by Deepak Chopra, M.D: This year the arrival of summer coincides with the perfect time to expand your life…
A difficult year has created problems that have gained publicity like increased anxiety and depression. But at a deeper level, even noticing no symptoms, almost everyone has experienced contracted awareness. When awareness contracts, you are less optimistic, see fewer opportunities, and fear that normal life has grown risky.
Constricted awareness is tense, closed, insecure, and stuck. Expanded awareness is open, carefree, secure, and flowing. That’s where you need to be if you want your life to expand, because your state of awareness is the lens through which you see the world. So how do you expand your awareness?
Here’s a seven-step program for change that you can follow without strain, choosing any recommended step at your own pace and comfort level.
1. Return to center
When you are centered, you feel relaxed, calm, and quiet inside. There were a lot of reasons this past year to feel the opposite, in a state of restlessness, distraction, and stress. It’s good to remind your nervous system what it feels like to be centered. Make it your policy, as soon as you notice that you are not calm and centered, to find a quiet place. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, then meditate until you feel centered again. When you open your eyes, be sure to take a moment before going back into activity.
2. Minimize stressful input
In times of crises people stay glued to news and social media even though they are feeding a person’s stress level. Anything that makes you feel pressured, threatened, or anxious automatically contracts your awareness. Make a conscious effort to reduce stressful news items and if possible do without them.
3. Practice positive time management
A very good idea is the so-called “time menu,” which gives you choices for how to manage your time every day. You already select certain items from the menu, namely work time, meal time, and sleep time. But there are other items that will help you expand your awareness. There is down time, alone time, and play time. Down time should be a few minutes out of every hour where you get up, stretch, and walk around. Alone time should be two sessions in your day when you take 5 to 10 minutes to meditate or reflect or simply be quiet, still, and alone. Play time is shared with others usually, and is marked by any activity that makes you smile and laugh. Play time is for being carefree, not for fierce competition or video games.
4. Act on your highest values
Spiritual values haven’t changed over the centuries. They are expressions of love, devotion, service, compassion, and kindness. But values remain dormant if you don’t act on them. In constricted awareness you are wound in a tight protective posture, so spiritual values have less of an outlet, or none at all. To expand your awareness, act on the values you hold most dear. No one is asking you to be a saint. But there is always an instance during the day where a kind gesture or word, an expression of affection, or a small act of service gives you an opportunity to live out your values.
5. Undo your isolation
Physical isolation has been enforced for a year, but less noticed is psychological isolation. It blocks us from emotional contact and bonding with others. As you undo your physical isolation, renew the bonds with the people who matter most in your life. Bonding occurs in person—emails and texting won’t do it. Start sharing positive emotions like hope and optimism with your friends and family. Avoid the emotions that make people contracted inside, which means avoiding stressful news, complaining, blaming, and being woeful about the state of the world.
6. Express your inner world
The most enjoyable way to expand your awareness is to express yourself joyfully. Creative outlets are one way that works beautifully, but that’s just one path. You need to express whatever you most value in yourself. This could be love, caring, kindness, or selfless service. The key is that you feel the real you coming out, because the real you is the source of bliss.
7. Renew yourself
The present moment is the only place where life is renewed. It is the location of flow. It is where invisible possibilities become real as thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. But if you carry the baggage of old beliefs, anxiety, worry, inertia, habits, and conditioning around with you, you will never experience the present moment, and therefore you will not be renewed.
There is no mystery to being in the present moment. You are just yourself, and being here feels like all you need. Being creative is very present moment, so that’s a desirable pursuit. But there is also a presence that goes deeper, call it a divine or spiritual presence. It radiates from your source in pure awareness.
If you lived from your source, you would experience life as a field of infinite possibilities, and your state of awareness would be blissful. Make that your vision. You don’t have to achieve it on a timetable, but if you are guided by a vision, you will come closer to your source, in or out of meditation. You will begin to feel that creation is embodied in you, which is actually the truth.
Life is abundant, but that’s only an inspiring notion until you experience it first-hand. When you have a glimpse of beauty, love, innocence, wonder, or joy, pause and value it. Say to yourself, “This moment reflects the real me.” These are the moments that renew you, because they are when you walk in the light.