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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

The Mystery of the Eternal Now

eternalnow The Mystery of the Eternal Now

People have become convinced that there is a spiritual benefit to living in the present. This is a surprising phenomenon, because nothing seems more mundane than the here and now. You wouldn't expect anything special to emerge from the constant flow of seconds, minutes, and hours that fill everyone's life from the moment of birth. There must be a deeper reason for giving the present moment a special value. (As an introduction to the significance of now, please see my recent post, "What Does It Mean to Live in the Present?"

"Now" is a concept that runs deeper than you might suppose. First of all, it cannot be measured by the clock. Before the tick of the clock is over, it has vanished into the past. Likewise, the experience of now as a subjective event is ungraspable by the mind. A thought is gone the instant you think it, and there's an argument from neuroscience that says the words you perceive as a thought are after-effects of the brain activity that created them, since the electrical impulses and chemical reactions inside neurons take fractions of a second, while the words in your head take much longer.

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What Does It Mean to Live in the Present?

presence What Does It Mean to Live in the Present?

In recent decades the concept of living in the present moment has been widely discussed, prompted by the surprising success of Eckhart Tolle’s 1997 book, The Power of Now. For millions of readers Tolle’s basic thesis, that there is something special about the here and now, came as a spiritual message they could seize upon in daily life.

The power that the present moment possesses, as many people now believe, is its reality. To be in the now means that you are not distracted by memories of the past or expectations about the future. You dwell instead on whatever is right in front of you, applying mental clarity, alertness, and your full attention. Simple enough—until one looks deeper. Young children live in the now. Are they better off for it, considering the years of maturation that lie ahead to bring about full-fledged adulthood? The elderly suffering from dementia typically have severe memory loss, forcing them to live only in the passing moment, and this condition becomes confusing and blank, not to mention a source of distress.

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Human Potential Takes a Huge Leap - and You’re Already There

humanpotential Human Potential Takes a Huge Leap - and You’re Already There

The human potential movement has become a roaring success over the past few decades. Yoga, meditation, the evolution of consciousness, even human potential itself are terms almost everyone knows. But the aura of spirituality hovers around them, which leads scientists to ignore human potential or to relegate it to psychology, considered the softest of soft sciences.

So it is quite startling, and a major leap forward, to find out that human potential deserves its place among the hard sciences. In fact, the five senses, instead of being grossly inferior to modern scientific apparatus, turn out to have abilities ten times greater than anyone ever supposed. In a nutshell we are quantum detectors, meaning that simply by sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell we are participating in the finest fabric of Nature, and possibly can cause the quantum field to move at will.

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Do Your Genes Run You or Vice Versa?

overwieghtmom Do Your Genes Run You or Vice Versa?
There's a disturbing trend in science to try and prove that human beings are machines, and where this was once a metaphor, it is being taken more and more literally. We are told that a brain hormone is responsible for falling in love or a mother's affection for her newborn baby. Brain areas that light up on an fMRI scan supposedly indicate that a person is depressed or prone to criminal behavior and much else. Besides being brain puppets, we are supposed to believe that our genes program us in powerful ways, to the point that "bad" genes doom a person to a host of problems from schizophrenia to Alzheimer's.


There needs to be a clear rebuff of this notion that human beings are mechanisms, and the fact that science has a wealth of findings about both genes and the brain doesn't make the notion any more valid. The general public isn't aware, for example, that only 5% of disease-related genetic mutations are fully penetrant, which means that having the mutation will definitely cause a given problem. The other 95% of genes raise risk factors and in complex ways interact with other genes.
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The Most Revolutionary Idea Is Here - and It’s Catching On

particle-string-brain-picture-id1050121960 The Most Revolutionary Idea Is Here - and It’s Catching On

In a news-driven society more attention is paid to events that will soon fade away than to ideas that could alter civilization. Modern secular society needs the impetus of great ideas to add meaning and purpose to our lives, as religion once did when it was the dominant force around the world. In turbulent times the prospect of a single idea that can transform humanity seems remote.

But just such an idea has arrived. It travels under various tags, the most common being “the one mind.” It’s the notion that there is only one mind in the universe despite the appearance here on Earth of seven billion minds. On the surface the radical possibilities stemming from “the one mind” aren’t obvious. In fact, the last thing anyone would want to give up is the claim to be a unique individual. That’s not what the one mind is about—it’s about expanding into higher consciousness as a practical reality. If humanity shares one mind, and this mind has a cosmic dimension, the very idea begins to cause one’s consciousness to expand.

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Nutrition Takes Another Spin - Why Can't the Experts Get It Straight?

fast-food-set-picture-id475895644 Nutrition Takes Another Spin - Why Can't the Experts Get It Straight?

Fad diets come and go, but officially the subject of nutrition is guided by science. The public stubbornly thinks in terms of "good" foods and "bad" foods, so when the government's nutritional experts issue scientifically based advice, any attempt at a nuanced picture generally gets lost. Recently there were headlines when the highest board for dietary protocols, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council, reversed a government warning about avoiding foods high in cholesterol, which has been in place nearly 40 years.

The public is likely to shrug off this about-face, or else decide that eggs, the most common food high in cholesterol, is no longer a "bad" food but has moved into the "good" column. This ignores the council's message, which weighed one thing against another. For people in a normal state of health, saturated fats from animal products pose a higher risk than high cholesterol. This finding is more a shift in focus than an about-face. It's still unhealthy, the majority of nutritionists agree, to eat too much red meat as opposed to eggs, but eggs are high in saturated fat, too, so you shouldn't overdo them, either.

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A Brain Theory That Work - If You Turn It Upside Down

brianwave A Brain Theory That Work - If You Turn It Upside Down

Neuroscience is based on the assumption that the brain produces the mind. After all, without a brain, most of us would be much poorer thinkers. If the brain produces the mind, then it’s important to know how it does it. A team at the University of California Santa Barbara has come up with a new theory—actually, an ancient theory now couched in modern scientific terms—basing mental activity on vibrations.

For a long time it’s been known that various waves of electrical activity are present, and these waves are independent in how they relate to having a mind. As explained by one of the team members from UC Santa Barbara, “Gamma waves are associated with large-scale coordinated activities like perception, meditation or focused consciousness; beta with maximum brain activity or arousal; and theta with relaxation or daydreaming. These three wave types work together to produce, or at least facilitate, various types of human consciousness…”

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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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