Tag Archives: Enlightenment

Enlightenment Requires Only One Thing–Do You Have It?

brainFor 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

Why Enlightenment Should Be in Everyone’s Future


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

Does Enlightenment Pass the “So What” Test?


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

Is Enlightenment the New Normal?


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

Why Don’t We Know We Are Enlightened Already?


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

Is Your Ego Your Servant or Your Master?

I think I’m the most important person in the world, but nobody else thinks it’s about me, time doesn’t think it’s about me, space doesn’t think it’s about me, the planet doesn’t think it’s about me,” says Prof. Robert Thurman in our book, Be The Change. “It doesn’t take much to get the message that it’s actually not about me! But if somebody comes and steps on my toe or wants to take away my strawberries, then suddenly it’s all about me again!”

egoEveryone talks about the ego: ego trips, healthy ego, negative ego, big ego, get rid of your ego, even kill your ego. But what is the ego? Is there such a thing? Or is the ego just a version of our hyper-inflated need for security in a world of apparent threats?

Brian Jones, a Stanford trained neuroscientist and mindfulness trainer, and our partner in RevolutionaryMindfulness.com, says, “The ego is not ‘a thing’ like your ribs, your feet, or your prefrontal cortex. Rather, the ego is reflective of an underlying bio-chemical state of stress and insecurity in our perceived-as-threatening dog-eat-dog world. Biologically, the ego and our personality, thoughts and emotions are really run by the energy of our autonomic nervous system, which is either in a stressed, ego-centered, fearful state called the Sympathetic Response, or a secure, relaxed state called the Parasympathetic Response.”

The ego is the “me” bit that gives us a false sense of ourselves. This is not necessarily good or bad, except when selfishness dominates our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. A positive sense of self gives us confidence and purpose, but a more negative and self-centered ego makes us unconcerned with other people’s feelings; it thrives on the idea of me-first and impels us to cry out, “What about me? What about my feelings?”

 The more power we have – as seen in politicians, the media, CEOs, movie stars, control freaks, or in those who always think of themselves first — the more the ego rules, making ‘me and my opinions’ the most important. There is no limit to the damage a powerful ego can cause, from the arrogant conviction that our own opinions are the only right ones and everyone should be made to agree, to wielding and abusing responsibility and authority at the expense of other people’s lives and freedoms.

But the ego can be equally as powerful in a negative form, seen in those who are always bringing attention to their woes, to poor me, or who think they are powerless and worthless, for this is just as self-centered. The purpose of the ego is to be in control, so it makes us believe we are the cleverest, best informed and most important as easily as it makes us feel unworthy, unlovable, and certainly not good enough to be happy. The ‘poor me’ ego is just as big as the ‘I’m so powerful’ ego.

“I think the main issue is the negative ego,” says Mingyur Rinpoche in Be The Change.  “If we do not understand other people’s feelings, their suffering or behavior, then what we perceive, what we are concerned with is only our own ego and image. If the ego becomes too strong then it causes a lot of other emotions, such as anxiety, loneliness, depression, anger, jealousy; if we feel insecure, then our ego becomes even bigger in order to protect us.”

Fostering the delusion that only ‘I’ is important, that me and mine must come before us and ours, we believe we are something, that this “I” is a solid, different, special and unique, separate from everything and everyone else. Such a misguided sense of self is the root cause of much distress, both in our own lives and in the world: wars are fought, families split, and friends forgotten in its name.

Can you believe that we spend our whole lives protecting, defending and believing this deluded sense of self, while we lose a life of meaning, joy, and caring about others? When we become aware of our essential unity and oneness with all beings then the ego, this imposter who thinks it is the boss, actually loses its job. It will, therefore, do whatever it has to in order to perpetuate its employment.

Hypothetically, all we need do is let go of the focus on “me,” of our sense of separateness, our need for distinction, the grasping and clinging to our story. But this is far easier said than done! In India, the ego is represented by a coconut, as this is the hardest nut to crack. Traditionally, the coconut is offered to the guru as a sign of the student’s willingness to surrender or let go of self-obsession. Such a symbolic gesture shows that the ego is considered to be a great obstacle on the spiritual path and an even greater impediment to developing true kindness and compassion, for it is a perfect servant but a terrible master.

Creating the illusion that we are the dust on the mirror, the ego ensures that we believe we could never be so beautiful as the radiant reflection beneath the surface. Yet how extraordinary to believe that we cannot be free when freedom is our true nature! We easily forget the difference between being powerful in the sense of being egotistic and controlling, and being powerful meaning full of loving kindness. True power is not corruptive or abusive; it transcends greed and serves for the benefit of all.

Meditation is essential to this understanding. “We can manage the ego response with mindfulness, meditation, and self-awareness that entrain the ‘rest response,’ the opposite of the ‘stress response’ of the ego’s push for its own agenda,” says Brian Jones. “The ego response is a primitive, reptilian brain caveman response to the world; largely the opposite of the heart-centered mindful response of compassion, empathy and insight. As Osho, the famous India teacher, says, ‘The size of the ego is in direct proportion to the distance your consciousness is away from your heart.’”

photo by: celine nadeau

Do You Know Who You Really Are?

36519-2560x1600Are you a fairy, a ghost, batman, a pirate, witch, goddess, a favorite movie star, or a monster? It’s that time of year when we don our masks and become whoever we want, or maybe someone we think we really are.

What aspect of yourself will you be expressing? One year we were two geisha girls in tight kimonos and white make up. For Ed it was a chance to experience the feminine; for Deb it was a moment of stepping into someone else’s shoes and realizing how restricted such a lifestyle can be, which made her confront places she was restricting in herself. Another year Deb went as a lotus pond wrapped in a blue sheet with pink paper lotus flowers pinned all over, while Ed was am Indian holy man in orange robes and a turban, so as not to take the spiritual journey too seriously.

Does dressing up in a costume enable you to act out your secret fantasies? One year we were invited to Dublin to be on Kenny Live, a popular Saturday Night TV show, and we arrived at the hotel where we were staying to find ourselves in the midst of an over-50’s costume party. We got stuck in an elevator surrounded by every type of she-devil you could imagine, and the fantasies were pretty outrageous! It was hilarious.

Does expressing different parts of yourself highlight parts of your personality that normally never see the light of day? Do you feel you’re releasing some pent up hidden part of you that you need to express?

Or does it show how you normally hide behind false images and labels, such as race, religion, or profession? We tend to identity with the content of our lives, yet beneath all the labels is our essence, that which we truly are. Can you find who is there without the masks or the façade, without all the many images of yourself? We so identify with the masks we may lose sight of what lies behind them. But the labels are only a part of us, not the whole of us, and we need to honor our whole being.

Try the questions below to get reconnected with who you really are:

Naming the Masks

Find a comfortable place to sit quietly. Have a pen and some paper with you. When you are settled, begin by making a list of all your big labels, the ones that are most obvious, such as race, age, mother, father, child, brother, sister, religion, job, profession, and so on. Build a list that would tell the outside world who you are.

Then make a list of all your personal labels, the ways in which you see yourself, such as your physical health, size and looks; then your emotional and mental labels, how you see your personality, strengths and weaknesses. This is a list that says how you see yourself and how you are seen.

Then make a list of all the parts of yourself behind the labels; the inner you that few people ever see. This may start negative, such as insecure, frightened, angry, sad, depressed, and so on. But then focus on the positive, such as caring, loving, generous, kind, aware.

Now read your lists through a few times. Can you find the real you, in amongst the labels? Can you find a you that hides behind the masks? Are there ways that this inner you can find expression in your life? Write down any ideas on how you could bring this more hidden part of you into your life, so that you can begin to let go of the labels and the masks and live more authentically.


Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change. See more at Revolutionary Mindfulness.com and EdandDebShapiro.com

Deepak Chopra: Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 11)

Daybreak at Gale Crater

Click here to read Part 10!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

In our last post we explored how your body and brain are not just your body and brain – from a 21st-century scientific perspective, you are also a teeming community composed of single-cell organisms. A tiny portion of the body are human cells (yours) while perhaps a hundred times more are mostly bacteria and archaea, known all together as the microbiome. Let’s go several steps further into this scientific re-examination of this thing you call your body.

Intellectually you know that your body today isn’t the same as the body you had in the past. But if you tune in, you generally feel the present you in continuity with yesterday’s you and all the others going back to childhood. You can imagine even going back to a fetus in the womb and the fertilized ovum from which the fetus grew. That first egg and sperm are derived without interruption from your parents’ living bodies. There is no gap where the life of your mother and father stopped and yours began. The flow of life is seamless back to your mother’s womb, and further back as far as human ancestry can go.

Even as we cross species boundaries in our backward journey, to Homo erectus and Homo habilis, our distant forebears, there are no gaps in life, not between you and hominids roaming the African savannah millions of years ago, not between you and the earliest single-cell organisms that were the first emerging life forms on our planet. So you can think of yourself as one living being. You may feel separate in space, occupying a warm and cozy apartment that is unlike a primordial pond covered in blue-green algae. But think about how your skin sheds cells, not just dead epidermal cells but living bacteria that coat your skin in a fine layer. They have separated from you, and yet they are still you. This apparent separation is only in space. In time, there is no separation, there is continuity extending over eons, and time is where we live.

By expanding “you” beyond a package of skin and bones that was born on a certain day and will die one day in the future, you merge with the flow of life as a whole. In other words, you have adopted the perspective of life itself. How old are you, then? At the everyday level of scale you count how many candles there are on your last birthday cake. But take in the 400 trillion microorganisms that are the largest biological part of “you.” Single cells can only reproduce by division. One amoeba divides in two. These aren’t the amoeba’s children. They are simply it, split in half. In a very real sense, all the amoebas alive today are the first amoeba, and the same goes for all the trillions of micro-organisms that occupy your body (and are necessary for it to survive, as we saw in previous posts. They aren’t free riders).

As “you” expand, boundaries melt away. Since the entire mass of animal and plant life on Earth traces back to single-cell creatures, “you” are one enormous 3.5-billion-year-old being. Separation in space makes each of us think we are individuals. And we are. But the continuum of time at the cellular scale reveals an equal reality: we are united as a single biological being. In fact, the continuity of life becomes stronger as we move to even smaller and smaller scales, where seamless properties essential to life are already present. Which means that the properties of “you” – intelligence, self-organization, evolution, and a seamless flow of life – exist at all scales.

Consider the molecular and atomic levels of scale. There is no atom in your body that did not derive from something eaten, drunk, or breathed from the substance of the planet. Whether we talk about the “you” that is sitting in a chair reading this sentence or the “you” that is a single enormous 3.5-billion-year-old being, neither lives on the planet – in a sense they are the planet. Your living body is the self-organization of the substance of the Earth itself – minerals, water, and air – into zillions of life forms. Earth plays Scrabble, forming different words as the letters are recombined (in this case, genetic letters), and although some words, like “human,” run away to live on their own, they forget who owns the game.

If “you” are a recreational pastime for the planet, what does it have in mind for its next move? Games involve a lot of repetition, but there has to be novelty as well, with records to break and highest scores to shatter. Earth decided that “you” needed a new playing field. At one level, the Mars probe named Curiosity can be viewed as a separate human achievement, and a very complex one. It involved skilled, clever engineers and scientists who figured out how to make a robot, propel it to another world, have it land, and then send information back to us.

But there’s another way of looking at it. Just as reasonably, logically, and scientifically, our living planet Earth has been working toward reaching out to touch its neighbor, Mars, for 3.5 billion years (at least). It has taken this long for Earth to create living things out of its own substance that could eventually figure out how to take more of the same substance, fashion it into a rocket and a robot, and take “you” off planet. (In the case of the moon, “you” actually landed on it, yourself.)

While “you,” focused on the separate self, were busy discovering fire, inventing agriculture, writing sacred texts, making war, having sex, and other survival stratagems, Earth was busy organizing, through these activities, landing on the moon and tapping Mars on the shoulder. If this image strikes you as being too fanciful, look at the activity of your brain. You are conscious of having a purpose in mind when you walk, talk, work, and love. But it is undeniable that many brain activities are unconscious (e.g., controlling body temperature, growth, blood pressure), while the activity of the brain as a whole is totally unknown, either by you or any single region of your brain. Whatever makes Earth a totality makes your brain a totality. Therefore, it isn’t fanciful to think of Earth as moving in a coherent, unified direction, just as your brain has from the moment you were born.

Or to put it in a word, if you (as a person) have a purpose, then you (as life on Earth) have a purpose. The two are seamless, even if it suits our pride, and our unfathomable ego, to stand above and separate from our surroundings. Where does that leave mind? Mind is something that condenses in some spaces, expands in others, functioning at everyday levels of scale, planetary levels of scale, and microscopic levels of scale. The smallest aspects of mind can be contained within larger aspects, just as molecules are contained within cells that are contained within bodies, and so on.

Science in the 21st century builds upon its long-held ambition to comprehend the very smallest and largest scales of Nature, and it was always hoped – even taken for granted – that a set of fixed principles would suffice for the whole journey of discovery. That hope broke down when Newton’s set of laws didn’t fit the quantum world. Now the set of rules in the quantum world don’t fit the latest problems, such as what came before the Big Bang, the origin of life, and the appearance of mind in the universe. In this post we’ve been arguing that “you” exist no matter how large or small the scale under consideration. You are beyond any horizons of scale, any boundaries that your mind believes exist. The Vedas speak of Brahman (reality) being bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest In modern terminology, this means “you.” We’ll finish in the next post with the mind-blowing conclusions that such reasoning leads to.

(To be cont.)

* * *

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books translated into over 35 languages with over twenty New York Times bestsellers.  Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation.

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)

P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Medical Center — Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.  www.neiltheise.com  neiltheise.wordpress.com

Do you want to become a Buddhist – or the Buddha?


 Do not become the Buddhist – become the Buddha.

There. It is right there. I searched for it, chased it, tried to catch it and pin-point it since last night. Since the conversation about following a path.

I couldn’t see why. I couldn’t see why I would need to follow a path to myself. I am here after all, already here. Everything that I am — me, God, Buddha, everything. What path? What path is needed to take me to what I am?

But then, I thought, to realize it, to feel oneself, to find oneself among the noise, among the constant, overwhelming, imposing and dizzying hubbub of the mind — maybe there is a path there. Maybe there is something that has to be done, worked on, achieved, to see clearly. So what would I do? What did I do? What was the first step on my path? It was looking for someone who could help. It was to look outside. To look to others.

That was my first step on the path, on the journey to becoming a Buddhist, a student, a spiritual seeker.

Ceasing to look to others for help was the first step on the path to becoming myself.

Because it was myself I wanted to find. Not the Buddha. Not the enlightenment experienced, envisioned and described by others — but myself. I did not want to become a Buddhist. I did not want to become the follower of Buddha, or Christ or anyone else at all. I wanted to become myself and, to become myself, I had to follow myself.

And it was in that moment, in that very first moment of making the choice to follow myself, my own path, my own way, that my journey was finished for I reached my destination.

It did not require esoteric practices, twenty years of meditation, chanting, praying. All it took was the choice to be me. All it took for me to be me, was for me to listen to myself, to look into myself, to follow myself. Because I was already there.

All I needed to do

was to trust myself.

3 Steps to Find Your Perfect Partner

day 55Have you ever stopped to think about how rarely we think about the traits we want in a partner in more than a passing way? Do you find that you seek a physical type and then hope that they have the character traits that you desire? Or, do you find yourself imagining that you can wish the traits into their character once you get the relationship started?

In fact there is a way to ensure that you bring just the right person into your life. Now this isn’t just magical or wishful thinking. Rather, it’s about focusing your thoughts about yourself and your ideal mate in a way that makes you open to the  person you want to meet.

There is a progression of activities to help you get to this point. It does take a bit of thinking and being honest with yourself, but it will be effective in attracting the right type of people into your life. The following tips will help you get started in organizing and focusing in on your relationship thoughts.

Step 1: What do I deserve in a partner?

This is a critical first step. If you don’t see yourself as deserving of that perfect partner, then you cannot expect him or her to walk into your life. You have to believe that you are worthy and deserving of a partner to fulfill your dreams and desires. Good self-esteem is one major factor in meeting the right person, since you have to feel good about yourself to attract someone that will feel good about you too.

Step 2: What do you really want?

Start by making a list of the traits or characteristics that you really desire. Is it a sense of humor, an intellect or a person that is understanding and empathetic? Think on these behaviors and see yourself with the person. What does the relationships look like and feel like? What are your feelings about the relationship? By imaging the relationship as it is, you will be more clear with potential partners about your vision of a relationship.

Step 3: Bring love into your life

Love is the greatest of human emotion, and it is a powerful tool for attracting the type of relationship that you are looking for. Surround yourself with people you love, including your pets, and also share your feelings of love with others. The more love you put out, the more that will be returned.


Originally published September 2012

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