Deepak Chopra
Photo: Jeremiah Sullivan
Subtle action is the most powerful tool we have to change our energy. Deepak Chopra explains how we can change the energy in our daily lives by viewing our bodies as a flowing process guided by energy.
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

How Subtle Action Works

1. You go inside and make your intention known.
2. You believe in getting results.
3. You don't resist the process of change.
4. Your body effortlessly shifts at the physical level.
5. You repeat your subtle action until you have mastered the change you desire.

The Tibetan monks accomplished all these steps. They meditated in order to make contact with higher consciousness (Buddhists wouldn't use the word soul). They sat quietly, trusting that they would reach their goal. They diligently practiced their discipline, keeping the goal in sight. Through subtle action alone, using no effort or physical struggle, compassion flowed into them. (I am reminded of a famous saying in India that wisdom isn't something you learn, it's something you become.)

Sitting quietly in a meditative state, you can intend anything—love, success, peace, kindness—that you want in your life. Then you let it go so that the invisible organizing power of the body, and the entire universe, can work for you. Don't force or strain. Don't use this technique as a shortcut for winning the lottery. Amazing things can happen through subtle intention, but for that to happen, you need to really contact the level of awareness where energy exists. This takes time, but it is well worth it. You will feel the first effects by a lessening of negativity and worry, which are stale residues of energy that isn't flowing as freely as it needs to.

If subtle energy really does have power, then a subtle action—one entirely located in the mind—should be able to create much greater change than a gross action. There’s another Tibetan meditation called Tumo that protects the body from the elements. Monks who practice Tumo can sit in caves overnight at sub-zero temperatures clad only in a thin silk robe, and at dawn they emerge unharmed. The secret, according to Western medical observers, is that the monks have raised their internal temperature by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit, which requires a specific area of the brain (the hypothalamus) to respond.

Body temperature is ordinarily an automatic response, yet through subtle action a person can move this response at will. Biofeedback experiments with ordinary people in the West have followed this example. Subjects are asked to focus on a small patch of skin on the back of their hand and to will it to grow hot. Without long practice, many could raise their skin temperature enough, simply through focused attention, that a red patch appeared on the back of the hand.

In short, the possibilities of subtle action have been proven over the ages, yet it is also an exciting new area for anyone to explore today. 

Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM, Channels 102 and 155.

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