By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas Kafatos, PhD, Bernardo Kastrup, PhD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD
Science often makes strides by contradicting what we take for granted, and the biggest thing everyone takes for granted is the physical world. Our senses wrap themselves around tangible objects so naturally that it’s difficult to believe that they may be misleading us completely. This is true of working physicists as well, so when any prominent theorist states the evidence of a different view of reality, one in which the mind creates the properties of what we call “the physical world,” it’s more than intriguing.
The possibility of a mental universe has a strong lineage going in the quantum era, but present-day physicalists (physicists who accept the physical nature of reality as a given) feel free to dismiss or ignore figures as towering as Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, and John von Neumann. We discussed them in our last posting. Physicalism holds sway with the vast majority of cosmologists, and yet Andre Linde of Stanford University made some important points in an article on the most current theories of the inflationary universe: “…carefully avoiding the concept of consciousness in quantum cosmology” may artificially narrow one’s outlook.” ( http://scienceandnonduality.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/UNIVERSE-LIFE-CONSCIOUSNESS-Andrei-Linde.pdf)
As a result, Linde points out, a number of physicists have replaced “observer” with “participant” when describing how humans interact with the universe. Others use the phrase “self-observing universe.” It’s startling when an important authority on the inflationary cosmos opens the door for human participation as a key element. Linde asks the same question posed by many quantum pioneers a century ago: “Is it really possible to fully understand what the universe is without first understanding what life is?” Continue reading
By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas Kafatos, PhD, Bernardo Kastrup, PhD
In a recent blog posting, physicist Lawrence Krauss defended the notion that the physical universe is objectively real. To think otherwise, he says, is nonsensical. “Deepak Chopra, for example, keeps implying that quantum mechanics means that objective reality doesn’t exist apart from conscious experience.”
Krauss seems to suggest that the notion of a mental universe is naively entertained only by non-physicists. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Over the past couple of decades, experimental evidence in favor of a mental universe has been mounting, as argued by Prof. Richard Conn Henry in none other than Nature magazine (Vol. 436, 7 July 2005, p. 29), in an essay suitably titled “The Mental Universe.” After a particularly significant experiment published in 2007, Physics World went as far as to say that “quantum physics says goodbye to reality;” that is, to an objective reality outside mind. Krauss, as a physicist, should presumably be aware of these seminal developments in his own field. Yet he curiously chose to use his authority to paint a very different scenario: “The truth … is that consciousness is irrelevant to the act of measurement,” he says confidently.
This is an old story, of trying to stonewall on behalf of a current belief system that allegedly is so obviously true, only an ignoramus or naïve thinker would disagree. The flat Earth was such an idea long ago. Krauss’ version of the flat Earth comes down to solid objects that exist “out there” beyond the tip of our noses. He labels as “nonsensical” the contrary idea, that reality is possibly entirely mental. Continue reading
For most people, enlightenment, if it exists at all, remains a distant prospect that they never think of. It belongs to other people in other countries, with no relevance to the here and now. In the past few postings I’ve tried to dispel this notion, arguing that enlightenment is actually the most normal state of awareness. Therefore, it belongs here and now, in everyone’s life. But how would you even know if you’re enlightened?
As unfamiliar as the whole topic of higher consciousness may be, it comes down to resembling the common cold. Getting a cold involves a collection of symptoms–stuffy nose, sore throat, chest cough, etc.–that could belong to a number of other disorders. The only sure way to detect if someone has a cold isn’t to look at any of the symptoms but to determine if they have contracted the cold virus. Likewise, the literature about enlightenment is filled with a bewildering array of experiences, including: Continue reading
By Deepak Chopra, MD
Now that yoga and meditation have become everyday experiences rather than exotic practices reserved for a sliver of the population with an interest in the East, the same needs to happen with enlightenment. It remains in the old pigeon-hole that yoga and meditation have escaped. In all the yoga classes that have sprung up over the past decade in America, how many participants are there to pursue enlightenment? Very few, I’d guess. As an attainment, enlightenment feels far removed from modern life and its daily demands.
But in the last few postings I’ve argued that in reality enlightenment is a natural state of awareness–in fact, the most natural. When you experience your own mind in terms of self-awareness, something exists that isn’t part of the steady stream of mental events that we all identify with. There is a ground state from which thoughts, sensations, feelings, and images emerge, the way that matter and energy emerge from the quantum vacuum. By viewing enlightenment as a description of how consciousness works, how “nothing turns into something”–to use a familiar phrase from physicists who try to explain where the cosmos came from–, enlightenment tells us where the mind comes from. Continue reading
In the last two posts I’ve argued that there should be a new norm in how we view the mind, presenting the possibility that enlightenment is our natural state. Higher consciousness has become an exotic state reserved for saints, sages, and swamis, haloed in religious terminology. But behind the aura of holiness stands a shift in consciousness. There are many definitions of enlightenment, of course. We need a modern one that is based on freedom from boundaries, obstacles, inner resistance, mental conflict, old conditioning, and memories of past limitations. These are distortions of consciousness, and when they are removed, enlightenment can be realized as our natural state.
I urge you to read the earlier posts (“Why Don’t We Know We’re Enlightened Already?” and “Is Enlightenment the New Normal?”) so that this apparently far-fetched proposal begins to feel convincing. What we need to ask now is whether enlightenment would actually matter in a person’s life. This is the “So what?” test that new technology must pass every day. Without a practical application, higher consciousness is unlikely to overturn how science and daily life are conducted. In fact, enlightenment itself has been long associated with renunciation of the world, which makes it seem like the last thing modern people want.
Let’s say that enlightenment is a new technology, in effect, although unlike the next iPhone, it’s a technology whose domain is “in here.” Beyond the notice of most people, the groundwork is being laid for this novel technology right now. The most exciting aspect of advances in physics and biology has been the up rise of interest in consciousness. From the debate over whether the mind influences the body, which stirred up contention in medicine thirty years ago, tremendous progress has been made. Many books and a host of annual conferences are now devoted to exploring consciousness, which was banned from serious science for decades, despite the fact that quantum physics opened the door almost a hundred years ago. Continue reading
For centuries in the West there was no discussion about the mind without bringing in God; higher states of consciousness were considered blessed or miraculous. This wasn’t so in the East, where higher states were discussed on the basis of experience. Someone who claimed to be in such a higher state could wind up being venerated–“saint” is still a common term in India, and holy men are woven into the fabric of society. What’s missing in both traditions, East and West, is the possibility that higher states of consciousness are not religious or holy, not blessed or miraculous, but normal.
In the last post we saw that the ingredients of enlightenment are already present in everyday life. Everyone possesses some degree of self-awareness. Everyone can go inside to consult what’s happening subjectively. We all exist and feel like living, sentient beings. Enlightenment can be described as a state where these universal qualities come to the forefront. You identify with them as your primary point of reference. At the present moment, however, these same ingredients take a back seat to the material world “out there” filled with objects, events, and other people. There has not been much motivation to turn the picture around and give preference to experience “in here.” Continue reading
By Deepak Chopra, MD
“Enlightenment” is a word that has gotten so entangled with vague confusion that many people have given up on it. I don’t mean the classic seeker who hungers for God, Nirvana, or higher states of consciousness. There isn’t an accepted definition of enlightenment that allows for a general discussion where everyone knows what the topic is. Behind this apparent fuzziness, however, the concept of enlightenment has evolved tremendously over the past few decades, and in that time the possibility of being enlightened has come closer and closer to everyday experience.
Forty years ago enlightenment was inevitably associated with “Eastern mysticism,” a phrase that appears in the subtitle of Fritjof Capra’s famous book, The Tao of Physics. Meditation was associated with religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Enlightenment was a spiritual attainment for Indian gurus or monks sitting in Himalayan caves. The fact that meditation is now a common practice in the West, with many research studies proving its benefits in terms of mind and body, shows how much the landscape has changed.
The next major change, which could bring a seismic shift in our worldview, would bring enlightenment into daily life the way that meditation is comfortably established in daily life. I’ll devote the next few posts to exploring how enlightenment affects everyone, not just a select few living under exotic circumstances. We can begin with the most obvious question you can ask yourself. Are you enlightened already?” This may seem at first like an almost absurd question. If there are ancient traditions for reaching enlightenment, a project that can take a lifetime’s effort and discipline, it must be impossible that a normal person going about his everyday life could already be enlightened.
But there’s a reason why the question isn’t absurd. Enlightenment is a state of consciousness–everyone seems to agree upon that, at least. Each of us already experiences three distinct states of consciousness every day: waking, sleeping, and dreaming. These states come naturally. We didn’t seek them out or do anything special to be in them. So why would so-called higher states of consciousness be set apart as privileged or difficult or far distant from daily experience? In fact, all the ingredients of enlightenment are already in place. These consist of: Continue reading
By Deepak Chopra, MD
In a society that places a high value on competition and winning, everyone wants to succeed. It becomes difficult to discuss failure, which somehow translates into personal weakness, lack, or vulnerability. I’d like to reframe the whole relationship between success and failure so that both become part of a single process: your personal evolution.
As you evolve and grow, certain conditions appear on the path, and as they do, some people feel a sense of failure while other people don’t. Yet in both cases, the same situation has occurred: Continue reading
By Deepak Chopra, MD
Fear is a negative emotion unless you are facing an actual threat and need to fight or flee. The usefulness of fear is minimal in daily life, particularly in the form of anxiety. Stressful events can produce short-term anxiety in almost everyone, which disappears after the event. But for an estimated 6.8 million Americans with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), anxiety is a chronic condition they can’t shut off. All of us know people we accept as “born worriers,” but in reality being in a state of chronic anxiety can severely limit their daily activity.
You probably know already if you worry excessively. Almost nothing is free from worry, in fact, if you have chronic anxiety, even the smallest thing can trigger it. You find yourself with fearful thoughts about finances, family, your health, and what’s happening at work. Some days you’d rather hide under the covers.
The first thing to realize is that reality isn’t what’s actually worrying you, but it’s your fixed habit of mind that is causing you to respond to everything with anxiety. Second, you need to look rationally at the anxiety response and concede that you are not improving it by feeling anxious. This seems obvious to non-worriers, but somewhere inside, many “born worriers” believe they are taking care of situations that others are overlooking, like whether they remembered to lock up the house or turn off the gas stove. Any trigger can provoke worry, so the question is how to prevent this from happening. Continue reading
Paul J. Mills, Tiffany Barsotti, Meredith A. Pung, Kathleen L. Wilson, Laura Redwine, and Deepak Chopra
Gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing. While there are many definitions of gratitude, at its foundation, gratitude is a healing, life-affirming, and uplifting human experience that shifts us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives. Gratitude provides us with a more intimate connection to ourselves and the world around us. In the feeling of gratitude, the spiritual is experienced.
For those who are ill, feelings of gratitude and awe may facilitate perceptions and cognitions that go beyond the focus of their illness, and include positive aspects of one’s personal and interpersonal reality in the face of disease. Such beneficial associations with gratitude have accelerated scientific interest in and research on gratitude and wellbeing. The number of publications on gratitude appearing in the biomedical literature in 5-year increments since 1960-1965 shows almost no publications until 1996-2000 with about 20 studies. That number doubled from 2001-2005. From 2006-2010 publications jumped to 150, and from 2011 to the present over 275 studies on gratitude have been published.
Much of this growth of scientific interest in gratitude can be traced to the early pioneering gratitude research of psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. In general, studies find that the frequency with which one experiences the feeling of gratitude, as well as the depth of emotion when experiencing it, are linked to improvements in perceived social support as well as reduced stress and depression. Among groups seeking to support this work, the Greater Good Science Center (Berkeley, CA), in collaboration with the Templeton Foundation (West Conshohocken, PA), has been a strong advocate of advancing the science of gratitude and expanding that science into diverse areas of human health and wellbeing. Continue reading