Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: Can you help me understand how to best release those things that are stored in the body? I understand that stillness and detaching help to avoid adding to those emotions and stored feelings. Is it also the best way to release that which has already been deeply rooted within and can eventually cause physical distress? I often experience a situation that opens an old feeling or wound. After I am able to identify the feeling and its source, I choose to replace it with a positive feeling; nevertheless, it is often painful. Example—I recently experienced bursitis in my shoulder. A current event in my life opened an old pattern of response. Once I realized it, I decided to see the anger flow out and compassion replace it. I don't want to be angry with myself or anyone. I can feel this process working and changing me. Is this the best way? It often feels labor intensive.
— Margaret M., St. Louis, Missouri
I think you have hit upon the right way to approach old stresses stored in the tissues, so let's clarify some of the finer points. Stored emotions, energies, old memories, past traumas, etc. are a huge obstacle. They come in different guises and many intensities. Some are easy to get at and move quickly. Others move slowly and take time and patience. There is no way to determine the flow in advance. With any specific kind of negativity, you are where you are. In other words, whatever comes up for you is still there. You must take it a day at a time.
The fact that releasing old hurts takes time discourages many people. They would like the equivalent of a spiritual aspirin that will make the pain go away in 10 minutes. Such a panacea doesn't exist, even though you will meet promises of quick relief from many quarters. In the Indian tradition of Ayurveda, which concerns every aspect of the mind and body as one connected system, a basic distinction is made. Every person is born with a certain personal nature that is balanced and works naturally; this is known as the Prakriti, the Sanskrit word for nature. But through wrong choices, bad lifestyle habits, disease, accident, stress and other pressures, your Prakriti enters a state of imbalance. The present state of the mind and body is known as Vikriti.
What you want to do, in bringing yourself back to a natural state, is to heal the imbalances in your Vikriti. (For more details, please see my book, Perfect Health, which outlines the whole subject.) Almost any measure you can take to improve your present situation contributes to overall healing. I am not advising that you obsess, only that you remain realistic. Look at your diet and exercise regimen; honestly examine the state of your workplace, close relationships and stress levels. Become more aware through meditation. Delve deeply into past wounds and learn to heal them. That, in a nutshell, is what you need to do. It's not meant to be a burden or a crash program. Healing is about getting back into balance, using every means at our disposal. In the end, it's the best and most fulfilling way to live.