By Deepak Chopra, M.D
Modern society has reversed the priorities that once ruled society in an age of faith, where spiritual advancement (i.e., avoiding sin and pleasing God) came first and worldly success second. Today many people are rediscovering the spiritual path, but even so they approach it as an add-on to a life that faces all kinds of real-life challenges, especially financial ones. It’s hard to believe in spiritual abundance and infinite possibilities when you are worried about money and your career.
What’s the best way to get your priorities straight? The most obvious way is to allow some time for spiritual practice every day, and that’s certainly advisable. But dividing up your daily schedule doesn’t get at the heart of the problem. The crucial question is whether spirituality is compatible with so-called worldly life. How can your path be more than an add-on? I’d like to suggest that the spiritual life is the best way to achieve any kind of success, once you make a few important decisions. They all have to do with prioritising consciousness over everything else.
In the world’s wisdom traditions, consciousness comes first. This is because you experience everything in awareness. Therefore, the world you inhabit as well as your personal reality are constructed in consciousness. More than that, everything is made of consciousness. At the same time, the source of consciousness exists in yourself, which means that you as a conscious agent are the creator of reality.
To turn this knowledge into a living reality, you need to commit yourself to a shift of perspective, as follows:
1. Identify with your inner world instead of objects “out there.”
2. Deepen your self-awareness to bring you closer to the place where reality is constructed.
3. Identify yourself as a conscious creator of your personal reality.
4. See everything around you in terms of a reflection sending you pictures and messages about the reality you are choosing to create for yourself.
5. Measure all success by how you are personally evolving, not by externals.
What these points outline is a shift of identity from an “I” based on ego personality, with its endless demands and insecurities, to an “I” that expresses consciousness itself. There is only one consciousness, which we experience individually according to our own likes, preferences, predispositions, beliefs, and conditioning. If it were not for all these influences, it would be natural to live as a conscious creator of personal reality. It would be obvious that consciousness is the only “real” reality. But for most people the realisation of who they really are is masked, and taking off the mask is what happens on the spiritual path.
When you adopt a consciousness-based approach, you can also avoid the most common obstacles to success, both the worldly and spiritual kind.
Obstacle #1: Low Expectations
There are a few people gifted with roaring self-confidence who expect to conquer the world. Most people often feel insecure and uncertain. They want to feel safe, and they think they can get that by lowering their expectations. It isn't true. Setting your expectations too low constricts your awareness, setting limits on life’s infinite possibilities. Higher expectations are about expanded awareness, which naturally brings a sense of confidence, because consciousness is secure in itself.
Obstacle #2: The Trap of Certainty
Life is uncertain, and the vast majority of people feel so uneasy about this that they seize on certainty when they shouldn't. They follow the opinions of the people around them and only feel secure when they fit in. Yet real success is built upon making peace with uncertainty, turning the unknown into a field of creative possibilities. It takes a conscious effort to place yourself in a position where things are open-ended. But if you don't, the other alternative is being in a position that's closed off.
Obstacle #3: Neglecting Growth
In various situations, particularly at work, we try to act confident and competent, which brings a measure of ego satisfaction. But great careers and great lives are built on a willingness to grow. Seeing your own potential to grow isn't easy, especially when you are young. But it's a mistake not to realise that you are here to evolve, meaning that your future self, although out of reach today, has an enormous amount to offer. The self you experience today, including what you think, feel, and know, is provisional.
When you accept, you can welcome the mysterious process of growth, which happens in consciousness.
Through meditation and expanded awareness, the identity shift to a new “I” is not only possible; it has been happening for thousands of years and is always available. Putting your priority on your personal evolution causes the outer reflections in your life to change. Positive reflections begin to dominate over negative. As your awareness becomes clearer, the entire state of duality begins to dissolve—what remains is the reality of an infinite, eternal consciousness that never loses sight of itself even as its excitation create the world of experience.
By changing your priorities in this way, the problem of material versus spiritual goals disappears, because consciousness-based reality embraces both.