously. Disease occurs when the body forgets how to self-regulate itself. Healing occurs when the body remembers how to self-regulate itself.
You can be exposed to pneumococcus bacteria, for example, but exposure alone isn't enough to create infection. You don't contract pneumonia if your body knows how to make the appropriate antibody, and that ability ultimately comes down to awareness. Your immune system recognizes an invader, identifies it, and calls for the appropriate intervention. These are all conscious acts. Healing therefore cannot be understood unless the mind is as fully conscious as the body. In medicine we have isolated the nervous system, the endocrine system, the cardiovascular system, but we ignore the healing system. It's invisible, it includes every part of the body, it responds to the ghostly wisp of thought and feeling. Yet nothing is more intelligent, creative, and powerful than the healing system, the one thing we keep ignoring.
Healing should be as constant as breathing, not an isolated process for fending off illness. Healing should mean constant communication with the field. We've covered the most important step: becoming aware of the sensations in your body. The other thing you can do is begin to become aware of the field that invisibly unifies everything. How is that done? Ordinarily you focus on things, people, and events--all kinds of outward stimuli. Instead, try looking at the spaces between things. If you're looking at another person, shift your attention to the space between the two of you. The field exists where we think there is nothing--in the space between thoughts, the space between objects, the space between breaths, the space between movements. It's all the same space, but what we call nothing is lack of awareness. If you are aware, space is full, rich, dynamic. It's the field of pure potential, the unknown region from which the next moment and everything in it will emerge.
Space is always still. So when you bring your attention to space, you still the mind. At the same time your body can begin to release the stored-up frustration, tension, and residues of past stress. In this state of deep relaxation, healing becomes most active. Your body needs to release the energy that is stuck to outworn emotions, memories, and traumas. Ideally, you wouldn't identify with these negative influences; you wouldn't hold on to them and add more energy to them.