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...
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 Medical 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.
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Do We Really Have Infinite Potential?

infinitepotential Do We Really Have Infinite Potential?

The human potential movement has existed for several decades, and in many ways is an alternative name for self-improvement. The urge to improve oneself exists naturally in everyone, unless outside forces like poverty damp it down. But the human potential movement is far more ambitious. It aims to open up a vast area of unexplored potential.

I argue in a new book titled Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential that the true foundation of human potential is infinite. At first that seems like a drastic overreach. Everyone experiences personal limitations that stop far, far short of the infinite. But let me make the case by first turning the whole premise of self-improvement on its head.

The typical way that human potential is approached starts with the limited individual and seeks to lessen these limitations. There’s a school of thought that believes in achieving a 10% increase in happiness, which is seen as a major step. The notion is that happiness is so difficult to understand that any improvement would have to be small. In an area like IQ, the goal is even smaller, because intelligence is accepted among experts to be fixed, budging very little from childhood. A third example is creativity, which would seem to allow for enormous improvement, but finding out what makes creative people creative has proved to be a frustrating and baffling business.

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It’s Much Better to Be Conscious than Smart

awarenesssmart It’s Much Better to Be Conscious than Smart

If you had the choice, would you rather be smarter than you are or more aware? Go a step further. If a wizard came to you and said you could be either the smartest person in the world or the most aware, which would you choose?

It’s a symptom of the times, I think, that most people would choose to be smarter. We live in a world based on technology, wealth, and entrepreneurship. You have to be smart to succeed in those areas, and if you feel you are only average in intelligence, you are not likely to expect enormous success. The argument for being more aware is rarely made, yet by far choosing to be more aware is the better choice—and unlike IQ, you can increase your awareness.

I made this the theme of a new book, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, so let me encapsulate the argument. Being smart, even very, very smart, doesn’t immunize you from living unconsciously. An unconscious life is driven by habits, fixed beliefs, second-hand opinions, social pressure, peer-group values, and old conditioning. To realize this, and then to escape its grip, requires awareness, not IQ.

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The Balanced Mind: A Better Model

balancedmind The Balanced Mind: A Better Model

Now that meditation has caught on widely, it’s time to understand why it works. The physical findings measured by neuroscience gives intriguing hints about changes in brain wave activity, but that’s an effect, not a cause. The same holds true for physiological changes outside the brain, such as lowered heart rate and blood pressure. The how and why of meditation must be sought “in here,” in the meditator’s subjective experience.

This isn’t a mysterious route to take. Pain studies are based on how much pain a subject feels; there is no objective way to measure this. In the case of meditation, I believe the correct model is that the mind in meditation is rebalancing itself. Medical studies have known for a long time that the body tends toward a state of dynamic balance known as homeostasis. If you push your body out of balance by shoveling snow off the driveway or running a marathon, as soon as you stop that activity, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen use in the muscles, and even digestion and the immune system return to homeostatic balance.

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Stop the Merry-Go-Round, It’s Time to Get Off

merrygoround Stop the Merry-Go-Round, It’s Time to Get Off

It feels to many people as if we’re living in a Humpty-Dumpty time, when everything has gone smash. A sense of chaos and disorder permeates everything, and as you look around, there’s no longer any consensus about the most basic facts. Reality has become the clash of opposing viewpoints. When the phrase “alternative facts” first hit the media, it was met with jeers. Now it’s the definition of our troubling times.

What’s missing isn’t what people usually point to—order, tradition, solid values, and cooperation. Those things depend entirely on the real missing element, which T.S. Eliot poetically called “the still point of the turning world.” For the fact is that chaos isn’t new; disorder has threatened humanity throughout recorded history. The only way for chaos to be defeated is to have a firm foundation, something so solid, immovable, and permanent that we can build upon it. Otherwise, anything we try to build stands on sand.

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What You Don’t Know Can Change Your Life

thoughts What You Don’t Know Can Change Your Life

We’ve all met people who shrug off their lack of knowledge by saying, “Ignorance is bliss,” but who takes that seriously? The modern world is built upon levels of understanding and knowledge. Our life isn’t blissful, but without a doubt the sciences and technology we base our lives upon represent mountains of knowledge and mountain ranges of data, experimentation, and research studies.

It is baffling, then, to consider a famous remark attributed by Plato to his mentor Socrates: “All I know is that I know nothing.” Why did the greatest Greek philosopher claim that his teacher said this? It makes Socrates seem to be anti-knowledge. In fact, he was, because the kind of knowledge Socrates opposed was specious knowledge. His philosophical antagonists, the Sophists, taught the better class of young men in Athens, and what they transmitted, if we translate it into modern terms, was the validity of objective facts. What Socrates taught was intuitive inner knowing. That’s why it is possible to say in the same breath, “Know thyself” and “All I know is that I know nothing.”

To unravel his meaning even more deeply, Socrates wasn’t claiming that intuitive inner knowing was superior to objective facts. As we all experience—and as scientists constantly remind us—the subjective world “in here” is capricious, changeable, unpredictable, and filled with imagination and therefore unreal things.

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The Magic Behind Creation

magicofcreation The Magic Behind Creation

Magic is supposed to be a primitive belief, and in modern society it has largely disappeared. Science and technology are not only triumphs of rationality; they represent victories over magic, which is irrational. It is magical to explain thunder as the anger of the gods. It is magical to believe in the story of Creation taking place in seven days as related in the Book of Genesis.

But magic clings stubbornly to a foothold in our lives. Children are delighted by it, and not just children. Einstein said that he was the most unlikely person to discover relativity, but the theory came to him due to a streak of wonder that he had retained from childhood. Wonder is the wide-eyed reaction a child has on seeing a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat, and Einstein claimed that no great discoveries could be made in science without a sense of wonder at Nature’s mysteries.

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Ending Our Fear of Death

fearofdeath Ending Our Fear of Death

Fear is a powerful force, nowhere more so than when it comes to death and dying. By comparison, the solutions for solving other fears seem useless. You cannot test your fear; you cannot feel it and move on anyway. There is little reason to trust other people who seem to have no such fear. They have no more valid experience of dying than any other person who is alive.

It is reported that near-death experiences leave survivors without any fear of death, because they have seen the other side and found it unfearful. But near-death experiences, although highly publicized, are rare, even among patients who have died on the table in the emergency room, generally from a heart attack, and been resuscitated. You can take hope from their anecdotal stories—and millions do—but the information remains second-hand.

Fear of death is unique in the hold it has over us, and we spend our lives hiding or suppressing it. The prospect of not existing seems too overwhelming to face. But in one respect, despite its uniqueness, the fear of death can be faced and dismantled. There is a cure that is available to anyone. It consists of exposing death as an illusion.

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The Best Way to Change Your Life: Getting Unstuck

unstuck The Best Way to Change Your Life: Getting Unstuck

There are lots of reasons to consider the human mind is unfathomable, beginning with simple evidence like the thousands of psychology books on the market and the years of training required to become a licensed psychiatrist. But it is possible to create huge changes in how your mind is working, here and now, that do not require in-depth knowledge.

 

Instead, all that is needed is the habit of watching yourself.  Life is about action and reaction. Very complex and tangled influences may be at work—and almost certainly are—but they mostly remain undercover. What we experience is action and reaction, which leads to each person’s unique pattern of behaving.

 

Looking at your behavior on the scale of months and years, or even days and weeks, is impossible, because everyone has thousands of thoughts that lead to thousands of actions and reactions. But it is very different, and much easier, to simply look at what happens next. If you look at your next reaction to anything—an incident at work, a phone call, your child running in with a scraped knee—the same thing happens next: you do something based on the past.

 

You possess a backlog, a virtual library, of memories that imprinted how you acted and reacted. Some people are more predictable than others in how they act and react—a frontline soldier confronts very limited options compared with a philosopher. But everyone consults a library of set responses when the next thing happens.

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Trading In the Afterlife for One Life

oneness Trading In the Afterlife for One Life

Every doctrine of the afterlife has run into the same problem, which is that of belief. For centuries the existence of life after death has been couched in religious terms, which necessitates believing in religion before the question of the afterlife can be approached. Is it possible to say something more firmly grounded than mere belief, which falls so short of certainty?

With the continuing decline of organized religion in developed countries, a strain of rational atheism has arisen that seems to have the backing of science. In this view, since we lack data from people who have died, there is no reason to abide by age-old myths concerning a promise of life after death. Fundamentally, the death and decay of the physical body points to the death of the mind, because to a physicalist the mind is a product of the brain.

The weakness in this viewpoint is twofold. First, it is founded on unproven assumptions. No one has proved that the brain produces the mind, only that brain activity parallels mental activity. By analogy, the heart beats faster when someone gets excited emotionally, but by no means does this prove that the heart produces emotions. The second flaw is that receiving no data from people who have died begs the question. Entire theories of cosmology delve into string theories and the multiverse with no data and indeed no chance of gathering any data. There are certain boundaries that physical exploration cannot cross, but this obstacle doesn’t invalidate their existence.

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Should You Plan for Your Next Incarnation?

afterlife Should You Plan for Your Next Incarnation?

Do you believe in reincarnation, and if so, does it matter? According to a 2018 Pew Research survey, 33% of Americans say they believe in reincarnation, yet it is beyond the range of ordinary polling to ask why this belief exists. In an age of faith, both East and West, a person’s daily life was deeply influenced by a religion’s teaching about the afterlife.

Questions of sin and redemption, karmic retribution, heavens and hells, and journeys through other bodies such as those of animals—these were pressing concerns for many centuries. Now in modern secular society, the question of surviving the extinction of the physical body has been channeled into belief versus science. We don’t ask if God finds us worthy to go to heaven so much as how credible a near-death experience might be according to the best research.

The scheme of belief versus science is something of a false divide, however. There has been credible research on reincarnation, which would surprise most people, including scientists. Pioneering studies were conducted by Ian Stevenson, chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Virginia Medical School, who began investigating the phenomenon of young children who say they recall a past life. Hundreds of such cases were looked into with the aim of validating if the person they remembered being actually existed.

Giving “Wholeness” a Higher Meaning

wholeness Giving “Wholeness” a Higher Meaning

Thanks to its positive connotations, “wholeness” has become a buzz word in areas of life as diverse as holistic medicine, whole-foods nutrition, and the human potential movement, which aims to create a whole person rather than a separate, fragmented one. What these various applications have in common is that wholeness is a choice—and there the problem lies.

If you are talking about whole foods versus processed foods, wholeness is certainly a choice, and the same can be said for holistic as opposed to mainstream medicine with its reliance on drugs and surgery. But speaking about a whole person is somehow different. If you consider the issue a bit deeper, becoming a whole person is involved in the most fundamental questions about what it means to be human.

The nature of human consciousness is such that we can take any viewpoint we want towards our own existence. This goes beyond being an optimist or pessimist, beyond positive thinking. Or even psychology. At the most basic level, each of us decides how to relate to reality itself. In the modern era society teaches us to relate to reality through scientific, rational, logical means. Nature, including human nature, is thus quantified, measured, mined for data, and arranged through rational explanations.

From such a perspective, the human mind must be the product of the brain, following the basic logic that brain activity can be measured and quantified. This fact seems so obvious that neuroscience claims to be the prime, perhaps the only, way to explain the mind. Yet this claim runs afoul of the entire subjective world, which obviously exists—everyone is aware of sensations, visual images, sounds, thoughts, flashes of memory, etc., which occur “in here.” This entire realm of human existence cannot be turned into data or quantified. (For some background, you might want to consult the most recent post, “Why Math Is Leading Us Deeper into Illusion.”)

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Why Math Is Leading Us Deeper into Illusion

numbers Why Math Is Leading Us Deeper into Illusion

It’s hard to imagine a world without numbers. The square footage of your house, the rent or mortgage payment, the weight you see on your bathroom scale are all examples of lower mathematics, while the GPS that guides your travels, your smartphone, and sending a space probe to Saturn are examples of higher mathematics. Yet the Pyramids and the Parthenon needed only lower math, little more than a few basic equations and the ability to count.

It seems absurd to call numbers a problem; they are too useful in every aspect of life. But if you aspire to go beyond your present state of consciousness, if you want to be happier, to find love, or to know yourself, mathematics is not only useless, it blocks the way. It traps you in an illusion and deepens the illusion in radical ways. Believe it or not, anything you can count, weigh, calculate, or measure is part of an all-embracing illusion—to grasp this fact will put you on the threshold to the “real” reality and your place in it.

I mean illusion in the most common sense of the word, the way a dream is an illusion. Imagine that you are dreaming one night, and inside your dream you can use numbers, measure things, and even pursue science. Obviously the ability to do these things would reassure you of the reality of your dream. But once the bubble is burst and you wake up, all the counting, measuring, and doing science would become instantly irrelevant.

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Is the Self the Ultimate Healer?

healingself Is the Self the Ultimate Healer?

In recent years the self-care movement has been gathering momentum, and in many ways it is a natural extension of what came before, which was prevention. Both put the focus of remaining well on the individual. Instead of running to the doctor’s when symptoms appear, prevention taught people to avoid risks in advance. Giving up smoking to prevent the risk of lung cancer was a milestone in prevention over fifty years ago, and since then a host of preventive measures have been discovered.

But prevention focused on disease rather than wellness, which made room for self-care and its aim to attain lifelong well-being. A positive lifestyle that benefits both mind and body lies at the core of self-care, and important breakthroughs are being made, such as the vital importance of avoiding low-grade chronic inflammation and also chronic stress. Yet few realize how revolutionary self-care can actually be.

What if the self, all alone and unaided, is the ultimate healer? On the one hand modern medicine would hotly and even violently reject such a notion. Mainstream medicine still has objections to self-care insofar as it encroaches on the expertise of doctors and the accepted treatments through drugs and surgery. Let’s set aside the possible objections to the self as healer, because it’s more important to get at what the concept is all about.

An opening is provided by a first-person account on a personal website by Joey Lott, who poses what he calls “A cure for anxiety.” Lott presents himself as a longtime sufferer from anxiety whose affliction was intractable: “I failed so completely to make things better (even after years of therapy, meditation, yoga, affirmations, breathwork, prayer, hundreds of self-help books, countless workshops, and on and on) that eventually I grew hopeless. Nothing could help me, I believed. I thought I was broken.”
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Taking a Beautiful Line from Rumi: Beyond the Boundaries of the Intellect

semazen-picture-id538878077 Taking a Beautiful Line from Rumi: Beyond the Boundaries of the Intellect

The popularity of the mystic Sufi poet Rumi is based on his love affair with God, expressed in such ecstatic terms that he makes the spiritual journey seem deeply romantic. But Rumi also reported about how his state of consciousness felt, which gives valuable clues about higher consciousness itself.

Here is a beautiful line of his that has profound implications for consciousness as well: “Exchange your cleverness for bewilderment.” What kind of bewilderment does he mean? To most people, bewilderment is the opposite of an appealing state, since it implies indecision, confusion, perhaps loss of control entirely. Rumi was known for applauding such a state, however, if the result was bliss and ecstasy.

To modern ears the message is more pointed. “Cleverness” is Rumi’s synonym for the rational mind, which seeks explanations that are logical and consistent. The aim of the intellect is to bring everything down to earth, so to speak, eliminating the folderol and fantasy associated with spirituality and mysticism in particular. Rumi encountered this not in terms of modern rationality with its basis in science but from clerics who studied and became expert authorities on “correct” Islam.

Higher Consciousness in Less than a Minute

elderly-hawaii-woman-practicing-yoga-picture-id884298208 Higher Consciousness in Less than a Minute

There are very old, rich traditions of higher consciousness around the world, and diverse as they are, they seem to have one thing in common: Arriving at higher consciousness takes time, perhaps a lifetime. Along with this idea comes other, closely related ones. Higher consciousness is exceptional. It requires intense inner work. Only a select few ever reach the goal.

The overall effect of these ideas is to discourage the average person from even considering that higher consciousness is within reach. For all practical purposes, society sets those apart who have become enlightened, saintly, or spiritually advanced. In an age of faith such figures were revered; today they are more likely to be viewed as beyond normal life, to be admired, shrugged off, or forgotten.

Much of this is a holdover from the merger of religion, spirituality, and consciousness. For centuries there was no separating the three. Most traditional societies developed a priestly class to guard the sanctity—and privileged status—of reaching near to God. But these trappings are now outdated and even work against the truth, which is that higher consciousness is as natural and effortless as consciousness itself. If you are aware, you can become more aware. There is nothing to higher consciousness than this logical conclusion.

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Everyday Immortality

everydaymortality Everyday Immortality

Questions of life and death, including the existence of life after death, seem to resist any firm conclusion. Most people tell pollsters that they believe in God, the soul, and the afterlife, but for all practical purposes we live in a secular society. The reassurances of organized religion no longer persuade millions of modern people, while on the other hand, there is a sharp rise in skepticism, doubt, and atheism.

Living as if we are mortal is the choice most people now make—for practical purposes, they live as if nothing existed before birth and nothing is likely to exist after death. Yet there is another choice rarely discussed, which one might call practical immortality. It rests upon a simple but life-changing decision anyone can make, the decision to identify with consciousness.

Right now everyone’s allegiance is split. We identify with our bodies some of the time and with our minds the rest of the time. If you run a marathon, go to the doctor for a checkup, feel attracted to someone else physically, or drag through the day for lack of sleep, you are identifying with your body. When you feel sad, have a bright idea, or argue about politics, you identify with your mind.

These may seem like obvious things, but it is due to split allegiances that death poses so much fear. If you think that life ends when the physical body ends, the prospect is rarely pleasant, and no matter how much spiritual literature you read, a mental conviction that physical death isn’t the end won’t resolve your fear. Everyone seems to agree that nothing can be known about the existence of the afterlife until we get there—or not.

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Your Body Wants to Be Your Strongest Ally - Let It

bodymind Your Body Wants to Be Your Strongest Ally - Let It

Modern medicine has triumphed on many fronts in conquering diseases and extending life, but its greatest advance is almost totally unsung. Health and longevity have made it possible to see the body as our greatest ally. After centuries of inevitable sickness and early death for the vast majority of people, the human body is poised to become our greatest ally on a new front: consciousness.

If you can step outside the accepted image of your body as a machine, you will discover that it is actually not a separate physical object but united with your mind as one consciousness—call it the bodymind. This step alone rids you of many damaging attitudes. As a thing separate from ourselves, the body is an obsessive source of worry over sickness, aging, and death. Equally obsessive is whether someone’s body is beautiful enough, strong enough, appealing enough to the opposite sex.

Three Impossible Things We Can’t Do Without

alice Three Impossible Things We Can’t Do Without

If you want to know what human beings really want, consider how Alice reacts to Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s inventions are so entertaining, we tend to smile at how upset, vexed, and unsettled Alice actually is. Wonderland overturns our regular, orderly, and predictable life, which is what people actually want.

The inhabitants of Wonderland aren’t just fantastic. They are unhappy. The White Rabbit is anxious enough to be a study in stress over a deadline. The Duchess’s cook throws dishes in a state of rage, and the Duchess herself hands Alice her squalling baby, which turns into a pig. Alice is very glad to get out of there. But Wonderland haunts us, and for good reason.

We are shadowed in everyday life by fear of the unknown and unpredictable, and perpetual chaos would be intolerable. To assuage our fears, we have mentally constructed a picture of life that is reassuring, but wrong. There’s a kind of silent conspiracy to impose logic, reason, order, and predictability which actually isn’t there in Nature.
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Why the Greatest Mystery Is You

serene-woman-silhouette-picture-id108312723 Why the Greatest Mystery Is You

Even though teams of scientists around the world are working on great mysteries, from the origin of the universe to the origin of life, the greatest mystery remains personal, the mystery of the self. So far as we know, human beings are unique in pondering our own existence as selves and also our place in the universe. You would think that this trait is enough to solve the mystery. After all, if I am aware of myself, I should be an expert on how the self operates.

But exactly the opposite is true. No one can say, with any hope of reaching a consensus, even the most basic things about the self. For example, “self” is both a word and a concept, yet no one knows how or when human speech came about, and concepts, which imply thinking, confront us with our ignorance about what a thought actually is. Take the simplest statement about the individual self, “I am.” When you say these two words to yourself, is it really possible that your brain cells know English and possess a voice?

The world’s spiritual traditions can be reframed as explorations into “I am.” Jehovah uses the phrase when he speaks to Moses out of the burning bush, as well as in Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” In the ancient Vedas, supreme knowledge is conveyed, mysteriously enough, in the declaration, “I am That.”

The upshot, if we gather these statements together, is that “I am” is a statement beyond what we ordinarily think ourselves as individuals and holds the key to truth, life, existence, and a higher power known as God. The gist of the Upanishads is that all things are done by, for, and because of the self, the foundation of reality. However you parse our different types of scriptural heritage, as a species we have been fascinated and baffled by our own self-awareness.

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A New, Improved Reality Depends on You

reality A New, Improved Reality Depends on You

How do we know that anything is real? This isn’t a question that usually bothers most people, because we’ve all been brought up to look upon the physical world “out there” as a given. But let’s say that someone actually asks you the question, “How do you know the physical world is real?” What would you answer?

If you pause for a second, there are only two kinds of answers to this question: Either you tell a story or you refer to your own experience. Stories used to be collective myths, generally based on religion, about how God or the gods created the world. But any story, including the most advanced scientific models, depends on belief. If you believe in the Book of Genesis, you will see reality very differently from someone who believes in the Big Bang. To sort out which story is actually true, the second kind of answer arose, defining reality according to our experience. A rock is hard because two people who kick it agree from their experience that it is, in fact, hard.

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