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."

Can Wisdom Save Us? Why It Has To (Part 2)


Although almost everyone fears the effects of climate change and deplores the inaction of governments around the world, neither attitude gets us any closer to solving the problem. Many pin their hopes on a breakthrough in technology that could somehow clean the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, while others resign themselves–and the world–to accepting global warming as a fait accompli that we must adjust to. In the first post of this series it was proposed that humanity has reached a turning point. Not just climate change but several other global problems (for example, AIDS, pandemics, overpopulation, a lack of clean drinking water) will be unsolvable unless our evolution as a species changes course.

For centuries human evolution has primarily depended on how we use our minds. Natural selection, random genetic mutations, and raw competition for food and mating privileges, which form the foundation of Darwinian evolution, either don’t apply to us anymore or have been drastically minimized, pushed to the fringes while mental evolution occupies center stage. Continue reading

Can Wisdom Save Us? Why It Has To


There’s always a sense of crisis in the air generated by whatever bad news is making the headlines. At the moment, the greatest alarm is being stirred by terrorism and the spread of Islamic extremism. Yet at a deeper level, our anxiety centers on something much deeper, the possibility that the human experiment has reached a dead end. A set of enormous problems face us, from climate change and overpopulation to epidemic disease and global water shortages, that test the limits of human nature.

The terrible possibility of moving backward in our evolution as a species seems possible to many observers.  We occupy a unique place in Earth’s evolutionary history, being the only creatures threatened not by natural selection but by our mindset. Pessimists point to climate change as a stark example. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of global warming, no solution is being acted upon quickly enough. The American public has become numbed by issue fatigue. Deniers have political clout, and ordinary citizens feel helpless to the point that many feel doomed. We continually prefer to either ignore the problem or push it away as the consumer lifestyle adds more and more to the underlying problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading

Your Body Is Wise But Needs You to Pay Attention


Although complementary medicine has made strong advances, mainstream medical practice still keeps faith with drugs and surgery as the default methods of treatment. The way forward for anyone who wants to establish a high level of wellbeing isn’t going to come via the family doctor but through self-care. The first rule of self-care is to trust in the body’s wisdom and to make choices in line with it.

Living in accord with your body’s wisdom is simple and natural, which is why practices that hovered on the fringe when I was first practicing medicine in the Seventies are now tried and true.  The following points are unarguable: Continue reading

The Power of Desire – What Do You Want?


Desire is inescapable, and one could spend years trying to discover if human desire is a blessing of a curse. But right this minute a more practical question demands attention. How can you get what you want? Beyond the basic necessities for food, water, and shelter, which are enough to satisfy the desire to survive, human beings invent countless other desires. What we all experience is that some of our desires come true while others don’t. That seems clear enough, but in fact people approach this simple fact from very different angles. If asked, “How do you get what you want?” or an even bigger issue, “How do you make a dream come true?” people will offer answers that aren’t at all compatible: Continue reading

Can Science & Religion Save Each Other? Pt 2

science and god

Science is used to being dominant, and religion is used to being defensive–these are familiar poses for two worldviews, the one being on the rise, the other on the decline. Generally when an entire belief system is on the decline, it steadily disappears. There’s no need to believe that the king’s touch can cure disease once modern medicine appears, and no need for bleeding to be a medical practice when its usefulness is experimentally invalidated. But the model of progress that substitutes automobiles for horse-drawn carriages doesn’t apply to religion. It may lose adherents who accept the argument that scientific rationality is superior to faith. The values of modern secular society are constantly on the rise. Continue reading

Can Science and Religion Save Each Other?


A flurry of controversy surrounded the astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson two weeks ago when he took a jab at religion in the name of science. It began Christmas day with a mischievous tweet: “On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642.” Then deGrasse Tyson felt that he needed to be more pointed in a follow-up tweet: “QUESTION: This year, what do all the world’s Muslims and Jews call December 25th? ANSWER: Thursday.” Continue reading

How to Save the World–A Simple Answer


Around a decade ago, when I first started posting at Huffington Post, one entry considered the world’s four greatest problems. They were over-population, climate change, pandemic disease, and refugeeism. Despite the suffering and fear it creates, terrorism affects far fewer people than these four issues, but if anyone wants to add it to the list, there can be no objection. Compared to a decade ago, all of these problems have worsened. Many observers, along with people in their everyday lives, feel that the world is in total chaos. Continue reading

Why God Makes More Sense than Atheism


After two centuries of the tug-of-war between science and religion, it’s clear science occupies the dominant position. It has passed the “So what?” test, meaning that science as applied to practical daily life has been immensely more important to modern people than God. This has given atheism, both casual and militant, the upper hand. As much as belief in God has deep human significance, he (or she) doesn’t pass the “So what?” test. If you put a video camera on the shoulders of an atheist and a believer, without knowing which was which, it’s hard to claim that the believer will have a better life because of his belief. Atheism therefore looks like just as good a choice. Continue reading

Our Intent: Better Ways to Approach Pain, and America’s Pain-Pill Epidemic

And I swear you're just like a pill Instead of makin me better, you keep makin me ill You keep makin me ill

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, and P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina

You may have noticed headlines about the rise of prescription drugs as a major cause of addiction and death by overdose. Pain pills are overshadowed by illegal drugs like heroin and their dangers masked by a certain air of respectability. Yet America is in the midst of an epidemic of painkiller overuse as well as addiction. As a nation we constitute only about 5% of the world’s population, but we consume some 80% of the prescription drugs called opioids, the strongest and most addictive pain pills, that go by names like Vicodin, OxyContin, Dilaudid, codeine, and Percocet. We consume 99% of the global supply of a particular opioid called hydrocodone, which is used in combination with other drugs for pain relief but also cough suppression. In 2014 the FDA approved a new version of a pure hydrocodone despite the objections of its own medical advisory panel (which voted 12 to 2 against approval) and 30 states. Today opioid overdose deaths (one every 30 minutes) exceed deaths from motor vehicle accidents as well as the combined total of deaths by heroin or cocaine overdose.

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The Rise and Fall of Militant Skepticism (Part 4)

resilience-1Click here for part 3

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP and Jordan Flesher, BA Psychology

Most of us take perception for granted as a photograph – in five sensory dimensions – of the real world. If you walk past the house where you were born, however, you won’t see it the way a camera would. You can’t help  but see it as a personal  part of your life. A termite inspector would see it a different way, as would a zoning official, an architect, a landscaper, and so on. The fact is that we can take any perspective we want on any object in the universe. No one disputes this fact, but it can’t be taken for granted, because there’s a deep mystery about how we apply mental models to the reality that spreads out before us.  The application of this mystery to the rise and fall of skepticism will become evident in a minute.

Increasing attention is being paid to the late Polish-American mathematician Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950), who has lent a popular phrase to this whole problem of what we see and what is real: “The map is not the territory.” In a nutshell it captures the problem of believing in maps – or models – created by the human mind. It’s obvious when you walk past the house where you were born that your mind creates the memory of growing up there. But some models are so convincing that we forget how we made them. Or we think the map is the territory, and then many missteps can arise. If you own a lovely house but all you can think of is that it might have termites or that burglars are waiting to rob you in the night, mounting anxiety can take over to the extent that you are ruled by your fixation. To someone with claustrophobia, an elevator is never neutral – it’s the source of fear.

Skeptics are perfectly entitled to create and enjoy their own model of the world, but when it becomes a fixation, a valid aspect of the scientific method – demanding verification of facts – becomes a source of bullying, disdain, ad hominem attacks, and in the worst cases, blindness to reality.  But since militant skepticism is essentially a nuisance born on the blogosphere, it wouldn’t be a serious impediment to scientific thinking any more than booing fans cause a football team to march off the field. The importance of dismantling militant skepticism is minimal except when it comes to the kind of deeper investigation that Korzybski was interested in.

He devised mathematical theorems and non-Aristotelian logic to demonstrate that the neurological system of a scientist is engaging in a highly selective process – it consists of selecting out some information and omitting the remaining. This is the very essence of making a map, or a model. When you look at the house where you were born, there are literally thousands of facts about it that you ignore anytime you think about the house. How many nails have gone into the wooden framing? How many microbes and mold spores live behind the sheet rock? Who lives there now, and what are their lives like? Somewhere in the world somebody makes it their business to collect data on such questions and countless more, because our ability to select and discard is infinite. The skeptics’ movement makes the mistake of giving certain models – basically their own, which is based on mistrust – a privileged position, when the truth is that all models have some advantages and some disadvantages.

The scientific model is abstract and reductionist. It isolates certain data (which are abstract) and organizes them to arrive at the essential qualities of an object (reducing it to pertinent facts).  This is a fluid, dynamic, and subjective activity. But it’s not the same as perceiving reality. Going to the most basic level of logic, one must concede that the human brain processes only the tiniest fraction of the billions of bits of sensory data that bombard us every day. We each have established our own filters for what we select and what we discard. If you are having chest pains and jump into your car to get to the emergency room, it won’t matter to you what the scenery is like along the way. Expanded to the activity of science, what this says is that every one of us is participating in the universe in a personal, creative way. There is no fixed reality “out there.”

So, how much weight should we give to how models differ from reality? Korzybski realized that there is an indefinite number of characteristics making up the physical environment that a scientist is unavoidably embedded within. He calculated the physical-energetic data impinging upon the sensory receptors of the scientist’s neurological system before the system engages in further levels of abstraction.  In other words, the threshold of data the your brain can process, is already an abstraction (a map) before you, or a scientist, starts to come up with newly created maps and models. For example, the simple fact that you can’t hear frequencies as high as what a dog hears, means that your threshold for perception isn’t perfect, complete, or even true. “This room is nice and quiet” isn’t true for a dog being tormented by a persistent shrill noise in its ear that doesn’t exist for you.

Science prides itself on investigating all kinds of things that the five senses don’t pick up. But this extension of perception, astonishing as it is when the Hubble telescope images distant galaxies, still doesn’t mean that science is viewing reality. Instead, it is expanding a map, putting in more detail.  As Korzybski might point out, there is no way to NOT be embedded in the universe we observe.  Here’s the pathway that maps take before anyone engages with the universe: Physical-energetic data is conveyed by our sense organs and transduced (transformed) into electro-chemical nerve impulses, which are themselves even further decoded (translated) by other higher order levels of the brain into conceptual-linguistic (thought) interpretations of what is then experienced as “real.”

If you suppose, as skeptics do, that science somehow transcends this intricate pathway, delivering “just the facts and only the facts,” you are being naive. Take just one mystery, that of dark matter and energy. By current calculations, which are very imprecise, 96% of the universe may be composed of dark matter and energy, which no one can see or measure. The visible universe, which we rely upon as the very foundation of reality, amounts to 4% of what’s out there. At the very least this means that the threshold of what the brain processes is a minuscule portion of the totality. If it turns out, as some theorists suspect, that dark matter isn’t even based on atoms and molecules, how can the brain, itself composed of atoms and molecules, conceive of reality to begin with?

These are the kinds of mysteries that militant skepticism rails against when someone tries to deviate from the dogma of “the facts and nothing but the facts.” It’s not easy to come to terms with the interface between brain, mind, and reality. But to ridicule the investigation, as militant skeptics do, to denigrate someone else’s model because you are the privileged keeper of truth, to shrug of advanced theories as pseudoscience – in other words, to own allegiance to the skeptical model – is pure ignorance.

Korzybski confronts us with a sobering but undeniable fact: As each level of abstraction occurs in the brain, more and more information is omitted. A scientist, like all of us, is both objectively and subjectively placed further and further away from what could be termed “really real reality.”  So what is that reality? As Korzybski pointed out, whatever reality might be, it transcends the confined, limited, and anthropomorphic point of view that we are tied to, because of the neurological system and its constructed map. Reality must be accounted for in its totality before any wide-scale truth claim, reality-claim, or thesis regarding morality and consciousness can be considered mildly sufficient — no matter what field of study the claim is constructed within, whether that field is science, psychology, or philosophy. Until then, the Dawkins-Harris-Dennett movement, despite its noisiness, should take a lesson from Korzybski and realize that the map is not the territory.

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