Welcome to the first Google+ hangout in our “Aspire to Inspire” series! The discussion begins LIVE, right here and on The Chopra Well at 12pm PST – so if you’ve come here early then be sure to refresh the page right at noon.
In this conversation, the Chopra brothers – Deepak and Sanjiv – will discuss the physical, mental and emotional process of surviving a trauma or deep loss. Paralympic snowboarder and activist Amy Purdy will also be joining to share her story of losing both her legs to meningitis and what it took to come back stronger than ever.
Survival is more than just staying alive. It entails maintaining or rebuilding a sense of strength, purpose, and optimism in spite – or perhaps as a result – of facing tremendous odds. We hope this conversation will inspire you to find the greatness and resilience present in your own being.
Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss next week’s Google+ hangouts in our “Aspire to Inspire” series!
Prompted by his granddaughter, Deepak explores the questions: What is God? And who made God? In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, he approaches the query from a cosmological perspective. Think of a cosmic Las Vegas – there is eternal inflation and eternal fluctuation in the universe. Because this is happening eternally, new universes can theoretically spin out, though they would be separated by light years from other universes. Is eternal inflation a possibility, and is it the mind of God? And if it is so, then who made that?
The nature of the Universe is that is it constantly coming into existence; it seems counter intuitive to suggest that there is one creator of matter, when matter continuously springs into form from dark space. But if there is a god at the source of all things – or if “god” is what we call the act of creation – then who or what made god?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
If nature and the Universe work together in perfect synchronicity, and we humans are part of nature, then why are we not perfect?
In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra explores the seeming imperfections in nature and in humans’ own behavior, and how this relates to the overall perfection of the Universe.
Nature and the Universe are pure synchronicity, pure expression and organization. This doesn’t mean light and dark, pain and pleasure, good and evil need not exist – paradox is as natural as order, after all. But human life, and life in general, are often unnecessarily messy, flawed, and chaotic. Instead of identifying with the soul of the Universe, we identify too often with logic, with our brains and egos. If we can return to an identification with the larger universe, we will reclaim a life of equanimity.
Most of the time
That I’m on a creative path
That I’m following my heart
That I’m a sensitive person
With a million feelings
That I choose not to numb
That I’m asking questions
In every direction
That I have such a strong
Hunger to learn
But sometimes I get tired
Of being the beginner
Wish the signs
Telling me where to turn
I get overwhelmed
It’s hard to tune out
The opinions of others
When you’re living out loud
But most of the time
I roll out of bed
To the sound of the ocean
Like the waves of my breath
And I’m able to focus
On what lies just ahead
Sipping my coffee
To kick-start my head
And I’m getting
Which kind of feels
And I know the longer
That I stay open
Maintain eye contact
Even when my heart pounds
Everything will unfold
Just as it should
Most of the time
See the sun?
See what it is telling you?
What did it say to you this morning when your eyes met it for the first time on this new day?
A hundred people can look at the same sun and see a hundred different stories written in it.
In Ancient Buddhism and Vedanta – and in Yoga – this is attributed to Vasana.
A Vasana is a an impression upon the mind that generates a conditioned response.
A memory of behavior that is threaded into the fabric of our being.
A tendency rooted in our consciousness that shapes our inclinations and behaviors.
We all have them.
Several of them.
Several hundreds of them.
Collectively within us they form the basis of our individual world view, our reactions to what we see in the world, our behavior in the world. Our vasanas will drive us to form the opinions we will, take the sides we will, push for the action that we want – be that positive or negative.
And yet, Yoga teaches that the vasanas are not a real representation of our true Self.
The vasanas are actually a disturbance to who we really are.
Yoga teaches us that the vasanas create modifications to our true consciousness that we need to undo to experience and manifest our true Self. Until they are released, those of us who are not enlightened souls, are all imperfect and ignorant, not knowing who or what we really are.
And this is the purpose of Yoga itself – as written by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:
‘Yoga is the cessation of the turbulence of the mind’
The practice of yoga takes us back the true Self by weakening the vasanas until they fall away and the Self is revealed.
Yoga teaches us that when we know the true Self, we will be in a space of deep silence, a space of complete unity and a place of non action – because when we see the world from the true Self, we experience that suffering is itself an illusion; we will not see any other as separate from our Self; we will see that what we say of the Other we say of our Self. Because when we know the Self, we know that there is no separation between us and the world we live in: We are One part of One interconnected beating cosmos. We are One.
It is a process. And we will fail many times on the way.
We will fail, and fail and fail.
But with practice, eventually says Vedanta – the Self will shine forth.
I fail several times every day.
I live and breathe in the world. I react to it. I call for action in it. I believe in the need for change.
I try to keep my awareness with my Self.
Sometimes I feel that the the Self is closer.
Sometimes I feel I am far away from it.
Sometimes I see my vasanas get the better of me.
But I always to promise to try again – and let my failures fail at holding me back.
I make my yoga.
I always practice.
And I will keep practicing until the Self shines forth.
Part 2 of this letter is in response to the recent letter to all the TEDx organizers, posted by Chris Anderson, the head of TED. The original letter proposed certain “red flag” topics, among them health hoaxes and the medicinal value of food but also the general area of pseudoscience.
Please read the following responses from accredited scientists and others in the consciousness communities, who have their own responses to the issues at hand:
I begin my reply with a quote from Nobel laureate, geneticist Barbara McClintock, as reported by Evelyn Fox Keller in A Feeling for the Organism:
“There’s no such thing as a central dogma into which everything will fit. It turns out that any mechanism you can think of, you will find — even if it’s the most bizarre kind of thinking. Anything… even if it doesn’t make much sense, it’ll be there… So if the material tells you, ‘It may be this,’ allow that. Don’t turn it aside and call it an exception, an aberration, a contaminant… That’s what’s happened all the way along the line with so many good clues.”
Of course, not every scientist is a Barbara McClintock – who boldly and at great sacrifice to her own career prospects (until the “rediscovery” of her work late in life and the awarding of her Nobel) – kept on looking for those exceptions and aberrations and wove her hypotheses to encompass those most interesting “good clues.” Most scientists, including some of those who have made breakthrough discoveries, carefully till the soil of our well-worn, well-established paradigms. Others – like Sheldrake and Hancock – do their work by focusing on the bits left out: the exceptions, the aberrations.
Chris Anderson is correct that his job at TED, aided by his advisory boards, is to curate and, therefore, to make choices. I would offer this metaphorical example as a way to consider their task: We know a lot now about how ant colonies self organize and how the food lines in ant colonies arise to maximize the rapid access to new food sources for the colony. One question is: how does this line form so efficiently and how is it maintained until the task is accomplished? A vital question. But the framing of the question excludes something important. Not every ant is actually following the line. These were the ants that wound up in my mother’s kitchen when I was a kid. I would feel sorry for the stupid ant who wound up somewhere it shouldn’t and would try to get it outside before she saw and not only squashed, but called the exterminator.
But my mother intuited something I did not know. It is precisely the ants NOT following the line that are equally, if not more vital for the survival of the colony. The few ants that don’t follow the line are the likeliest to find new food sources and establish new food lines when the old ones have exhausted their task. The ants in her kitchen were, in fact, a very good reason to call the exterminator. In complexity theory these divergent ants are an example of the necessary quenched disorder in the system, the unplanned, unconstrained activities – not too much, not too little – that allow the colony as a whole to explore new terrain, new food sources, new ways of organizing, to develop what complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman calls “the adjacent possible.”
When TED commits itself to “ideas worth spreading” they are dabbling in divergent ant promotion: their speakers and their audiences do not build on the TED talks in a planned and organized way, the interactions of TED meetings foster the kind of quenched disorder in human society that allows us to find new ways of being in the world, at the individual and at the communal level, by juxtaposing speakers and audiences that would normally not have been able to find each other.
I think Sheldrake and Hancock are divergent ants much as McClintock was. They may not be the ants that find the next food source and establish the new food line, but one never knows which one it will be. McClintock was critiqued and even ridiculed in ways not dissimilar to Sheldrake and Hancock have recently been by the TED team. She might have been wrong in her ideas. It turned out she was not. Sheldrake and Hancock may be wrong in their ideas, but we do not yet know. Even if they are, the creativity of their work and their insistence on looking at the aberrations and exceptions is certainly of value, at least to point the way to the kinds of creative explorations TED hopes to foster. They are ideas worth spreading precisely because of their bravery, creativity and care.
Neil Theise, MD
Professor, Pathology and Medicine
Division of Digestive Diseases
Beth Israel Medical Center – Albert Einstein College of Medicine
If the history of science teaches us anything, it is that our most fundamental ideas about the world are probably wrong. Ideas that can be turned into technologies – even ideas about Higgs bosons – can be tested, in public, by experimentation. These ideas can be demonstrated, in public, to be either wrong, or close enough to right to be relied upon to develop further technologies. But fundamental ideas, ideas that have not yet been turned into technologies, cannot be tested except by exploring their logical consequences. The logical consequences of many of humanity’s most cherished ideas have been shown to be wrong. We are not the center of the universe. We are not very different from other animals. Indeed our status in the world does not appear to be “special” in any way. These things can be said with confidence because the logical consequences of these cherished ideas directly conflict with ideas that can be tested, ideas about the cosmic microwave background, or about DNA, or about the symmetries of physical interactions.
It is the fundamental ideas that underpin not just our science but our lives, therefore, that should be subjected to the most rigorous and ruthless scrutiny. Our ideas about consciousness fall into this category. Human consciousness seems special: that alone should make us suspicious. Our consciously experienced memories support our personal identities: this should also make us suspicious. What is this phenomenon, consciousness? How does it relate to basic awareness? How does it relate to differential responsiveness to one’s environment? Differential responsiveness to the environment is, after all, the only public evidence we have for consciousness. Electrons respond differentially to their environments. Does that mean they are conscious? Most people think free will and autonomous action require consciousness. Physicists debate whether electrons have free will and autonomy in the pages of mainstream journals.
A robust science of consciousness threatens no one but dogmatists. If experiments showed tomorrow that electrons were conscious, this result would threaten no one but dogmatists. If experiments demonstrated that human beings can communicate telepathically with plants, or that focused attention can affect the trajectories of distant particles, these results would threaten no one but dogmatists. Open discussion of such questions should, likewise, threaten no one but dogmatists. One hopes that organizations like TED will encourage such open discussion.
Chris Fields, Ph.D.
Chris Fields, Ph.D. is an information scientist interested in the human perception of objects as spatially and temporally bounded entities. He has published over 120 peer-reviewed papers.
I heard a story when my son was in a local Waldorf school, and I loved it.
The children were in art class seated in different tables, working hard at their projects. One little girl was particularly diligent, so the teacher stood behind her and watched for a while. Then she bent over to ask her what she was drawing.
Very matter-of-fact the little girl said, “I’m drawing God.”
The teacher chuckled and said, “But you know, hon, no one knows what God looks like.”
Without skipping a beat, without even looking up, the little girl responded, “They will in a moment!”
This made me wonder, what happened to our wildness? The wildness of God, of Spirit, as John O’Donahue calls it. It’s as if we forget or disconnect from the spontaneity and joy that expresses our essential spirit.
Probably the deepest inquiry in any of the spiritual traditions is the question: who am I? If we look behind the roles and images that our culture gives us, behind the ideas that we internalize from our family, who’s really here? Who is reading right now? Who is looking through these eyes? Who is listening to sounds?
The Buddha said we suffer because we don’t know who we are; we’ve forgotten. We suffer because we are identified with a self that is narrower than the truth, less than the wholeness of what we are. We often live inside a role—parent, helper, boss, patient, victim, judge. We become hitched to our sense of appearance, to our body. We become hitched to our personality, our intelligence. We become hitched to our achievements. These facets constellate into the shape of our identity, of who we take ourselves to be. And that constellation is smaller than the truth. It is less than the awareness and love that is here, less than the sacred essence of what we are.
A friend of mine, a minister, told me about an interfaith gathering which began with the inquiry: What should we call Spirit or the Divine, what’s the name we should use? Right away there’s a question:“Should we call it, God?” “No way,” responds a female Wiccan. “What about Goddess?” she says.“Hah,” remarked a Baptist minister and suggested instead, “Spirit.”
“Nope,” declares an atheist.
The discussion goes on like this for a while. Finally, a Native American, suggested “the Great Mystery” and they all agreed. They all agreed because, regardless of the knowledge or the concepts of their faith, each of them could acknowledge it’s a mystery.
In the moments that we move through life realizing that we belong to this mystery, that this mystery is living through us, we are awake, alive and free.
I grew up thinking being religious meant you were spiritual and vice versa. When I walked away from organized religion in my early 30s, I thought I was walking away from spirituality, as well.
When I would experience blissful moments of peace, connection, or unparalleled stillness on my yoga mat, I had no word for it. This is just yoga, I thought. When I was introduced to mantra and chanting and started to look forward to it at the end of a class, marveling at the higher resonance I experienced through it, I again thought to myself, This is just yoga.
When yoga teachers talked about the Universal or mythical gods and goddesses, it made me a little uncomfortable because it started to sound a little too “spiritual.” This part’s not for me, I thought. Yet I could feel myself drawn to classes with an emphasis on philosophy more than hot yoga classes.
The more I began to focus on meditation and living and moving mindfully, the more I began to run across the word “spiritual” in my research and in my search for like-minded people. My practices of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness were bringing me home; home to a body I had never inhabited before. They were delivering me to my fullest life and preparing me to handle life and loss like an inhale and an exhale.
Due to my deeply religious upbringing, I would see parallels everywhere. Practices that existed on opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum seemed to me to have a lot in common. The humility and reverence at times present in both prayer and meditation. The devotional feeling present both in singing and chanting. The trust in a marvelous higher source called the Universal or God. The life force of prana and the life force of the Holy Spirit. Buddhist concepts like right effort, right speech, and respect sounded just like what I’d learned Jesus to teach.
When I first heard the suggestion that violence is the result of humanity “forgetting who we are,” or forgetting our inherent true nature, our universal oneness, I was reminded of Jesus’ dying words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
According to professor of psychology David N. Elkins, Ph.D., “The word spirituality comes from the Latin root spiritus, which means ‘breath’ – referring to the breath of life. It involves opening our hearts and cultivating our capacity to experience awe, reverence, and gratitude. It is the ability to see the sacred in the ordinary, to feel the poignancy of life, to know the passion of existence and to give ourselves over to that which is greater than ourselves.”
I see many people redefining spirituality these days, allowing it to exist and thrive as an internal state, independent of organized religion. Others would call that kind of talk sacrilegious.
And I see many people struggling to find an acceptance and a validity to being spiritual without being religious. For some their religious roots haunt them, and for others the stigma of “spirituality” blocks their curiosity, even though they often find themselves face-to-face with a yearning for a deeper connection to life.
The dispute over whether yoga is religious and should be allowed in schools continues to create controversy. I personally don’t feel yoga is religious. It is not a religion. It may, however, allow you to have some deeper experiences of being that some would call “spiritual.” It is largely our labeling that creates divisiveness.
If I have a non-dualistic experience of universal connection through yoga or meditation, and you have a dualistic experience of universal connection through church and prayer, and mine prepares me to live and die in peace and yours to live in heaven, who’s to say I am right and you are wrong? The two of us are here on earth, side by side, striving to be the best human beings we can be.
Many people become spiritual seekers in the wake of loss, trauma, or in old age. The reality of death seems to wake up a sometimes dormant spiritual need.
We will all die one day. I’m more interested in how you choose to live than in how often you go to church or how often you meditate.
In the words of English-American revolutionary Thomas Paine, “The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”
In light of the recent events in Boston, many of us are walking around with heavy hearts. We search for answers. Why? How can such evil exist in our world? We grieve for the lost lives and suffering felt by our one human family.
While me may never get all of the answers we seek, and despite the senseless tragedy, it’s important to keep our faith in humanity and our spirits lifted. Yes, while some people out there have lost their way, we are all generally good at heart and this goodness far outweighs the bad. Now, more than ever, it is important that each of us do the work to be the change. Only light can drive out darkness. You matter. We all do. Everything in this world around us is made of energy. You better believe yours affects the world around you. Even seemingly simple actions can help raise the vibrations we emit around us, and thus contribute to collectively raising the consciousness of the world.
Here are a few suggestions that can help us be responsible for the energy around us in a positive way:
1) Limit the amount of news we intake. Yes, it is important to stay informed, and we all want answers and updates. However, our media tends to focus on the very negative. Balance your need to know with your need to keep your own spirit lifted. Instead of focusing on gruesome details reported over and over by the hyped-up media, seek more uplifting and heart-warming stories (yes they do exist!). In Boston, many put their own safety aside to run towards the explosion to help others. Think about our brave first responders and how selfless they are every day of their lives. Make a conscious effort to turn the channel or surf to another page so that you can fill your mind with more of the goodness that surrounds us all.
2) Mellow out. We can all get overstressed at times, which tends to bring out our very worst. Maybe it manifests in laying on the horn in traffic and giving a one-finger salute to a fellow driver, or perhaps it’s a grumble and a furrowed brow at the grocery store when somebody gets in line a split second before us. In any case, it feels so much better to just be happy and is also better for the world around us. Try some proven funk-lifters:
Practice deep breathing, which sends a message to your brain to calm down.
Go for a walk and soak in some nature. Exercise is a natural mood-lifter and being close to earth helps you to feel more grounded.
Jam out to your favorite music.
Laugh it up. Call up a funny friend or watch a silly video. Studies show that laughter reduces stress hormones.
3) Let it go. When we bottle up our emotions, the pressure builds up inside. If we don’t let off some steam… it’s not going to be pretty! A journal can be your best buddy to confide in. Let all of those toxic emotions out via pen or keyboard before somebody else feel the wrath of them. Just the act of outwardly expressing our feelings can help to heal the hurt.
4) Practice random acts of kindness. Even something small can have a huge impact as the ripple effect ensues. When you do something nice for someone, they are touched and want to pay-it-forward and do something nice for someone else and so on! Here are a few kind gesture suggestions to incorporate into your routine.
Stop to hold the door open for someone.
Make a point to smile at everyone in your path
Let someone in front of you in traffic
Buy a stranger a cup of coffee or pay for the order of the person behind you, if you are feeling generous and have a little extra cash.
5) Power of Prayer. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be religious, there is a great power in surrender, the acknowledgement that there is a force beyond us all. Whatever your beliefs, it can’t hurt to take a few moments to visualize sending your light, love, and blessings out to those who need it. Ask for guidance on what you can do to help make your own positive impact on the world.
6) Be love! This can manifest itself in so many ways. Call an old friend out of the blue, let your loved ones know how much you care, reach out to someone in need, hug your family a little tighter and be totally present for them – turn electronics off and really be with each other.
These are just a few suggestions. I’d love to keep this list growing. What are some of your thoughts on keeping the vibrations ringing high? Please share some of your own ideas in the comments below!
Photo credit: Getty images
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Dawn Gluskin is a multi-passionate entrepreneur and author. Despite her experiences as the founder & CEO of a technology firm that has experienced rapid-growth and national press recognition, her definition of “success” is not defined by these accolades, which have oftentimes come at the price of high-stress and misalignment. Instead, she believes in listening to the whisper of our souls which gently tug us towards our life’s true purpose. She finds much joy in her writing and coaching, sharing her journey and truth with others. She feels blessed to be “mommy” to two sweet little girls who teach her so much and she lives with her loving family in sunny Florida.
You know what makes me feel like a not-funny person? A conversation about faith and spirituality. There is something so humble and vulnerable about admitting to faith in something unknowable, a force, a power greater than ourselves, if you will, that it takes the wind out of my comic sails. Unless I am making fun of faith, mine or someone else’s, which is a slippery slope to mockery. I think I am not alone in my understanding that you can’t deeply believe in something and mock it simultaneously. So, in the interest of being honest about my spiritual journey, don’t expect to laugh much here.
I was raised with zero talk of God or faith. My mother was a post-World War II kid raised in New York City. Her friends had tattoos from concentration camps on their arms so to this day it is tough for her to believe in God. Which is especially hard, I think, given that she is turning eighty, racked with fear, and sadly alone most of the time. I do believe she would get a lot of comfort from having some kind of spiritual/religious community. But for a myriad of reasons, including being identified as “the widow,” she rarely walks in to a house of worship.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I found out that my father did have faith, he was just very private about it. I was on the road understudying Jennifer Grey (coincidentally one of our special guests on “Perfectly Imperfect Parents“) on a Broadway tour of a show called, “The Twilight of the Golds,” by Jonathan Tolins. We were spending six weeks in Austin, Texas. The first Sunday after we arrived was Yom Kippur. Even though I was raised with no religion, I knew I was a Jew and that it was the holiest day of the year for Jews and given that there were very few other ones around, I felt like I should go to a Temple and check in. I had no idea with whom, but still. I called down to the front desk of the hotel.
“Hey, hi, do you happen to know if there’s a Synagogue nearby?”
“It’s a Church for Jewish people.”
“Oh right. Yeah, we don’t have one of those,” a perplexed female voice with a Southern twang said.
I hung up and called my father.
“Feeling kind of stranded out here on Yom Kippur, Dad, thought maybe I’d find a Temple to go sit in but no luck.”
Then my father, who fought in both World War II and the Korean War, but had never talked to me about God before asked me,
“Well, Sweetheart, you wanna know what we used to say in the Army?”
“Sure,” I said, “of course.”
“A place of worship is in your heart.”
Huh. Who knew that my father had ever thought about God? Let alone that there was a whole expression about “worship” that he shared with his Army buddies. Very touching, and helpful words to this day. He died a year later, 18 years ago in May, and I will never forget that conversation.
Having a personal relationship with God is key, but I have also found that being part of a spiritual/religious community to be helpful. And I wanted my children to at least have an introduction to God and the concepts of prayer and community. So we joined Temple Israel of Hollywood for pre-school. Since then, I’ve learned more about Judaism than most of my relatives, which if I am being honest, sometimes makes me a little tense. I’m just not a rule person and seem to reflexively resist being told what to do or when or how. I also believe that there isn’t only one path to creating a relationship with God. But, “on the other hand,” (to quote Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof), being a member of a Temple also makes me feel a profound connection to a far reaching history of Jewish people, who are undeniably, my people.
Most of my early life I hated that I was Jewish, largely because I was never exposed to anything positive about it. There was no pride of survival, no appreciation for Jewish values of social justice, education and a love of culture, not to mention some very funny comedy writers. All I was told is that we were “other.” Not just told, but isolated because of it. One time in 4th grade, I was chased around the school by a kid calling me the word so ugly I can’t type it, but starts with a “k,” and sounds like “like”. I’d never heard the word before and couldn’t figure out why I was being chased because of it. That night at dinner, my parents turned white when I told them. But it’s not like they busted out the challah and danced around the table to offset my bad feelings. And the Adam Sandler songs hadn’t been written yet.
But back to my children, not only did Tod and I want the boys to have a strong Jewish identity, we also wanted them to be happy about it, unlike my childhood. And although Temple Israel does a great job with this, it turns out, given the history of Jews, what with the slavery, the pogroms, the Holocaust, and all those songs written in minor keys, the Jewish religion isn’t exactly a primer for mindless joy, joy, joy! The sense of loss, past or pending, seems to be always interwoven with celebration. And yet, I have to say, my boys giggle when they eat matzo and love telling people, “No Santa for us, we celebrate Hanukkah!” in December. That certainly never happened in Connecticut in 1974.
Although not always a spiritual experience, we also love to remind the boys to be grateful for all that we have. There weren’t a lot of family discussions about “gratitude” growing up. Like none. Appreciation wasn’t big on our list of family activities. This was not good, because how can you ever be happy if you never see how great you have it?
Without having been given any tools, it’s pretty much a miracle that most days I manage to have faith. Unlike Mallika, who was brilliantly lucky to have been born in to a family with such a strong spiritual foundation, I have lived my life both without faith and with it. I do believe it’s a better life with it. Of course I have no idea if any of this will matter to my boys, but I will always be glad to have opened their minds to the importance of community, prayer, and a power bigger than us mere mortals.
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