Ask Deepak: How to Improve a Difficult Work Situation
By Deepak Chopra
March 02, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: Hi, I am a 32-year-old Asian-American middle school art teacher and mother of two toddlers. I have recently been doing a lot of reading, exploration and soul searching in the area of enlightenment and positive energy. While both my parents are Japanese and most likely instilled a lot of my natural way of Eastern thought processes, I have recently been very interested in just trying to live every moment in the present and enjoy it.
Although I am absolutely passionate about what I do, I often have difficulties maintaining this level while working with teenagers. I actually pride myself with how good of a rapport I have with my students; however, some days seem almost unbearable. Just the other day I heard myself thinking, "I'm not so sure how much longer I can stay in this profession."
The kids and community that I work with can be categorized as struggling. Aside from this, they are, well, teens! Their drama, attitudes and emotions are often negative and very draining. I am a person who deeply cares for my students, but am often left wondering how I can do my job well, preserve my enlightened self and have enough energy to come home to my amazing children.
— Sandy C., Stanwood, Washington
Positive thoughts can't be forced, especially in stressful situations. The mind has many levels of response, and whether we like it or not, everything that wants to surface will surface. That's why, despite your best efforts to be positive, the bad days can feel unbearable. Feelings are real, whatever the mind may wish otherwise.
You question comes down to this: How can I be spiritual when life's pressures pull me in other directions? Some people compartmentalize their minds, reserving spirituality only for Sundays or yoga class or meditation hour. That may work in a superficial way, but until your spiritual life meets the challenges of life as a whole, it hasn't done much good.
The answer is detachment. I know that this is an unpleasant, even alien concept to many. But detachment doesn't mean indifference. It means being centered and true to yourself in any situation. To be truly detached is to participate in life as a wholeness rather than getting caught up by all the bits and pieces of life, the passing moments, the ups and downs of our emotions, the play of light and shadow.
In detachment, you know who you are in spite of all the chaos around you. So who are you? Your real self isn't this limited person whose body and mind are constantly shifting. The real you is at the source of consciousness, where you identify with peace, silence and wholeness. To know the real you, you must contact it first. That is done through meditation, which transcends the constant activity of the mind to reach a deeper level of the self.
My advice is that you begin to meditate, using a proven technique that actually settles the mind. There are many advanced practices in yoga and all Eastern traditions that will prove effective. It's really up to you to make this crucial decision. Read books, ask people who seem spiritually knowledgeable, experiment with the most appealing kinds of meditation. There is no shortcut. To know yourself is the goal of enlightenment, and the only way is through expanded consciousness.