SAN DIEGO, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- In the wake of Sept. 11, Deepak Chopra, the well-know writer and healer, wrote
"The Deeper Wound: Recovering the Soul from Fear and Suffering, 100 Days of Healing" (Harmony Books, 204 pages, $16), a book designed to help people deal with their pain and suffering.
The introduction was written by his son Gotham, a journalist, who happened to be on a flight from New York to Los Angeles on Sept. 11 at 8 a.m.
He knew that his father, Deepak, and his mother were on separate airplanes, one on an earlier flight out of New York and the other bound for San Diego out of London. It was a tense and terrifying time for all of them, until they were all reassured of each other's safety.
I must admit that I tackled "The Deeper Wound" with skepticism.
My first (uncharitable) thought was "Chopra is cashing in on our pain and suffering." But, as I read along, I realized that not only did I feel a sincere wish to help others emanate from his writing, but also a sense that he was seeking to alleviate his own pain.
There are frequent references to his father's recent death in the book, and it seems to me that Chopra is trying to come to terms with his own loss. By articulating the various stages of grief and shock, by setting out the way to recovery or, at least, acceptance, Chopra is writing out his own prescription.
The description of his father's funeral is both moving and shocking, at least to Western sensibilities. He is required, as the eldest, or maybe the only, son, to light his father's funeral pyre. Then, he has to, as he puts it, "disintegrate the crumbling shell of his skull with a stick." For Chopra it was hard to accept that his father was not there any more. Had he ever been?
"The complete disappearance of someone you love is unspeakably terrifying. A primitive part of us believes in solid, material things as the touchstone of reality. The soul, if real, is entirely invisible. It is hard to believe in it with the same conviction that we believe in our physicality, the solid presence that is so reassuring while we are alive."
People who do not have a body to mourn over find it harder to achieve closure, as our society is so attached to the tangible. The widow of one of the firemen who died in the World Trade Center told her children that they were lucky that their father's body had been recovered.
And yet, as Chopra points out, the reality of tangible things is an illusion of the senses. Time and gravity and gases exist, yet we cannot see them. Most people take better care of their bodies than their souls, but their souls are as real, and as much in need of care, as their bodies. Chopra's words are simple and ring true and honest. He seems to walk beside us on the road to healing, not as a teacher but as a companion.
"The Deeper Wound" is divided into two sections. The first section describes the various stages of suffering and healing, the anatomy of fear and the meaning of death. The second section is devoted to 100 affirmations, the 100 days of healing. Some of these affirmations strike a chord of recognition, common sense or common knowledge, call it what you will. For instance, "I will see everyone else as I see myself." This sentence evoked, for me, the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Same precept, different words. We are an egocentric society -- everything revolves around "I," the ego.
For Chopra, evil is an extreme form of egotism. "The wrongdoer holds him- or herself up as the victim." This is as true for Hitler or Pol Pot as it is for the terrorist or the abusive husband. The only difference is in the degree of their evil.
Some of the affirmations are much-needed reminders to slow down and examine our life, our lifestyle, and ourselves.
In the chaos of our daily life in the modern world of beepers, cell phones and computers, "I honor my stillness" sounds like advice impossible to heed. And yet, to slow down, to contemplate, may be the only way to retain our sanity in this mad rush for acquisition and achievement. Many of us go through life oblivious to others. But Chopra talks about a shared humanity where all thoughts, feelings and perceptions are shared; the capacity to see the world from beyond our own boundaries. Both giving and receiving are precious, and amazingly difficult for many of us to achieve.
If you feel you need help to cope with the stress of the last few months, and the ongoing struggle to make sense of a world gone mad, this is a good book. If you want to slow down and look inside yourself, examine your thoughts and feelings, and maybe come to a new realization of yourself, read this book.