January 29, 2024
SF Gate

Conscious Living and the “Aha” Moment.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP

One of the fastest ways to make a personal breakthrough occurs in an “aha” moment, a flash of insight that delivers an answer all at once. “Aha” moments are very desirable. Isaac Newton had one about gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree (even though this popular story was never told by him), and Alexander Fleming had one about penicillin when he saw that a common green mold had spoiled his carefully cultured dishes of bacteria.

Yet “Aha” moments are unpredictable by their very nature, and no one knows—or even has a clue—why or how they occur. But the example of Fleming and penicillin gives us an important clue. “Aha” moments don’t occur unless you are paying attention. This won’t guarantee that a sudden, dramatic insight will come your way but the opposite is almost a certainty: if you aren’t paying attention, you are guaranteed not to get one.

The area of insight that counts the most in everyday life isn’t scientific but personal. To tap into your deepest awareness, you have to get out of your own way. An insight is a message from your core or essence. It gets blocked by the habit of routine thinking and fixed, automatic reactions. Yet once you start paying more attention, it isn’t hard to sort out the thoughts and feelings you value from the scrambled activity of your mind. Doing this allows the impulses that flow from deep awareness to rise to the surface. These impulses carry the highest values in human existence, namely,




Joy, ecstasy, bliss

Selflessness, altruism


Generosity of spirit




Personal evolution

Higher spiritual experiences

Where these impulses arise or when they evolved is a deep mystery. But one thing is certain. None of humanity’s highest values had to be invented. They flow naturally into everyone’s awareness from the source. This is where self-awareness comes in, as the ultimate tool in achieving a conscious way of life where paying attention comes naturally and brings results.

What Self-Awareness Can Do

It can transcend the constant noise of the active mind.

It can cultivate the silence of a quiet mind.

It can listen for the impulses that arise from deeper awareness.

It can tell you to act on those impulses.

All of this, however, begs the question: If self-awareness can do so much, literally transforming everyday life, why don’t we know about its power already? The answer is simple. You have actually been using self-awareness all your life, but you’ve been under-using it. Any sentence that begins with the word “I” refers back to yourself. Starting with the simplest expression—“I am,” “I’m here,” “I think,” “I want”—you are expressing your self-awareness. It’s safe to say that self-awareness is already a large part of your existence.

The problem is that “I” can be a tool for other, much less desirable, things: selfishness, egotism, and blind self-interest. These are blinkers that keep you from being more self-aware. The challenge centers on a universal dilemma, the dilemma of choice.

If I ask you to have dinner with me in New York, we could choose to eat at one of a thousand restaurants, including Italian, Japanese, Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Mexican, or Middle Eastern. Tonight if you want to watch a movie on Netflix, you have 3,800 to choose from.

But having too many choices can be paralyzing, just as paralyzing as having no choices. A baby nursing at her mother’s breast has almost as few choices (eat, sleep, cry) as a kitten. At the stage of walking and talking, however, choices explode almost without limit. There is no built-in genetic program for adapting to this explosion. (Life isn’t like McDonald’s, which is a comforting place thanks to its very limited menu.) Somewhere after two years old, potential chaos and disorder loom. This prospect is so confusing and anxiety-provoking that young children surround themselves with mental safeguards whose sole purpose is to make life more predictable and in control.

You have inherited those safeguards from your younger self, but many have outworn their usefulness. Instead, they constrict your awareness. The construction of conformity, the need to belong, fear of criticism, and social pressure can make it feel that you have very few real choices left to you, in fact only two: Give in or break free.

By exiling so much experience into the hidden vault of the unconscious mind, you defend yourself from threats the same way you did as a child. But in adulthood, there is a heavy price to pay, as shown below.

You Are Unaware Whenever You …

Act from habit

Speak impulsively

Lose emotional control

Trust your old, familiar reactions

Resist uncertainty

Fear change

Take your opinions second-hand

Follow social norms

Protect your self-image

Don’t tolerate looking like a loser

Pretend to be better than you are

Insist on being right

These unconscious behaviors are tenacious. They prevent you from getting out of your own way. We are quick enough to spot unaware behavior in others. Consider the things that people typically say when they are angry.

“Can you hear what you’re saying?”

“You haven’t heard a word I said.”

“Just take a look at yourself.”

“It’s like talking to a wall.”

Anyone who has spoken from a place of anger and blame soon realizes that words don’t work if you want someone else to be more aware. When you are being tuned out, complaining only makes the other person tune you out more.

The same mechanism operates “in here” when you try to break through your ego defenses. “What am I doing?” “I’m clueless.” “You idiot, who does things like that?” “What was I thinking?” You can’t win by arguing with yourself. Being unaware puts up a strong defense, which is why castigating yourself is futile.

Fortunately, self-awareness can save you from yourself. Whenever one of the things that make life worth living—love, compassion, joy, insight, creativity, and all the rest—reaches the surface of the mind, awareness has won a victory.

Begin with love. Everyone knows that learning about love—from movies, romance novels, or observing someone in the throes of infatuation—bears no resemblance to being captivated by the experience of love. Such is love’s power that everyday reality becomes something magical and wonderful.

Two lovers are completely wrapped up in each other. They declare that their beloved is perfect and suffer every moment when they are forced to be apart. Witnessing this from the outside, you might say that falling in love is a kind of vacation from reality. Soon enough the rose-tinted glasses fall off, and by degrees the intensity of love fades, replaced by the normal, everyday world.

But there is another perspective. What if falling in love is what we should call the “real” reality? The intensity of the experience is fully absorbed “in here.” Through a kind of alchemy that no one can predict, an impulse of pure love from the source emerges in awareness and changes everything. Who is to say that this is an illusion or a vacation from reality? No one knows more about love than lovers, and they don’t call it an illusion.

Not just love but the other values listed above as being the highest in human experience come our way when we pay attention welcome them, favor them in everyday life, and do what we can to change unawareness into self-awareness.

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, FRCP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.  Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 91st book, Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life explores and reinterprets the physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual benefits that the practice of meditation can bring.  Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution for the last thirty years. His latest book,  Quantum Body co-authored with physicist Jack Tuszynski, Ph.D., and endocrinologist Brian Fertig, M.D. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”  www.deepakchopra.com

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