Tag Archives: perception

Deepak Chopra: To Know the World, Feel Your Body

Our body is a field of energy and information. It is the part of the energy and information field we call the universe. There is no real separation at the most fundamental levels between the body and the universe. There are no well defined edges to the body. Therefore, by feeling our body, we eavesdrop on the universe. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra explains this process of coming to understand the world by becoming unified with our own bodies.

Intuition is just a form of intelligence that goes beyond perception and eavesdrops on the deeper context of what is happening in any particular situation. You can use your body to tap into the deeper conversation of the cosmos you might say. Silence your mind, ask a question, feel the body and learn to listen to the sensations that arise in your body.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and check out Deepak’s book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind!

Deepak Chopra: Tweets from the Cosmos – Tune In

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 12.38.08 PMWhen Twitter first appeared, I responded to its idealistic side, which aimed to form a global community that could create change beyond national boundaries. Tweets are now used for a million reasons that don’t aim as high. But it occurred to me that tweeting might be an excellent way to test the shift in consciousness that has been long awaited and equally long pooh poohed.

Who is right, the skeptics who see no evidence that consciousness is rising on a mass scale or the futurists who foresee a completely altered humanity? It’s impossible to measure such a huge phenomenon, but I decided to start small. On a daily basis for the past two or three years I’ve tweeted about cosmic consciousness, mind outside the brain, the nature of reality, the failure of materialism to explain awareness, and other Big Ideas on the edge of acceptability by mainstream science.

To my surprise, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Each tweet starts a dialogue almost the instant the tweet starts circulating. Naysayers and skeptics also participate, but instead of dominating the conversation – or crushing it – which is what you’d find in official scientific circles, the main result is open, eager curiosity.

Here are the three most popular tweets from a day last week:

Photons have neither color nor brightness. The world is made manifest through the light of awareness.

Taking existence for granted & assuming that science or religion are the path to truth are the greatest impediments to awakening.

The perceived physical world is a representation of a perceiving physical brain. Both the world and brain are immaterial in their essence.

Although each one states my own viewpoint, the statements are broad enough to be good debating topics, and each touches on a mystery that needs exploration.

1. Light is transmitted as quanta known as photons, which strike the retina and travel through a complex processing in the visual cortex to produce the experience of brightness in the world. But photons are not bright themselves, or dark. So how does the world “out there” light up?

2.  Science and religion both claim to offer a form of enlightenment. The scientific version consists of a rational explanation of all natural phenomena, along with the attendant elimination of superstition and other irrational beliefs. Religion’s version is a clear connection to God and the higher reality represented by divinity. If you assume that these opposing choices are the right answer, or if you turn your back on the whole issue, no form of awakening is possible.  The mystery is to find a way forward that makes enlightenment real and personal.

3. There is a long tradition in philosophy and mystical religion that sees the physical world as either an illusion or something unprovable. Against this tradition stands materialism, which takes as its first premise the reality of the physical universe. But this common-sense stance solves nothing. Reality must be processed by the brain before it can be experienced or measured. There is no objective platform outside the brain where we can stand and see the real for what it is. This fact upsets conventional science but has become a fruitful seed for thinkers who want to solve the mind-brain problem.

As you can see, the topics aren’t easy, yet a wide range of responses soon crops up. Since a tweet can be no longer than 140 characters, it engages those who understand my position along with those who ask, “What’s he smoking?” and others who just offer abuse. A twitter following of 1.5 million has burgeoned around these discussions, which rolls forward by a thousand people every day, often several times a day. I’ve come to believe that moment-to-moment engagement is what forms a community that transcends not just boundaries but the constraints of conditioned thinking. Those constraints are the main obstacle, not religious or political opinions, to a new level of consciousness everywhere.

 

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5 Ways to Never Be Stressed Again

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 4.08.27 PMEverybody feels stress and knows it intimately, but very few of us think about what stress actually is.

Stress is a thought. That’s it. No more, no less. If that’s true, then we have complete control over stress, because it’s not something that happens to us but something that happens in us.

The dictionary definition of stress is, “bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.” It is your thoughts out of balance.

The medical definition of stress is, “the perception of a real or imagined threat to your body or your ego.” It could be a tiger chasing you or your belief that your spouse is mad at you (even if he or she is not). Whether it is real or imagined, when you perceive something as stressful, it creates the same response in the body.

A cascade of adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones floods your system, raising your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, making your blood more likely to clot, damaging your brain’s memory center, increasing belly fat storage, and generally wreaking havoc on your body.

The operative word here about stress is that it is a perception, also known as a thought or point of view. There are objective stressors, to be sure—war, death of loved ones, financial troubles, starvation, dental work. But how these affect us determines our body’s stress response. Imagine Woody Allen and James Bond, each with a gun pointed at his head—same external stressor but entirely different responses.

When I was very sick with chronic fatigue, barely able to work, a single father with two kids, thinking I had to go on disability, I worried constantly. I couldn’t sleep and everything seemed stressful. Then, a wise man told me I had to stop worrying. I argued with him strenuously, providing a comprehensive list of all the real external events that were stressful to me. He just kept repeating that worrying was toxic; he said, what really mattered was how I viewed the situation, and he kept telling me I just needed to stop worrying.

And slowly, very slowly, I trained myself to watch my thoughts, my perceptions, and when a stressful thought came into my head, I stopped, took a deep breath, and just let go. It’s like a muscle—it gets stronger the more you use it, but if you let go, it relaxes.

But of course, life takes over and things happen, all the “D’s:” divorce, death, deadlines, demands, dumb thoughts, and dumb schedules. And as anyone does, I get sucked in to negative thinking, which creates stress in my body. My sleep gets interrupted, my muscles get tight, my mood gets cranky, but then I breathe and remember that stress is all in my head. We get so attached to our way of thinking, to our beliefs and attitudes about the way things should be or shouldn’t be, that it makes us sick.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t respond to injustice or experience intense feelings of joy, happiness, sadness, loss, or pain. I do. But I try just to be fully in them when they come, then experience the next moment, then the next and the next, and just show up with my whole self with love and attention. That’s the only thing I can do.

Most people, when they look at my life, think I’m crazy and wonder why I’m not more stressed—running a medical practice; writing books and blogs; teaching all over the world; working on health policy; volunteering in Haiti, churches, and orphanages; being a father, son, brother, partner, friend, boss, and more. But it’s actually quite simple. I don’t worry about things much. I simply wake up and do the next thing as best I can.

And when things get out of control, which they do, I simply make a gentle U-turn. It’s like a GPS for my soul. Your GPS doesn’t yell at you and call you stupid or judge you for taking a wrong turn. In the sweetest voice imaginable, the GPS reminds you to take the next possible U-turn.

Each of us has to find out how to make our own U-turn. There are some wonderful ways I have discovered that work very well for me!

Here’s how I make my U-turns (and I try to pick one or more each day):

  1. Move. The best way to burn off the stress hormones without having to change your thinking is to move and sweat. Run, dance, jump, ride, swim, stretch, or skip—do something vigorous and lively. Yoga is also fabulous, as it combines movement and breathing.
  2. Breathe. Most of us hold our breath often or breathe swallow, anxious breaths. Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound affect on resetting the stress response because the relaxation nerve (or vagus nerve and not the Las Vegas nerve) goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath. Take five deep breaths now, and observe how differently you feel after.
  3. Bathe. For the lazy among us (including me), an UltraBath is a secret weapon against stress. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt (which contains magnesium, the relaxation mineral), a half-cup of baking soda, and 10 drops of lavender oil (which lowers cortisol) to a very hot bath. Then, add one stressed human and soak for 20 minutes. Guaranteed to induce relaxation.
  4. Sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress hormones. Get your eight hours no matter what. Take a nap if you missed your sleep. Prioritize sleep.
  5. Think Differently. Practice the art of noticing stress, noticing how your thinking makes you stressed. Practice taking deep breaths and letting go of worry. Try Byron Katie’s four questions to break the cycle of “stinkin’ thinkin’” that keeps you stressed.

You can also try my UltraCalm CD, featuring guided meditations and relaxation techniques.

Also, I highly recommend tapping, a technique that combines ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. Pick up a copy of Nick Ortner’s new book The Tapping Solution to learn more. Another great stress-relief technique to try is Holosync, an audio technology designed by the Centerpointe Research Institute, which instantly (and effortlessly) puts you into states of deep meditation—literally, at the push of a button. Visit Centerpointe’s website to find out more. Also, check out meQuilibrium, a digital coaching system created by experts to change the way you respond to stress. It teaches specific skills to help you get a handle on all of the emotional, physical, and lifestyle imbalances that keep you from feeling your best.

Enjoy, and happy U-turns!

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

Deepak Chopra: What is Our True Identity?

At some point in our lives, we all ask ourselves, “Who am I, really?”

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra examines this question by looking at what constitutes mental reality and how that reality affects our sense of identity. Does mental reality boil down to thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories, and sensations? Is the observer of perception free of perception?

So – who are you, really? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Seeing Is Believing: How To Improve Your Relationships Through Perception

234/365 - 1 <3 photography 6/10By Dr. Andra Brosh

I like to take pictures with my very fancy camera. I love shooting photos because it’s one of the few places in my life where only my perspective matters.

When I’m taking pictures I lose all self-consciousness about how I see things, and can completely immerse myself in what I believe to be true and perfect. It’s my photo, my angle, and most importantly my point of view.

You may not know it, but your perspective of the world is extremely valuable. How you see things is just as important as how you feel. An even more important concept, however, is that your ability to share a different perspective from your own is one of the most valuable qualities you can have. Taking it even one step further, your ability to see things from another person’s perspective is an essential skill in maintaining a healthy relationship.

As human beings we have a very deep and basic need to be seen, and to have our experience and perceptions validated. When we are told that our point of view is “wrong” a little part of us dies inside, and we begin to question what we believe to be true in the world.

When you and your partner share an experience with each other that is perceived through each of your unique vantage points, neither of you are right. Denying another person’s perceptions, or questioning the validity of their perspective leaves them feeling misunderstood, insecure, frustrated, and angry.

Perspective is very closely aligned with empathy, but they are different. Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s situation with the intention of understanding how they feel. Sharing a perspective requires you to stand behind the other person, to look out at the world through their eyes, and to see what they are seeing.

It’s like looking through their camera once they set up the shot.

Sharing a perspective does not equate with agreeing, and it doesn’t mean your perspective has to be eliminated. It’s simply an opportunity to step back from what you believe to be true, so you can see something different. Accepting and acknowledging these ideas about perception will shift how you relate in the world, and it will also build an incredible sense of intimacy in your present relationship.

Here are three tips to share another person’s perspective:

  1. It’s all in the language. Avoid saying things like “That’s not true” or “Don’t be ridiculous” when your partner shares their experience. Try saying something like “I can see how you might see it that way, but…” or “I’m having a hard time seeing it the way you do, can you help me understand?”
  2. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to see things. Your experiences and perceptions of things are subjective. You get to have your view, and your partner gets to have theirs. If you feel the need to be right, your next step is to work on letting go of this unrealistic expectation so you can be more open.
  3. Use empathy and compassion to get there. When we are in a heated situation or feel strongly about something we often lose sight of the other person’s perspective. Using your imagination, and seeing that your partner is feeling just like you will allow you to step back, and be more objective.

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picofme2Dr. Andra Brosh is a Clinical Psychologist, writer, and thought leader. Her unique perspectives on life, love and connection stem from her own personal wisdom, and her knowledge of psychology and philosophy. Dr. Brosh’s work is founded on the fundamental truth that we are all wired to be relational beings, and that with the right guidance and tools everyone can find happiness and fulfillment in their interpersonal relationships.

Deepak Chopra: The Journey to Enlightenment

In the latest episode of “The Rabbit Hole” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra discusses the seven stages of consciousness and how they lead to enlightenment. Which stage of consciousness are you at currently?

Reality is entirely dependent upon perception, and perception occurs in consciousness. That is why reality may be different in the seven different states of consciousness (the first three of which we are most familiar with):

  1. Deep sleep
  2. Dreaming
  3. Waking
  4. Soul consciousness – In this state you become aware of yourself as the observer of reality. Who is listening? Who is watching? Ask yourself this right now, and see if you become aware of a silent witness: your core consciousness – or soul.
  5. Cosmic consciousness – This is to be in the world but not of it. Your silent witness – or soul – has awoken and is alert in all states, including deep sleep and dreaming.
  6. Divine consciousness – You witness the universal in the particular. All of existence is present in every manifestation of creation.
  7. Unity consciousness – The personal witness merges with the universal witness, and you experience the whole universe as your own extended body. In this state, your inner being radiates passion, love, and ecstasy.

So, would you like to make the journey to enlightenment?

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and join us tomorrow at 12PM PDT for our LIVE Google+ Hangout with Deepak Chopra, Sanjiv Chopra, Amy Purdy and other guests on “The Science of Survival”!

Deepak Chopra: Can Reality Set Us Free? The Puzzle of Complementarity (Part 2)

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

Click here for Part 1.

The most fascinating extension of complementarity has to do with complex systems. To a physicist, explaining how a pair of electrons behave together in outer space poses a major challenge; explaining how billions of neurons behave together in the brain defies not just the world’s largest computer but possibly any computer one can conceive of. Yet complex systems, including all life forms, stars, galaxies, and the post-Big Bang cosmos, are perfect examples of how looking at the whole can help explain the parts and vice versa.

Systems science has validated the adage about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Studying the materials that the great cathedral of Notre Dame is made of – stone, metals, stained glass, etc. – can give hints about the building and the historical times when it was constructed, but by no means is the great cathedral just the sum of these parts. It was created by conscious beings and reveals a living presence that dead physical objects cannot account for.

No matter how closely one examines the visible parts, there remains the riddle of how complexity arises, what holds it together, and why structures take the shape they do. In complex systems, the whole transcends its discrete parts even when some aspects of organization are hidden, unlike the architects of Notre Dame, who could unfold their blueprints in plain sight.

Another way to express this is by saying that like a cathedral, no complex system can be achieved by a series of simple operations. Carpentry and masonry are basic processes that go into making any building, but there is an infinite variety of buildings, and they depend upon a conception of the whole before you go to work. Reductionism in science is the methodology of exploring the Universe one brick and plank at a time, in discrete units. This cannot be the total story. To believe that reductionism is all we need misses the whole point.

In fact, when a physicist examines any complementary pairs, he notices that they appear to be paradoxical, since no aspect can apply under exactly the same conditions.  One construct of the pair excludes the other. Today science has reached the same levels of the paradoxical that ancient seers and sages knew from personal experience.  What is more paradoxical than human nature, since we are the most violent and at the same time the most compassionate of living things?

The dichotomy between what science studies (so-called objective reality) and what humans experience (anchored in subjective reality) is not fundamental – it merges into the complementary nature of existence. What we’ve called super complementarity embraces the subject and the object. The process of observing them makes both work together, even while each excludes the other. Science works from models out of a desire for closure, and excluding unwanted contradictions, as reductionism does, seems to offer it. But Nature doesn’t. Return to Notre Dame for a moment. How many ways can you observe it?

  • You can see it as a colossal solid mass casting a shadow and blocking out whatever stands behind it.
  • You can see it as a building with no particular significance except to provide shelter.
  • You can see it religiously as a church, or historically as an example of high Gothic architecture.

But these perspectives are only the beginning. Monet saw cathedrals as shimmering creations of light and color, with no solidity at all. The deeply religious see them as symbols of the marriage between Christ and his worshipers. Medieval pilgrims saw them as repositories of miracles, a space inhabited by God. There is no single way to view Notre Dame, and the versatility of our minds, which can choose any perspective and invent new ones, isn’t accidental. It mirrors Nature’s versatility in devising a wholeness open to every possible angle of observation.

This says that complementarity rules. There is no fruitful way to use the terms “whole” and “part” without seeing that what matters is how they relate, not what they appear to be. In complex systems, no relationship exists in the first place without a mind to create the relationship. You can build a house from field stones gathered after plowing an acre of hard New England ground. Without the concept of “house,” however, the stones aren’t building blocks.

Each concept erects a boundary around itself. (As a test, think of how many ways you can use an ordinary red brick. If you stay within the normal boundary, you might use a brick to build a wall or as a doorstop or as a weight to press dried flowers. But you can also grind the brick into a powder to tint red paint – suddenly it has lost one boundary and entered another.) Once placed inside a boundary, a thing can be understood, but since every boundary is a mental construct, the only way to reach complete understanding is either: A. Look at every possible boundary or B. Erase all the boundaries. The second path is much more fruitful. It opens you to the wonder of Notre Dame, not by adding up every narrow angle that it can be looked at from, but by envisioning the whole.

The beauty of the human mind – again mirroring Nature itself – is that it can grasp wholeness. We stand in awe before the Grand Canyon, not needing a swarm of geologists to pick away at the rocks as a means of getting there. Geology provides data; only a view of the whole provides awe. There is a profound mystery in how the mind resolves the paradoxical divisions in Nature. We’ll explore this uncanny ability in the next post. It will take us to the very heart of reality and the role that consciousness plays in turning a jumble of raw data into the richness of the world we live in.

* * *

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (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) Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.

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

Photo credit: Flickr

Look! Look! Look!

look

Oh, it is such nonsense! And it makes me so frustratingly angry! This does not exist, that does not exist, nothing exists, it’s just an illusion, the whole thing is an illusion, and I am not even here, I don’t exists. There is only one, uniform, featureless blob that, for some reason, I should call “sacred”!

God, but this pisses me off.

Why would you be so keen on non-existing? What is the desire, what is the attraction in proving that you are not really here, that life is not really here? What is it about this denial that makes you cling to it so?

Do you really, truly not want to be here so badly that you make yourself believe that there is no “here”? Do you really truly wish to believe that humans, plants, animals, waters, and winds are just a figment of the collective imagination? Why?

Why … a good question, that, all those questions are not bad, but not good enough. The real question is: why does it make me so angry?

But then I know why.

It is because I did not want to exist. For the longest time I wished for the world to not be here. The world was a scary, painful place, and I was too small, too hesitant, too broken to handle it. It was easier, much easier to believe that “all this is not real”. But I didn’t believe it, not really, and as I grew – so did the world. As I became stronger the world became friendlier. As I became braver the world became safer, until I became myself and the world became a paradise.

And now, when I hear some guru or another waxing eloquent on how this wonderful paradise does not really exist it just … God, it just pisses me off.

Redefining Attitude & Attention

Week 6 of Yoga Teacher Training

Patience is my work this week.

Being on my mat more than ever before is giving me lots of opportunities to work with this concept. Right now there is not that great yoga session after a few days of no yoga, where my body and mind are craving it. There is yoga every day and sometimes twice a day. My body and mind are not necessarily craving it, but this is where it gets interesting. This is where it gets new.

This is the “deepen your practice” aspect that teacher trainings promise. I’ve never been here before. This is a unique kind of “deep” that involves revisiting the same foundational poses in my same body and learning something new every time.

Learning to stretch my patience and sit with patience, both in myself and in my process is a little uncomfortable. As I settle into it more and more, I’ve started to notice a freedom that didn’t exist before. A little more space within the tightness. A relaxing into the discomfort. An acceptance.

A seeing where I am and a growing ability to not have to run from that or to that. Not into a deeper pose and not into a better place.

Since I’m working through the same postures multiple times a day, I get to observe my attitude and attention (or lack thereof) each time. I am seeing my limits reached and then asking myself what I need to do to last a little longer, to dig a little deeper, to honor my present moment more fully.

Surprisingly, there is something new and untapped every time I return to my mat. My legs are tired, but my standing poses have never felt more solid. My body is achy, but every down-dog feels like the first one ever. My mind is so alert from the accelerated learning that stillness has never been more clearly defined, and when there is silence I hear it more loudly than the sounds.

And so it happens that Patience invites me into my own body. Have a seat, she says. Everything you need is here.

Perception & Perspective

A spring daydreamer.

This is a concept I was reintroduced to this week. During class when a teacher was using a student to demo a particular asana and the rest of us were gathered all around, she pointed out an aspect of the pose. One student commented, “It doesn’t look like that from here.”

Her angle didn’t allow her to see what those of us at a different angle could see; and unless she got up and moved, she would never get a true visual of what was happening.

Thus I was reminded to take a closer look at my apparent perspectives. When I change my angle or my attitude in life, how quickly my perspective shifts and how profoundly what is perceived changes shape.

The Path

Through this teacher training I’ve come to appreciate on a new level that yoga is not about how it looks on the outside. It’s about what’s happening on the inside.

To this end, one of our teachers pointed out that as teachers we will often need to give different people different instructions to get to the same place.

The path we take to a pose is our own. The so-called end result is more about how we inhabit it than how we form it.

Throughout our lives we will find at times we can access our asana or meditation practice easier than other times. Our bodies and our minds change as our lives change. It will always be slightly different conditions we travel in, and our path will never be the same as someone else’s.

To travel our own path with our eyes and hearts wide open delivers us to our pose or our place of choice fully alive and fully lit up. We will all arrive at the same place through different processes. The place we arrive at is called Here.

Once we get Here, all we have to do is breathe. It doesn’t matter if you got here faster or slower than anyone else or what you look like on the outside. We are all breathing on the inside, and we are all Here.

Welcome. Take your seat. Settle in. Light It Up. This is it.

*****

This is the sixth part of a series.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4 
Week 5

photo by: graftedno1

Deepak Chopra: Time to Get Real – The Riddle of Perception Part 2

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By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, Murali Doraiswamy, MD; Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.; Menas Kafatos, Ph.D. 

In the first post we said that the world that we perceive, with all its colors, textures, and sounds, isn’t the same as the real world. Other creatures process the raw data of the world far differently from us, like the eagle that can spot a mouse from hundreds of feet in the air, or the desert fox, whose oversized ears can hear an insect crawling under the sand of a dune. As important as these differences are, the real question is how our brains turn sense data into reality, for that is what we are doing every moment of our lives. There is no light or sound inside the dark, damp recesses of the brain, no pictures or music, yet somehow we see, hear, touch, taste, and feel things as if they are reliably real.

They aren’t. A century ago quantum physics demoted the solid material world to a domain of probability waves arising from an infinite quantum field. But then a dead end suddenly appeared. Our minds think in time and space, yet if you want to know where the quantum field comes from, the next horizon is timeless and without location. Such a domain is literally inconceivable. This would be an academic point except that when you and I convert photons into visible light using the visual cortex, we are working at the quantum level.

It does little good to say that there is a “virtual” field or a “pre-created state” from which the visible universe emerged. These are suppositions that are conveniently employed when the truth about reality is simply X, the unknown. Calling it “timeless” simply pastes a word on to something our brains cannot think about, not as long as it takes time for neurons to operate. Across the border between the quantum field and X, the unknown, our minds cannot go. We are creatures of time and space, so naturally it’s not shocking that we aren’t able to conceive of the timeless and the dimensionless. Is it shocking that an earthworm can’t do algebra?

Yet in some miraculous way, we convert the inconceivable into our everyday world, as do all living creatures after their own fashion. In other words, we can do this amazing thing, but we can’t explain how. The brain cannot explain how it turns photons into the experience of redness. Much less than the brain explain itself, any more than a computer can explain its own software (since such an explanation requires software, the very thing that needs explaining). We cannot answer “What is a thought?” without thinking, and yet that’s the very thing to be explained. In all these matters, the snake winds up biting its own tail. The brain can think about itself when we decide to be self-reflective, but it can’t think outside itself.

If there is no material link between perception and reality, you could speculate that there is no reality at all, or infinite realities, or just images that we mistake for the real thing, like Plato’s shadows playing on the walls of a cave. Many sorts of mental trickery can be employed to get around the inconceivable. Yet there is no need for trickery, unless you are desperately attached to defending materialism by constantly patching its holes. The bald fact is that each of us is turning the inconceivable into the conceivable at every moment. In other words, we are participating in the chain of events that leads from X, the unknown, to a red rose on Valentine’s Day. Just as clearly, our participation is conscious. This leads to the hypothesis that consciousness is at the root of reality-making.

Science works by accepting the hypothesis that is the simplest and most elegant at offering an explanation. Since there has been not the slightest success in discovering how consciousness was created from atoms and molecules, it is far simpler – and therefore more scientific – to say that consciousness is the X, the unknown. It is also much simpler to assume that consciousness is the basic “stuff” of the universe. Atoms and molecules then become the symbols for the information that our brains produce in interpreting consciousness. In fact, as the creation of consciousness (like a piano created to make music), our brains can be considered as consciousness interpreting itself. As the philosopher Peter Wilberg  cogently points out, we don’t see because we have eyes; we have eyes because the mind wanted to see.

The Vedic tradition of India made such a claim when it declared that “the inconceivable gives rise to all that can be conceived.” A card-carrying scientist can shrug this off as metaphysics, but that, too, only attempts to patch the hole. The fact remains that reality isn’t perception, so if you want to know reality, perception is a false start. Arch materialists like Richard Dawkins, whose crusade is to deny the existence of spirituality, God, and higher reality – choose any term you want – can’t make a move without this same false start. They entirely rely on the perceptual world as a given, ignoring a century of quantum evidence that reality is, at best, highly questionable as a match for the five senses.

The philosopher Thomas Nagel has been a gadfly at the materialist picnic ever since his 1974 article, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” which raised the question of how different species perceive the world. His most recent book, Mind and Cosmos, has raised unusual ire for directly refuting neo-Darwinism and the materialist view of the cosmos. Nagel, an avowed atheist, wasn’t arguing on behalf of God but on behalf of logic and philosophy. There are too many holes in materialism for it to stand. If materialism falls, then science must shift, and as Nagel views it, the shift will be radical. As a respectable gadfly, he speculates that current evolutionary notions “will come to seem laughable in a generation or two.” It is not really a war between science and religion but a radically different approach between outdated materialism and consciousness-based science.

Since evolutionary theory tells us who we are and where life came from, Nagel’s prediction applies to science in general and the consensus that has formed around it. Who we are and where we came from are questions about reality itself. Our hypothesis is that consciousness came first; it is the source of evolution, life, creativity in nature, and the emergence of intelligence. The alternative, that random material events produced all those things, is simply untenable and ultimately unscientific. Should we be biased by the experience of skin-encapsulated mechanosensory receptors transmitting electrochemical signals to the brain? Must we be convinced of material objects floating around in a limited expanse of space surrounded by a void? Or is it easier to believe that our minds act as unique vessels of awareness navigating a universe of pure consciousness to create the notion of a material world? In the latter case, the story of creation is the story of consciousness becoming ever more aware of itself through a brilliant variety of life forms, including humans but not restricted to us.

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Murali Doraiswamy, M.D., 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)

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

www.deepakchopra.com

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