Deepak Chopra used to drive me crazy. I felt like he was too sold-out and too mainstream to be authentically spiritually grounded. I took one look at his book entitled How to Know God and became pretty indignant. I mean, where does someone else get off telling the world, telling me, how to know God?
Then my dad died.
I inherited two things from my father after he passed away: his thick wool socks and a book by Deepak Chopra. Power, Freedom and Grace sat, dusty and neglected, on my bookshelf next to a collection of photos of my father for nearly three years. This summer, I looked at the book with curiosity and an open mind. Maybe this book had come to me through my dad for a reason … maybe I should give it a chance? And I did.
Though I continue to be turned off whenever Chopra uses new age-y terminology that seems meant to confuse or impress the general public rather than to convey a clear message, the book opened my eyes to a new understanding of ‘death’ and a reiteration of what I already knew to be true about happiness.
“The essence of your being is a changeless reality … All is transforming, yet nothing ever ‘dies’.”
1. Everything constantly dies: Chopra points out that life is a constant flow of change and that death happens every millisecond. The body you have today is not the same body that you had at two, at five, at sixteen. Those bodies are ‘dead’. The personality you have today is not the same as it was at 3 months when you screamed for an hour straight and wanted nothing more than milk, or at three years when you had tantrums at 5 am or looked up at your parent as a God. Those personalities have evolved, transformed, ‘died’. The skin you have today is not the skin you had just thirty days ago, the memories you have today are different from the ones you had ten years ago, your backyard is not the same today as it was one year ago, your neighbor is not who it was 30 years ago, all the cells in your body are constantly ‘dying’, and this breath is not the same as the last breath. If we break life down to milliseconds and atoms, we can see, clearly, that everything is constantly transforming. Which means that nothing is ever the same. … Which means everything is constantly dying, and our body is simply a part of that.
2. Energy transforms but never goes away … and you are energy. Chopra points out that all matter is made up of energy: the wind, the ocean, the frog, your dog, your body. And of course we all know that energy never goes away; it merely transforms. When we see life in this realistic light, as he emphasizes, then we can see our own death as nothing more than a transformation of energy. This body is not me. This mind is not me. This personality is not even me. I am the energy that uses this body, the energy that uses this mind, the energy that uses this personality. The spirit is who I am, who you are. It can be called the spirit, the soul, or one of the bizarre-o terms that Chopra sometimes uses. Whatever you want to call it, Chopra argues that it is made up of energy that never dies, but only transforms, and that energy is simply expressing itself through your body, your mind, your personality. That energy does not die with death; it simply changes form, as your body has its whole life, as your cells do, as the grass has, as the earth does. Death is not the end, but simply an alteration of the way in which the spirit expresses itself.
“When you have a conscious awareness of your soul, you see everything as a miracle.”
1. Now is the only moment and the only reality that exists. Chopra points out that yesterday is not reality anymore, that the future is not real but rather a construct of our imagination. Being fully present means we do not regret or worry; we simply act out of the now. When we learn to be fully present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about a future that is not real, we can know happiness.
2. Life is a balance of all forces. Yin and yang, light and dark, male and female, happy and sad, peaceful and violent … on and on it goes. All things have an equal opposite, and this is the nature of life. When we accept this, then we can know happiness. Essentially, problems and imperfections will arise, challenges will happen, the waves will be high and low tide. Such is life. Accept that, and you will know pure happiness because you will not be struggling against that reality. You will be accepting reality with grace.
3. Trust the universe. When you were conceived, the universe conspired to create you. Your heart started beating, your hands moved, your limbs formed, and eventually you found your way out of the birth canal – all with no conscious effort on your part. So Chopra makes the argument that if such miraculousness can happen with no effort, with just the universe creating as it does, so too can our lives be more effortless if we trust the universe that whatever arises and occurs, we will be OK – just as we were when we were formed.
4. You are not a victim of your reality. If something in your life is making you feel unsatisfied, Chopra suggests that you remain empowered rather than feel like a victim. Ask yourself what you can change within yourself. All life-changes begin at the level of the spirit. Rather than try to change that person, that situation, that external force that is upsetting you, what can you change in yourself, your actions, your reactions?
And so, my book is now dust-free and I feel a wee bit closer to my father for having read it. I see this book as a gift from my father, and all in all, I’m so thankful to its words and lessons.