Tag Archives: Universe

Are Our Choices Predetermined For Us to Know Ourselves Better?

Screen shot 2013-12-06 at 9.46.49 AMMaking choices or decisions is not always as easy as it seems especially if there is more than one good choice option to choose from. What if you like a couple of things but don’t necessarily feel strongly towards any of them, does that make you indecisive? What if you feel like there are too many choices which feel like it overwhelms you and causes you to make no decision?

What if you believe that the option you choose is wrong or is there ever a wrong choice? Do we see this as an opportunity to grow and learn? Surely there are no wrong choices but always only a lesson learned? I was talking to a friend just the other day about exactly this point she was telling me how she didn’t really know what she wanted to study when she finished school and stumbled upon a degree in accounting because she had heard other people say they were doing it. She didn’t know if it was good or if she would like it but she did it anyway. She hated the course but felt obligated to do it because her parents were paying for it and she had already studied for 3 years towards this degree. At the end of her third year she decided to “come clean” and tell her parents how much she really wanted to study architecture.

“They were not happy with my decision but agreed to let me try architecture. During the first two years I felt guilty, what if I had made the wrong decision?  What if I was wasting my parents’ money? The guilt ate at me so much that I often wondered why I felt so depressed after choosing what I wanted”. So, she began asking herself what was my lesson? That question brought insight into what she felt and she realized that her lesson was to be true to herself and become who she wanted to be and not what was expected of her this encouraged her to stick with her passion which was architecture!  Obligation was a toxic emotion and one she didn’t want to be shackled to anymore. So she listened to the lesson learned which was to be true to herself. Steve Maraboli sums it up beautifully in his quote “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”

When it comes to liking more than one thing and being unsure of which to choose, well I believe that I won’t know if I like it or not until I try it. If I don’t like it I can always change my choice.

Elbert Hubbard said, “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” Fear is the one thing that can have the power to hold me back from making choices. So I need to feel the fear, acknowledge it and do it anyway. I often ask so what’s the worst thing that can happen? Regret? At that point I need to look at the blessing in the choice I have made and be at peace with it.

What if I make the wrong choice? All choices are lessons in disguise some are more obvious and others less so but they are not wrong just lessons we need to learn to help us be stronger or more aware or more in tune with ourselves. When we are faced with choices that overwhelm us then we need to approach it practically. What are the pros, what are the cons, we need to list these and work through them and then TRUST the decision we choose. It is always a choice and we have the ability to accept or deny ourselves the choices. Louise. L. Hay says “everything I do is by choice” I also like her affirmation “ I am good enough, I am not restricted by old, limiting beliefs from my family or from society”. I often share affirmations that I make up with my clients or use some affirmations from Louise L. Hay. I find that they are powerful tools that help us believe those positive thoughts and thus make them real.

So I would like to leave you with this affirmation, “Everything I choose is part of the Divine plan to help me to know myself better”

Is it Possible to Give Too Much?

Giving Hands I’m a giver. Being born with a giant heart, I’ve spent my life compassionately trying to help others whenever possible. When I see a group of kids standing outside the grocery store trying to raise funds for whatever cause, I always open my wallet. Same with those who show up at the doorstep. I’ve given up nights and weekends to serve on volunteer committees. As an employer, I’ve showered my staff with bonuses and growth opportunities in gratitude for their service. At home, we regularly clean out our closets and cupboards and donate any excess we can. These actions, as small (or big) as they are, have just been a natural extension of what I stand for. Being of service to others is very fulfilling and, frankly, something the world needs more of. However, like all good things, it can have a dark side. Yes, I do believe it is possible to give too much. Let me explain.

When I went in to business for myself in 2008, we were blessed with rapid growth and business “success”. As our employee size and bottom line grew, I knew that I wanted to give back even more. I created a program for our employees to pick a cause in the community and take paid time off to volunteer. We also donated to many others causes through sponsorships and workplace giving programs. I was invited to chair a local non-profit event, which was a pretty big undertaking, but my big heart told me to say yes as I dove right in to the responsibility. And, any time a friend asked for support on a project of their own, I was there to help them in any way I could. It felt great to have the capacity to give back so much. So, what was the problem?

After several years of very strong business growth, we experienced our first major down cycle. The company started losing money. Fast. Instead of laying people off right away, which would have been a strategic business decision, I felt compelled to work even harder to get our profits back up and keep things chugging along. Tried as I did, the economy was taking its toll. I was essentially losing tons of money to keep others on the payroll. Ouch. The ship was taking on water fast and I had to do something before it went under. Alas, I had to get smart and do what my heart dreaded – lay people off.

At this point, I felt like a failure. I was stressed about money. My heart ached for those who had to find new jobs and I felt guilty because they would struggle to pay their bills. I was hard on myself for not magically pulling it all together. On top of that, I was spread very thin with my volunteer work, my home life, and I had just recently become pregnant with our second daughter at the time. People continued to call on me to ask for help, but I finally had to draw the line in the sand and say “no”. I just couldn’t do it any more. It was time to help myself.

I secretly wanted my former employees to be like “thank you for keeping us on so long even though I know you were losing a lot of money.” Some of them did. But, others, of course, were stressed out about their own situation and a little less gracious. Some even hurtful. I wanted the organizations that I volunteered for to be like “Oh, we totally understand. Go take care of yourself and your family.” And, some of them were. But, others seemed disappointed and became less friendly when I couldn’t put in the hours any more. I wanted the friends whose projects I couldn’t support to be like “I understand you can’t support all of them..” And, most of them were. But, others took offense when I didn’t help.

So, here I was, at a pretty low point in my life. I was trying to resurrect my business, feeling horrible about it, and trying to take a step back to pull myself together so I could focus on what mattered most, the beautiful life I was creating inside my tummy. And, instead of offering support, some of the very people that my big heart had gone out of its way to help in the past were upset or disappointed in me because I could not or would not give to them any more. That twisted the knife even more. And, it hurt.

But, I couldn’t blame them, really. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t their fault. It was I that had taught them how to treat me, after all. I had spent so much time give, give, giving that I never set clear boundaries for myself and what my personal limitations were. In my eagerness to help others, I forgot to help myself. People got so use to me being a “yes” that they seemed less than satisfied when I finally had to say “no.’ Also, it had occurred to me that, even in my toughest times, I never asked anybody else for help. I had let the world know that I was a huge giver, but sent a message that I was some sort of superwoman that didn’t need any help. Therefore people were, go figure, not likely to offer their support. Truth be told, whether in the form of understanding, compassion, or just a little pat on the back to say, “it will be okay,” I would have been wide open to receiving that type of encouragement.

Like with all times of trouble, here within lied some incredibly valuable lessons for me. I used the turmoil I was experiencing in my outside world as a reflection of my inner-workings and took some time to go inward and grow from it all.

I’ve since prioritized what matters most in my life and choose to focus my time and energy on what makes my heart expand with love. I accept that, inevitably, I will have to disappoint some people along the way. And, unapologetically so. We simply can’t help everyone. I’ve discovered that we can work more efficiently and have a greater reach when our own truth and boundaries are honored. Often, saying no to others often means saying yes to our own life and dreams.

I’ve learned that everything needs to be in balance to experience harmony. So, I’ve put my intention out into the Universe that, as much as I give, I also want to feel supported. It’s a yin and a yang thing. And, since then, many special people and blessings have turned up in my life. When we are open to receiving, the Universe shows up for us.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have the same big huge heart that I was born with. And, when my cup floweth over, you betcha I’m going to share with those who need it. But, now I am careful not to empty out my own cup completely in the process. I have to honor myself and my family first. Then, I can divvy out what’s leftover as I see fit. People respect and understand personal boundaries. But it is up to us to effectively communicate them.

It’s amazing how much more you can give when you’re careful not to give too much. It’s also pretty remarkable just how much more support you receive once you open yourself up to it and let the Universe know you are ready.

To my fellow big-hearted ones, may you continue to bless others with your graciousness. But, please remember to take care of yourself and be ever-so-careful not to empty out your own cup in the process.

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photo by: Artotem

Stumbling Onto The Path of Awakening

meditation2
My path to awakening began in 2005, when during a time of major transition and deep personal sadness, my mother suggested I might find relief with yoga. She put me in touch with her friend, Grace, a yoga instructor at a fitness center in Indianapolis where I wound up taking my first yoga class. Five years later, on an afternoon lunch break, a co-worker introduced me to meditation for the first time. Yoga and meditation would continue to flow in and out of my life like waves in the ocean. I would dabble here and there and then get distracted and return to the way things had always been. These practices were nothing more than nice things to do sometimes if I was in the mood, but I didn’t feel connected to them in any meaningful way. They were more like novelties.

Two years passed by and in April 2012 I sought a Jyotish (Vedic astrology) reading from Swati Jr*. Her words didn’t make sense to me logically back then, but something about what she shared did feel true on an emotional level. Like she was whispering to parts of me that were hidden away from myself.

Six months later, on October 1st, I was lured into Moksha Yoga LA by a $40 special membership rate advertised in bright paint across the huge windows of their studio. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the heat on that first day, but I didn’t stop. I pushed through all of the sensations that come along with participating in a hot yoga class and left the studio feeling a bit out of body.

My general perspective of everything felt lighter and more expansive. It seemed to me like I was in on a secret and the people walking and driving by me didn’t appear to know what I now knew. I just felt a strange happiness that’s hard to explain in words and I couldn’t wait to go back. By my second or third class, I distinctly remember getting the sense that I was being pulled towards something that would change my life.

Thirty-one days after that first class, my life appeared to implode. Within the span of one month, my live-in boyfriend of two years ended our relationship, I was forced to find a new place to live and before I’d even had time to unpack the boxes, I was given the news that I was being laid off from my job. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Fuck. My. Life.

The main thing that kept me sane during this time was my then brand new yoga practice. I felt something when I was in the studio everyday. Something that told me to keep coming back. I listened to that feeling and stuck with a near daily practice.

During the five months I was unemployed, I took off on a lot of hikes through Griffith Park, abused my library card and booked a last minute trip to Bali and The Gili Islands, where I traveled solo for three weeks and experienced a sense of mindfulness for the first time in my life.

I didn’t know at the time that what I was experiencing was mindfulness, but when I look back, I recognize that that’s what it was. Slipping under the surface of the water off the coast of Gili Trawangan, snorkeling for the first time in my life and feeling rolls of amazement take over my being as I laid eyes on a fantastical underwater world. Willing myself to stay present in the indescribable perfection I was feeling in those moments. Overcome with gratitude as I experienced the feeling of something new, something absolutely, mind-boggling new, for the first time that I could ever remember in my adult life.

Sleeping when I was tired, eating when I was hungry, listening to my instinct and sharing myself with the people around me without thought or reservation. I traveled with a backpack and my yoga mat, stopping to breathe in the air around me, talk with strangers, wander without purpose and just be. I wrote and cried and listened and laughed and swam and kissed and danced and rode bikes and practiced yoga, but most importantly, I let go of time and other people and expectations. I just was.

When I came home to Los Angeles I felt different. Really different. And really good.

Then at the end of June in 2013, I began meditating everyday. A few weeks later, I participated in a 21-day meditation challenge hosted by Deepak Chopra and that’s when things really started becoming more clear for me. I was transitioning into a new awareness of my life and I have never felt more certain that I am living exactly the life I’m supposed to be living right now.

Since this time, I’ve devoted almost every energy to exploring the possibilities with meditation because I’ve become fascinated by the universe living inside me. Also, I feel as if someone wiped a layer away from my heart and now I’m capable of feeling the world instead of just living through it.

I read books, watch videos, seek out people who practice regularly, ask questions, sign up for seminars and classes, and look for opportunities to learn more about higher consciousness at every moment of the day. Discovering and understanding myself and the energy field we all exist within, make up, and move through, feels like it’s my reason for being here. It feels like I’m supposed to be collecting this information so that I can share it and talk about it and live it fully.

***

Aubrey is passionate about living life all the way and believes that a daily meditation practice can help anyone move into a totally engaged state of being alive. She published a book about her old life and is now busy living her new life so that she can write a follow-up about how awesome the world becomes when you’re finally able to slow down and feel into your body. She creates free guided meditations about once a week and you can connect with her on Twitter @MokshaDestiny

If you’re interested, I send out free guided meditations about once-a-week. Sign up here!

Who Is Right About Happiness? (Part 2)

happywomanClick here to read Part 1

Although the pursuit of happiness is so natural that it was written into the Declaration of Independence, modern psychology has turned doubtful about it. In the previous post I listed a few reasons why even the field known as positive psychology holds that being happy all the time is basically unrealistic. We tend to have accidental bouts of happiness that come and go beyond our control. Therefore, some researchers have concluded that the best a person can do is to achieve a general state of contentment, not a state of continual happiness (I’m not sure the two are very different, however).

Is it right to be doubtful of your prospects for a happy life? The counter argument would claim that humans are designed to be happy, until something goes wrong. The things that can go wrong are many – stress, personal disasters, thwarted desires, and bad luck come to mind. Then there are the various spiritual strains that promise us grace, God’s love, and divine protection. These have had a powerful effect on humankind even at the worst of times, when the lot of the average person included disease, want, poverty, and oppression. Is God’s love a fantasy to compensate for all these causes of suffering?

Our doubts about happiness can’t be answered abstractly. The best theory can’t make you happy; you have to test it. This testing requires choices, and choices are limited. If you stand back, most people live their lives according to a set of beliefs, and over the years they manifest what they expect out of life. (That’s why so many highly successful people were raised by loving, supportive mothers who told them how wonderful they were. If you go through life with such positive expectations, your choices are likely to be self-affirming rather than self-defeating.)  The importance of choice tells us something important right off the bat. There is no such thing as a passive road to happiness. Even if humans are designed to be happy, they must activate the possibility rather than wait for the design to unfold on its own.

Despite the fad for viewing happiness as accidental, it’s more productive to test for yourself the kind of decisions that promote happiness. What should you do to make yourself happy right this minute? The array of possibilities is quite wide.

Avoid stressors that are avoidable.

Fix problems immediately – don’t procrastinate.

Bond with people you care about.

Do things that are meaningful to you.

Give your brain positive input. Avoid needless negativity.

Address the signs of depression and anxiety.

Assert control over your life. Don’t be dependent on others or dominated by them.

Be of service.

Walk away from situations you can’t improve.

Find a source of genuine fulfillment.

Don’t do things you know to be wrong.

Speak your own truth.

Express appreciation and affection toward others.

Find something that inspires you. Don’t waste time on distractions.

Allow time for play.

Leave room for down time.

Set aside a fixed time for reflection and meditation.

Focus on long-term pleasures, like planning a vacation, rather than short-term gratification.

Notice that nothing on this list is a matter of faith, religion, or spiritual aspiration. No one is appealing to perfect love, understanding, or compassion.  Happiness doesn’t await a tremendous kind of personal transformation. Instead, these are practical choices that are well documented to improve a person’s happiness. One finding from positive psychology that’s actually positive is this: To make a happy life, make your day happy. Immediate decisions matter the most.

You might cast a skeptical eye at the things I’ve listed, believing that this is nothing but a laundry list that is too long to be useful. But let me suggest otherwise. Most people are unhappy because they ignored the items on the list. They allowed too much stress to enter their lives, or they refused to walk away from impossible situations, or they allowed themselves to become dependent on somebody else, just to give a few leading examples. The other lesson from this list is that living unconsciously doesn’t bring happiness – each item asks for focus and awareness. What you aren’t conscious of, you can’t change.

So before you lament that life is unfair or that only a select few are born to be happy, consider every item on the list as it applies to you today, right this minute.  Set aside your beliefs about ultimate happiness and focus instead of today’s happiness. It’s also useful to itemize the things that are almost guaranteed to create unhappiness.

Putting up with unnecessary stress.

Denying that a problem exists and putting off its solution.

Isolating yourself, not interacting with people you care about.

Engaging in routine or meaningless work.

Exposing yourself to needless negativity and negative people in general.

Feeling depressed or anxious and simply putting up with it.

Allowing someone else to dominate you, make decisions for you, or exerting too much control.

Acting selfish, offering little or nothing to others.

Stubbornly enduring an impossible situation.

Putting your own fulfillment on hold.

Doing things you know to be wrong.

Going along to get along, not upholding your own values.

Forgetting to express how much you appreciate and value others.

Wasting time on distractions.

Treating everything as work, duty, or obligation.

Leaving no room for down time.

Allowing yourself no time to reflect and meditate.

Focusing on short-term gratification.

Many will be tempted to protest that two laundry lists are worse than one. Both are unrealistic. In fact, you have enough time in the day to do everything on the positive list and avoid everything on the negative list. What you need isn’t enough hours in the day. You need to value self-awareness. Once you want to be more aware, the intention to create happiness becomes realistic – you are motivated to be the author of our own fulfillment. It’s amazing how many people don’t value their happiness enough to pay attention to it. Once you do, you will discover for yourself if lifelong happiness is feasible or not. It won’t be a matter of theory or delayed gratification.

In the next post we will get at the deeper issue of whether human beings are designed to be happy, a question central to every strain of religion, spirituality, and depth psychology.

(To be cont.)

 ***

www.deepakchopra.com

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Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 13)

NASA's Hubble Sees A Majestic Disk of StarsClick here to read part 12!

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

Getting contemporary physics to begin with the observer meets a great deal of resistance, but an observer-based science has one great advantage: There is no other way to get where we want to go.  Once physicality ends at the Planck scale, something must hold the universe together, and this something can’t be in time or space, nor can it be made of physical “stuff.”  We won’t leap to the obvious conclusion: this something sounds an awful lot like God. The word “God” can conjure many different reactions based on different traditions and history. To use a value-neutral word, what this something actually sounds like is reality itself. The skeptics have their chance for rebuttal. If anyone can define reality in non-physical, non-linear terms, freed from all boundaries and yet capable of erecting the incredibly organized cosmos, it’s difficult to imagine how mind isn’t the answer.

Otherwise, a timeless agency that can create time, a causeless entity that gave rise to causation, and a source that has no place but created space itself – such an origins story would be inconceivable to us without it being conscious. And so we finally come to our conclusion.  Where time, space, matter, energy, gravity, and mathematics reach their limits, there is the source of creation, and the most plausible candidate is consciousness.  Reality is more than existence waiting to be filled with random events. It is existence guided and governed by the qualities of consciousness – intelligence, self-organization, self-awareness, orderliness, evolution, and infinite creativity.  What will it take for anything like consensus on this conclusion? The dominant metaphors of our modern culture are those of science and engineering.  These metaphors prejudice the contemplation of the question, what is the mind?

Materialist ways of thinking posit that the universe is an immense machine that created things like mind and the human brain by randomly tossing the building blocks of atoms and molecules until they happened to land in a pattern instead of scattered across the floor. In this series of posts we’ve taken you from an automatic acceptance of these dominant, mechanistic metaphors, not to prove that they are wrong but to raise sufficient doubt about their certainty that you can entertain another possibility: Consciousness, or mind, is what the universe arises from and is made of.  Mind isn’t just gurgling out of brain cells like water from a spring. It isn’t merely a side effect of the brain’s electrical and chemical activity, like heat from a bonfire. There isn’t logical substantiation that brain = mind, even though  the majority  of scientists, philosophers, and the public may assume that this is so, since thoughts come out of the brain. Music comes out of a radio, but that doesn’t mean that radio = music. Radios don’t contain little tiny rock bands or news commentators or symphony orchestras, yet they give rise to rock and roll, commentary, and symphonies. Radios transduce radio waves, which embedded in the infinite electromagnetic field, into specific, understandable auditory signals.

Similarly, the brain can be just as readily conceived of as the transducer of infinite Mind into our specific thoughts. And the brain could just as easily be thought of as transducing the quantum field into everything we perceive: matter, energy, time, space, and all perceived sensations. Could Mind have used evolution to arrive at the brain so that we can live as adaptable, interactive beings in a world that perfectly mirrors our conception of it? In this view, our brains are mind the way every subatomic wave/particle is also mind. This unity solves the problem of deriving brain from mind or vice versa – they are two aspects of the activity of consciousness. The seemingly intractable issues that science faces today, particularly the challenge of consciousness, may actually have a simple answer, as we propose here. There’s no surprise, then, that an fMRI scan can pick up very specific brain activity that corresponds with a person’s emotions, mood, desires, and other aspects of mind. The match is seamless and perfect, as it has to be.  Radios don’t get to eliminate the violins from a Mozart symphony; there has to be electrical activity for every aspect of the music. This is where the radio metaphor gets difficult: Can you imagine a functional radio that is itself constructed of radio waves?  In a very real sense, a radio, along with the entire universe, is derived from invisible wave functions. So ascribing mind to neurons merely begs the question. No “thing” can give rise to mind. Hard as it may be to accept, “things” were metaphors all along.

As easy as it is to think that the brain in its skull casing is all that is necessary to produce mind, it’s just as easy, if you permit yourself, to think of Mind as the fundamental nature of everything that exists. By definition, reality lies beyond metaphors.  We’ve tried to convince you that the conventional set of metaphors must be discarded if you want to know reality, which means knowing yourself. Rather than discarding science, we are expanding it. We ask you to contemplate: What is the most scientific approach?  One that excludes some topics as “inappropriate for study”?  Or one that encourages even-handed investigation of all the evidence and phenomena at hand?   This is where “thinking outside the box” pays its greatest dividends, by expanding the capacity to be human and along the way to solve the unending mystery that is “you.”

* * *

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

 

Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 12)

University of Maryland Brain Cap Technology Turns Thought into MotionClick here to read part 11!

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

In our prior post we reconstructed the concept of “you”, which we all typically, think of as bounded by the skin and the body it encloses.  But a hallmark of 21st-century science is to tear down boundaries.  A limitless universe that springs from the quantum vacuum, (along with possibly multiple universes) is the setting for an unbounded “you” – a self that merges with creation. The bond that unites you with the universe isn’t simply physical, although every atom in your body comes from stardust, much of it the residue of exploding supernovas in intergalactic space.  Far more importantly, “you” are a mental construct, and therefore the bond that weaves your life into cosmic life is invisible.

We’ve argued that human intelligence most plausibly arose from an intelligent universe. As the great physicist Erwin Schrödinger declared, “To divide or multiply consciousness is something meaningless.” In other words, consciousness is one. It only appears to be divided up into billions of human minds, and likely into uncountable forms of consciousness in other species. In the same way, you might see an aqua sweater as blue while I see it as green, but “color” itself is a single thing; two people can’t have their own separate definition of it.

There’s a telling metaphor in the Vedic tradition: When the sun shines on a perfectly still sea, there is one sun reflecting back. But when the sea is rippled and moving, there are millions of tiny suns shining back. This appearance doesn’t mean that the sun isn’t one. This insight comes very close to an ancient passage from one of the central texts in Indian spirituality, the Yoga Vasistha: “Cosmic consciousness alone exists, now and ever. In it there are no worlds, no created beings. That consciousness reflected in itself appears to be creation.”

In short, either consciousness is unbounded or you haven’t looked deep enough. The reason that Schrödinger felt competent to talk about unbounded consciousness was that physics had finally reached deep enough, to the most fundamental level of nature. In the quantum realm we know for certain that notions of “boundaries” evaporate: the wave functions that describe the locations and boundaries of “particles” extend in all directions to the borders of the universe itself.  Eventually the dissolution of boundaries became total. Einstein, who was a conservative in these matters compared to some of the other quantum pioneers, wrote a condolence letter to a friend who had just lost her husband. It contained the following famous passage: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Quantum physics forced us to re-conceive ourselves as creatures who appear to be physical and bounded by time, even though our substance isn’t material and has no boundaries in time. Down further in scale, re-conceiving who we are becomes an ever greater imperative: gluons, quarks, neutrinos, mesons, bosons (including the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle”) all intimately overlap. The universe – and you – continually bubbles up from these shadowy subatomic entities, each sensing, reflecting, and interacting in a seamless whole. In the nanoseconds when these elusive entities escape their invisible domain, science touches on the same picture painted by the Yoga Vasistha, of a creation born of unseen activity beyond the reach of inner thought and probably beyond the reach of imagination as well.

What’s left is mathematics clinging to the edge of the cliff with clutched fingers, hoping not to fall.  But mathematics isn’t reality, while consciousness is. All of us, including scientists, protect our boundaries, finding it hard to join unbounded reality. But if consciousness is real, we don’t have to leap into an alien realm to reach the foundation of creation – it is inside ourselves. The limits of physicality have been reached. This is an area on which there is scientific consensus, thanks to quantum theory: There is a smallest level of scale beneath which one can go no further, at least in this “real” universe of four-dimensional spacetime, known as the Planck scale: 10-35 meters (-1 followed by 35 zeros).  Besides defining where physicality ends, the Planck scale also marks the end point of the environment that encloses material things, such as time, space, and the laws of nature.

We don’t know for sure what the smallest entities are like.  (The five senses don’t help at such an inconceivable scale.) Some think they are the “multidimensional strings” of string theory, but there are other theories as well each sorely lacking in evidence but backed up by various intricate and beautiful mathematical formulations – indeed, the real problem is that there are too many mathematical possibilities that all seem equally valid – or invalid. Whatever the smallest “stuff” is, it cannot be subdivided into smaller bits and pieces with known locations in time and space.  Instead, the universe emerges from the energetic void that is the foundational nature of creation. But even “void” is a tricky term, since the pre-creation state isn’t empty, a pure, empty, vacuum. There are huge amounts of energy linked to vast numbers of virtual particles that potentially manifest an observable reality. Emptiness is spontaneously and continuously giving rise to these tiniest entities, coming and going in a “quantum foam.”  Thus, from the smallest level of scale, the universe is not a place, an empty box in which we reside.  Creation is a process that brings existence out of non-existence. You are that process. You are seamlessly woven into a reality that is complete, whole, and perfect just as it is.

Surprisingly to some but not to all, the subjective experiences found in the Yoga Vasistha and many other ancient texts emphasize the unity of experience. These texts, as it turns out, precisely reflect our objective scientific understanding of how the universe arises. The usual terms attached to ancient texts (e.g., spiritual, religious, wise, intuitive, enlightened) send up red flags to scientists and their ingrained distrust of subjectivity. So let’s resort to a neutral term that links subject and object: observation. In a reality where artificial boundaries have collapsed, the “in here” of subjectivity is no longer walled off from the “out there” of objectivity. The seamless flow of creation expresses itself in both. An observer-based science can be founded on meditation or the Hubble telescope. In a dualistic framework these are opposite poles.  But they come together in an unbounded framework.

For a century quantum physics has wrestled with the so-called observer effect as it impinges on isolated waves and particles. It was mind-blowing enough to believe that the process of observation turned waves into particles.  But the logical extension is mind-expanding: Everything in the universe depends on the linkage between observer, observed, and the act of observation. If it is willing to adopt a touch of humility, science will see that ancient contemplative traditions arrived at conclusions that were not duplicated until “objective” methods acquired incredibly advanced, precise tools. The Higgs boson required billions of dollars in machinery, and countless hours of theorizing, in order to pry out a new piece of knowledge about how subatomic particles emerge from the void. The ancient wisdom traditions began with the big picture instead, and their descriptions of the big picture still outstrip ours. The ancient explorers of consciousness understood the nature of the void, encountered not through mathematical calculation but through direct experience. The void revealed itself to be none other than mind, usually written as Mind to signify that it lies beyond our small, personal minds.

To be continued… 

* * *

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

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

Deepak Chopra: Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 10)

Skeleton InvertedClick here to read Part 9!

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

So your genome – the sum total of your genetic inheritance – is not sufficient to code for the entire structure of your digestive tract. You are alive because of your connection to the outside world; indeed, there is no boundary between you and the outside world’s abundance of life.

This realization changes the picture of genes, too. They code for your cells, tissues, and organs; moreover, genes code for the interactions between your cells and the neighboring bacteria, with biomolecules being passed back and forth. The biochemistry of digestion is a shared project between your body and bacteria, a basic fact acknowledged for decades, but by implication, without bacteria there can be no you.

This observation can be extended in every direction. Without trees breathing in carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen, you couldn’t breathe – the forests are part of your lungs. Without viruses constantly mutating, you would have many fewer antibodies – every virus is part of your immune system. The rivers that circulate fresh water are part of your bloodstream. These connections aren’t incidental. Your body is the world, and by extension, so is your brain, since you share with the world every molecule, chemical reaction, and electrical impulse that constitutes the brain.

It makes people woozy to accept that there is no boundary between “me” and the whole world. What about the skin? It is portrayed in high school biology class as an impermeable barrier protecting you from invaders assaulting the body from “out there.” But the metaphor of the skin as living armor isn’t viable. Pause and move your hand, observing how the wrist and finger joints move under the skin. Why doesn’t the skin break down with all this motion, the push and pull of your fingers closing and extending, your arm bending and stretching? Because the bacteria lining the creases in your skin digest the cell membranes of dying skin cells and produce lanolin, which lubricates the skin. How long would “you” and your genome last if your skin were cracking, open to infection just from typing on a laptop or waving goodbye to someone?

What is your body now? It’s no longer just a human body. It’s a community of single cell organisms that function harmoniously together (in times of good health) organizing themselves into tissues and organs. Such astonishingly complex cooperation implies a host of surprising things:

  • Your genes are siblings of bacterial genes.
  • The evolution of bacteria is actually human evolution at the same time.
  • One intelligence binds micro-organisms and “higher” life forms.
  • There is no sharp dividing line between “smart” creatures and the “dumb” micro-organisms that evolved alongside them.

A skeptic may protest that we’ve used physical evidence to support a theory of mind. But science does the same thing all the time. By equating mind and brain, neuroscience has backed itself into a corner, forced to explain thoughts by looking at the interaction of molecules. In the final post of this series, we’ll get out of that corner by putting mind first and brain second. That way, we solve the problem of how molecules of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon – the majority of “stuff” in the brain – learned to think. The obvious answer is that they didn’t. We think because we are expressions of the mind, not robots being operated by the brain.

(To be continued…)

* * *

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

A is for Alignment: NASA, Spirituality, and Our Evolving Universe

heic1316aAn Alignment is the synchronization of apparently separate events and elements into one singular harmonic convergence. In all spiritual traditions, the phenomenon of Alignment is both a prerequisite to and a signifier that things are unfolding with an underlying intelligence and order to them.

It’s both highly desirable and highly auspicious because it’s a marker that dissonance and chaos have been collapsed and that coherence has become the prevailing vibration.

When Alignments occur, there’s an opportunity for a quantum shift: to take not just the next step, but to move through dimensions and find yourself in a space where you’re ready to take the 10,008th step as if you had already made all of the ones in between.

It can happen in careers:

When after years of trying to get your scientific research funded and noticed by the relevant players in your field, you find out that all the players who you want to work with are coming to your department for a 3 day review and you have been selected to organize their welcome and farewell reception; this is an Alignment.

It can happen in families:

When you unite with your mother and two brothers for a Christmas holiday, putting you all in the same place at the same time for the first time in 9 years due to you all living in different countries now – and within 24hrs of your all being together, you receive a phone call telling you that your estranged father, who abandoned his family 20 years earlier, has died and you should all come together now to arrange his passing ceremonies; This is an Alignment.

It can happen in relationships:

When the first man you have said yes to in six years for a date, is driving you to a kirtan on your first date together, and you both find out that the closest female friend you’ve made in the SoCal town you have just moved to all the way from Europe, happens be his best friend of the last 10 years. This is an Alignment.

***

All Alignments have the effect of triggering irreversible healing and transformation.

When the Alignment is over,  you find yourself in a different position from where you were before – as if you stepped through a Stargate that transported you to a different place than the one you were in before it ever happened.

Mostly, when an Alignment is over, you may feel like you have evolved.

No Alignment is ever accidental, although why it is happening may not always be understood as it happens.

Just like it is hard to make observations about evolution when we watch it in real time, what is happening during an Alignment may not be understood in real time as it happens.

And just like evolution, or history, it is when we look retrospectively that we can begin to understand the lasting changes, the transformations that emerged and changed our reality in palpable ways from any given Alignment in a particular period of time.

***

Today, Nasa’s Hubble Telescope ran a story called ‘Bizarre Alignment of Planetary Nebulae’ in which it reported that over 100 nebulae are unexpectedly, to the deep surprise of scientists, showing an alignment with our galaxy.

All these nebulae formed in different places and have different characteristics. Neither the individual nebulae, nor the stars that formed them, interact with other planetary nebulae. However… Many of these…appear to have their long axes aligned along the plane of our galaxy…While any alignment at all is a surprise, to have it in the crowded central region of the galaxy is even more unexpected…

From a spiritual perspective, an Alignment is marker of evolution in progress. Change is happening.

Exactly what and how is being transformed, can be properly understood only after the Alignment is over.

Until then, we can put our faith in the only thing we can all trust: the knowledge that evolution can not be stopped.

 

Originally published on my website, The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spirituality.

Photo credit: NASA Hubble

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