Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor at UCSD Medi...cal School, Researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. More

There Is No "Real" Universe. Now What?

theory-of-relativity-by-albert-einsteins-picture-id598054380 There Is No

More than six decades after Einstein's death in 1955, his prestige is enormous and worrisome. It is enormous because relativity remains tremendously important and to this day, both the special and the general theories of relativity remain valid. It is worrisome because Einstein harbored a deep skepticism about quantum mechanics, even though quantum mechanics has been validated time after time experimentally and despite the fact that Einstein himself was one of the founders, receiving the Nobel Prize for the quantum photoelectric effect. The embarrassing fact is that quantum mechanics, which explains the behavior of the smallest level of Nature, cannot be reconciled with general relativity, which explains the behavior of the universe at the largest level. They are both right but not merged yet.

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The Placebo Effect Goes Through the Wringer

taking-pills-picture-id988625912 The Placebo Effect Goes Through the Wringer

By now there's widespread acceptance and abundant research to show that the placebo effect is real. In fact, every drug gains some of its effect with many patients by dint of placebo--expecting to get better makes the drug work better. Subtract the placebo effect, and many drugs have little efficacy.

This fact has stared medicine in the face since 1962, when the Food and Drug Administration demanded that every new drug prove its clinical benefits. To subtract the placebo effect, a typical drug test involves giving the control group a sugar pill while the other half of the trial take the new drug. In the area of painkillers--placebos are at their most powerful with pain--more than 90% of new drugs cannot pass the test of working better than a sugar pill. Among those drugs that do pass, the gap that separates them from sugar pills, which was once 27%, has narrowed to an average of 9%.

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The Human Body Is Starting to Make Sense

human-body-picture-id530440076 The Human Body Is Starting to Make Sense

The complexity of the human body has fascinated medical science, and every new discovery leads to a new level of complexity. Now it is no longer possible to talk about depression, for example, as a general disorder or cancer as a single disease. It may be that the brain of each depressed patient is depressed in its own unique way, and the leading research on cancer is heading towards personalized drugs targeted to each patient's highly specific genetic variation of cancer.

Does increasing complexity actually clarify things? The traditional disease models taught when I was in medical school are fraying around the edges, and some disorders, such as schizophrenia, have no localized cause. There is no known cause for schizophrenia. The general public thinks that you catch a cold because of exposure to the cold virus. But in fact direct contact with the cold virus gives only a 1 in 8 chance of catching cold.

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The Future Is Accelerating - Will Humans Fit In?

concept-internet-of-things-and-big-data-picture-id861190202 The Future Is Accelerating - Will Humans Fit In?

The celebrity inventor, thinker, and entrepreneur has joined other voices who worry about a future dominated by supercomputers and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In a widely publicized podcast, Musk announced that Neuralink, a company he cofounded, plans to announce in a few months a brain-machine interface breakthrough that’s “better than anyone thinks is possible" This would be a device implanted in the brain that would communicate thoughts directly to digital sources like the Internet.

In parallel, 60 Minutes aired and then re-aired a story about the futurist Media Lab at MIT where one of the researchers had already devised a headset that can turn mental activity into a message that appears on a computer screen. One aspect of this brain-to-digital conversion is that someone can do a Google search simply by thinking about it and then seeing the answer on the computer.

Musk’s motivation seems to be his fear of the existential threat of AI to humans, which echoes similar fears voiced by leading scientists, including the late Stephen Hawking. What is envisioned is the emergence of supercomputers that not only can out-perform the human brain in speed, storage, and complexity of calculation—none of which exactly looms like a Frankenstein monster—but will somehow cross a borderline to acquire independent “will,” or a simulation of this. What might follow, the worriers fear, is a race of supercomputers with their own agenda, and in keeping with many sci-fi plots, humans will no longer be necessary.



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You Are Cordially Invited to a New Universe

newuniverse You Are Cordially Invited to a New Universe

Most people have heard about the fragile start that the universe had. Although the big bang sounds big, it occurred in a space smaller by millions of times than the period at the end of this sentence. The forces of nature had to be exquisitely balanced for the infant universe to work once it expanded to its present enormous size. This exquisite balance is known to physicists as fine tuning. If any one of about twenty constants responsible for the nature of the cosmos had been off by one part in a billion, the infant universe could have collapsed in on itself or flown apart so fast that atoms would never emerge from the primal quantum soup surrounding the beginning of the universe.

A constant is an unvarying number like C, the speed of light. Constants aren't allowed to be wobbly. The speed of light can't be unpredictable, changing in the Andromeda nebula (the next-door galaxy to our own Milky Way), from what it is here on Earth. Nor can it change from Monday to Tuesday. Whether you speak of the universe 13.8 billion years ago or today, C hasn't changed, nor have the other constants that regulate all the matter and energy in the cosmos.

The Universe Has Become a Risky Numbers Game

cosmos The Universe Has Become a Risky Numbers Game

Although advanced instruments like the Very Large Telescope in Chile grab spectacular images and space probes give first-person access to distant bodies like comets, asteroids and planets, the story of the universe is largely told by the numbers. The cosmos holds together, particularly at the farthest horizons, through mathematical calculations. It's incredibly tricky to calculate what actually occurred during the big bang, for example. At the other extreme, the potential (inevitable?) death of the universe is conjectured, not by envisioning it but by taking the known laws of nature and foreseeing how they play out over time.

There are so many variables in this numbers game that huge gaps are possible and possible errors that are more than sizable. Trouble was recently reported in the October 3 issue of New Scientist, a "glitch at the edge of the universe that could remake physics," as the headline declared. What's in question--perhaps--is one of the constants upon which most of our theoretical understanding of matter and energy rest. The general public is aware of constants like the speed of light and the force of gravity, but the "fine structure constant," also known as alpha, has deep implications for the biggest and smallest things in creation.

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Why the Brain Doesn't Think, and Other Helpful Ideas

music-of-mind-violin-picture-id1018435994 Why the Brain Doesn't Think, and Other Helpful Ideas

At some point in the history of medicine, a picture coalesced about the role of the brain. From the first basic insight that the brain is the organ of thought, this picture became more and more complex, until neuroscience reached it present state, where the brain is glorified as "the three-pound universe." Like a magic lantern casting pictures on a blank wall, the brain supposedly projects the three-dimensional world and everything in it.

I ended the last post on the brain by saying that placing the brain on such an exalted plane will lead to a dead end--in fact, it already has. There is no physical evidence that your brain has ever had a single thought, that it projects a realistic picture of the world, or that it creates mind as a byproduct of cellular activity the way a bonfire creates heat. Nothing about the brain suggests anything of the sort. Instead, the brain displays physical activity as thoughts take place, the same as a piano's keys going up and down as a performer plays the "Maple Leaf Rag" or Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata.

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Where Personal Power Comes From

businessman-looking-at-the-the-city-at-night-picture-id516134582 Where Personal Power Comes From

One can often feel powerless when confronting the naked use of power, as in politics or corporate life. Meaningful action can be taken, however, the first step being to overcome one's personal sense of weakness. There is such a thing as personal power, even though most people haven't experienced it. That's because their notion of personal power aims at the wrong goal. They define a powerful person as someone with money and status who can exert his will over others. Such a person is imagined to be strong, smart, lucky, and more than a little ruthless. Examples crop up from Washington to Wall Street, any area of life where competition is fierce and the spoils go to the victors.

But the real secret to personal power lies elsewhere. The difference is that one kind of power, the kind I've just sketched, comes from what you do while the other comes from who you are. Before writing this post, I reviewed in my mind the qualities I've observed in the most powerful people I've met over the past thirty years, and it was astonishing how many qualities come directly from being rather than doing. Here's my list:

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Reinventing the Brain: The final Step

hand-touching-brain-and-network-connection-on-glitter-bright-lights-picture-id881350654 Reinventing the Brain: The final Step

We're living in a golden age for brain research, which aims to revolutionize how we think, feel, and behave. Thanks to brain scans like the fMRI, brain activity can be localized and even the most precise activity pinpointed. For example, researchers can spot the minuscule area in the visual cortex that, when damaged, prevents a person from recognizing faces, including one’s own.

The ultimate challenge in neuroscience is to map the whole brain down to the tiniest detail. This is the brain equivalent of mapping the human genome, and a public-private collaboration began in 2013 called the White House BRAIN Initiative is underway.

But what will we use the completed brain map for? One obvious area is medicine. The more we know about what goes wrong in Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, the closer we get to a cure. Yet one could argue that a higher goal would be to reinvent how we use our brains. "Reinvent" isn't an exaggeration. Thirty thousand years ago Homo sapiens had evolved the same genetic array that modern people inherit. In those thirty thousand years arose reading, writing, advanced art and music, government, mathematics, and science. Their foundation was an ever-evolving relationship between mind and body.

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LSD, Magic Mushrooms, and “Tripping All the Time”

acid-picture-id804754068 LSD, Magic Mushrooms, and “Tripping All the Time”

A new wave of medical interest surrounds the potential value of psychedelic drugs, spurred by a through, sensible review of a once-taboo subject by Michael Pollen in his first-person account, How to Change Your Mind. For hallucinogens to resurface was a “come out, come out, wherever you are” proposition. LSD, magic mushrooms, and mescaline had their day in the Sixties and came out of it badly tarnished. Leaving aside various anti-drug laws largely prompted by fear, a medical researcher who looked into psychedelics would face censure, perhaps career-ending censure. At the very least such research wasn’t taken very seriously.

The general view of psychedelics has been that they are potentially unsafe and medically useless. What has changed this conventional wisdom is deeper knowledge of the brain. In particular, the area of the brain that seems to cause the mind-altering effect of LSD and company is the so-called Default Mode Network (DMN), a collection of regions in the higher brain that organizes and regulates a wide range of brain activity. The DMN filters out the flood of information that bombards the brain every day, selecting and controlling our response to the world.

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Is It Time to Stop Believing in Magic?

cathedrial Is It Time to Stop Believing in Magic?

A culture can be judged by where it spends its money. One glance at the great French cathedrals speaks of the vast sums spent on building them, which if translated into current dollars would probably dwarf modern American funding of the Apollo program to land on the moon or the Hubble telescope. Medieval churchmen allocated money for God; we allocate money for science. To us, the way we spend is rational; the way they spent wasn’t.

Money follows history, and history follows money. The medieval world saw reality in terms of God, angles, souls, etc., which to a modern skeptic is magical thinking. Having pushed that worldview into a small corner of modern Western society, we prefer hard realities, and therefore a pittance goes to religion and philosophy while mountains of money go to science and technology. There’s no room for magical thinking anymore, and it’s no surprise that in rising economies like India and China, up to 80% of college graduates, among the men, are engineers.

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The Invaluable Skill of Paying Attention

distraction The Invaluable Skill of Paying Attention

There's a common grumble, generally directed at the young, that they are constantly distracted by texting, video games, and other ways to stop paying attention. But few of us have truly mastered the skill of paying attention, or even realize that it is a skill. This is because we haven't looked deeply into how awareness works.

Attention, which is another way of describing focused awareness, is important because whatever you pay attention to grows in importance and significance. If you focus on your job, your relationship, or a favorite hobby, your attention nourishes a feedback loop--you become better at what you pay attention to. Your brain strengthens or weakens in specific areas depending on the input it receives, and paying attention provides concentrated input. Attention can’t be faked or forced. When a schoolteacher scolds an unruly class with, “Pay attention, people!” he may get results for a few minutes, but the demand loses its effect very quickly. Asking a restless mind to settle down and pay attention is even more futile. The secret is to know how attention can be mastered.

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Expanded Awareness: Turning the Tables on Your Brain

alzheimers-picture-id912219896 Expanded Awareness: Turning the Tables on Your Brain
Sometimes the enormous success of science leads to some wrong assumptions. In the case of brain science, the advent of sophisticated brain scans opened a window to the brain as never before. It used to be said that figuring out the human brain was like putting a stethoscope to the roof of the Astrodome to figure out the rules of baseball. That's no longer true.

In neuroscience, as brain function becomes more and more illuminated, the assumption grows stronger that our brains control our behavior. This idea isn't true except in a limited sense that needs to be carefully defined. There are things that your brain controls, such as the fight-or-flight response. But for the vast majority of brain functions, you have a choice how to respond. "My brain made me do it" doesn't hold water even when it comes to things we want to blame it for. Take mental disorders, for example. If you are depressed, there may be a family history involved, which suggests a genetic component, and the drugs to treat depression act on the brain, without a doubt. But consider the following:
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Sharpening Your Awareness Skills: No. 2 Holding Focus

through-the-lens-picture-id500396028 Sharpening Your Awareness Skills: No. 2 Holding Focus

The complex issue of consciousness may seem abstract, but in daily life the the simple rule is, the more aware you are, the better. Awareness comes naturally, yet some people are more skilled at using their awareness than others. They have acquired certain skills, which in fact anyone can learn--and should.

This is the second in a series of articles about skills in awareness--the first was on how to remain centered. Being centered. Being centered brings you into the present moment. Having mastered this skill, you are not easily distracted, flustered, or thrown off balance. The next skill has to do with focus, sometimes called one-pointed awareness.

Whenever you really want something, keeping focused on it comes naturally. But does awareness have its own power to bring about results? In other words, leaving aside the work needed to create an accomplishment, can you find a quicker, easier path by being more conscious? To find out, you must use a special kind of focus, known as “clear intention.”

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We All Need Awareness Skills: No. 1 - Centering

beautiful-businesswoman-meditating-at-workplace-ignoring-work-and-picture-id695760208 We All Need Awareness Skills: No. 1 - Centering

This post begins a series on "skills in awareness." These are skills that anyone can learn -and benefit form. the more aware you are, the better you will be at making positive lifestyle choices, resisting impulsiveness, being triggered by stress and people around you, and finding out who you really are. These are the goals of conscious living.

Most people use the words "consciousness" and "awareness" in a fuzzy way. The average person might think "If I’m awake and not asleep in bed, I'm conscious." But to be aware is defined more accurately as not being unconscious in your habits, attitudes, and beliefs. Being aware isn't passive. It influences all of your mental activity.

To illustrate, we can begin with the most basic awareness skill, being centered. The experience of many actors and singers is that they suffer from terrible stage fright until the moment they walk on stage, when suddenly they fall into a groove - despite their nerves, great performers like Olivier and Pavarotti, two notable sufferers from stage fright, showed total command of their art before the public. What causes such an instantaneous transformation? A combination of things:

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Is Life Really a Dream?

Is Life Really a Dream? Is Life Really a Dream?

There are times when life goes out of kilter and the world doesn’t seem real and substantial anymore. Such experiences occur regularly, either to us or other people. For example, when there’s a sudden death in the family or a catastrophe like a tornado or the house burning down, a person can go into shock. With a blank stare they reveal how dislocated their existence suddenly feels, saying things like “This can’t be happening. It’s unreal” or “Nothing matters anymore.”

It’s normal for this dissociated state to pass, and in time reality feels real again. But some people never return—after a psychotic break, for example, a percentage of mental patients become chronically schizophrenic and have hallucinations for the rest of their lives. But the feeling of “This can’t be happening, it’s like a dream” doesn’t have to be triggered by shock. When someone is ecstatically happy at their good fortune, everything can seem unreal.

I’m pointing out these experiences because they give a basis for the notion that life actually is a dream, but we don’t notice it unless there is a sudden dislocation, a moment when we glimpse the dream for what it is before lapsing back into it quite unconsciously. A passing glance at the history of philosophy indicates that the Eastern view of Maya and Plato’s image of the cave are declarations that the illusory nature of life has fooled us, with the exception of the few who have wake up and seen the “real” reality.

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The Biggest Step in Human Potential

man-with-arms-raised-in-the-sky-winner-success-concept-picture-id614128404 The Biggest Step in Human Potential

By now many people are familiar with the term “positive psychology,” although they might not realize its significance. Medicine proceeds by diagnosing diseases and attempting to cure them, and as a branch of medicine, psychiatry and psychology focused for decades on the pathology of the mind. It took an enormous change in attitude to switch the focus to the positive potential of the mind. Positive psychology therefore addresses issues like how to be happy, to increase self-esteem, to promote well-being and so on.

One can think of this shift toward human potential in much bigger terms. There are so-called paranormal or psi abilities—are they a hidden potential in us? There is the exploration of higher consciousness, investigating the possibility of waking up from the dream of pain and suffering and ultimately taking the mind to a more evolved state. If you collect all the areas of expanded human potential, which includes creativity, insight, the renunciation of violence, Yoga, meditation, and much more—there is enough to revolutionize our conception of mind. Once this happens, then we have a foundation for redefining what it means to be human.


In an open society it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t dabbled in human potential, beginning with the most popular aspect, which is self-improvement. The desire to improve yourself is an expression of the impulse to evolve, which is unstoppable in human beings. But having painted this picture, one needs to ask if the human potential movement is bearing fruit. Is it moving fast enough? Are reactionary forces pulling society in the opposite direction?

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Your Body Is Trapped in Stale Information

DNA Your Body Is Trapped in Stale Information

One of the mysteries about our bodies is how they manage to change and yet remain the same. DNA is routinely called the blueprint of life, yet no other blueprint actually builds the house or skyscraper it models. Once DNA builds a body, the body grows and disintegrates at the same time. This is apparent from the skin and stomach lining, which rapidly form new cells as old ones die. But every cell has a given lifespan and willingly dies, so to speak, when it's time is up. 

How did the body develop this ability to be born and die at the same time, to balance creation and destruction? If we dive to the molecular level, the mystery only deepens. Cells need food, air, and water, and the molecules of each are in constant transport, passing through the cell wall and out again. In addition, the messages that the brain sends to every cell in the body course through the bloodstream with precise messaging that doesn't get confused--in effect, the bloodstream is an information superhighway in which there are no traffic accidents even though the cars have no drivers.

To date, the best way to understand what's going on is through genetics, and now the whole field of genetics has entered the information age. As summarized in a recent TED talk by biologist Dean Gibson provocatively titled "How to Build Synthetic DNA and Send It Across the Internet " there are now machines that biologically print DNA once they are fed instructions in the form of data easily transmitted on the Web. This conversion of information into actual DNA builds upon previous technology that enables bits of stored genetic material (the basic four-letter alphabet of ACGT) to be combined in any conceivable way.

Gibson's lab has pioneered sending information and turning it into genetic material, which in 2013 allowed them to take the code for an alarming new strain of bird flu in China and in a matter of hours turn it into a viable vaccine to fight the disease, a process that normally takes up to six months. The promise of similar applications is set to revolutionize how new drugs are made.

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Expanded Awareness and Success

passionate-free-and-successful-people-picture-id964608530

Only about half of Americans tell pollsters that they still believe the American Dream is attainable. If the dream is the same as achieving success, perhaps there's a more optimistic way to think about the whole issue.

To have worldly success, do you have to be worldly yourself? Most people assume that the answer is yes. The poet Wordsworth may complain that "the world is too much with us late and soon," but modern life seems to demand total immersion in the race to the top. If you stop looking out for number one, no one else is likely to, and in a highly competitive workplace, there's only room for winners.

In earlier posts I've pointed out that the world's wisdom traditions don't agree with this viewpoint. The path to happiness isn't through obeying the demands of the ego-personality, with its constant focus on "I, me, and mine." But one must be realistic.

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Waking Up Is Impossible, But It Happens Anyway

cantgethere Waking Up Is Impossible, But It Happens Anyway

The punchline from a joke has gotten embedded in popular language: You can't get there from here. The original joke has a lost traveler stopping his car to ask a farmer how to get to a certain town. The farmer scratches his head and says, "You can't get there from here." the humor, of course, is rooted in the fact that you can get anywhere on the map from anywhere else.

 

One place where the punchline isn't funny refers to our minds. Everything the mind does is active. It takes the fluctuations of air molecules to create sound, which travels from the vibrating eardrum until the impulse is converted into electrical and chemical signals in the brain. All other information about the world "out there" depends on variations of the same model. Sight is possible through the interaction of photons with specialized cells in the retina. These in turn send electrical and chemical signals to the visual cortex. Without this activity, nothing in the universe is visible; photons by their nature are invisible.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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