We are in a world of crisis, from economic collapse to environmental decay to climate change to war, hunger and poverty. If today’s headlines make you wonder about the fate of our planet, here is some news that may surprise you: from an evolutionary standpoint, we are exactly where we need to be.
Contrary to what conventional science and religion have been telling us, evolution is neither random nor predetermined, but rather an intelligent dance between organism and environment. When conditions are ripe—either through crisis or opportunity—something unpredictable happens to bring the biosphere into a new balance at a higher level of coherence.
The good news in the bad news is that frontier science offers both the hope and challenge that we can safely navigate this dark passage to a healthier sustainable future. Advances in epigenetics, quantum biophysics and fractal geometry reveal civilization is poised on the threshold of a major evolutionary event.
By Zach Bush MD, Paul J. Mills, PhD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD, Michelle A. Williams, ScD and Deepak Chopra™ MD
As our nation dives into sorrow and outrage over another merciless killing of a black man without cause, we must take the opportunity to transform a deep mindset. To achieve this, we will have to collectively shake off deep patterns of subconscious and conscious beliefs and experiences. The frequency of these instances of wrongful deaths and centuries of racially motivated abuses throughout the world creates hopelessness in our minds. For all of the rhetoric and grandstanding of our politicians and special interest groups, we do not see fundamental change happening. This hopelessness breeds violence, resignation, isolation, paranoia, and of course more fear.
Whatever the current crises happen to be—right now it is COVID, racial injustice, police brutality, and street demonstrations—a familiar pattern has been nearly impossible to break. The crisis generates a public outcry, humanitarians face off against reactionaries, and once the worst of the crisis simmers down, things go back to normal. The great hope now, however, is that “normal” will finally be seen for its distorted abnormality.
In our view, this abnormality runs deeper than a pandemic or heart-rending injustice and inequality. A much-needed shift cannot take place until humankind passes through an identity crisis. How we see ourselves is presently through a distorted lens, and our illusions extend to the very basis of Nature herself. Human activity has despoiled Nature without conscience because humans, at our core, feel that this is our right as the planet’s superior life form. The contradiction here is that a truly superior life form would respect all of life, seeing the wonder and fragility of the miracle known as biodiversity.
It is very rare that human beings have a chance to rethink our place in Nature. The modern world is the fruit of a worldview that has placed Homo sapiens reigning supreme over all other life forms. This worldview seems only right and proper to the vast majority of people. In the course of just a few weeks, however, over seven billion people’s lives changed for the worse. Economies were halted, global transportation and supply chains were shut down to a crawl, and hundreds of millions of jobs were lost. More money has been lost globally than in any other moment in history. Amid the shock and panic, the catastrophe of COVID-19 has prompted some radical rethinking. Can a new and better world emerge? Not unless our worldview changes, because in many ways the virus isn’t a mindless primitive life form ravaging us, “the most superior life form on the planet”. Nor did Nature strike back to punish us. Something deeper is going on. To see what it is, we need to consider a worldview based not on humans-as-supreme, but on life-as-supreme.
The coronavirus mandate to “stay at home” has meant different things to different people. For some, it has meant freedom from external-world busyness and distractions and a return to inner peace and quiet. To others, it has felt like unwanted confinement and loss of in-person social contact. Some have lost their jobs and incomes; others, like healthcare workers, have had no choice but to leave the “safety” of home to provide critical services, despite the risks. All of us are suddenly facing issues of life and death. Our entire world, inside and out, has changed radically and continues to do so. In the midst of these huge ongoing changes, what does home mean?
The thread on the border of the fabric painting of Mount Fuji—stitched so many years ago, so many oceans away—has held the scene together longer than I’ve been alive. And on this uneventful morning, the soft rain makes the oak outside my window dip enough for the early light to stream across the braided mountain hanging on my wall. Now the thread on the border swells with the sun and seems for the moment the source of all strength. Then the sun steps higher in the sky, and the thread that holds all things together goes back to work.
Humans are on lockdown to give the planet a minute to rebirth. Turtles are able to lay eggs on the beaches without human interference, polluted skies are clearing, fish are jumping, birds are singing, the deer and the antelope are playing. Look at us.
We will be back but maybe we have learned a thing, or two. The universe is gifting us with a second chance to get it right - to discover (or rediscover) what is truly important to us. The gift is an equalizer. Everyone is affected equally - rich, poor, white, black, gay, straight - Finally.... We are one. Finally we are in this together and for each other. It is not your thing, or my thing - it is our thing.
It is as if we were spinning out of control - faster and faster and faster and the universe hit the brakes. Just stop, take a breath, begin anew. Begin anew with new and fresh and fair paradigms.
What’s your deepest nature?
Throughout history, people have wondered about human nature. Deep down, are we basically good or bad?
When the body is not disturbed by hunger, thirst, pain, or illness, and when the mind is not disturbed by threat, frustration, or rejection, then most people settle into their resting state. This is a sustainable equilibrium in which the body refuels and repairs itself and the mind feels peaceful, happy, and loving. I call this the Responsive mode. In a sense, this is our “home base,” our fundamental nature as human beings. (Obviously, I am not talking about the physical location where a person lives.) We are still engaged with the world, still participating with pleasure and passion, but on the basis of a background sense of safety, sufficiency, and connection.
But when body or mind are disturbed – perhaps by overwork and fatigue, or by the cough of a nearby lion a million years ago or a frown across a dinner table today – Mother Nature has endowed us with hair-trigger mechanisms that drive us from our resting state. Fight-flight-freeze systems in the body get activated, and related experiences of fear and anger, disappointment and drivenness, and loneliness, shame, and spite occur in the mind.
“Virus epidemics are Mother Earth’s way of teaching us lessons that have lasting impacts,” an Andean Shaman told me. “When we contract a disease – or worry over it – we learn about ourselves and the world around us.”
I’ve thought about the historical implication of those words during this time of the coronavirus. A couple of perspectives:
- The Black Plague that swept through Asia, Africa, and Europe in the 14th century killed an estimated 50 million people, as much as 60% of the population. It ended up impacting ideas about contamination, the economy, environment, and the importance of science. Although the role of viruses would not be discovered until much later, people realized that removing garbage and sewage from the streets and quarantining infected patients prevented it from spreading. Because of the many deaths, labor was in short supply and gained the bargaining power to increase wages significantly. As populations shrank, so did communities and farm lands; forests were rejuvenated. Perhaps most important for the long-term, the Plague generated an interest in scientific approaches to medicine and understanding the universe. (1)
- The most notorious virus in modern times is the one that causes HIV/AIDS, a virus that since it was first identified in the early 1980s has caused an estimated 32 million deaths. (2) The HIV/AIDs virus has had huge social, cultural, economic, and educational impacts. It has taught us about the importance of safe sex, clean needles, properly-administered blood transfusions, and timely medical treatment. It has kept many people out of labor forces, especially in parts of Africa, and thus has decreased their purchasing power and GDP growth. (3) It has resulted in many attitudinal changes previously held toward different races and sexual beliefs; these resulted in new perceptions and established new laws and cultural norms.
As I often say, some people are attracted to light, while others emanate it. Let me tell you a story about the parents of a very good friend of mine. This is such a special story and one I hold close to my heart.
Ken and Pat are from Great Britain and were in the U.S. for a visit. I thought I’d surprise them by taking them out on a very special boat trip. It was the first time Ken and Pat were going to experience a whale-watching excursion.
As the boat slipped away from the New England harbor, Ken was clearly eager as he looked overboard, scanning the water with his battered and aged binoculars. The boat gathered speed and we headed out into the ocean, which was unbelievably calm. It was about an hour and a half later that we saw in the distance the first spouts from a family of whales.
The captain announced we were going to edge closer to the whales. He explained: “Male humpback whales sing the longest and most complex songs in the animal kingdom, each one lasting for half an hour or so. They sing to woo females and frighten off rival males. The songs can be heard underwater hundreds of miles away!”
The drop of ocean teaches us about integrity and faith because, no matter how churned up it is, it never loses its transparency or its ability to go clear. As transparency and clarity are intrinsic to the true nature of water, integrity and faith are intrinsic to our true nature. Regardless of how churned up we are, restoring our transparency will enliven our integrity, and restoring our clarity will enliven our faith.
As one drop of the sea contains the entire ocean, each human being contains all of humanity. When churned up and full of trouble, we are disconnected from this living heritage and things always feel worse than they are. When transparent and clear, we reflect and reveal all of humanity and are able to draw strength from the living heritage we are a part of. This is why we need to discover and inhabit a personal practice of transparency and clarity that will return us to our true nature by restoring our integrity and faith.
All the spiritual traditions offer rituals and practices, including all forms of meditation, in order to support us in our ongoing task of returning to our true nature when the roughness of living challenges our assumptions. How do we personalize these practices? How do we create our own? What is your own history of being churned up? What are the ways by which you have restored your own transparency and clarity? Who and what helps you return to your true nature?
Looking up at the night sky reveals an uncountable richness of stars and galaxies, which gets augmented billions of times over through telescope images from deep space. The cosmos looks to be in no danger of disappearing, but this is just a comforting illusion.
Starting in 1933, with the first intimation that dark matter existed—an idea discarded at the time, waiting another 35 years to resurface—the visible universe has been so undermined by dark matter and energy that it now ranks in size about the same as the cherry atop an ice cream sundae. By current estimates dark matter accounts for 27% of the universe, dark energy for 68%, and everything else in the observable universe a mere 5%.
You might see the situation as a kind of “tip of the iceberg,” with the bulk of the berg hidden underwater, but the reality is more baffling. No one knows how the hidden bulk of the universe relates to the visible tip. It isn’t even credible yet that “matter” and “energy” are the right words for it.
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.”
—Dale Carnegie, 1888-1955
Right now, take a breath and go inside. Is there something you are waiting for, to be happy? Are you putting off living until something magical happens? How often have you heard yourself say, “I’ll play, or create, or rest, or spend time with loved ones or take that vacation – when everything gets done.” Does everything ever get done?
Early one morning, as I was driving to the airport on my way to New York for an Intensive, a spectacular sunrise took my breath away. “How fortunate am I,” I thought, “that I get to drive to the airport basking in this incredible display of God’s art. How fortunate am I that I get to breathe in the fresh crisp air of fall.” It was one of those moments that filled my heart and soul with peace and joy and gratitude.
Do birds have rights? What about bees, flowers, and trees? Or whales and giraffes? Rivers and lakes? These are profound questions that tap into the very nature of life on Earth. Currently, people around the world are focused on climate change: Does it exist, and if so, is it natural or unnatural? Yet, climate change is only one aspect of the larger issue of how human beings relate to the world in general. Do we see Nature as something to be used and then discarded, or do we see it as a living presence that we are part of, the heart and soul of life on Earth?
“No matter how many bombs we drop, no matter how skillfully our soldiers fight, we are not responding to the ultimate challenge until we show the world how and why we must all learn to live in peace...” -Sargent Shriver
I've Been Thinking...
There was so much news this week it was almost impossible to keep up with it all.
We began with stories of retribution, revenge, and a possible war. (Thank God cooler heads seemed to have prevailed.) Then we ended with what’s being portrayed as a war inside the House of Windsor, a.k.a. the British royal family. Impeachment, climate change, a downed airplane killing all on board, and the devastating loss of Australian life and wildlife also competed for our attention.
Leave it to the queen to sum it all up for us. In a statement from Buckingham Palace, she or her aides pronounced: “It’s complicated." You think? Holy moly.
“It’s complicated” (which also happens to be one of my favorite movies) seems to perfectly sum up our politics, the Middle East, and how many families are feeling these days.
What I took away from everything this week was this: life is indeed complicated, but it can also be really simple. Like Harry and Meghan, each of us has the personal right or duty to take a moment to step back and reassess what is or isn’t working—be it in our families, our relationships, our places of work, and or our politics. Then we can each make a decision to step up and speak out, or step back and stand down.
Folks often ask me how to develop trust in the Universe.
How do you not have trust and faith in life?
We live in a crazy unique, amazing, unbelievable universe.
If you simply just observe life, observe the nature of what is, the nature of life: the sun, the sky, the moon, the animals.
There is an intelligence.
There is something that is functioning for all existence.
Every day for billions and billions of years life was existing.
Life is existing…
Enjoy my short video on How To Develop More Trust and Faith in the Universe.
For all of you who are animal lovers like me, I’d like to share a beautiful story about “Greyfriars Bobby.”
Bobby was a Skye Terrier that belonged to a police officer named John Gray in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1850s. Back then, police officers were required to have watchdogs. Terriers seemed a perfect fit because they are known for their watchful eye and booming bark.
Every day, Bobby would obediently follow his master on his daily rounds. Wherever Constable Gray was, there was Bobby faithfully walking beside him. The two were inseparable. Sadly, one day in 1858, Constable Gray died of tuberculosis. The poor dog must have been incredibly confused, finding himself all alone as he sat beside his master’s coffin. When it was time for the funeral procession, witnesses saw Bobby walking proudly in line, constantly looking up at the coffin that was being carried by Gray’s fellow officers.
Constable Gray was laid to rest in Greyfriars Churchyard. When the grave was filled in, friends, family and colleagues returned to their normal lives. But the Constable’s loyal companion Bobby continued to lay by his master’s grave day after day, rain or shine. Neighbors and passersby began to feed him, and this went on for years.
The human mind is addicted to opposites, but it turns out that Nature isn’t. This statement becomes important in a deep way when it comes to chaos. In our minds chaos, or disorder, is the opposite of order. By thinking like this, we oblige the human tendency to prefer order over disorder. Leading an orderly life supports every kind of organized activity from making a meal out of raw ingredients assembled in an orderly way to making an iPhone or any other technological tool in an orderly way.
Chaos is the messiness that disrupts order and can cause it to fall apart. In Victorian times mental illness was often referred to as a disordered mind, and it is the mind that we rely upon to keep life organized and rational. But what if this whole discussion is simply wrong? As long as we believe in chaos, it serves as a potent threat. Cancer causes chaos in the regulation of the body; earthquakes shake up cities; riots in the street threaten civil society.
The threat of chaos changes when we shift our perspective. Expand your viewpoint, and chaos is the mask worn by creativity. To die of cancer returns your orderly body to a disorderly state known as decay, but the material of your body continues to contribute to the life of fungi, bacteria, and other micro-organisms. Good for them, you might grumble, but without them, human DNA could not have evolved. Earthquakes topple buildings, but without seismic shifts, the present-day continents wouldn’t exist, or the life forms that inhabit Asia instead of Africa or North America instead of Europe.
Animals are miraculous gifts to us. The power of an animal’s love, intuition and wisdom is greatly underestimated—whether it’s an ape that not only understands but also responds to sign language or a special cat that made the news by instinctively knowing when its nursing-home residents were about to leave this world. Then there’s the dog that helps its therapist owner detect abnormalities in her patients’ bodies and the story of the amazingly brave elephants that impulsively knew they had to save themselves by moving to higher ground when a devastating tsunami hit the west coast of Sumatra.
Animals have been our spiritual companions since the dawn of time. Humans have honored them throughout history, as can be seen in those early drawings on the walls of caves—man and dog hunting side by side. Egyptians have treated cats like gods, American Indians have honored many different animals on totem poles, and the elders in the tribe would teach the children about the importance of each living thing.
To see takes time like to have a friend takes time.
I was born a seer. Early on, words became the brushes with which I tried to paint what I saw. In time, I learned that while art is movement through space and music is movement through time, poetry is both. And each of us is born with an inclination toward seeing or hearing. I was born a painter and sculptor in a poet’s body.
Over the years, I’ve come across several legendary crossovers in the arts: those whose vision comes in one form, while their expression comes in another. Michelangelo’s genius came from being a sculptor forced by Pope Julius to paint, forced to compress and express his gift for three dimensions into two dimensions. The result was his masterpiece, The Sistine Chapel ceiling. George Bernard Shaw was a social theorist and critic in a playwright’s body. Aldous Huxley was a philosopher in a novelist’s body. And Robert Frost was a masterful short story writer, a weaver of potent yarns, born in a rhymer’s body.
The insight here is that each needed to express what they saw through the instrument they were given. This dynamic is what gave rise to their genius. I suspect that if George Bernard Shaw had expressed his social ideas in pure social writing, their potency would have been lost.