Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I am so grateful for your teachings. I have been meditating with positive affirmations, and I feel I have been getting some good results. I recently saw you on television explaining three stages to positive thinking. You mentioned it isn't just thinking positive thoughts. In the second stage, you mentioned resolving negativity and fears so that we can eventually get to a point where positive thinking works in our lives. Could you go through each stage and what we should do in each stage so we can get to the final outcome of positive thinking? I would also like to say I am so grateful for your Gift of Love CDs. They are so beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for everything that you do.
— David H., San Antonio, Texas
It isn't possible to separate our thoughts. The mind has a life of its own, and at any given moment, a thought can be positive or negative, or it may have no emotional charge at all. The important thing is to connect our thoughts with results. If the universe can support intentions that benefit a person's personal growth and well-being, then the power of thought has found fulfillment. But for most of us, intentions often lead to unsatisfactory results. What we want from life and what we get are two different things. This gap represents the state of separation at its worst and most confusing.
In the materialistic worldview, there is no connection between what you experience "in here" and what occurs "out there." Millions of people accept this as fact, when in reality there's a serious disconnect. Every spiritual tradition teaches that the inner and outer worlds are connected. We are not isolated inside our heads. Only separation convinces us we are alone, divided, fragmented, confused and set apart from nature. The purpose of the spiritual path is to reconnect you with your source, which is pure consciousness. The source is undivided; it is whole. As you get closer to your source, the symptoms of separation will steadily lessen, and, in time, you will discover you were never a separate creation. You will exist in a single reality; the division between "in here" and "out there" will disappear. At that point, thinking is naturally life-supporting, and your intentions will seamlessly lead to positive outcomes.
As for the stages of progress on this path, there are many, and they differ from person to person. Separation is a highly individual condition. It affects every aspect of the self, including emotions, feelings, thoughts, physical responses, health, livelihood, relationships and society. But despite all these differences, the aim is always the same: to leave behind the state of separation and approach the state of unity. The following steps are involved:
Having a vision of the goal.
Finding guidance you can trust, either through a personal teacher, a group or books that describe the spiritual journey honestly and accurately.
Meditation, to reach the deeper levels of the mind.
A lifestyle that is conducive to expanded awareness—such a lifestyle includes low stress, positive relationships and the total absence of violence, anger and fear.
Good habits in terms of diet, sleep and exercise.
Healing old wounds from the past.
Releasing stuck energies of anger and fear.
Associating with other people on the path who will support your goals.
Living for the highest vision of human potential.
I hope these elements don't seem mystical or daunting, because a very productive and fulfilling life can be built around them. They have held true for centuries and continue to hold true today.