The co-founder of the Chopra Foundation and author of Super Brain shows you how to feel more fulfilled.
Now more than ever before, anxiety about loss of income has replaced the sense of abundance and fulfillment. Most of our fears about not having "enough" are about money and time. But what about a lack of emotional fulfillment, a lack of love, a lack of creative solutions? Abundance is all-embracing. At least it should be.
The most crucial thing to understand is that abundance begins in the mind. Do you believe you only lack something because you haven't yet found a creative way to solve the problem? Or do you believe there's never enough to go around, unfair stuff happens, and there's not much you can do about it?
Choosing a belief system that cultivates abundance is crucial. But how do we do it? The simplest way to look at this—and also the most productive—is to recognize that you are always processing your life. There is input and output, forming a feedback loop. Input is the term for all the experiences that come your way during the day, while output is all your responses: your thoughts, words and actions. You are the one who oversees both. You sift through the input, evaluate it and take what you like, while rejecting what you don't like. Nothing is more crucial than your contribution to the feedback loop: You are the one who colors everything that comes your way, using intention, belief, expectation, wishes, hopes, dreams and fears. No input is neutral, because you are emotionally invested in your experiences. At the other end of the process, when you produce output, you again color it the same way. Your thoughts, words and actions indicate how involved you are in your life. Thus the circle of personal reality is shaped, every minute of every day.
Abundance reveals itself when you build a feedback loop that can accept and build upon what life has to offer. Look at the familiar story of lottery winners who are worse off 10 years after their sudden windfall. Why? Because they couldn't adapt. They processed life on a limited scale, and suddenly they were asked to process millions of dollars, massive attention, public exposure and the demands of people around them. Unless you have prepared the way, abundance itself can turn into a drain on you. The secret is to constantly build in small steps, taking advantage of small victories by using them to create your own belief system, one that can accept higher and higher levels of opportunity. Here are a few guidelines that you can use...
Next: The first step to accepting abundance1. Turn negativity into positive action.
Take one thing today that you feel negative about. Before the day is out, take one positive action that diminishes the negativity. Such actions include the following: standing up for yourself, speaking your truth, fixing what can be fixed, asking for help, seeking wise advice, walking away from things that can't be fixed, reducing the stress and looking at your role in creating the negative situation. But the possibilities are endless. Taking even a small action begins to change the feedback you're getting.
2. Get a healthy outside perspective.
In bad situations, people tend to contract and withdraw inside themselves. "It's my problem" leads to isolation, which makes lack and loss feel worse. I realize that no one wants to be a burden on others and that everyone wants to preserve his or her dignity. But other people have confronted lack and loss, survived the pain and eventually made it all the way through. It helps enormously to be in touch with someone who has walked in your shoes.
3. Don't indulge the level of futility.
"It's hopeless. I'm helpless. Nothing will change or ever get better." Everyone hears these words; the voice of futility persists because we were all little children who felt helpless and hopeless at times. If you indulge the voice of futility, it will pull you down to its level. So reject the temptation to indulge in a defeatist viewpoint (if you are depressed, which is a serious mental condition, seek professional help). Tell yourself, "This negative voice isn't me." Gently but firmly reject the voice of futility, and when any good thing happens, however small, remind yourself that the voice was wrong.
4. Expand your awareness.
The greatest enemy of abundance is contraction. When you find yourself in a tight situation, feeling that there is no way out, drawing a blank when you try to think of new solutions, or carrying around a heavy burden, these are signs of contraction, in mind, body and spirit. Expansion is the great friend of abundance. It brings in the light, opening up new possibilities. In a relaxed, open state, your awareness sees farther, and life isn't so confined.
How can you expand your awareness? To begin with, set aside time every day for peace and quiet. The brain has a natural mechanism for resetting itself and getting back into balance. Give this mechanism a chance. Being under pressure, putting up with noise and stress, and never stopping to relax are counterproductive. Go into a quiet place and sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes at least two times a day. Let yourself become centered again, and if you can, practice meditation.
5. Take full responsibility.
If you want a radical cure for being a victim, here it is. Victims are dominated by external forces—other people, circumstances—and since outside forces cannot be controlled, it seems natural to give up responsibility for the bad things in your life. "I can't help it" is like a poison seed that keeps multiplying and growing. The solution is to recognize that situations change only after a person quits looking outside and starts taking responsibility.
In effect, you are saying something positive: This is my life. You reclaim ownership of your life once you take responsibility. At the same time, you are stating a simple, inescapable truth. If your life isn't your own, whom else can it belong to? No one else has enough time, money, energy and love to give you everything. Abundance comes from within. When you take responsibility, you accept everything, the good and the bad, as your whole package.
Next: How to change your perspective6. Develop a higher vision of your life.
There is such a thing as rich but miserable—we all know people who fit that pattern—but there is no such thing as fulfilled and miserable. Material abundance, which can be useful, contains no fulfillment by itself. Fulfillment comes from a vision that comes true. The higher the vision, the greater the fulfillment.
In effect, vision acts like a trigger for abundance. It sets in motion a host of hidden processes, because awareness builds upon itself, as you probably have already experienced. If you practice, you get good at things. If you reinforce the positive, there is more positivity to come. This is the ideal kind of feedback loop that can be applied to everything you dream of, wish for and envision. But it requires focus. When you learn to ride a bike, you don't want to be eating a sandwich and texting a friend at the same time. Riding the bike is your focused intention. Apply this same concentration to your vision.
But what kind should you choose? Some principles are common to all higher visions, and they can be simply stated: I will be good and honest; I will be sincere; I will hold on to my truth; I will aim to love and be loved as best I can; I will add to everyone's life, not simply my own; I will do no harm; I renounce violence; I will revere the things I believe in the most.
As for getting to the specifics, look at the people you most admire. Write down a list of heroes and heroines that inspire you, either form real life or fiction. Read biographies. Delve into scriptures and inspirational literature from the world's wisdom traditions. As you expand your search, you won't get more confused. Instead, you will find that certain elements ring true with you, over and over. Maybe it's the element of service or devotion or giving or creativity. As you incorporate it into your thinking, your own vision will be clarified in your mind. This germinal stage is important, so don't hasten it or become impatient. The vision you select is actually selecting you.
7. Make full use of your successes.
It's strange to realize that abundance starts small. Doesn't that contradict what the word "abundance" means? It means a bumper crop, a flow of good things and unlimited supply. Those are all applicable, but you can't assume that abundance happens all at once, like a thunderstorm quenching a parched land. The process is more like attaining a skill. If you want to master walking a tightrope, you start small and low down, not big and high up. This actually insures that you will reach your goal.
So don't set yourself up for failure by short-circuiting the process. A lot of things, including the wiring in your brain, must become organized around your goal. Every wish brings a result. The world's wisdom traditions teach this lesson. But they also teach that results can be tiny, or mixed, or hidden from view because our awareness is limited and distracted. It helps to know that the process will never let you down—your every thought and intention becomes part of the feedback loop.
Be focused and consistent. Notice every step forward and take advantage of each small success. In this way, you close the gap between what you want from life and what it is giving you. At the same time, trusting the process also means not straining or adding to your stress. We are all programmed to fear the unknown, and yet every good thing in life emerges from the unknown.
In the end, the gap that separates lack from abundance is self-created. Abundance, however, comes down to connecting with a natural part of life. It is lack and loss that are unnatural. Life is a field of infinite possibilities. The unknown isn't filled with just a few good things; the possibilities are unending. Try to make the connection. You have the ability. Creating your own reality is the richest gift you received at birth. Abundance is a wellspring for you to tap into, and the process of getting there actually works.