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 a smart, educated woman with a successful career in fundraising. I have raised millions of dollars for elected officials, education organizations and the arts. However, I do not have a penny to show for it. I have five years of unfiled taxes and no savings, and last year I lost my home to foreclosure. What is my shadow trying to teach me?
— Rebecca J., Miami Beach, Florida
Thank you for such an honest question, and I congratulate you on realizing your shadow is trying to tell you something. You haven't fallen back on blaming others or feeling victimized by fate and bad luck. (Of course, all of these ingredients could be circulating inside at a deeper level.)
As you state the case, you are a natural helper. You have been successful at giving others more well-being while depriving yourself. Why would anyone do such a thing, because for most people, charity begins at home? There are several possible answers, and I'd like you to examine each one carefully to see if it applies.
You think self-sacrifice is a form of virtue.
You want your good works to be spontaneously rewarded because they prove how good you are.
You view charity work as a kind of martyrdom, and that appeals to you.
By helping others, you evaded looking at yourself.
You hoped your good works would solve your own unfaced problems.
You knew you were getting into trouble but didn't want to face reality.
Some unforeseen things happened that were beyond your control.
Depending on which of these statements holds true for you, the message will be different. Yet I can venture a generalization and say the shadow always does the same thing: It keeps you in a fog of illusion. The list I've just given you is really a list of illusions. The shadow has brought to your doorstep the very thing you most feared. By not facing it, but choosing to remain in a fog, you have wound up facing it anyway and probably in a more serious context. Only when you bring awareness to your situation and face reality will the healthier, more positive aspects of consciousness come to your aid. These exist, I assure you, despite your present bad situation. Everything you can do to make reality more desirable, as a way of life, than self-delusion will be a step in the right direction.