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Deepak Chopra on Listening and Stillness
Let’s face it: We live in a high-tech world. Between instant messaging, smart phones, WiFi and televison, we’re accustomed to an overload of information at rapid speed, all day, every day. But what happens when that digital noise drowns out the silence and quashes our ability to really listen to ourselves and others?
Ironically, it is in the midst of chaotic midtown Manhattan that Deepak Chopra tells me that we must take stock and revel in stillness, regardless of the storms raging around us. That it is in stillness and serenity that we reach inner calm and achieve balance. Here’s how he came to that conclusion, and his advice for making it happen.
Create your reality
Growing up, Chopra’s parents were his greatest inspiration. Later it was Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. But now, Chopra credits silence as his muse. “At this moment, silence inspires me,” he says. “When I can quiet my mind and listen to silence, that inspires me.”
For those of us living in bustling cities (or just living busy lives), “listening to the silence” can seem like a tall order. But don’t let that stop you: Chopra says it’s an excuse to blame our external environment for our internal frenzy. In fact, it’s often just the reverse: “The chaos of the world is a reflection of the chaos in you,” Chopra explains. “That’s how you create your own reality.”
If that’s true, then the first step to achieving calm and balance is to create a new reality, one of stillness and serenity, both internally and externally. To do this, Chopra recommends sitting in silence and practicing listening to yourself in a self-reflection meditation.
The listening “to do” list
“Listening to yourself” sounds pretty metaphysical, but it needn’t be an elaborate spiritual chore. Actually, it’s pretty simple.
First, simply close your eyes and breathe. “Just observe your breath,” says Chopra. “If you do that for three to four minutes, then your internal dialogue will quiet down.”
Second, focus your attention on feelings of compassion and joy. “You can do that through memories,” Chopra advises. By thinking of someone you love or an enjoyable past experience, you progress from that experience into self-reflection.
Next, begin your self-reflection with a series of questions. Chopra suggests asking yourself, “Who am I?” “What do I want?” “What do I want to experience this day, this week, this year?” “It’s very interesting: If you just pay attention to the question, the answer is there in the question,” he says.
Chopra says the questions you ask should be meaningful ones that are relevant to your life. In addition to asking who you are and what you want, he recommends asking yourself, “What’s my purpose? What’s my contribution? What makes me happy? What kinds of relationships do I enjoy, and am I focusing on them?”
When we stop to take stock and revel in our own stillness by asking questions, therein lies the magic. Chopra observes that in our fast-paced, goal-driven culture there’s plenty of “doing” but little “being.” To achieve a more balanced life, we need to flip that equation around to focus on “being” instead of “doing.” In other words, slow down!
By ditching technology and instead sitting still (sans smartphone), we can begin to unearth our inner selves. Think of artists, musicians, dancers and meditators — people we look to as role models. Chopra says in these creative types of people, the brain is actually more active in silence and “more coherent.” As a result, they can be more creative because they’re more relaxed.
So let listening and stillness be a solid foundation to evoke feelings of compassion and joy, thereby letting your inner consciousness bubble to the top. As Chopra notes, once you embark upon this journey, you’re “well on your way.”
Vicki Salemi is the author of Big Career in the Big City and a freelance writer based in New York City. She frequently writes about careers, lifestyle, entertainment and wellness. She’s interviewed everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker to the U.N. Ambassador of Spain. For more information, follow her on Twitter @VickiSalemi and visit vickisalemi.com.