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Anti-Aging Needs a Body That Never Ages

Anti-Aging Needs a Body That Never Ages - Deepak Chopra

We live in a time when breakthroughs are sought to prevent or reverse aging. For the longest time aging itself, although a universal process, was a deep mystery. There is no gene for aging, and nothing is completely predictable, because no two people age alike, not even identical twins.

Aging involves the lifespan of cells, which once seemed to be the answer. Calculate how long a cell is programmed to live before it dies, and calculating when the whole body will die becomes possible. But this possibility more or less vanished when it was discovered that stem cells, the precursor to fully formed cells, exist everywhere, meaning that replenishment of aging cells is always possible. Now the search is on for finer genetic clues in the epigenome, the sheath surrounding every strand of DNA that does two vital things: It triggers the rate of genetic activity the way a rheostat controls the level of a light bulb, and it registers with chemical markers the important experiences that happen to a person during a lifetime.

Now the betting is on that information registering at this subtle level is the key to reversing aging. Information has a valuable trait: it never dies. Therefore, anti-aging might be a matter of making sure that the body’s nearly infinite store of information (just the amount stored in a single cell runs to billions of digital bits) doesn’t get lost, tangled, or degraded. Where the body was once viewed by medical science as a machine, now it tends to be viewed as an information memory bank.

If this makes it seem that aging has met its match, there is one enormous glitch. Information is the mark left behind by experience, and no one knows why the same experience means zero to one person and becomes a trauma for another. For example, speaking in public is considered one of the greatest fears people normally have, but politicians and actors thrive on it. Falling off a step in the dark can be frightening, but skydivers love the thrill of falling from an airplane. There is no standard measurement for experience, and even the greatest risk that should shorten someone’s life, such as chain smoking and drinking to excess, has its cases where the person lives to a normal lifespan and even survives someone who has avoided every risk imaginable.

Experience, then, is the missing key. What is experience? When you get right down to it, all experiences—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—occur in consciousness. You are processing your life right this minute, and every minute since you were born, by metabolizing every experience. But the physical side is the last link in a chain that begins in a different body than the one you see in a mirror.

In the Vedic tradition of India, the physical body is where karma leaves its mark, karma being any activity that registers in consciousness. The important thing to know is that your karmic body is the end of the line. Experience has to undergo your personal perception and interpretation. If you love jazz, hearing it will be perceived and processed as a joyful experience, and this will register in your karmic body as chemical responses that might, or might not, leave a permanent epigenetic marker. On the other hand, if you hate jazz and are subjected to it, the same experience will be toxic, and a distinctly different marker will be registered on your body.

The way you process your experiences is unique, and since aging is also unique, the story of aging is interwoven with the story of your life. That’s a key insight, but at first glance it doesn’t seem to help in a practical sense. Uniqueness makes it even harder to calculate how an experience will turn into information to be stored in your epigenetic makeup.

It was always inaccurate to think of the body as a machine, because machines wear out with repeated stress, while the human body doesn’t. Repeated exercise makes your muscles strong, not weaker; repeated practice at the piano doesn’t wear out your fingers—they become more skilled and precise.

Likewise, seeing the body as a storehouse of information constantly bombarding the epigene is also a limiting concept, as we just saw, because information alone, tells you nothing about how you as an individual are affected by life’s experiences.  This is where we need a broader concept of the human body.

What if you have a body that never ages? If this is true, then aging might be a bad link, a disconnect, or some other glitch that keeps your ageless body from shaping your physical/karmic body. Decades ago I thought of the ageless body as quantum mechanical, because in Nature, the quanta or subatomic particles are immune to time (except in spans of millions of billions of years). It is obvious that the human body is a structure built from ripples in the quantum field, because the whole cosmos is. But quanta, like information, have no meaning and indeed no experiences, while your life has both.

So, is there an ageless body that also has meaning and experiences? The Vedic tradition says yes, pointing to two ageless bodies, in fact. The first is the subtle body, which is where consciousness creates, governs, interprets, ad controls all experiences, along with how you interpret them. It is well-established in modern biology that cells, tissues, organs, and the body as a whole are independent but intimately linked systems. These systems communicate constantly via what are known as signal molecules such as hormones and neurotransmitters.

The terms don’t matter, because no one knows how all these systems operate with such exquisite precision and intelligence. The answer is the subtle body, which is the source of the intelligence that flows through every cell, tissue, and organ, modifying itself to meet the specific requirements of the body’s 200 different types of cells. In essence, your body speaks 200 different languages at the cellular level, and there has to be a source that understands them all—the subtle body.

The subtle body is operational. It is all about processing life’s experiences so that they can be metabolized as karma, the meaningful activities that are coded as the karmic body. The subtle body is neither physical nor mental but unites both. You encounter it all the time as the reason you have your own thoughts, feelings, sensations, and other experiences instead of someone else’s, or everybody sharing the same pattern, the way all amoebas, mice, and oak trees are essentially the same as every other.

However, a second ageless body is still needed, because all these operations happening in the subtle body are transformations of consciousness that flow into the bodymind as experiences coded into information so that the body can manifest. Yet where does consciousness itself come from? Its source is the so-called causal body. “Causal” refers to how pure awareness is the source or cause of all thoughts and actions. Awareness starts to move, express creativity, exhibit intelligence, and so on. You can mold gold into uncountable shapes, but without a source for gold, nothing can happen.

What I’ve sketched in is a process that makes life possible as a source (causal body), from which morphs the subtle body, where all experience is given meaning, direction, and interpretation, ending with the end product, the bodymind. If this is the process of life itself, the same process is where aging occurs—or doesn’t.

Next we need to explain the difference between time and immortality, the ageless and that which is subject to age. In the next part of this series the choice between your aging body and your ageless body will be unfolded.

(To be cont.)

Reprinted from San Francisco Chronicle with permission

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