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For many years I wrote a column called Ask Deepak, answering questions about personal dilemmas that people sent in from all around the world, including India, China, the United States, Canada, and many countries in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Yet in a sense, everyone was writing from the same place inside, where confusion and darkness had overwhelmed them. They shared stories of feeling hurt, betrayed, lost, misunderstood, worried, anxious, and, at times, desperate. What I realized after answering more than 10,000 questions was that while the details of people’s individual situations vary, everyone who feels stuck or in pain is suffering from the same underlying problem: a state of contracted awareness. From this place of fear and constriction, every step forward feels like a battle. You keep doing more of what never worked in the first place, and as frustration mounts, you feel more and more exhausted. As the physicist Albert Einstein famously said, “No problem can ever be solved at the level of awareness at which it was created.”
On the other hand, when your awareness expands, you no longer feel fearful, and love and fresh ideas have space to grow. In this expanded state, spiritual solutions spontaneously emerge. Instead of trying to relying on the limited resources of the ego-mind, you let yourself be guided by your true self, which is the source of all peace, clarity, and wisdom. With clearer vision, you no longer feel confused and conflicted.
As you continue to evolve, you enter the level of pure awareness. At this level, no problems exist. You are aligned with the infinite field of all possibilities. There is no struggle, and your desires are spontaneously fulfilled. Although it may seem like it takes a long time on the spiritual path to reach pure awareness, exactly the opposite is true: At every moment, pure awareness is in contact with you, sending creative impulses. All that matters is how open you are to the answers being presented.
A Closer Look at the Three Levels of Awareness
To deepen your understanding of the three levels of awareness, the following analogy may be useful: Imagine that you’re walking in a dark room with only the small flame of a candle to light your way. You keep stumbling and bumping into furniture and other objects that you perceive as obstacles. You feel isolated and separated from the world around you (even though you are always inextricably connected to the universe. This is a state of contracted awareness.
Now imagine that you’re still in the same dark room but someone has given you a flashlight. With more illumination, you can move around freely without the fear of tripping or hurting yourself. You can also see that everything that seemed like an obstacle has a clear purpose. You can beam your light around and see that there is a couch you can stretch out on, a shelf filled with wonderful books, and a stereo for listening to music. What appeared to be threats or barriers are actually opportunities. You feel connected to the web of relationships that link everyone and everything. This is a state of expanded awareness.
Now once again imagine that you’re still in the same room but now all of the walls, including the floor and ceiling, are made of transparent glass and the room is flooded with sunlight. When you look outside you see that the whole world is your playground. This is the state of pure awareness. There are no problems and therefore no need for solutions. You are the creative, evolutionary impulse of the universe. You feel the wholeness and oneness of life. You are in flow and so you play.
To summarize, problems arise in contracted awareness. Solutions emerge automatically in expanded awareness. When you have pure awareness – awareness without conceptual boundaries – then you live in pure creativity. That is the basis of spiritual solutions, and you can apply these principles whether you want to improve the quality of your relationships, cultivate greater wellbeing, or enjoy more material success, or experience insight, intuition, imagination, inspiration, higher consciousness, and creativity.
How to Awaken Your Deeper Awareness
When you follow these steps, letting go of conditioned beliefs and ingrained behavior patterns, the possibility of finding new answers expands. You start to see that all of your struggles and frustrations have kept you from joining the flow of evolution, and you begin to let go. You experience peace in your mind and heart and are able to move through life with grace and ease.
Deepak Chopra, M.D is the author of more than 65 books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His medical training is in internal medicine and endocrinology, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and an adjunct professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He is also a Distinguished Executive Scholar at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, and a Senior Scientist at the Gallup organization.