Deepak Chopra
Photo: Jeremiah Sullivan
Recently I've been discussing how to change your energy. Many problems—physical and mental—seem to come down to a person's beliefs, habits, lifestyle, moods and emotions. We use the words "positive" and "negative" to describe people we know, yet modern medicine hasn't been able to find the source of these factors. There's plenty of data to prove that people who undergo traumatic events, such as being widowed or losing a job without warning, suffer from lowered immune response. There are countless studies linking stress and poor health.

In my book Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, I suggest that the missing link is energy—a term that appears everywhere in Eastern medicine, from the life energy called Chi in Chinese medicine to Prana in Ayurvedic medicine from India. The important thing, however, is to find out for yourself if you can change your energy. In fact, there are ways that do not depend on esoteric beliefs or aligning yourself with Eastern medicine.

The most powerful tool for changing your energy is subtle action. This is nothing more than having an intention that your body can respond to. When you lift your arm, your body is responding to an intention. We're used to that kind of mind-body link, yet subtle action goes much deeper. Experiments with Tibetan monks who have meditated on the value of compassion have proved that their brains actually change. The area of the prefrontal cortex associated with higher functions, like compassion, light up stronger in these monks than in any other tested subjects.

In daily life, feeling love and sending it to others is a subtle action. Experimenters at Harvard have shown the immediate effect of love on the body. Subjects sat in a room to watch a film of Mother Teresa and her work with abandoned children in Calcutta. The images were deeply moving, and clearly the audience was touched. At the same time, their breathing rates and blood chemistry changed, revealing greater calm and less stress. All these responses are controlled by the brain.

If even a brief exposure to love creates a new brain response, what about love in the long run? Older couples who enjoy good marriages have been studied, and they report that they love each other more after 30 or 40 years than when they first fell in love. But they also report that it's a different kind of love—not the overwhelming infatuation that poets compare to madness, but a steadier, more constant, deeper love. This suggests that like the Tibetan monks, the happily married are experiencing a change in their brains. I am not aware if this phenomenon has been measured with MRIs, but there are striking resemblances between the two groups. The monks expose their minds to a state of calmness, openness, peace and "non-doing," to use a common Buddhist phrase. The brain got used to that unbounded state, and thus it escaped from its own conditioning. Old lovers also experience calm, peace and openness around each other. Exposure to each other has done the work of meditation.

Learn how subtle action works