Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor at UCSD Medical School, Researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers.
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Does the Human Mind Need a Fresh Start?

freshstart

Most people would agree, even without a degree in psychology, that many if not most problems are created by the mind. It’s impossible to be human without the functioning of the higher brain (the cerebral cortex), which is proportionately larger in Homo sapiens, and evolved with unusual swiftness into the state where it can process mathematics, philosophy, art and science. But we are trapped by the mind at the same time, as witness centuries of war on a vast scale down to daily episodes of domestic abuse in the home, or take a clinical view at the countless people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental distress.

 

Medicine aims to relieve people of mental distress, with the goal of addressing a mood disorder like depression, for example, and returning the mind to a normal state. But this only highlights our confusion over what “normal” means, because there are plenty of ills created by people who would pass the test for normality. In our own minds was born the atom bomb, toxic chemicals, ecological depredation, authoritarian regimes, religious and racial prejudice, and so on. Normal still leaves the human mind ignorant of how to escape itself, which could be the true mark of Homo sapiens as a unique species.

 
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Unveiling Reality: The Mystery of “Who Am I?”

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At a public lecture, a psychology professor was reported to say, “Until you are fifty, you won’t know who you are.” This seems overly optimistic, because much more than maturity is involved in discovering who we are; in fact, much more than psychology is involved. To answer, “Who am I?” requires us to take a stand about reality itself, in every possible aspect.

 

In high school and college English classes it’s popular to assign an essay on the theme of appearance versus reality, which can be applied to any piece of literature. As applied to Hamlet, for example, almost the whole play is about figuring out what is real and what is illusory. Is the ghost of Hamlet’s father real, and if so, is he telling the truth about his murder? The new king, Claudius, who has married Hamlet’s mother, appears friendly and caring about his stepson’s welfare at the beginning, but this sham is uncovered as guilt and revenge take their course. There are more tangles of appearance versus reality around every corner, such as the critical question of whether Hamlet is mad or sane.

 
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Artificial Intelligence Is Already Here - It’s Us

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As news keeps pouring out about the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI), people don’t know how much to welcome the technology or fear it. There are warnings from top-level scientists about a future in which super computers become so advanced that they leap into autonomy. Freed to make their own decisions, AI could lead to machines that create catastrophes like starting a war. On a more mundane level, robotics has steadily replaced humans in many jobs. Some experts declare that few jobs performed by a human being could not eventually be duplicated with a machine more cheaply and efficiently.

 

Yet in the midst of this worrisome situation, which also holds vast promise, the irony is that the direst perils of AI are already here, in the form of our own human intelligence. We feel intuitively that we have natural intelligence, not the artificial kind. After all, nobody built us from mechanical parts; we lead emotional lives; we are capable of insight and self-reflection. Despite these things, however, the human mind is deeply artificial in many ways, and the negative connotations of the word “artificial”—fake, lifeless, illusory, mechanical, arbitrary—apply to everyday life.

 
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How Reality Is Made: The Play of Consciousness

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It’s a peculiar part of being human that we have both a mind and consciousness but cannot tell them apart. The difference is that the mind is constantly in motion, producing sensations, thoughts, images, and feelings, while consciousness is the basic “stuff” of the mind, which remains unchanged no matter how active the mind is. By analogy, paintings are produced by endlessly combining colors in new ways, while “color” itself is unaffected. A painting can neither create nor destroy color.

 

This inability to know the difference between mind and consciousness has created a trap that we all fall into. We create something from the “stuff” of consciousness and then forget that we created it. The trap becomes obvious with something like a dictatorship, when an ordinary human being becomes a figure of total belief and worship. From outside the ideology, you can see the deception—the very people who feel powerless before the dictator in fact created him and then felt powerless before him. But similar deceptions in everyday life escape our notice, and in that way, we trap ourselves.

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An Educated Society Can No Longer Hide from Consciousness

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By Deepak Chopra, MD and Anoop Kumar, MD

Because science is the primary way we view reality, it has shaped the minds of students from grade school through graduate studies and beyond. But behind the scenes, experts are telling a new story--and in fact have been doing so for at least a century. In the July 2005 issue of Nature magazine, Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, wrote:

 

“...The 1925 discovery of quantum mechanics solved the problem of the Universe’s nature. Bright physicists were again led to believe the unbelievable — this time, that the Universe is mental.” This startling realization has not yet impacted our education system, and yet decades before Prof. Henry’s comment, the eminent British physicist Sir James Jeans wrote that “the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter... we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter...”

 

 

These radical insights ran counter to the default worldview of science, which founds reality on objectivity (facts, data, experiments, mathematical formulations) and holds a deep suspicion of subjectivity. The irony of such a position is that consciousness, the “stuff” of all mental activity, is also the stuff of the mental activity we label as science.

 

The resistance to a mental universe remains strong, and once again dates back decades, as when another eminent physicist, Sir Arthur Eddington, noted, “It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character...” What scientists cannot accept eventually trickles down into what teachers don’t teach. Since we were children, our teachers have taught us that the world is made of little things called particles or atoms. They were only partially right. In fact, particles and atoms are mental concepts and images, a way of objectifying experiences of the mind.

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Waking Up to Reality Directly

Waking Up to Reality Directly

Many, perhaps most, people would like to change their lives. They’d like the good parts to get better and the bad parts to go away. How you define these good and bad parts are entirely individual, reflecting the infinite diversity of human life. But consider yourself and take stock of where you are now. No one can do this realistically without wanting something to change. Yet after a certain point most people realize that change is difficult, and the path to finding a better life is twisted and rocky. A certain percentage will simply decide that “people don’t change” is a fact of life. If you are a hard realist, you give up trying to change yourself, much less anyone else.

 

With this background, it seems strange that so many people hold out the goal of total transformation, and in fact every spiritual tradition supports this, whether through redemption, salvation, the promise of heaven, enlightenment, or Nirvana. Total transformation goes far beyond making some changes in your life. If limited change is difficult, isn’t it folly to hold out for complete change?

  

Yes and no. The way that people struggle to break bad habits, improve their relationships, stop feeling anxious and insecure, and hoping to stay afloat financially is where change often proves futile. The mind struggling with itself can’t help but wind up with more struggle. In the world’s wisdom traditions, there is also a deep analysis of the ego, the isolated individual “I,” which by its nature is constantly presenting demands that never get satisfied, not to mention that the isolated “I” is by its very nature small and insecure. So relying on your ego or the restless mind doesn’t lead to meaningful personal change.

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Creating Your Own Enlightenment

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To be enlightened has many positive connotations and no negative ones. Therefore, you’d think that more people would pursue it—but they don’t. The first obstacle is the lack of a clear definition. What does it actually mean to be enlightened? The simplest definition, which would clear away a lot of confusion is “waking up.” To become enlightened is to move out of a state of confusion and conflict, anxiety and depression, or simply dull routine—whatever you associate with “being asleep.”

 

Waking up is a metaphor, since most people already consider themselves awake in the ordinary sense of not being asleep in bed. But it’s a powerful metaphor, pointing toward a state of awareness better than what we usually experience. Also, the metaphor is simple. It implies that you don’t have to be a monk sitting in a Himalayan cave practicing intense spiritual practices. Waking up sounds a lot like enlightenment for all. This in fact is true.

 
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How to Manage Your Own Evolution

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Human beings are the only living creatures who can manage their own evolution. We can decide to progress and grow or to devolve and ultimately destroy ourselves. This isn’t a Darwinian proposition. Darwin’s theory of evolution is based on the struggle for survival where two factors dominate: being able to mate and to find enough food. Homo sapiens escaped those factors (for the most part) in recent times. Our evolution moved from primitive survival needs into the realm of consciousness.

 

This turns out to be the most fascinating aspect of being human, and not just in the abstract. Current planetary crises, from climate change to famine, epidemic disease, and overpopulation, starkly inform us that we are not managing our evolution well. A rogue state like North Korea holds up a mirror to our propensity for irrational violence and self-destruction. In short, managing our evolution means that we must learn a new way to manage consciousness. How did we get here and what can the individual do about it?

 
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Will the Gut-Brain Connection Revolutionize Wellness?

Will the Gut-Brain Connection Revolutionize Wellness?

Three decades ago, the brain lost its sovereignty as the seat of thinking, feeling, and the operation of intelligence. In fact, those processes began to escape the confines of the nervous system itself. All of this occurred when it was discovered that various “messenger molecules” associated with the brain are in fact circulating throughout the body via the bloodstream. Every cell is eavesdropping on the brain’s activity, sending and receiving messages identical to those that the brain processes.

 

Over the next three decades, the realization that what we dub “intelligence” is a holistic feature of the body, the main difference being that outside the brain, this intelligence is nonverbal. The immune system’s incredible ability to identify and combat invading bacteria and viruses, in fact, has earned it the nickname of the floating brain. Everywhere researchers looked, new avenues were opening in a virtual information superhighway that reaches everywhere, and now it is possible to redefine wellness in terms of a “whole system” approach that has no need to recognize the artificial boundaries between brain and body, neurons and other cells, or even the distinction between human DNA and the countless other microbial genes that reside inside us.

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Where Does Wellbeing Come From? A Better Answer

w\Where Does Wellbeing Come From? A Better Answer

It is much easier to understand what makes people unhappy than to understand what makes them happy. Happiness is undermined or destroyed by violence, poverty, illness, and other external factors, leading to the inner states of depression, anxiety, and misery. Here, the link between inner and outer poses no mystery. It seems common-sensical that by reversing the causes of unhappiness, happiness will result.

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A Worldview that Can Liberate Everyone

A Worldview that Can Liberate Everyone

When the world looks as turbulent and troubled as it does now, people feel trapped. Instead of feeling secure in prosperous safety zones, even developed countries now feel the pressure of uncontrollable forces, including stateless terrorism, a historical peak in refugees, the threat of epidemic diseases, and fast-encroaching climate change. How many people truly believe that these problems will be solved—or are even solvable? An erosion of hope is underway, and this more than anything must be reversed.

 

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If Reality isn’t Naïve, We Shouldn’t Be, Either

If Reality isn’t Naïve, We Shouldn’t Be, Either

On many fronts, describing reality has turned into a kind of Mission: Impossible. This would surprise most people, because in everyday life two versions of reality seem perfectly acceptable. The first version takes reality at face value, trusting the senses—and common sense—to tell us what is real and what isn’t. The second version, known as scientific realism, also relies on the senses but in a more sophisticated fashion—when the eyes tell us that the sun rises in the East, science steps in with the actual facts of astronomy.

 

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Ending the Dread of Cancer

Ending the Dread of Cancer

We will most certainly have entered a new era in medicine when the dread of cancer has abated. For decades this dread has been well founded. Both the disease itself and its treatments created anxiety, which is the worst of both worlds. Emotional attitudes tend to shift slowly. What would it take to turn the corner on cancer?

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Optimistic Thoughts About Cancer - For Real

Optimistic Thoughts About Cancer - For Real

It's hard to get people to feel optimistic about cancer, with good reason. It remains the most feared diagnosis in medicine, and fear is a powerful force, all the more so when it contains irrationality. If you ask women, for example, which disorder they are more anxious about, breast cancer or heart disease, there's little doubt what the answer would be. But fear is a very bad guide to reality. Out of total deaths among American women each year, breast cancer accounts for 1 in 31, while deaths from heart disease are 1 in 3.

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How to Cure Our Collective Split Personality

How to Cure Our Collective Split Personality

One of the main reasons a sane person feels sane is that reality holds together and makes sense. Billiard balls don’t suddenly turn into elephants; gravity doesn’t cause things to fall down one day and up the next. In current neuroscience, creating a sane reality is the job of the brain—and if you look closely, the job isn’t done very well at all. Not only is there mental disease but also everyday anxiety or depression, false impressions, misunderstandings, and even very strange distortions of reality, as with someone deathly afraid of the number thirteen.

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Reality Appears Incurably Split—Now What?

Reality Appears Incurably Split—Now What?

In many fields, such as medicine, psychology, and neuroscience, there’s a serious problem with the difference between subjective and objective reality. Until this problem is solved, the two realities will never really mesh. At first the subject-object split seems easy enough. If you feel a pain in your foot and you find a rock in your shoe, the rock (objective fact) is the cause of the pain (subjective experience). Medicine, psychology, and neuroscience all accept this as the true model for all subjective states (love, happiness, depression, anxiety, etc.)—a physical cause in the objective world creates a subjective feeling.

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Is Inflammation the Key to Aging?

Is Inflammation the Key to Aging?

Ten years ago researchers began to focus on inflammation as a link to disease. They stood out in that they did not emphasize the acute redness and swelling that accompanies the site of a wound or burn as it heals, which is known as acute inflammation. Rather, they discovered clues were leading to something more subtle – a low-grade, chronic inflammation that has few if any overt symptoms. This kind of everyday inflammation has now been linked to an overwhelming majority of serious lifestyle disorders, including hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and most cancers. What was an intriguing trend ten years ago is now being recognized as major global epidemic, all the more dangerous because it is invisible.

 
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Waking Up to an Invisible Epidemic 

Waking Up to an Invisible Epidemic 

Until very recently, it was fairly unthinkable that our own bodies pose a greater threat to health than any outside disease. Most people have never heard of one of the greatest plagues of the 21st century, because it is caused by one of the most subtle, complex reactions in the body. This plague is inflammation, which in medical terms is the ultimate two-edged sword. 

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The Last Paradox: Does the Universe Have a Mind?

The Last Paradox: Does the Universe Have a Mind?

Until very recently it was nearly laughable among physicists to speak of a conscious universe, and yet the notion now seems to be not only respectable but necessary. The realization is dawning that a true Theory of Everything must include consciousness. Almost every scientist traces any phenomenon, including the mind, back to physical causes. This way of thinking, when applied to the issue of where consciousness comes from, implies either a very big answer or a very small one.

 

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The Unlikely Fate of Two Universes

The Unlikely Fate of Two Universes
By now most people have heard that a Theory of Everything is within reach in the near future, meaning a unified explanation of the physical forces in the universe. Yet "the near future" has stretched out for several decades. This apparent overconfidence and undue optimism points to some serious and as yet unexplained oddities and paradoxes afflicting the flagship theories of science, which are unable, in stark contrast to the prevailing confidence of the past, to explain the vast majority (96%) of the universe. The presence of dark matter and energy, for example, has caused some expected calculations in quantum mechanics to be off by a staggering 120 orders of magnitude.

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