This past week, I had the immense privilege to read “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra. On Sunday night I finished reading and bought the audiobook. I went to sleep listening to Chopra read, and on Monday I gave my hardback copy away to a friend. I will buy another copy for myself to reread and reference, but I will probably give that one away, too. The book is that good.
I think everyone has those books that they wish they could experience reading again for the very first time. “The Seven Spiritual Laws” isn’t like that. I am actually getting more out of it on the second reading/listen, and I think I will continue to absorb its wisdom after reading it again and again.
Chopra’s best-known book could be applied to any life or career, but I think it is so relevant and enriching for writers that I wanted to break down the laws in a post and share some of my favorite passages.
1. The Law of Pure Potentiality
The Law of Pure Potentiality states that we are pure consciousness, and pure consciousness is inseparable from one all-pervasive spirit. Pure consciousness is unbounded and infinitely creative. We are capable of fulfilling every dream we have because all possibilities are open to us. We are working in tandem with the energy of the Universe.
This idea was perhaps the most difficult for me to wrap my head around, but the chapter became practical to me when Chopra discussed the difference between object-referral and self-referral.
In object-referral, our happiness and contentment (or lack thereof) is influenced by objects/people/situations that are not our true Self. Any happiness we experience is transient. In object-referral, we crave power and control. With self-referral, our internal reference point is our true Self or spirit. In self-referral, there is no fear, and happiness is permanent because it stems from self-knowledge.
“In object-referral, your internal reference point is your ego. Your ego, however, is not who you really are. The ego is your self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants to control, and it is sustained by power, because it lives in fear.”
As writers, I think it is easy to hang our happiness on the worldly success of our writing. Can we get it published? Does it earn us money? Do people leave favorable reviews? Or is it ignored? We worry what our friends and family with think. We worry about what we’ll tell people at parties. All of these things come from a place of object-referral. But if we are able to shift into self-referral, we can feel happy because we write as a way to express our true Self.
2. The Law of Giving
The Law of Giving describes the dynamic exchange taking place in the Universe at all times. If you think of the human body, the body maintains equilibrium through a process of constant give and take. Cells give to support other cells and they are nourished by each other. The same is true of nature as a whole — we are, after all, simply a microcosm of the Universe. Animals eat (take) plants for energy. Then they die, and their bodies go back to the Earth to nourish (give to) the plants.
In the same way, we must learn to practice giving if we wish to receive. This means giving money, time, good thoughts — even a smile — whenever we possibly can. Money is just a symbol of life energy. If we hoard money, it stops flowing in our lives. If we stop the flow of energy, Chopra writes, we interfere with nature’s intelligence.
“The more you give, the more you will receive, because you will keep the abundance of the universe circulating in your life. In fact, anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given.”
“The easiest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.”
I don’t know why, but many writers I know are cheap. I don’t mean that people who are struggling to make a living as writers are cheap. I mean people who have regular well-paying jobs who want to write tend not to want to invest in their writing or the publication of their work. Then they wonder why their books don’t sell.
I don’t know where writers got the idea that they are somehow different from anyone else who is trying to start a business. Any true entrepreneur understands that you have to spend money to make money, and that means investing in professional editing, cover design (no, you can’t do it yourself), software, and continuing education to produce a professional product.
Not only are you investing in yourself with these things, but you are also investing in other creative people who are trying to make a living from their work. It’s not your job to support other creatives, of course, but a rising tide lifts all boats. Whatever you can do to support other artists, makers, and entrepreneurs will come back to you tenfold.
3. The Law of Karma (or Cause and Effect)
We are all familiar with the idea of karma, or the law of cause and effect. Chopra writes that we can consider every choice through the lens of whether it will make us happy and the people around us happy. If our action will check both of those boxes, we should go ahead with that choice. If it won’t, then we shouldn’t. (As I read this section, I couldn’t help but think that Chopra had never had to decide how he and the wife would spend holidays with the extended family. But still, it’s a good litmus test.)
“There is only one choice, out of the infinity of choices available every second, that will create happiness for you as well as for those around you. And when you make that one choice, it will result in a form of behavior that is called spontaneous right action. Spontaneous right action is the right action at the right moment. It’s the right response to every situation as it happens.”
I thought this law applied to writing in so many different ways. One realization I had around this law is how it applies to work-life balance — or our work-life blend.
I think every writer has had to choose between taking time to write and taking time for family on at least one occasion — perhaps daily. Just recently, my husband went back to Missouri to see his family, and I chose to stay behind and work. Often I opt to go (sacrificing work time), but in this situation, I knew it wasn’t the right choice. I was on a deadline, and I knew that going would only cause resentment. It would not make me happy, which would make us both unhappy. In this case, staying behind was the right choice.
I think many of us (especially parents) tend to fall into the trap of martyrdom. We think that sacrificing everything we want for those we love somehow makes us better people. “Selfless” is a word that comes to mind. But anyone who grew up with a parent who sometimes fell into that pattern knows that acting selfless can be detrimental to the family dynamic in the long run. Self-denial builds resentment, which becomes palpable to those we love.
We can also think of the Law of Karma in terms of acting ethically and making the right choices — even if they aren’t the most profitable. In running my creative business, I always try to work from a place of integrity and make choices that will benefit my readers and mankind as a whole.
If you think there is no such thing as “ethical” writing and “unethical writing,” think about all of the terrible low-quality content that is floating around on the Internet. Personally, I want to be responsible for none of that. I choose to put things out into the world that I know will be of benefit to others, either as entertainment or information.
4. The Law of Least Effort
The Law of Least Effort describes the phenomenon of apparent ease that occurs in nature. Grass doesn’t struggle to grow (unless you live in Colorado and your lawn is constantly trampled by dogs). Birds don’t struggle to fly. Most humans don’t struggle to do what we evolved to do — things like eat and procreate.
Least effort, Chopra writes, occurs when your actions are motivated by love. When we do something for power or money or validation, we waste energy chasing the illusion of happiness rather than enjoying happiness in the moment. When something is a labor of love, we seem to have infinite energy to spend on it because it multiplies and accumulates as we work.
“When your internal reference point is your spirit, when you are immune to criticism and unfearful of any challenge, you can harness the power of love, and use energy creatively for the experience of affluence and evolution.”
We’ve all experienced this right? We’ve all been in flow with our writing. The struggle comes when we get caught up in our need for validation or money.
To me, using the spirit as a reference point is key to any creative work. It’s especially key when we are evolving as writers. Evolution can be scary — change always is. But if you aren’t growing, you’re stagnant. And no one wants to be stagnant.
Right now, I am standing at the precipice of evolution. I am about to dive headlong into nonfiction and expand the ways that I teach. It’s terrifying, considering I make my money from fiction, but it’s what my spirit feels called to do. You can call this intuition. You can call it a gut feeling. But when we follow our spirit or our “gut,” we can’t go wrong.
5. The Law of Intention and Desire
The Law of Intention and Desire states that every living thing is just a bundle of energy and information. As human beings, we are aware of the informational and energy exchanges happening within our bodies. We experience these exchanges as thoughts, feelings, sensations, and emotions.
Chopra argues that we are not separate from the Universe. We are more like a ripple in the quantum field (the field of pure potentiality). Not only are we aware of energy and information in our quantum field; we can actually change the energy and information of our own physical bodies. We can put the cosmic power of the Universe to work for us through attention and intention.
“Attention energizes, and intention transforms. Whatever you put your attention on will grow stronger in your life. Whatever you take your attention away from will wither, disintegrate, and disappear. Intention, on the other hand, triggers transformation of energy and information. Intention organizes its own fulfillment.”
“Your intent is for the future, but your attention is in the present. As long as your attention is in the present, then your intent for the future will manifest.”
I have seen the power of attention and intention work in my own life firsthand. When I was working my day job, I became obsessed with becoming a full-time author. All of my attention was centered around how I could write more, grow my income, and make that leap. Every cell in my body was charged with this intention. Within two years, I had made it happen.
I’ve found that whenever I become consumed with any desire, I have a hard time focusing on anything else. This obsession has fueled a lot of my successes in life, but it requires clarity around an intention and deep attention paid to my actions.
What is it that you want more than anything else? Do you want to write a novel? Publish a novel? Become a full-time author? Become a full-time fiction author living in the mountains of Colorado? The more specific you can get with your intention, the faster you will be able to manifest your desire.
(If you need some help clarifying your intention, you might try a Life Audit. A few years ago, this completely changed the course of my life. I ended a four-year relationship, quit my day job, started dating the man who is now my husband, and moved to Colorado. I walk you through how to perform your own Life Audit here.)
6. The Law of Detachment
The Law of Detachment is what’s often missing from the conversation around manifesting our desires. The Law of Detachment is not about tricking our brain through reverse psychology (I don’t really care if that happens). It’s about holding our intention, releasing our attachment to the known, and stepping into the unknown. (Think of holding a butterfly in your hands without crushing it to death.)
We still hold our desire, but we aren’t trying to force solutions on our problems. We stay alert to opportunities, possibilities, and unique solutions.
“Detachment is based on the unquestioning belief in the power of your true Self. Attachment, on the other hand, is based on fear and insecurity — the need for security is based on not knowing the true Self; it is the consciousness that knows how to fulfill every need. Everything else is a symbol: cars, houses, bank notes, clothes, airplanes. Symbols are transitory; they come and go.”
“Attachment comes from poverty consciousness, because attachment is always to symbols. Detachment is synonymous with wealth consciousness, because with detachment there is freedom to create.”
When I read these passages, I felt as though Chopra was speaking directly to me. One of my biggest struggles in creative entrepreneurship is my desire for financial security. Deep down, part of me craves some guarantee, but there are no guarantees in life.
And here’s the thing: There have been times when I’ve earned a lot of money from my writing and times when I’ve earned very little. Nothing about the amount of money has been able to make me feel “secure.” I didn’t feel secure when my books were generating five figures a month. I felt too good to last, and it was.
Over the years, my sense of security has increased slightly — not from earning more money, but from the confidence in my own ability to find creative solutions to my problems. Deep down I know that if Amazon disappeared tomorrow, I would find another way to make a living.
7. The Law of Dharma
This is the chapter that made me realize that I had to give this book to my friend. “Dharma” is a Sanskrit word meaning “purpose in life.” The Law of Dharma states that you have a unique talent and a unique way of expressing it. There are unique needs in the world — needs that can be fulfilled by your unique talent. And when these needs are matched with your talent, you can create unlimited wealth and abundance.
We are here to identify our higher purpose and use our talents to serve others.
“The first component [of Dharma] says that each of us is here to discover our true Self, to find out on our own that our true Self is spiritual, that essentially we are spiritual beings that have taken manifestation in physical form. We are not human beings that have occasional spiritual experiences — it’s the other way around. We are spiritual beings that occasionally have human experiences.”
“Ask yourself: If money was no concern and you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do? If you would still do what you currently do, then you are in dharma because you have a passion for what you do — you are expressing your unique talents.”
Do you feel that writing is your purpose in life? Is writing that thing you do better than anything else? If money was no object, would you write? Then writing is what you were meant to do.
For myself, I have spent a lot of time writing science fiction. I know my stories help people by providing a much-needed escape from loneliness, cancer treatments, or just the tedium of everyday life, but recently I felt the urge to do something more. I was not completely in dharma — not at that moment. That is why I decided to write my book First Light, which I will share more about soon. I never planned for this book to make me much money. This book was purely my dharma. It was a way for me to use my unique talents to help others like me.
What makes you feel in dharma? How will you apply the seven laws to your life this week?
Photo by Jared Rice