The Secret to Personal Evolution

By Deepak Chopra, M.D.

You alone are the explorer of your inner world. Of all the ways to unfold your inner potential, by far the most powerful is to use the flow of evolution.  Evolution isn’t just a theory but a force that has been working in every cell of your body since you were born. As a child, you experienced evolution as a process of growth that you didn’t have to choose – your body was programmed to evolve from the infant state.

The main focus of your life may have been earning a living, raising a family, and exploring the world “out there.” Even so, now you can become skilled at building the self you actually want by choosing to evolve. The force of evolution is working for you if you can do what came naturally as a child.

As an adult, however, evolution is a choice. The key is simple. There is only one thing you need to do to align with the force of evolution: Participate in your own consciousness. Pay attention to being alert and aware. As you do, you will develop new skills in awareness that will affect every choice you make in life. The most evolved choice is the one that benefits you the most in body, mind, and spirit. You can’t decide how to make such ideal choices using only your intellect. Only awareness knows what is good for awareness.

The first step is to go inside, making this a part of your daily routine. Most people spend hardly a minute dwelling in the deep silence and peace that exists inside them; it is foreign territory. But the world’s wisdom traditions discovered that awareness possesses a secret hid­den advantage. Awareness wants to expand and evolve; this natural tendency has always been part of your makeup.

If you delve into our own awareness, you will notice the following:

  • Ever since you were a child, your mind has favored moving forward over inertia. It doesn’t like being stuck.
  • Once it begins, evolution accelerates its pace.
  • Consciousness naturally expands. The path of desire is fueled by wanting more.
  • The better you know yourself, the better your life becomes.
  • Positive intentions are supported more than negative intentions.
  • Individual consciousness is connected to a higher conscious­ness, which we sense as a feeling of belonging to a higher purpose.

When you adopt evolution as your main goal, there are practical questions you can ask every day as you check in on your progress:

  • How can I move forward today?
  • Is my personal growth accelerating?
  • Do I know myself better?
  • Do I enjoy my life more?
  • Am I becoming more positive as self-judgment falls away?
  • Do I feel connected to a higher vision of life and a higher power that makes this vision come true?

These are practical things, markers on the spiritual journey. I measure my own evolution by them every day. I am moving forward if I feel more compassion, less blame, and greater calmness. My personal growth is accelerating when a goal that I thought would take years—such as dropping the need for anger—arrives much sooner. I firmly believe in being as down-to-earth as possible.

There have been moments when I was sitting on the fast train from New York to Boston and gazing out at the gray landscape whizzing by; I merged into it, feeling as if Deepak had vanished and there was only Being, the peace of pure existence. These privileged moments are the kind of markers I’m talking about. They show me that evolution is a real force working through me, a force that is universal and personal at the same time. I can’t imagine a greater gift.

Meditation Q&A From Deepak Chopra

How do I quiet my mind when meditating? I have been trying for a long time without any success. I need help!

Deepak’s Answer
In meditation, any attempt to quiet the mind using force won’t work. The everyday mind is full of thoughts, feelings, sensations, worries, daydreams, and fantasies. But at a deeper level, the mind begins in silence. Finding that level deeper than thought is the essence of meditation.
Here are some clues about how to make your meditation work:

  • Have no expectations. Sometimes the mind is too active to settle down. Sometimes it settles down immediately. Sometimes it goes quiet, but the person doesn’t notice. Anything can happen.
  • Be easy with yourself. Meditation isn’t about getting it right or wrong. It’s about letting your mind find its true nature.
  • Don’t stick with meditation techniques that aren’t leading to inner silence. Unless you transcend the everyday mind, you aren’t truly meditating. Find a technique that works more or less automatically. In India, there are many kinds of mantra meditation, for example. Or simply follow the in and out of your breathing, not paying attention to your thoughts at all. The mind wants to find its source in silence. Give it a chance by letting go.
  • Make sure you are alone in a quiet place to meditate. Unplug the phone. Make sure no one is going to disturb you.
  • Really be there. If your attention is somewhere else, thinking about your next appointment, errand or meal, of course you won’t find silence. To meditate, your intention must be clear and free of other obligations.

***

How does my daily meditation practice help heal the planet?

Deepak’s Answer 
Quantum physicists have shown that a unified field of intelligence gives rise to everything in the universe, including our body, the stars, the galaxies, subatomic particles, and all else. The cosmos is the extended body we all share, and our every thought and intention ripples out into the universal consciousness and has an effect.

When we meditate we quiet our mind and slip into the silence that’s the source of all happiness. There we discover increasing levels of bliss, inspiration, and love. Our experience of these powerful states creates vibrations that help heal the planet. As a famous Vedic verse states, “It is our duty to the rest of humanity to be perfectly healthy, because we are ripples in the ocean of consciousness, and when we are sick, even a little, we disrupt cosmic harmony.” Through meditation, we expand our awareness of the blissful nature of divine intelligence and contribute to greater peace and love in our world.

***

I was wondering if you could give me a few tips as to how to incorporate meditation in my daily life. I can’t seem to find the right time or mood. I’m always full of excuses and I start thinking about whether to use music, stay quiet, practice a mantra, or think of affirmations. I get lost in all the details and end up doing very little. 

Deepak’s Answer
The best thing to do is learn a traditional meditation practice from a qualified instructor. That way you know exactly what to do at any point in meditation and with any experience that comes along. From there, the way to get past excuses and delays is to not make when you meditate a decision based on your mood. Set a time every day – for example, 7:00 to 7:20 every morning, and 5:30 to 5:50 every evening. Use the same chair to meditate every time and make the practice automatic by sandwiching it in between two things that you have to do anyway, like showering and brushing your teeth in the morning and eating breakfast afterward. If you know that after showering you have to meditate before you eat breakfast, then you are not worried about the right mood and you just do it.

***

I’ve become more and more interested in meditation and want to develop a regular practice. However, I’ve come across so many different meditation techniques that I’m confused about which one would be the best for me. Could you please advise?

Deepak’s Answer
There are different types of meditation to accomplish different aims, so the best meditation for you will be one that fits your goals. Almost every meditation practice will bring you greater peace and relaxation, so if that is your primary aim, then a simple breath awareness meditation is fine.

If you want a meditation practice that will allow you to experience your core Self – without thought – then you need a practice that can take you beyond the mind and give you the experience of pure awareness. For that, traditionally what is needed is a silent mantra meditation, such as Primordial Sound Meditation.

The word mantra comes from the Sanskrit mantrayate, meaning “that which takes away the mind.” As you silently repeat a mantra, you dive below the bubbling surface of the mind, which is always preoccupied with thoughts, memories, and desires, into a place of pure consciousness. This is your true Self. While mantras are certainly not the only way to go beyond the mind, they are invaluable gifts the ancient sages have handed down to us to make access to the Self easy.

***

At what age would you suggest children and teenagers be introduced to meditation?

Deepak’s Answer
There’s no hard and fast rule on this. What’s most important is to make them aware of the value of meditation through your example and then look for their receptiveness. Some children may be ready for meditation as early as eight or ten years of age. Other kids, even those growing up in homes where both parents meditate, may not feel drawn to meditating themselves until they are in their late teens. It’s important that kids don’t feel pressured to meditate because their parents want them to. The best indication that they are ready to start meditating is when they express their own curiosity and desire to learn.

***

My doctor told me I have high blood pressure, and I should look for ways to lower it along with taking my prescription medicine. I’ve heard that you teach your own meditation technique. Will that help me lower my blood pressure?

Deepak’s Answer
All meditations that silently use a mantra have a similar goal – to take our awareness beyond thought, into pure silence, pure awareness. The mantras used in Primordial Sound Meditation and the way in which we select them, is very different from other techniques. The mantra is based on the vibration the universe was making at the moment of your birth. Those who have developed a Primordial Sound Meditation practice cite the benefits of stress reduction, better sleep patterns, and greater peace of mind in their lives. We have also attempted to eliminate the secrecy surrounding many meditation programs.

Borderline hypertension (high blood pressure), often responds extremely well to meditation. Many studies over the last thirty years have shown average readings drop to an acceptable level starting after just one month of meditating.

***

When I meditate I am always wondering if I am doing it correctly. This takes my mind of what I should be concentrating on. How can I change this? 

Deepak’s Answer
The simplest way to determine if you are meditating correctly is to ask yourself if you are meditating easily and effortlessly. Whether you are using a mantra or following your breath, your attention should be fluid and relaxed, not rigid or fixed. Remember, the mind needs to wander off, get distracted, and lose focus in order for the awareness to move from the surface level of the mind to the deeper, expansive realms of consciousness where we
open up to our greater potential.

When you become aware you are no longer thinking the mantra or noticing your breath, that is your indication to gently return your attention to the process and start the cycle over again. If you maintain an easy frame of mind as you lose the mantra and then return to it, then you are meditating correctly. Whatever that meditation process brings you is governed by the
intelligence of the cosmos and is exactly what you need at that time.

***

Are the goals of meditation and yoga the same? If so, why meditate instead of doing yoga and why do yoga instead of meditation? Which method do you endorse and why?

Deepak’s Answer
The word yoga means union with one’s true nature, with God. The ancient practice of yoga has always been considered a mental technology of consciousness primarily involving meditation. In the last few decades the West has come to associate yoga with the physical postures, or asanas, of the yoga tradition. These asanas are certainly an integral part of yoga knowledge, along with such other branches of yoga as breathing exercises and moral behavior. And each of the eight limbs of limbs of yoga are important in attaining spiritual union. However, I would say meditation is fundamental to the aim of enlightenment because it gives the direct experience of unity of the individual mind with cosmic mind.

***

When we write our intentions down prior to meditation, how important is it to formulate them in a specific way? For example, some say it’s important not to write “I want” because that is a statement of lack. Others say to write intentions in a positive, affirmative way such as “I now have a wonderful new job,” yet this sometimes feels false. What is most effective?

Deepak’s Answer
It’s good to be specific with your intentions so that the universe has a clear structure to work with, but you don’t want to be so locked into your vision that you miss the different and more wonderful response that may present itself. It’s better to not write your intentions as lacks or wants, because the important part of formulating intentions is to generate that field of awareness that feels spiritually complete, whole, and content. That state will naturally organize the means through which whatever we need will be manifested. If we are generating a field of lack, worry and fear, then that is what will attract and manifest. That is why if we want peace we become that peace, if we want love, we become the love within us, if we want abundance or health, we contact and become that part of our Self, which is always content, happy and healthy. At that core level of your life those statements are not false. By gently allowing our intentions to drop into that state of silence and joy, we put ourselves in the best position for those intentions to manifest.

***

I have a difficult time staying awake when I meditate. Location, time of day, and physical position do not seem to impact this. After I’m able to stop thinking, I’m aware of a short time of silence, then I feel like I’m dreaming and I start to nod off. I feel a strong desire to nap. Sometimes I indulge this desire, and sometimes I force myself into wakefulness. I enjoy sleeping, going to bed around 10 p.m., falling asleep right away, waking once or twice during the night but falling right back into sleep. I wake up between 5 and 6 each morning. I’m generally alert and not tired during the day. Do you have any insights or recommendations?

Deepak’s response:
Go ahead and let yourself sleep if you feel a strong urge to nod off during meditation. It’s not a good idea for force yourself to stay alert. Even if you don’t have a sleep deficit from the night, sometimes you can go through a period of meditation where your body requires an experience of sleep in order to release a particular quality of conditioning. Don’t worry about it; just let the body shift into the state it needs, and when that conditioning or stress has been cleared, then your meditations will resume their usual character.

 

About the Author:

Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Deepak Chopra, M.D is the author of more than 65 books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His medical training is in internal medicine and endocrinology, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and an adjunct professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He is also a Distinguished Executive Scholar at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, and a Senior Scientist at the Gallup organization. For more than a decade, he has participated as a lecturer at the Update in Internal Medicine, an annual event sponsored by Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education and the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“Deepak Chopra has successfully blended ancient Vedanta Philosophy with his unique perspective on modern medicine to provide a vast audience with solutions that meet many needs for our modern age. He is among the influential scholars, authors, and thinkers like Arthur Schopenhauer, Carl Jung, and Aldous Huxley who have found truth in the Perennial Philosophy and developed ways to help people apply that truth to their daily lives.” 
~Huston Smith

 

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