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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Finding Your Way to Gratitude

findinggratitude Finding Your Way to Gratitude

Although Thanksgiving Day has become a time for turkey and football, its true purpose lingers, often as a wistful hope that one could be truly thankful. You cannot conjure up thanks if you are focused on the world’s troubles and a constant stream of bad news. So how is true gratitude found? 

As writer and teacher Dana Arcuri has said, “The more you are grateful for what you have, the more you can live fully in the present.”. Psychologically, research has shown that practicing gratitude measurably improves your well-being and on the physical side, your heart health.

 Gratitude begins when we change our relationship with life from an attitude of rejecting and defending to one of acceptance and appreciation. We all need reminding about a truth expressed by the Greek philosopher Epicurus, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

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Why Matter Is a (Useful) Fiction

3d-rendering-oasis-in-the-desert-picture-id942230430 Why Matter Is a (Useful) Fiction

Given a choice between physics and metaphysics, almost everyone chooses physics. This is a modern habit that is deeply ingrained, and it turns the tables on the religious approach to reality, which put a divine or supernatural entity, first and foremost in creation. But relying on the physical world as the foundation of reality has run into serious problems. Unable or unwilling to return to metaphysics, people are stuck without a viable model of reality. 

This becomes apparent if you go to the nub of the physical model, which is matter. For centuries, ever since the ancient Greek concept of the atom, there has been a constant search for the smallest building block in Nature, on the supposition that the world is like a sandcastle on the beach. If you reduce the sandcastle to grains of sand, you know where it comes from. Putting things on a firm foundation is one of humanity’s driving force, and in the physical world, this drive leads to atoms and beyond. 

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The Most Popular Model of Reality Is Wrong

naive-realism The Most Popular Model of Reality Is Wrong

It would be ideal if reality and our model of reality merged into the same thing. A model of reality explains how the universe was created and how it operates. You might think that this is a definition of reality itself, but it isn’t, which can be illustrated by looking at the most popular model, known as naïve realism.

In a nutshell, naïve realism says that what you see is what you get. In other words, the reality presented by the five senses is reliable. Such a view appeals to common sense. It rests on experiences we take for granted. There is a physical world “out there” separate from our subjective experience “in here.” The physical world predates human beings by 13.8 billion years, going back to the Big Bang. If both of those things are true, then obviously what we think, feel, and desire “in here” has no effect on reality “out there.”

As unimaginably sophisticated as modern science has become, most scientists accept naïve realism, usually without question, even though each of the common-sense facts just mentioned is known to be false.

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The Surest Way to an “Aha” Moment

ahamoment The Surest Way to an “Aha” Moment

An invitation to Sages and Scientists Symposium, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville Arkansas

One of the fastest ways to make a breakthrough occurs in an “aha” moment, a flash of insight that delivers an answer all at once. “Aha” moments are very desirable. Isaac Newton had one about gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree (even though this popular story was never told by him), and Alexander Fleming had one about penicillin when he saw that a common green mold had spoiled his carefully cultured dishes of bacteria.

Yet “Aha” moments are unpredictable by their very nature, and no one knows—or even has a clue—why or how they occur. This doesn’t decrease the urgent need for breakthroughs in all kinds of fields where conventional answers, and the method for reaching them, has failed. More than 200 promising Alzheimer’s drugs have failed, for example, leading some drug companies to give up the effort to find one that works. We have no proven answer for aging despite dozens of theories. We don’t have a viable technology to reverse the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Leaving these problems to science is the typical way, and for many the only way, to achieve solutions. But a growing number of theorists believe that every department of human knowledge should be allowed to contribute. If you divide the world into the objective domain “out there” and the subjective domain “in here,” science is very good at the one and drastically lagging in the other. If you want to understand all kinds of inner experiences—love, beauty, curiosity, creativity, pain, wonder, suffering ecstasy, or even what a thought is—there is little science can tell you compared with what centuries of personal experience can tell you.

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The Future of Personal and Planetary Well Being : An invitation to Sages and Scientists Symposium, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville Arkansas

sagesandscientists The Future of Personal and Planetary Well Being : An invitation to Sages and Scientists Symposium, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville Arkansas

Despite a steady increase in life expectancy, medical science is facing diminishing returns. It has been estimated that every increase in lifespan since 1990 has resulted in only ten months of increased healthy life; the rest is only prolonged suffering and the decline of aging. Globally more people now die of so-called “lifestyle diseases” than from infectious diseases. Doctors cannot make choices about lifestyle; only the patient can. Finally, half of all heart attacks before old age occur in people who live a good lifestyle, managing their weight, eating right, and exercising regularly.

What lies beyond lifestyle? That’s a matter of much speculation. Will human existence be improved in the future through technology, genetic manipulation, nano-robots in the bloodstream serving as cancer hunters? Or will it take a new philosophical conception, one that entices people away from a life of speed, constant activity, and stress?

By all odds it will take both, because innovations in technology can’t succeed if we continue to define well-being in old, outworn ways. Consider the following statements, which almost everyone, including doctors, take as fact:

  • The body is a machine, and like all machines it breaks down.
  • Aging is a pre-determined process, probably controlled by our genes.
  • The body is a mindless lump of matter except for the brain, which has evolved to produce mind or consciousness.]
  • The causes of most diseases are now known. What remains is to find effective drugs to target each malady.
  • You are healthy until something goes wrong, which is signaled by the appearance of symptoms.

In reality none of these statements is correct. The body isn’t a machine; machines cannot heal themselves. The body isn’t mindless; every cell is imbued with vast knowledge that far surpasses anything found in medical textbooks. The brain doesn’t produce the mind; that’s merely an assumption that has never been proved.

The most urgent need facing each of us is how to envision our bodies without the burden of outworn assumptions, which is why, starting in two weeks, an annual symposium known as Sages & Scientists Symposium will bring together the best thinkers with views both humanistic and scientific. This year’s theme is “The Future of Well-Being,” and the public is invited to attend. There is nothing on the planet as open to the free exchange of ideas, from every kind of thinker and researcher, all aiming to find a way forward into a viable future.

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Personal Transformation - What It Really Means

woman-celebrating-on-top-of-offroad-car-picture-id851252520 Personal Transformation - What It Really Means

Most people have mixed feelings about how their lives are going, which seems inevitable. Taking the bitter with the sweet is an old saying dating back to the 13th century, but it expresses a universal experience. In the face of life’s mixed blessings, however, there runs a deep yearning for transformation. It is expressed through visons of heaven where eternal bliss is gained, in romantic literature where a perfect life is attained here on earth, and in utopian visions of every kind, including worldwide myths of a lost Eden or a Golden Age.

Is this yearning for transformation mere wish fulfillment, like dreaming of what you’d do if you won the lottery? If you are totally pragmatic, the answer is yes, and having abandoned such fantasies you can productively direct your energies to becoming better off by inches and degrees. Even then, modest goals aren’t always achievable. We settle for half a loaf, or less, because common sense tells us to.

But I think the issue runs deeper than pragmatism. In my new book Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, I propose that the desire for transformation is not only realistic but totally necessary. Transformation is like the total change of state when two invisible combustible gases, oxygen and hydrogen, combine to form a liquid, water, that puts out fires. The essential nature of the two gases give no hint that they could be transformed so completely. But that is what transformation means, as opposed to gradual stepwise change.

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Are Human Beings the Ultimate Creator?

creators Are Human Beings the Ultimate Creator?

It’s rare to find someone with an optimistic view of humanity’s future. The prevailing mood globally is dark, and yet David Deutsch, a far-seeing British physicist, argues that humans are responsible for everything new—we are the ultimate creators in the cosmos.

I was excited to view his April 2019 TED talk headlined “After billions of years of monotony, the universe is waking up” By monotony Deutsch means the mechanistic processes that have been in place ever since stars and galaxies began to form, and by waking up, he means us. We are a unique source of creative novelty in the universe, so far as we know.

To support this very original idea, Deutsch points out that humans have told themselves a story for centuries that is mistaken. We have seen ourselves caught in the middle of struggle between cosmic good and evil, which was expressed in religious terms for a long time but has been updated by science into the struggle between order (the good side of the war) and chaos (the destructive side of the war, and therefore bad).

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Getting Serious about Nothing

nothing Getting Serious about Nothing

Nothing in the creation myths told in ancient cultures match our current model of creation for strangeness and improbability. We tend to smile indulgently at those old myths, although the average person probably hasn’t gone very far past the Book of Genesis, if they are religious, or a vague sense of the big bang as a kind of cosmic dynamite explosion. Like our ancestors, we have wrapped creation in a story. The difference is supposed to be that our story, backed by modern physics, is rational, scientific, and therefore on the money.

The problem is that the current creation story doesn’t match reality, having long ago drifted beyond anything conceivable, provable, or accessible. I talk at length about this in my new book Metahuman, where I propose something quite radical: The cosmos is a construct of the human mind, a backdrop for the virtual reality we have all bought into. The purpose of the book is to get the reader to wake up to the “real” reality, but this cannot happen if you accept without question that the physical universe is the foundation of everything that exists.

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How to Solve Life’s Problems - A Fresh Idea

livesproblems How to Solve Life’s Problems - A Fresh Idea

Einstein wasn’t the first person to state one of the basic facts of life when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” But most people attempt, time and again, to think at the level of the problem rather than finding the level of the solution. They continue to do what wasn’t working in the first place. They repeat the same actions expecting that this will lead to different results, when it almost never does.

In a new book, Metahuman, I confront this dilemma head on, starting with the notion that repeating the same futile action is endemic to our way of life. The vast majority of people are trapped inside routine, habits, old conditioning, secondhand beliefs, and the like. They repeat the past without being able to free themselves of the most painful memories. They are afraid of new, unknown things even though every creative idea or solution to a problem comes out of the new and unknown.

The whole complex of old thinking and habits burdens each of us in different ways, from stale relationships and boring jobs to ingrained prejudice and xenophobic nationalism. The rhythm of “same old, same old” beats incessantly, and yet somehow solutions are found, creativity flourishes, new ideas emerge, and “Aha!” moments occur unexpectedly.

Big money in Silicon Valley has been spent by corporations like Google, whose life blood is creativity and innovation, to unlock the secret of creative people and how they think. In their 2017 book Stealing Fire authors Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal describe various attempts to turn creativity into a skill set, all of which essentially failed. It turned out that creativity is a state of consciousness, not a skill.

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The Mystery of Reality Is the Mystery of You

mystery of reality The Mystery of Reality Is the Mystery of You

Solving the mystery of reality is left to experts, which is nothing new. The explanations of the cosmos is assigned to physicists today as it was assigned to theologians in an age of faith. In some ways modern people are even less interested in the topic. Your soul isn’t likely to be in jeopardy if you don’t accept the Big Bang.

In a new book titled Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, I hope to change this indifferent attitude by showing that the mystery of reality is actually personal. You are the same mystery as the cosmos. My argument isn’t religious or scientific, however. It is based on consciousness, and it begins with a common experience: eating a meal.

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How to Change Human Nature

everyone-has-a-dark-and-a-bright-side-picture-id1129002589 How to Change Human Nature

Everyone is good at avoiding the elephant in the room, which refers to something everyone is aware of but cannot bring themselves to discuss. In some ways the ultimate elephant in the room is human nature. We all exhibit human nature, but we rarely discuss it for a simple reason: no one knows what to do with it.

Lions suffer no inner conflict when they prey upon the weak, but we do, or should. Mating season doesn’t send dolphins into an emotional tailspin, but human sexuality is fraught with psychological implications, and for some people these are unresolved for a lifetime. The essential problem, however, is that human nature is torn between opposites. We see ourselves as good and bad together, rational and irrational, peaceful and violent.

The divided self is a central topic in a new book I’ve written titled Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential. In it I counter the general helplessness that people feel about human nature. It’s a helplessness born of being human, quite literally. Just to exist as a human being involves an inheritance of opposites. As children we learn to curb the dark side of these opposites, but psychology hasn’t gotten much beyond Freud’s sad conclusion that civilization barely keeps a lid on our innate tendency to violence, sexual jealousy, hatred of others, and similar inherited woes.

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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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