All posts by Deepak Chopra

About Deepak Chopra

Time Magazine heralded Deepak Chopra as one of the 100 heroes and icons of the century, and credited him as "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine." Entertainment Weekly described Deepak Chopra as "Hollywood's man of the moment, one of publishing's best-selling and most prolific self-help authors." He is the author of more than 50 books and more than 100 audio, video and CD-Rom titles. He has been published on every continent and in dozens of languages. Fifteen of his books have landed on the New York Times Best-seller list. Toastmaster International recognized him as one of the top five outstanding speakers in the world. Through his over two decades of work since leaving his medical practice, Deepak continues to revolutionize common wisdom about the crucial connection between body, mind, spirit, and healing. His mission of "bridging the technological miracles of the west with the wisdom of the east" remains his thrust and provides the basis for his recognition as one of India's historically greatest ambassadors to the west. Chopra has been a keynote speaker at several academic institutions including Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, Harvard Divinity School, Kellogg School of Management, Stanford Business School and Wharton.His latest book is "Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul."

How to Make Sure That Trumpism Never Returns

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The problem isn’t Donald Trump but Trumpism—many commentators feel safe enough to utter these words. What made them feel unsafe over the past year, despite the toxic extremism that Trump the man represented, was timidity. Someone posing as a strong man, capable of viciously demolishing his political enemies, posed a potential threat to anyone who spoke out against him. But now more people have found a way, even a growing handful of Republican politicians, to denounce him.

There’s a collective sigh of relief that Trump has become his own worst enemy, but relief isn’t the same as feeling safe, much less immune. America hasn’t seen the last of Trumpism until remedies against its return are undertaken seriously. As a physician sees it, we are past the prevention stage, past the first signs of disorder, and well into rampant symptoms that threaten a full-blown outbreak. In a word, Trumpism has become a persistent virus, and although it fuels a sense of self-righteousness to blame the long line of Republican presidents going back to Nixon who planted the seeds of Trumpism, we can’t afford that luxury.

To compress Trumpism into its essential ingredients, they are actually a batch of stubborn illusions that have been turned into a belief system, as follows: Continue reading

What Is Your DNA Doing For You Right Now?

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Ever since its structure was unraveled in the early Fifties, DNA has been considered the mastermind of the cell. Sitting in splendid isolation in the cell’s nucleus, DNA encodes all of life. It sends duplicates of itself (RNA) to direct the manufacture of proteins; and proteins, as high-school biology teaches, are the building blocks of the cell. In terms of biological machinery. The genetic picture has gotten more and more sophisticated ever since.

But something doesn’t look quite right here. If every cell is a biological robot, and the entire body is made up of cells, then we must be biological robots too. This view, which a surprising number of geneticists believe in, cannot be true. It is a conclusion that the old model of DNA supported because that model was reductionist–that is, all complex processes can be explained by breaking them down into more basic processes. The whole approach is totally logical, but nobody can seriously claim that the works of Shakespeare and Mozart are explainable by protein manufacture. And in our daily lives we think thoughts and feel emotions, which proteins don’t, or cells for that matter.

As a result, genetics has been racing to catch up with human reality. On several fronts there has been progress, of a sort. So-called Systems Biology has emerged to examine how the body works as a dynamic, changing organism responding to input from the environment. In this way DNA stopped being so rigid and got into the game. On another front a field known as epigenetics began to study how everyday experience, including our lifestyle and memory, actually gets chemically imprinted on our genes. Again, DNA became more dynamic and responsive.

But while DNA was getting liberated, what was really happening? One could argue that the only thing changing was a scientific model. Reality wasn’t changing at all. Now it is dawning that DNA is fundamentally so mysterious, biology can’t even contain it, much less explain it. The crack in mainstream genetics came from the huge shock administered by the Human Genome Project, which discovered, to widespread dismay, that the complexity of human life came down to only 20,000 genes. This number was ridiculously small, about 20% of the previous guesstimate. To quote geneticist John Mattick, “that number is tiny. It’s effectively the same as a microscopic worm that has just 1,000 cells.” Continue reading

New Body, New Mind, New Medicine

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By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Since one of us (Deepak) began advocating the mind-body connection thirty years ago, a time of great opposition among physicians to the very notion that thoughts have physical consequences, the trend has been entirely against the physicalist position, i.e., that the human body is a machine that needs fixing when it gets broken.  One research after another has validated what should have been obvious in the first place: mind and body are too intimately related to be seen as separate entities.

Several principles can be listed that are backed by the best science, and yet which have had minimal impact in a doctor’s daily practice.

  • Every cell is in some form of communication with the brain, either directly or indirectly, is receiving messages triggered by all of our thoughts, feelings, moods, expectations, and beliefs.
  • Experience gets transformed and metabolized, exactly as food, toxins, pollutants, air, and water get metabolized. In a word, if you want to see what your experiences were like yesterday, look at your body today. If you want to see what your body will be like tomorrow, look at your experiences today.
  • The body is a verb, not a noun. In other words, it’s a continuous unbroken process.
  • Cells are born and die; atoms and molecules fly in and out of each cell constantly. Yet despite this constant flux, the blueprint of the cell remains intact. This blueprint is invisible, intelligent, dynamic, and self-organizing.
  • Lifestyle choices make the dominant difference between wellness and chronic illness. Years, sometimes decades before symptoms appear, cells can be gaining negative input that lead to the onset of disease.
  • Our genes are dynamic and respond to everyday experiences and lifestyle choices. Habits lead to longer term changes in the programming of our gene expression via “epigenetics”, as explained in our book “Super Genes”.
  • If we knew the pivot point that creates positive cellular activity out of positive experiences, a state of radical well-being is possible.
  • Purely mental practices, especially meditation, have been shown over and over to improve various physical functions, and these improvements are now known to extend all the way down to gene activity.

Continue reading

Why Experience Is a Total Mystery (According to Science)

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Most of us have gotten used to the traditional opposition of science and religion. This opposition arose because two worldviews clashed, and only one could win. It was a zero sum game. On one side science stood for facts, data, measurement, experimentation, and a goal of pure objectivity. On the other, religion was cast as entirely the opposite, being faith-based, irrational, unprovable, totally lacking in data, and inherently subjective, which is to say, unreliable. But this was a case where the winning side (science and the larger secular world) claimed the right to paint the losing side (religion and the spiritual world) in the worst possible light.

If you actually explore the religious worldview, two things become instantly evident. First, that spirituality is much wider, deeper, and older than any single religion. Second, that spiritual experience exists on a level playing field with any other experience. Seeing a microbe under a microscope uses the same perceptual apparatus, so far as the brain is concerned, as seeing an angel, a soul, a departed ancestor, or God. This seems preposterous to the average science-minded skeptic, but in fact it is science itself that proves the validity of perception, and its deep mystery.

Let’s set aside the common skeptical argument that anyone who has had a spiritual experience is necessarily a charlatan, mentally unbalanced, self-delusional, lying, or all of the above. By “setting aside,” I mean that we won’t accept such experiences as ipso facto true, either. In fact, since religious and spiritual terms are so suspect in our present culture, let’s call the sight of a beautiful red rose spiritual; most people would call this a valid experience, and generally speaking they’d enjoy it. Continue reading

Recovering a Lost World, Just in Time 

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A common trait in every civilization known to us is now fast disappearing. This trait is the thirst for knowing the self. Most people have read that the ancient Greeks pursued the goal of “Know thyself,” but they do not realize that self-inquiry also stood at the very center of the great spiritual traditions in India, China, and the Judeo-Christian world. Today, a need to know thyself–in other words, to answer the question, “Who am I?”–by no means stands at the heart of civilization either East or West.

We have learned to accept, passively or with eager enthusiasm, some guiding principles that erode the entire value of self-inquiry. Among these principles are the following:

  • The only true knowledge is factual and data driven.
  • Science trumps all previous forms of knowledge.
  • The greatest knowers of reality are scientists.
  • So-called spiritual knowledge doesn’t exist–such claims were part of a world riddled with superstitions and myths.
  • To look inward is a waste of time, since real knowledge of the mind will be revealed completely by studying the brain.

In one way or another these principles are the foundation of modern secular society. In many quarters a broad brush is applied to all spirituality as merely pre-scientific mumbo-jumbo, and the past is looked upon as one thing only: the benighted precursor to the advent of science. So be it.  In the face of secularism, no one can claim that the institutions which exist as repositories of spirit, mainly organized religion, are tending upward. Their decline is inevitable and speeding up–so most educated observers believe.

But a funny thing happened on the way to absolute secularism. Science ran into two questions that to date have proved seriously unsolvable. The first is “What is the universe made of?” The second is “What is the biological basis of consciousness?” Both are objective questions about external facts, so it would be surprising–even revolutionary–if they eventually led us back to the inner world and the all but lost thirst for self-inquiry.

Most people do not realize that these two questions are the greatest mysteries in science, because it is assumed that a) the universe is made of atoms and subatomic particles, and b) the brain produces the mind, or consciousness. Yet if we look without rose-tinted glasses at these assumptions, they have no scientific foundation. Of course atoms and subatomic particles exist, but they are not the ultimate things that make up the universe. Solid, substantial matter vanished with the quantum revolution over a century ago, and contemporary physics stands baffled at the threshold of a world that precedes and underlies the quantum world. From this unknown domain emerged the big bang, and at this very instant every subatomic particle winks in and out of the same region. Continue reading

If Trumpism Is Here to Stay, What Does That Tell Us?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

As Donald Trump’s campaigning becomes more unruly–some might say unhinged–the likelihood of him reaching the White House diminishes by the day. But Trumpism is a different story. The ingredients that go into Trumpism fall into the category Freud dubbed the psychopathology of everyday life. To use a broad brush, Freud saw human nature as a war of suppression that is never won, while the possibility of becoming a free, rational, productive person was never achieved. In other words, the psychopathology of everyday life must be considered a constant despite our aspirations and ideals.

It’s a gloomy view of human nature but one that Trump’s ascension underscored. He has no impulse control. He follows the dictates of appetite and ego without regard for others. In the face of problems that require patience and reason, he gets restless and impatient at best and reckless at worst. If we look in the mirror, we can see ourselves in this pattern of behavior, but it belonged, in normal people, to childhood. As adults we take sides in the war of suppression, choosing either to become mature, which means being in control of our Trump side, or letting our demons run, which is pure Trumpism.

The real problem is that even the best societies will never extirpate Trumpism, because our divided selves contain anger, resentment, selfishness, anxiety, and aggression. To the extent that we let these feelings get the better of us, we participate in the psychopathology of everyday life. Trumpism considers this a desirable way to live, but that’s a rich man’s folly. He can bankrupt a casino after running it into the ground and walk away whistling. The workers he laid off can’t do the same. Continue reading

Reality Gets an Unlikely Savior: Infinity

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By Deepak Chopra, MD and Menas Kafatos, PhD

Infinity has been getting a bad reputation recently. It has become the sticking point in the story we tell ourselves about reality. The trouble begins with a split between what is real and what is unreal. If you send someone to the store to buy three apples, and they return with only one, it matches reality to say, “you only brought me a third of what I wanted.”  This statement matches the way numbers are meant to behave. Numbers are pure in the sense that they are abstractions, ever-existing and perfect as the ancient Greek philosophers thought. They cannot be disturbed by real-world events. Yet they are reliable because they allow us to engineer the real world, from building bridges and cathedrals to manufacturing microchips. They are rational because they strictly obey mathematical order and perfect logic.

These three virtues are wobbly when it comes to infinity, however. Getting one apple instead of three represents a one-third return, and when written in decimals, one-third is .33333 out to infinity. In other words, it is an endless number, and “endless” isn’t something we can actually conceive. There is a mismatch between the real world and mathematics, and when it comes to advanced mathematics, the kind applied by physicists and cosmologists, the misbehavior of infinity becomes serious. (Actually, this is one kind of well-behaved infinity, because rational numbers like 1/3 can be known to any order and predicted in advance—the repetition of three continues ad infinitum. An irrational number like pi (π) is a different kind of infinity, since its digits are unpredictable and do not repeat.)

The noted physicist Max Tegmark wrote an article for Discover magazine in Feb. 2015 titled, “Infinity Is a Beautiful Concept – And It’s Ruining Physics.” The ruination exists on two disturbing fronts. The first front is theoretical. Physicists need valid, provable theories to explain the biggest and smallest things in nature. As it turns out, the smallest things, subatomic particles, wink out of sight and vanish into the quantum vacuum. The biggest things, including galactic and intergalactic matter and the universes itself, emerge from the same vacuum, and our universe was set on a course of seemingly almost infinite inflation a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. The rub is that when calculating the behavior of cosmic inflation, infinity keeps intruding and destroying any reasonable prediction. To quote Tegmark, “. . .inflation always gives the same useless answer: infinity divided by infinity.”

The reasons for arriving at this useless calculation are technical, but the upshot isn’t: reality comes down to an inconceivable concept. Infinity also intrudes in the fashionable theory of the multiverse, which derives our universe by supposing that it is only one in an infinite, or nearly infinite, number of alternative universes. But for this to be true, there have to be reasonable calculations of the odds for producing our particular universe with all its vast number of stars and galaxies, and these don’t exist. There are infinite reasons for why the Big Bang produced the universe that led to life on Earth and infinite reasons why it might not have happened. This is surely a very unsatisfying situation. Continue reading

If Trumpism Is the Disease, What’s the Cure?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

The machinery of politics is geared up to defeat Donald Trump on the Democratic side, and there’s hope, after Trump revealed his propensity for self-destruction, that the Republicans will either abandon him or keep a safe distance. Enough condemnation has been directed at him to sink a dozen candidates, and his extended Teflon period may quickly draw to a close.

But the larger issue isn’t Trump’s viability as a candidate, troubling as that is, but the rise of the movement he represents. Every term of condemnation applied to him–bigoted, racist, sexist, xenophobic, authoritarian, mentally unbalanced–fuels the approval of his supporters. A hopelessly divided, hostile electorate has become a diseased electorate. That’s the thing that should disturb us the most, because disease conditions need a cure or else they continue to fester.

To clarify the point, I think back to my early days in Boston as an underpaid medical resident with a young family to support. Like many in my situation, I moonlighted to make ends meet, working at a famous private clinic in the Boston area. My status was on the bottom rung, so I found myself doing workups on the entering patients. One day I did the physical for the leader of a huge labor union, a nationally known figure. To my alarm, he was overweight, a heavy drinker and smoker, and suffering from various symptoms, the most serious being his high blood pressure and bad heart.

I finished the exam and immediately rushed to my supervisor with the bad news. He blanched, saying, “You didn’t tell him any of these things, did you?” I said no, and the supervising physician looked relieved. “We don’t want to let him know that anything is wrong,” he said. “He’s doing okay the way he is, and if he really knew what was wrong, it would probably kill him.” Those were the days, in the early Seventies, when medical ethics still considered it discretionary to tell a patient any grim news, but the net effect was that denial by the doctor led to ignorance by the patient.

The same, and worse, applies to a diseased electorate. On both sides the racism, bigotry, greedy elitism, reactionary attitudes, and sheer malice that has been a feature of the far right for decades somehow became normalized. A very sick patient was being coddled as if he was healthy. In the case of the union leader, keeping him in the dark was done supposedly in his best interest. The far right has been treated with denial out of fear and repugnance. After “nice” Presidents like Reagan and George H. W. Bush deliberately fueled the festering malignancy of the far right, Southern racists, and religious fundamentalists, moral lines became hopelessly blurred for the vast majority of politicians running for office. Continue reading

How to Get Reality Back on Track

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By Deepak Chopra, MD and Menas Kafatos, PhD

Reality, that most important concept about everything that exists, has gotten out of kilter, and yet very few people have noticed or are paying attention. The problem goes deep into the heart of things, however, so deep that future generations may look back and wonder why this generation didn’t wake up. The reason isn’t mysterious, actually. It has to do with how much we have come to rely upon contemporary science and to trust it: science has been appointed to inform us about what is real and what isn’t. Myths, superstitions, personal prejudices, and obsessions are unreal, while facts, data, and measurements are real.

Nothing seems more secure than science in most people’s minds. As long as technology keeps progressing on all fronts, it’s commonly believed that the most intractable problems, such as curing cancer and reversing global climate change, are open to scientific solutions. But what if reality has something else in mind? Quite apparently it does, if you bother to look deep enough. Reality has decided to bring physics, for example, to a profound crisis, not on one front, which might be easily circumvented, but on almost all fronts. This sounds like a drastic statement, but it’s actually a foreshadowing.

Judging by the current state of affairs, certain difficulties are now at least forty years old without solution and sometimes a century or more.  To name the top seven dead ends that science faces,

  1. No one knows where the Big Bang came from.
  2. No one knows how life began.
  3. The origin of time, space, matter, and energy remain obscure.
  4. The relation of mind and brain is as up in the air as it was at the time of Plato and Aristotle.
  5. The nature of consciousness and how it evolved–if it evolved–cannot be agreed upon.
  6.  The process by which the brain creates a three-dimensional world of sight and sound using only chemical and electrical signals is totally mysterious.
  7. The two leading theories in physics, General Relativity (which explains how large objects work) and quantum mechanics (which explains how tiny things work) turn out to be completely incompatible.

In previous posts over the past five years we’ve gone into detail about each of these difficulties, and as much as mainstream science resists any crack in its armor, a host of leading thinkers acknowledges exactly what these problems are. But let’s back away from details to look at the big picture. If there are seven dead ends in our understanding of reality, isn’t something drastically off kilter? If the answer to that question is obviously yes, then why doesn’t science self-correct and change course? We emphasize “science as it is being currently practiced,” because quantum reality is drastically different from the outmoded assumptions of classical physics that still dominate in the everyday work of physicists. Why this gap exists is a complex issue, but let’s ignore the details once again and give a simple, workable answer: inertia. Science advances through the momentum built up over the decades, and like a car rolling downhill, inertia will keep things moving even if the engine is dead. Continue reading

Can Trumpism Lead to a Better American Story?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

We are living at a time when the story of America is changing, with nothing but more change on the horizon. Therefore, we face a critical decision. Should the new American story be born out of fear or hope? The stark contrasts in the 2016 election make this choice inevitable. One indelible human trait is the craving to turn our experiences into stories. These stories gather tags (now often called memes) that keep the story straight and allow people to agree about them. “The greatest generation” is such a tag, supporting the story of the Allied victory in World War II, which is referred to as a “good war,” another tag. Politics is many things, but one of the most important is a war between competing stories, and if your side comes up with the winning story, your victory can last far beyond one election cycle.

Donald Trump has been wildly erratic when it comes to actual ideas, policies, and positions, but he rode the crest of an immensely successful Republican story. So-called conservative “principles” are largely a collection of mythical storylines, and the tags that define them go back to the Nixon era. We are all familiar with law and order, the silent majority, morning in America, “Government isn’t the solution–it’s the problem,” “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” clash of civilizations, “Guns don’t kill people–people do,” and many other conservative memes.

So fervent is the craving for stories that the right wing clings to storylines that are totally false if your standard of truth is historical fact, accurate data, and pluralism. But rigidly clinging to our story is something we all do. By the same token, we become nervous and disturbed when our story starts to fray. The right plays upon fear very successfully at times of national anxiety, from Nixon’s “pitiful helpless giant” to Bush’s “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” to Trump’s “make America great again,” which plays upon the anxiety of national decline. Fear is a powerful motivator in the short term, even when it proves to be disastrously bad as a guide to action, as witness the Vietnam war and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seems likely that Donald Trump has finally reached the end of his string and will self-destruct thanks to his total inability to control himself. But the crisis surrounding the American story won’t go away. The benign revolt led by Bernie Sanders isn’t comparable to the toxic revolt led by Trump. Yet they share a refusal to go along with the American story we’ve been living with, and the fact that such a huge proportion of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction indicates how deep our confusion, frustration, and discontent have progressed. Continue reading

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