"Adults squirm when the big questions come up, especially the big spiritual ones. They don't want their kids to worry, so they give answers that all say one thing: 'Don't worry. It's all okay.'
"And yet the big questions still keep coming up. At every age we all need to know what life is really all about. Not just on the surface, but deep down.
"Teenagers are no exception. They deserve a spiritual life all their own. One that offers the kind of comfort we hope to give our children, but is different at the same time. More full of ideas. More mature. More fitting for the whole wide future that lies ahead.
"That's what I've tried to do in this book, as fully and as honestly as possible."
-- Deepak Chopra
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Deepak Chopra, MD, has gained worldwide acclaim as a teacher and writer in fields as diverse as mind-body medicine, Ayurveda, the nature of God, and the path to success. Time magazine called him one of the 100 icons of the twentieth century, “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine.” The author of more than sixty-four books translated into over eighty-five languages, including nineteen New York Times bestsellers, Dr. Chopra has sold more than twenty million copies of his books worldwide. He is the founder of the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Introduction: Asking All the Right Questions
Turn on the TV any day of the week. What do you see? Teens glued to a video game or hanging out in shopping malls. Teens who hate school and make fun of anyone who is different from them. And when they try to be funny, teens come off as too smart for their teachers and too cool for their parents.
In other words, they have no soul.
But my experience tells a very different story. Teenagers worry about their souls more than any other group. Life is a riddle they are eager to solve but also feel troubled by. Teens really want to know who they are. They are old enough not to accept the stories given to children when the big questions come up:
Where's my life going?
Does God really exist?
Why does he allow so many bad things to happen?
Do I matter?
How am I ever going to make a difference?
Since you are a teenager holding this book in your hands, all these questions have run through your mind at some time. But I bet that since you first asked them, somewhere back in your childhood, most of the answers you received aren't that helpful anymore.
This isn't a book about Grandma going to heaven when she dies or God frowning down on you when you swipe cookies from the cookie jar. Whenever I talk with teenagers, they report having heard things like this as a child. They discovered something that's very true: Adults squirm when the big questions come up, especially the big spiritual ones. They don't want their kids to worry, so they give answers that all say one thing: "Don't worry. It's all okay."
And yet the big questions still keep coming up. At every age we all need to know what life is really all about. Not just on the surface, but deep down.
Teenagers are no exception. They deserve a spiritual life all their own. One that offers the kind of comfort we hope to give our children, but is different at the same time. More full of ideas. More mature. More fitting for the whole wide future that lies ahead.
That's what I've tried to do in this book, as fully and as honestly as possible. Not all the answers are nice answers. Does God let bad things happen? Yes; not always, but quite a lot of the time. Does that mean he is cruel? No, but you're really going to have to think, because a person who sits back and lets bad things happen is often cruel. Why is God different from a person, then? Let's talk about it.
That's the kind of discussion you are going to find in these pages -- challenging but not delivered in big words or nice thoughts that aren't really all true. It's based on the questions teenagers actually ask me. Some were asked in person, at public talks. Others were asked around the dinner table, because my son and daughter, Gotham and Mallika, were full of questions when they were teenagers (they're now adults and happily married, with families of their own). The remaining questions were submitted over the Internet, where a Web site was set up to invite teenagers to ask anything they wanted to know about spirituality.
So here it is, the thing you asked for. Not just answers to the big questions, but a guide to spirit as seen through the eyes of teenagers, a special group in society that deserves a spiritual life different from anyone's before or since. I salute your uniqueness and invite you to read on.
Copyright & © 2006 by Deepak Chopra
Chapter One: How Spirit Works (...And It Does Work)
I was shuffling through a pile of questions that teenagers had asked, and one popped to the surface. It's so easy to answer, and yet it's so important that I knew I had to begin with this one.
If you could change one thing about the history of our Earth, what would it be?
That question came from a fourteen-year-old boy. Now, what if you asked it, not to me, but to yourself? There's a lot of changes you might wish for. You might wish that nobody had discovered gunpowder, since that led to such an enormous increase in terrible wars. You might wish that medicine had discovered cures for diseases centuries ago, or that every baby who had ever been born survived to lead a productive life.
But my answer would be different. When it comes down to one and only one choice, here is mine: I wish everyone knew from birth that they had a soul.
You might not think that's much of a change. Doesn't everyone already know they have a soul? Certainly everyone -- or nearly everyone -- is told that they have a soul. But being told and knowing are two different things.
If you truly knew you had a soul, you could change the world. Which is what I'm inviting you to do. The world is changed from the inside. All the greatest people you can think of became great from the inside. Albert Einstein became great by dreaming in a new way about time and space. Leonardo da Vinci became great by imagining inventions that did not come to pass for hundreds of years (did you know that he sketched a helicopter four hundred years before the Wright brothers learned to fly?) and by having a vision of a new way to paint.
Yet there is a kind of greatness open to you right now, even if you think you are a very ordinary, average person. It's the greatness of living from your soul. What does that mean?
Living from the Soul
Imagine that you could have a thought and it would come true.
Imagine that you could feel safe and at peace, no matter what happened around you.
Imagine that you could love yourself as much as you wanted others to love you -- and more.
Imagine that you could wake up every day to greet a new world.
Imagine that you could feel the presence of God.
Anyone who achieved these things would be considered a great success in life. I'm pretty sure that, as a teenager, you worry about how to make a good life for yourself. It can seem like an incredibly difficult project. But if all those things I asked you to imagine came true, wouldn't that be real success? Living from the level of the soul isn't about being goody-goody and hoping that God notices and smiles down on you. It's about the best kind of life you can possibly lead.
One fifteen-year-old boy asked a really important, basic question:
What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
To me, they don't have to be different at all. To be religious and spiritual can and should be the same thing. But we have to be real here, and religion almost always means a traditional faith like Christianity or Islam or Judaism. It's practiced in groups. It takes place in churches or mosques or synagogues. There is a given set of beliefs, along with priests, scriptures, and services.
Spirituality, on the other hand, doesn't need a group. It is done one person at a time, almost always in private. I think every spiritual person reads inspiring scriptures, often from many different religious traditions. Such a person may or may not go to church. They may or may not know the set of beliefs that guide the faithful. So you can be deeply spiritual and yet not be a "good" Catholic, Jew, or Muslim. This book isn't about religion. It's about the spiritual side, the private life of the soul.
A Spiritual Quiz
Q: I think I am spiritual, but I'm not sure, especially when things start going wrong. Then I feel really alone. I'm all by myself, still struggling.
A: I think what makes spirit real is change. Spirit changes you, and when the change is very big, it can be called a transformation. Fairy tales are about a child's deep wish to be changed: Frogs transform into princes, ugly ducklings transform into swans. The amazing thing about human nature is that we are the only creatures on Earth who can transform ourselves just because we want to. A caterpillar has no choice but to be reborn as a butterfly. You do have a choice.
Here's a quiz to show you just how many things in your life -- things you probably take for granted -- could be transformed. Then you can see in advance what spirit could be doing for you right now.
What Can Spirit Do for You?
Put a check beside each sentence that you agree with most of the time. Then score yourself (25 points maximum) by counting up the total number of checks.
I worry about what my body looks like.
What others think about my body is important.
If I had a better body, people would like me more.
I should work hard to get a better body.
It's always better to have more money.
If you don't have money, you won't be able to lead a good life.
My personality bothers people, and I wish it didn't.
Being supported by others is really important to me.
Going against the group doesn't pay. People will laugh at you or put you down.
If I can buy what I want and do the things I like to do, I am happy.
The most important thing is to look out for yourself, because no one else will.
When bad things happen, they could be a punishment from God.
The world is unsafe. It's really important to be on your guard.
I like retreating into fantasy, such as seeing myself as a rich and famous rock star or a celebrity.
When you really look at life, it isn't fair.
When I think of the word powerful, it doesn't apply to me.
I often have a hard time getting motivated.
I'm not sure what I really believe in.
I don't think I really have a vision of my own life.
Secretly there are people I look down upon. I know that I am better than them.
If someone likes me, I like them back. If they don't like me, I dislike them, too.
I am afraid of death.
I get bored easily, especially if no one is paying attention to me.
I have to get what I want, and I make pretty sure that I do.
If you ask me what I am proudest of, it's all the cool things I have, like my PlayStation or my family's house and car.
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