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By Nadia Marshall
I was lucky enough to attend Deepak Chopra’s recent one day event in Sydney promoting his new book, “Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul”. It is the sequel to “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind” and takes the idea of mind/body medicine a little further - teaching that rather than just healing our bodies and minds, we can actually reinvent them by getting more in touch with our souls, with consciousness.....
From the outset, Deepak gave the audience a compelling reason to listen to his ideas... the promise of happiness and total wellbeing! We all want to be happy. Absolutely everything we do in life is in an attempt to be happier, either by moving towards pleasure or away from suffering. More often than not, however, our attempts are somewhat misguided and we tend to pursue the wrong things and make the wrong choices. So, Deepak asked, “What actually makes us happy?”.
A large number of the world’s best and brightest scientists researched this very question, on behalf of the Dalai Lama, and came back with the following Happiness Formula:
H (happiness) = S (set point) + C (living conditions) + V (voluntary actions)
The scientists discovered that happy people actually have a different brain chemistry to unhappy people and it relates to their ‘set point’. Our set point determines how we react to obstacles in life - whether we see them as opportunities or as problems (and then attach fear, anger, or hopelessness/depression to them).
According to the scientists, our set point is determined in the first 3-4 years of our life by our parents or adult carers. It has very little to do with what they say and teach and everything to do with how they actually behave. Our set points are determined by ‘mirror neurons’ that create neural pathways to mirror behaviour. It is the same mechanism by which we learn language.
Apparently 50% of our happiness is determined by our set point!! Does that mean we’re all stuffed if we didn’t get a good one? Luckily, no. We can change our set point in two lasting ways - through meditation (which, practiced over time, is like a ‘reset’ button for the set point) and through therapy/counselling that can help us change our beliefs about ourselves and our lives - from negative limiting beliefs to more positive beliefs. Phew.
Surprisingly, only 10% of our happiness is determined by our living conditions. We often think that if we were wealthier or lived in a bigger house or drove a nicer car we’d be happier. But according to the scientists, so long as we’re not really, really poor or really, really rich (in which case we will be worrying about money all the time), living conditions have little to do with our happiness. We also fear that major tragic events - from accidents, to divorce to deaths of loved ones may lead to a lifetime of unhappiness. But, according to the science, we all return to our ‘set point’ of happiness or otherwise within 1-2 years of any major event - whether it is positive or negative.
The final part of the equation, voluntary actions, is responsible for 40% of our happiness and relates to the choices we make every day. There are two types: (1) choices based purely on personal pleasure or self-satisfaction (like shopping) and (2) fulfillment choices that are meaningful, express creativity or make other people happy. Personal pleasure choices will increase happiness for only 1-2 days while fulfillment choices will increase happiness for weeks.
The Dalai Lama was impressed with the Happiness Formula but pointed out it does not address the ‘existential unhappiness’ that humans suffer from. It does not address our desire to know the answers to the fundamental questions of life like ‘who am I?’, ‘why am I here?’, ‘do I have a soul?’, ‘what happens after I die?’, ‘does God exist?’ etc etc. These questions have been answered time and again in all manner of ways by saints and sages throughout the ages but it isn’t good enough for humans to know the answers from others - we actually need to experience the answers for ourselves.
Science is now working on the Existential Happiness Formula! The number one question in science in the world today, according to Deepak, is.... “What is the nature of consciousness?”.
He spent about 3 hours telling us about it from a quantum physics/mechanics perspective and it was absolutely fascinating. He presented a world of infinite possibilities, infinite creativity, effortless synchronicity and remarkable empowerment. I won’t get into the details here because it all got pretty spooky but, the moral of the story was... we can know and experience the answers to our fundamental existential questions in this lifetime..... we don’t necessarily need religion to do it..... but some of the ‘maps’ presented by ancient traditions such as Ayurveda, Yoga and Buddhism will help a lot.... so long as we spend our time navigating the maps rather than worshipping them.
Deepak went on to present his own ‘map’ for total wellbeing, backed by research carried out by an organisation called Gallup. According to Gallup, there are six elements contributing to our total wellbeing - Career, Social, Financial, Community, Physical and Spiritual. People with the best Career wellbeing choose a line of work that allows them to express their strengths everyday and be acknowledged for them. People with the best Social wellbeing socialise for 6 hours a day, mix socialising with physical or spiritual activity and associate with positive/happy people. People with good Financial wellbeing have three habits - they spend money on experiences rather than things, they give money away and they have good default systems - pay their taxes, save consistently and don’t regularly get into debt. People with good Community wellbeing spend 4 hours a week volunteering in the community, connecting with people with a shared passion. People with good Physical wellbeing pay attention to their exercise (exercising moderately everyday), to their diets (consuming wholefoods containing the 6 tastes) and sleep patterns. Last but definitely not least, people with the best Spiritual wellbeing incorporate Yoga into every day life, meditate daily and regularly connect with the beauty and wonder of nature. Deepak concluded one of the most profound ways to create happiness is to practice cultivating the ‘Brahma Viharas’ described in Buddhism - kindness, compassion joy in the happiness of others (otherwise known as ‘Mudita’!) and equanimity. Buddha taught these as the noblest of attitudes and conduct to cultivate.... and science is beginning to agree. Deepak described one experiment, where a group of people practiced cultivating these four feeling states and, after 4 months, the physical expression of 500 of their genes actually changed!
So, after eight hours of material, I think Deepak’s forumla for happiness and wellbeing looked a bit like this.....
H (happiness) = GW (good work) + GF (good food) + GP (good people) + EM (enough money) + M (meditation) + Y (yoga) + P (positive impressions) + PLK (practicing loving kindness).
If you need any help with all that... give us a call xx
Agni - the digestive fire.
Ama or Aama - undigested food waste, toxins.
Ojas- the foundation of our immune system and longevity.
Dhatus - the tissues of the body.
Srotas - the channels of the body.
Vata - the air/ether
intelligence in the body.
Pitta- the fire/water
intelligence in the body.
Kapha- the water/earth intelligence in the body.
Sattva- the quality of purity, intelligence, peace and love.
Rajas- the quality of
turbulence and activity.
Tamas- the quality of
dullness, darkness and inertia.
Rasa - the taste of a food (Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, Astringent)
Virya - second level of digestion (either Heating or Cooling)
Vipaka - third level of digestion, the deep taste of a food (can be Sweet, Sour or Pungent)
Prabhav - the 'special effect' of a food or herb/spice
Rasa - also the name for plasma tissue
Rakta - blood tissue
Mamsa - muscle tissue
Meda - fat tissue
Asthi - bone tissue
Majja - nerve & bone marrow tissue
Shukra - sexual reproductive tissue
Nadia getting her book signed by Deepak Chopra.