The new story is about all of us who share this planet. Together, we can create a culture of peace that eliminates the need for armed conflict, respecting and appreciating the glorious diversity of our human family.
During the last years of the Cold War, I had a front row seat as a senior systems designer in the defense industry to one of the most frightening times in the history of the world, and the thinking that led to it. During the last years of the most potentially lethal, yet undeclared, war in human history, the superpowers of the United States and the former Soviet Union did something that seems unthinkable to any rationally minded person today. They spent the time, energy, and human resources to develop and stockpile somewhere in the neighborhood of 65,000 nuclear weapons -- a combined arsenal with the power to microwave the Earth, and everything on it, many times over.
The rationale for such an extreme effort stems from a way of thinking that has dominated much of the modern world for the last 300 years or so, since the beginning of the scientific era. It's based in the false assumptions of scientific thinking that suggest we're somehow separate from the Earth, separate from one another, and that the nature that gives us life is based upon relentless struggle and survival of the strongest. Fortunately, new discoveries have revealed that each of these assumptions is absolutely false. Unfortunately, however, there is a reluctance to reflect such new discoveries in mainstream media, traditional classrooms and conventional textbooks. In other words, we're still teaching our young people the false assumptions of an obsolete way of thinking based on struggle, competition, and war. While we no longer face the nuclear threat that we did in the 1980s, the thinking that made the Cold War possible is still in place. This fact is vital to us all right now for one simple reason: For the first time in human history the future of our entire species rests upon the choices of a single generation -- us -- and the choices are being made within a small window of time--now. The best minds of our time are telling us that we must act quickly to avert the clear and present danger of a host of new crises that are converging in a "bottleneck" of time covering the first years of the 21st Century.
The journal Scientific American released a special edition (vol. 293, no. 3, September 2005) to bring the world up to speed on the critical situation we find ourselves in today. The title, "Crossroads for Planet Earth," says it all. The way we solve the simultaneous crises -- such as our response to climate change, the unsustainable and growing levels of extreme poverty, the emergence of new diseases, the growing shortages of food and fresh drinking water, the growing chasm between extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and the unsustainable demand for energy--will chart the destiny, or seal the fate of our global family that is estimated to reach a staggering 8 billion by 2025.
The key here is that the way we address the greatest crises of human history is based on the way we think of ourselves and the world. Clearly, the thinking that led to the war and suffering of the 20th century is not the thinking that we want the delicate choices of our survival based upon! Developing a new level of thinking is precisely what we need to do today, and the magnitude of crises that face us may prove to be the catalyst for doing just that! The emerging bridge between the sciences that tell us how the universe works, and the spiritual traditions that give such knowledge meaning in our lives, plays a vital role in the new thinking that heads off the darkest possibilities of our future. But while the crises of the moment may be the catalyst for such a shift in thinking, something even deeper is emerging.
The new shift in thinking is the gateway to human transformation. And because of the sheer number of people involved in the shift, and the growing magnitude of the crises that are driving us to change the way we think, we are standing on the threshold of human transformation at a level unlike anything ever before known on Earth.The spiritual traditions that I'm describing are the core principles of ancient and time-tested understandings -- principles now confirmed by 20th century science that include the interconnected nature of all things, the power of the human heart to positively influence the magnetic fields of the earth and all life, and the cyclic nature of life, climate, civilization and change. The spiritual traditions of our ancestors got these principles right and embodied them at the core of their lives in their time. It's the marriage of these holistic principles with the best science of today that helps us to tip the scales of life, balance, and peace in our favor.
While the specifics of spiritual principles may vary from tradition to tradition, the essence of their message does not. It's simple, direct and states that we live in a world where everything has meaning, and is meaningful to everything else. What happens in the oceans has meaning for the climate of the mountains. What happens in a river has meaning for the life that depends upon the river. The choices that you and I make as we express our beliefs in our living rooms and around family dinner tables have meaning for the people in our immediate lives, as well as for those connected through the coherence fields of the human heart living halfway around the Earth. By crossing the traditional boundaries that define the science, religion, and the history of our past, we are shown the power of a larger, integrated, and holistic worldview. I cannot help but believe that our destiny and fate as a species are intimately entwined with our willingness to accept the Deep Wisdom of a spiritually based science. It's all about the way we think of ourselves, our relationship to the Earth and to one another. When the facts become clear, our choices become obvious.
Excerpted from The Path to Love by Deepak Chopra. Copyright © 1997 by Deepak Chopra.
All of us need to believe that we are loved and lovable. We began life with confidence on both points, bathed in a mother's love and swaddled in our own innocence. Love was never in question, but over time our certainty clouded. When you look at yourself today, can you still make the two statements every infant could if it had the words?
I am completely loved.
I am completely lovable.
Few people can, for looking at yourself honestly you see flaws that make you less than completely lovable and less than perfectly loved. In many ways this seems right to you, for perfect love is supposedly not of this world. Yet in a deeper sense, what you call flaws are really just the scars of hurts and wounds accumulated over a lifetime. When you look in the mirror, you think you are looking at yourself realistically, but your mirror doesn't reveal the truth that endures despite all hurt:
You were created to be completely loved and completely lovable for your whole life.
In a way it is amazing that you do not realize this, because underneath everything you think and feel, innocence is still intact. Time cannot blemish your essence, your portion of spirit. But if you lose sight of this essence, you will mistake yourself for your experiences, and there is no doubt that experience can do much to obliterate love. In an often hostile and brutal world, maintaining innocence seems impossible. Therefore, you find yourself experiencing only so much love and only so much lovability.
This can change.
Although you perceive yourself in limited terms, as a mind and a body confined in time and space, there is a wealth of spiritual teaching that says otherwise. In spirit you are unbounded by time and space, untouched by experience. In spirit you are pure love.
The reason you do not feel completely loved and completely lovable is that you do not identify with your spiritual nature. Your sense of love has lost one thing it cannot afford to do without: its higher dimension. What would it be like to restore this lost part of yourself?
Mind, body, and spirit would unite--this union creates the love you have to give. You and your beloved would unite--this creates the love you have to share.
In our deepest nature each person is meant to be the hero or heroine of an eternal love story. The story begins in innocence, with a baby's birth into a mother's loving arms. It proceeds through stages of growth, as the young child step' out into the world. With more and more experience the circle of love widens, including first family and friends, then intimate partners, but also taking in love of abstract things, like learning and truth. The ripening journey brings us to love of giving, and the blossoming of higher values, such as compassion, forgiveness, and altruism. Finally there is the direct experience of spirit itself, which is pure love. The journey climaxes in the same knowledge that a baby began with, although it couldn't voice that knowledge: I am love.
You know that you have fully experienced love when you turn into love--that is the spiritual goal of life.
Not many people find the spiritual goal of life. The aching need created by lack of love can only be filled by learning anew to love and be loved. All of us must discover for ourselves that love is a force as real as gravity, and that being upheld in love every day, every hour, every minute is not a fantasy-it is intended as our natural state.
This book is about reviving love stories that should never have faded. The union of self and spirit is not only possible but inevitable. The spiritual meaning of love is best measured by what it can do, which is many things.
Love can heal.
Love can renew.
Love can make us safe.
Love can inspire us with its power. Love can bring us closer to God.
Everything love is meant to do is possible. Knowing this, however, has only made the gap between love and non-love more painful.
Countless people have experienced love--as pleasure, sex, security, having someone else fulfill their daily needs--without seeing that a special path has opened to them. Socially, the "normal" cycle of love is simply to find a suitable partner, marry, and raise a family. But this social pattern isn't a path, because the experience of marriage and raising a family isn't automatically spiritual. Sad to say, many people enter lifelong relationships in which love fades over time or provides lasting companionship without growing in its inner dimension. A spiritual path has only one reason to exist: it shows the way for the soul to grow. As it grows, more of spiritual truth is revealed, more of the soul's promise is redeemed.
When you find your path, you will also find your love story. People today are consumed by doubts about their relationships: Have I found the right partner? Am I being true to myself? Have I given the best part of myself away? As a result, there is a restless kind of consumer shopping for partners, as if the "right" one can be found by toting up a potential mate's pluses and minuses until the number of pluses matches some mythical standard. The path to love, however, is never about externals. However good or bad you feel about your relationship, the person you are with at this moment is the "right" person, because he or she is a mirror of who you are inside. Our culture hasn't taught us this (as it has failed to teach us so much about spiritual realities). When you struggle with your partner, you are struggling with yourself. Every fault you see in them touches a denied weakness in yourself. Every conflict you wage is an excuse not to face a conflict within. The path to love therefore clears up a monumental mistake that millions of people make--the mistake that someone "out there" is going to give (or take) something that is not already yours. When you truly find love, you find yourself.
Therefore the path to love isn't a choice, for all of us must find out who we are. This is our spiritual destiny. The path can be postponed; you can lose faith in it or even despair that love exists at all. None of that is permanent; only the path is. Doubt reflects the ego, which is bound in time and space; love reflects God, eternal divine essence. The ultimate promise on the path to love is that you will walk in the light of a truth extending beyond any truth your mind presently knows.
Many people are fearful of change, both the expected and unexpected they need to experience in order to live life with greater freedom and happiness. Like the acorn that has to die in order to be reborn as an oak tree, we are all in the midst of being transformed. With that transformation, we can become more compassionate, caring people who offer our unique gifts in the service of a larger whole. Change offers us the possibility of growing beyond our perceived limitations to the fullness of our divine potential.
The mysteries of change are known in every world wisdom tradition and provide us with an archetypal map for spiritual growth. In the book Saying Yes to Change: Essential Wisdom for Your Journey, my husband and coauthor Gordon Dveirin and I outline the three classical stages of change that constitute a rite of passage—for instance, from the acorn to the oak or from the caterpillar to the butterfly. First, change entails separation from the old life; second, it ushers in a threshold period of not knowing what's next; and finally, it paves the way for a return to the world strengthened and transformed. So if you're in the midst of an unwanted change, rather than thinking of yourself as an unwilling victim, think of yourself as an initiate of the journey of the soul, which will bring you solace as well as wisdom.
The Three Stages of Transformation
1. Separation: The Journey Begins. When I directed a mind/body clinic at a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, patients often told me that the day they were diagnosed with cancer or AIDS, they died to who they were. They felt as if they were falling into an abyss. When illness, job loss, financial reversal, betrayal, divorce, or death of a loved one disrupts our world, our ego identity shatters and we are separated from what was. The human response is fear. At a deeper level, however, a spiritual process is beginning to unfold. The shell of ego cracks, and its habitual way of constructing the world falters. Deprived of familiar frameworks, we are invited to enter the ritual process of transformation.
2. Dwelling at the Threshold: Surrendering to the Unknown. The late anthropologist Victor Turner, who identified the three stages of transformation, termed the second “the time between no longer and not yet.” We have died to who we were, but are not yet reborn to who we might become. We are at the doorway, the threshold of new potential. When the Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt—which in Hebrew means “the narrow place”—they had to wander in the desert for forty years. We all go through narrow places where we're challenged to let go of old beliefs and habit patterns that limit us. It may take time for them to surface and for us to let go of them in order to heal. The journey across this desert is not one in which we hurry. This is the great unknown where ordeals are faced, allies appear, and the gifts of trusting in and surrendering to a larger divine reality are claimed.
3. The Return: Transformation and Rebirth. The caterpillar who died to itself in the phase of separation—then dwelled at the threshold in its chrysalis—is finally reborn as a butterfly that can spread beauty and inspiration with its very presence. Our spiritual transformation entails dying to the false-self with its fears, attachments, and need to control. With the rebirth to our true nature, or God-self, we are in alignment with a larger whole and truly support the inner freedom and well-being of all. The strengths discovered in the second phase of our transformation are powerful gifts that we bring back for the good of family, community, and the world.
Whether it's an unwanted circumstance that happens to us or something that we initiate voluntarily, change is an invitation to actualize the wisdom and compassion that make us both fully human and evident manifestations of the divine. Life, after all, is a journey into the unknown where change is constant. The challenge is to pay attention, heal what needs healing, and grieve what we've lost as a testimony to how precious it has been. Staying faithful to the certainty that we live in a spiritually meaningful reality, we are called by change to authentic trust and surrender. Answering that call, we live in peace, joy, and service right now in this beautiful and holy world.