Coming to Peace with the World Is Coming to Peace with Yourself

By Deepak Chopra, ™ MD

No one fails to react when public violence is flagrantly incited, which happened at the Capitol this week. As a political philosophy, or a way of life, disorder doesn’t work. Violence might not be inevitable, but chaos is.

But in the face of chaos, some facts remain constant and stable:

  • Peace is a state of awareness.
  • To advance the cause of peace, you must be at peace.
  • External conflict reflects the inner conflicts of human nature.
  • No dispute is ever settled unless both sides achieve a level of mutual satisfaction.

When politics comes down to rigidly opposing views, all of these facts are being ignored. Nothing gets resolved so that all sides achieve mutual satisfaction, and therefore grudges simmer, awaiting sudden eruptions and the pot boils over.

But the fact that is critical is the first one. You can’t help the cause of peace unless you are peaceful in yourself. This means several things on the personal level:

  • You sympathize with all suffering, no matter which side you take in a conflict.
  • You don’t see violence as the solution.
  • You can detach yourself from judgment and blame.
  • You don’t give in to us-versus-them thinking.

If you can achieve these things, you will stop being inflamed by constant streams of bad news that never gets resolved. You will be detached from partisanship, and you won’t buy into demagoguery. People who aren’t at peace are sucked in by the fascination and anguish of catastrophic events.

It’s sometimes hard to accept that being at peace is actually a form of “active detachment.” It’s active in that you want to help the situation. It’s detached in that you keep your head about you and see that the world doesn’t change from crisis to crisis–it changes when people’s awareness changes. To an outsider, religious disputes seem pointless and totally unnecessary. But if your worldview tells you that God is testing your faith every moment, detachment isn’t possible.

To be at peace doesn’t detach you from the values you want to uphold, but it guards you against the constricted awareness that fuels conflict. I think that Pope Francis understands active detachment. He stands above the fray to minister to humanity, but at the same time, unlike many of his predecessors, Francis doesn’t stand idly by. He offers practical proposals, deals justly with wrongdoing, and favors needed reforms. It’s totally worthwhile, and a moral obligation, to aid the programs that might heal divisions and ultimately the planet. But a viable action plan must come from peace or else it has no chance of succeeding.

 


DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole 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 Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Total Meditation (Harmony Books, September 22, 2020) will help to achieve new dimensions of stress-free living and joyful living. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com

You and Your Brain: Upgrading the Relationship

By Deepak Chopra, ™ MD

Although the marvels of the brain as an organ have been wondered at for decades,
there’s a risk that science will make us feel like brain puppets. Neuroscience runs this
risk by assuming, without any proof, that our brains think, feel, perceive the world, and
make choices. In reality the brain is an instrument at the service of the mind. We cannot
live without it, just as we cannot live without a heart, but by promoting the brain into a
thinking machine (an M.I.T. professor who championed Artificial Intelligence dubbed the
brain “a computer made of meat”), we demote ourselves.

You are much more in charge of your biology than you think. Your experiences
constantly change your brain. Much of the time we fail to pay attention to how we
relate to the brain, but no relationship is more important. One thing the human brain
does, in fact, share with computers: It is programmable. We primarily use this fact the
wrong way around. Instead of programming our brains to be open, creative, alert, and
quiet, we program it to carry out a hundred short cuts.

For example, when a server asks you how you want your burger done or whether you
want brown, white, or fried rice with your Chinese meal, it typically takes approximately
one-fifth of a second to give your response. In a restaurant this trained reflex is
harmless, but it also takes the same amount of time to shoot back a response if
someone asks, “Do you believe in God?” or “Who are you voting for?”

In place of a dynamic relationship, being driven by habits, reflexes, conditioning, and
thoughtless opinions gives the brain too much power. In sci-fi a standard plot has robots
taking over the world, but right now most people are dominated by a robotic brain. The
old view of the brain as fixed for life, constantly losing neurons and declining in function,
has been abolished. The new brain is a process, not a thing, and the process heads in
the direction you point it in.

A Buddhist monk meditating on compassion develops the brain circuitry that brings
compassion into reality. Depending on the input it receives, you can create a
compassionate brain, an artistic brain, a wise brain, or any other kind. That’s why your
brain is—or should be—your most important relationship.

The agent that makes these possibilities become real is the mind, or consciousness. The
brain doesn’t create its own destiny. Genetics delivers the brain in a functioning state
so that the nervous system can regulate itself and the whole body. It doesn’t take your
personal intervention to balance hormone levels, regulate heartbeat, or do a thousand
other autonomic functions. But you can have a powerful experience, such as falling in
love, going to war, or winning the lottery, and your experience will alter all these
processes.

If you think of everyday experience as input for your relationship with your brain, with
your actions and thoughts as output, a feedback loop is formed. The old adage about
computer software—garbage in, garbage out—applies to these feedback loops. Toxic
experiences shape the brain quite differently from healthy ones. Neuroscience has
joined forces with genetics to reveal that right down to the level of DNA, the feedback
loops that unite mind and body are profoundly changed by the input being fed the
brain.

If input is everything, then happiness and well-being are created by giving the brain
positive input. Without realizing it, you are here to inspire your brain to be the best it
can be. This is much more than positive thinking, which is often too superficial and
masks underlying negativity. The input that inspires the brain includes a wide array of
things. They form a matrix with you at the center. Here’s what you want in your matrix.

Matrix for a Positive Lifestyle

  • Have good friends.
  • Don’t isolate yourself.
  • Sustain a lifelong companionship with a spouse or partner.
  • Engage socially in worthwhile projects.
  • Be close with people who have a good lifestyle – habits are contagious.
  • Follow a purpose in life.
  • Leave time for play and relaxation.
  • Maintain satisfying sexual activity.
  • Address issues around anger.
  • Practice stress management.

 

Your brain will thrive in such a matrix, even as life brings its ups and downs. By the same token, the brain can’t arrive at any of these things on its own. You are the leader of your brain. The whole issue of feedback loops turns out to be vital for all kinds of brain functions, including memory and the prevention of feared disorders like Alzheimer’s. A healthy relationship with your brain leads to a state of peak living over a long, healthy lifetime. Society failed to teach us this invaluable lesson, but it’s never too late to learn. 

 


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 whole 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 Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest book, Total Meditation (Harmony Books) helps us to achieve new dimensions of stress-free living and a joyful life. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his next book, TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com

Making the Season of Peace Really Matter

By Deepak Chopra, MD

A world ceaselessly in a state of unrest seems to mock this time of year as a season of peace. Most people are simply grateful that unrest hasn’t touched their lives, and hope fades for the victims of war and strife who will probably never enjoy peace except during brief truces. The link between holidays and holy days may be fragile in these times, but you can be a unit of peace consciousness starting now.

This happens at the level of intention and attention.

First, intention. Holidays are about gatherings, first of family but also of events that embrace community and nation. It’s therefore easy to feel, on the negative side, that you have little or no control over what’s happening around you. Swept up in holiday rituals that are simply a given, surrounded by squabbling family members and old tensions, you can easily be overwhelmed.

The way out is by centering yourself and being clear, first on the inside, what you intend your holiday season to be. A helpful exercise is to sit quietly with eyes closed and say to yourself, I want joy. I want peace. I want grace and love. As you say each phrase, pause and feel joy, peace, love, and grace as the silence of your Being. Joy, peace, love and grace are your essential nature. It doesn’t matter how you settle into this feeling/knowing. Putting your attention on your heart is often helpful, or seeing a soft light in that region.

No one can intend these things except you, and when you feel them inside, you don’t depend on others quite as much. Try repeating this exercise every day during the holiday season. You can go a step further, too. Instead of seeing this as a defense against holiday stresses, why not commit yourself to making the holidays a time for your own evolution? In other words, by asking for joy, peace, love, and grace, your intention is to arrive at the new year renewed in spirit.
Secondly, attention. Once you have committed yourself to evolving during the holidays, put your attention on this. What most people do at this time of year is brace themselves for the negative side of the holidays—the family tensions, shopping, scary credit card bills, hectic pace, and for many, a predictable bout of depression. The gap between what people wish for and what actually happens to them is wide. You can put your attention on closing the gap, both for you and for others.

Some suggestions to do this:

  1. Raise your appreciation quotient. When you interact with anyone, don’t automatically mutter “Happy Holidays.” Say of word of appreciation and offer a smile. Make them feel your good will.
  2. Think less about yourself, more about others. Inner growth doesn’t happen at the ego level, and it’s the ego that constantly finds fault, with yourself and others. By turning your attention to others, you can give yourself a vacation from the ego.
  3. Practice empathy. Focus on how others are feeling and extend yourself with sympathy. Empathy establishes an emotional bond and helps counter the isolation and loneliness that people tend to feel during the holidays. But empathy can also extend to noticing how happy someone looks, also. It doesn’t have to be sympathy for negative emotions.
  4. Be easy on yourself. If you aim to make the holidays perfect, failure is around the corner. Most people are weighed down by demands they make on themselves, so consciously look for ways to be easy on yourself. Taking time out every day for a few private moments to relax and meditate is a good practical step.
  5. Keep away from toxicity. When you find yourself in the presence of toxic emotions, tension, stress, and conflict, don’t join in. Do your best to walk away as soon as you can. Toxicity also extends to alcohol. It may be traditional to drink heavily during the holidays, but remain mindful of your consumption. In fact, notice if you aren’t actually more pleasant and friendlier without alcohol.
  6. Set limits, and do it gracefully. When people drink or revive old family issues or find other excuses to drop their inhibitions, things often get said and done that lead to regret. It doesn’t matter if other people stop respecting your boundaries. It is up to you to maintain them, to politely point out when you are uncomfortable. If the other person can’t take a hint, don’t repeat your objection but walk away.
  7. Watch out for reactive responses. A reactive response is a knee-jerk response, and most people indulge in them dozens of times a day. We repeat the same words, feelings, opinions, beliefs, and judgments without pausing to think. If you want to evolve, reactive responses aren’t helpful. They prevent you from living in the now, renewing yourself, being open to new possibilities, seeing something good in other people, and much more. So, if you notice yourself thinking, feeling, or saying something and you know you’re automatically repeating the past, pause, and find a different response.
  8. Look for new responses. Once you stop reacting, a space is open for a new response. Where do you find it? Look around. Open your eyes to something or someone in the room that you haven’t noticed before. Or simply center yourself and be quiet inside for a moment. The point is to step outside constricted awareness. Being “tight” in your awareness supports the reactive mind; being “loose” in your awareness brings openness.
  9. Focus on the spiritual, the uplifting side of things. Even if you find little to inspire you from other people and outside events during the holidays, don’t criticize them, or the world, for that. Inspiration is an inner quality. Turn to the poetry or scriptures that inspire you, and you will find in them something precious: intimate communication from another person’s heart and soul. It doesn’t even matter if you adopt the beliefs or sentiments in the words. The important thing about inspiration is its humanity, the felt presence of someone else’s higher self that sparks and warms your higher self.

 

These nine points give you a personal agenda for the holidays, and with a little creativity, you can personalize them to fit your life. Even though the time may not come soon when holy days take on their true meaning, as times for spiritual communion, but you can still devote yourself to a private spirituality that brings holiness to your inner world.

 


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. He is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. Chopra is the author of over 89 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”