Deepak Chopra, author of The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, on how to find happiness.
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.
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 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.