Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: First off, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your books. They are wonderful. I also wanted to ask you some questions: How does a person start living from spirit? How does a person start practicing a new way of living and start being free and doing what they want to do?
— Allahna B., age 18, Cincinnati, Ohio
It's inspiring for me to receive such a question from a young person, and I will tailor my answer to your age group. Living from spirit isn't the same at every stage of life. But every stage has one thing in common: being natural. What comes most naturally is the first clue to the path that is right for you, because at every stage of life there is a new phase of inner development. In India, there were four traditional stages, known as Ashramas, which correspond to childhood, student years, raising a family and going into spiritual retreat. Modern life isn't so cut-and-dried, and few people would want it to be. Yet as free as we like to live, there are natural stages of life and activities that suit each one:
Infancy: a dependent time, the basic needs being love, protection and nurturing
Childhood: a growing time, the basic needs being to playing, learning and physical growth
Adolescence: a transitional time, the basic needs being self-development, adapting to society and relationships outside the family
Early adulthood: a time for independence, the basic needs being deeper learning, acquiring an identity and deciding on a career
Middle adulthood: a time for increasing responsibility, the basic needs being for solid achievement, a secure family and social duty
Maturity: a time for wholeness, the basic need being to merge inner and outer life
Fulfillment: a time for wisdom, the basic need being to reconcile the deepest questions about life and death
You are 18, right in the middle of a transitional phase. You relate as someone who is growing into a new person. That person won't fully appear for awhile. Yet the tendencies are already in evidence. Be gentle with this new person as she is being born. Be just as gentle with others your own age. Realize that much more is going on beneath the surface than they are letting on. Associate with the most positive people in your age group, not the most popular or the ones everybody envies and imitates.
By positive, I don't mean simply optimistic and cheerful. Truly positive people are kind, generous, unassuming and oriented to solutions rather than complaining about problems. They give others their own space and don't try to bully or put anyone down. You are at a good age for beginning to give of yourself. Make time for the less fortunate and for those in need. Finally, bond with at least one adult you trust and want to confide in. Associating only with your own age group can be stifling.
I realize that I haven't used the word spiritual in my answer, but if you follow the natural development of your own self, that will turn out to be a spiritual path in its own right. As for the future, spirit will have new things to say as the years unfold.