If you’re dealing with chronic pain, “success” might seem irrelevant or at the very least, unreachable. But I’d like to change your mind about that right now.
We deserve to aim for what we want in life just as much as anyone else. A great start is Deepak Chopra’s classic, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.
Chopra’s message is that we’ve been created to live in harmony with all that is around us. In doing so, we gain the power to unleash our potential. Rather than toiling and struggling against the tide, we can allow ourselves to flow with it.
You may be asking, what if my pain means I struggle to get through the day? What’s the point of thinking about this under such terrible conditions? And how can you achieve this kind of state of flow when your body is against you?
As someone who has serious pain that ranges from three to, well…a hundred on any given day, living by these laws has helped me on many levels. The word “success” has challenged me to define what that means for me in light of all this pain and difficulty.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Our lives are so hard and our bodies so unforgiving. But remember, no matter who you are or what’s going on in your life, you have the right to aim for the stars. Exploring this can be life changing. It could even make the pain better—or at least more tolerable.
In the past, before my life was marked by pain, “success” for me was becoming a popular book author. That was my dream. I visualized sitting in front of a crowd and signing books. Nothing else seemed to matter compared with that.
In 2014, at the age of 47, I published my first book. It was the product of five years of blood, sweat and tears. The book was a deeply personal account of my relationship with my husband during the early years of his gender transition. My publicist had lined up TV and radio interviews. I was on my way to fulfilling my dream.
Three days later, we went out to celebrate with friends. While we sat outside under a heat lamp, it toppled over, slamming me in the head. Within a few minutes, the muscles in my neck were jumping.
This began a struggle with severe pain, chronic illness and disability that has been my life ever since. Needless to say, I never got to those interviews. My dream of fame and fortune was dashed. I couldn’t even hold the book I had worked so hard to write—much less attend a signing.
Through this, I learned a crucial lesson—one that I couldn’t have any other way. The success I was chasing isn’t what I was put on this earth to achieve. It was an illusion. Success, now, is about something far deeper.
Although I still shake my fist at the sky sometimes, I also know this is part of my journey. It’s taking me to the true success that matters more than the external trappings I thought were so important.
Here are the seven laws (with thanks to Wikipedia for the summary), with my interpretation of how they apply to those of us who live with chronic pain:
- The Law of Pure Potentiality: “…when we realize that our true self is one of pure potentiality, we align with the power that manifests everything in the universe.”
Take time to be silent, to just BE. Meditate for 30 minutes twice a day. Silently witness the intelligence within every living thing. Practice non-judgment.
What this means for you: Meditate in whatever way is comfortable. I do it lying down in bed at night before I go to sleep and in the morning before I get up. You don’t need to go out in the world to witness the intelligence he’s talking about. The trees outside your window, a pet, house plant—even the spider on the ceiling all have it. Try a daily practice of tuning into one or more of the beings in your environment. Let go of your ideas about them and let their essence speak to you.
2. The Law of Giving: “…in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.”
Today, bring whoever you encounter a gift: a compliment or flower. Gratefully receive gifts. Keep wealth circulating by giving and receiving care, affection, appreciation and love.
What this means for you: The pain might be telling you there’s nothing you have to give. That keeping yourself going is all you have in you. Yet time and again I’ve found the pain lifting when I find a way to send love or appreciation out into the world. Even if it’s just thoughts, that’s enough. If you can’t think of anyone, try the homeless person you pass on the street, a friend, or anyone else in your life—whether you consciously believe you care for them or not.
3. The Law of Karma: “Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind…what we sow is what we reap.”
Choosing actions that bring happiness and success to others ensures the flow of happiness and success to you.
What this means for you: Pain messes with your mind. It makes you think you’re the only one in the world going through this kind of thing. I’ve felt this way more times than I can count. Yet it’s when the suffering takes over that we have the chance to turn it around. Find ways to support others, whether applauding their progress, or letting them know they’re not alone. Don’t forget that karma isn’t always instant. Trust it will come in some way or other.
4. The Law of Least Effort: “…when we harness the forces of harmony, joy, and love, we create success and good fortune with effortless ease.”
Accept people, situations, and events as they occur. Take responsibility for your situation and for all events seen as problems. Relinquish the need to defend your point of view.
What this means for you: taking responsibility doesn’t mean that you’re to blame for your pain. It means that you see yourself as an active participant in your life, rather than a victim. You’re entitled to sink into “why me?” at times, of course. But no matter where you are, there are ways you can regain a sense that you’re the author of your own life. Every day, find something that brings you a feeling of harmony, joy and love. A beautiful sunset, an inspiring quote, a poem that speaks to your heart.
5. The Law of Intention and Desire: “…when we introduce an intention in the fertile ground of pure potentiality, we put this infinite organizing power to work for us.”
Inherent in every intention and desire is the mechanics for its fulfillment. Make a list of desires. Trust that when things don’t seem to go your way, there is a reason.
What this means for you: There’s something powerful about thinking through what you desire. Of course, you want to be out of pain. What else? It may be something small. But you can dream big too if you like. Your dream doesn’t have to be for yourself, either. It can be for a loved one, a cause that matters to you, or the whole world.
6. The Law of Detachment: “In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty…in the wisdom of uncertainty lies freedom from our past, from the unknown, which is the prison of past conditioning.”
Allow yourself and others the freedom to be who they are. Do not force solutions—allow solutions to spontaneously emerge. Uncertainty is essential, and your path to freedom.
What this means for you: One of the hardest things about chronic pain is you never know how it’s going to go. One day you feel okay, the next, it’s like you’ve been put through a cheese grater. Yet there’s a hidden gift in this. You learn how to live with uncertainty. It’s not easy, and all of us have times when all we want is a normal life. The more we embrace it, the more we can free ourselves. And it also means we have developed something special and needed in these uncertain times—flexibility and adaptability. Don’t sell yourself short.
7. The Law of Dharma: “Everyone has a purpose in life…a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.”
We have taken manifestation in physical form to fulfill a purpose.
What this means for you: remember first of all that this talent doesn’t have to be a “career” in the traditional sense. Your talent is the thing you would do whether you were being paid or not. The magic is when you combine whatever it is with service to others. For example, if your talent is knitting, you might knit hats for those going through chemo, and donate them to a charity like Knots of Love. When you do that, you experience a higher way of living. It doesn’t cure your pain, but gives you a sense of meaning and purpose.
The key is to take these laws to heart. Recognize that you deserve success just as much as everyone else. Don’t forget that your version of success is your own to create. It may be different from what society has taught us. But remember, just by finding meaning and purpose, you’ve come further than most people.
Chopra’s blueprint for success is more relevant today than ever. In a time when people are afraid and struggling, kindness can make all the difference. As someone who knows what it’s like to deal with health challenges, you have much to offer. And for all of us, now’s the time to discover what we came here to give to the world.