News & Information

Hitching a Ride on the Cosmos

By Deepak Chopra MD and Menas Kafatos, PhD

The universe and the human brain have something important in common. The inner workings of both are invisible. At this moment you have no perception of what’s happening in your brain; neural activity is unknown to the mind of the person to whom the neurons belong without the invention of brain scans to reveal that activity, and then only crudely. Imagine, being a master of a house and not knowing or seeing what is inside the house.

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At first blush the universe doesn’t appear to be that way, tens to hundreds of billions of stars in as many as two trillion galaxies, although not directly observable with the naked eye can be studied with big telescopes such as the Hubble space telescope. But no matter how finely you dissect physical objects, whether the object is a drop of water or a massive nebula, in reality the inner workings of objects are totally invisible. The phrase used by physicists is “something out of nothing,” which refers to the fact that ground zero for creation is a void, the quantum vacuum. On that basis, both the brain and a star and an atom are examples of something coming out of nothing.

 

In our book You Are the Universe , we explore what might be emerging besides physical objects and the energy states they occupy. For it’s obvious that the brain doesn’t simply produce electrical and chemical activity at random. It somehow is tied to our inner world of sensations, thoughts, feelings, and images. Using these, we experience a three-dimensional world. So everything in that world is dependent on experience; if there is a reality outside what we can experience (including the extended perception of microscopes, telescopes, particle accelerators, and so on), such a reality will be as inaccessible as a dark hole.

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The Genetics of a Silent Killer and the Quest for a Cure

By Deepak Chopra, MD FACP and Mark L. Zeidel, M.D

Some diseases make headlines, pull at our heart strings, and inspire high-visibility fundraising events. Others, like kidney disease, wreak havoc more quietly. Chronic kidney disease afflicts more than 26 million people in the U.S., putting them at high risk for other serious illnesses, like heart disease. Nearly half a million people suffer from end-stage kidney disease, a devastating condition often requiring dialysis or transplantation. Medicare spends more than 30 billion dollars a year taking care of kidney failure patients—about 6 percent of the Medicare budget.

While kidney disease is widespread, it disproportionately affects certain populations: African Americans and others of recent African ancestry are more than three times as likely to suffer from kidney failure as those of European descent. African Americans constitute 35 percent of all patients receiving dialysis for kidney disease, despite being only 13 percent of the U.S. population. Some of this disparity is attributable to the most common causes of kidney disease: diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which are more prevalent among African Americans. But there’s increasing evidence that genetics may also play a significant role in the disease. Researchers at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and elsewhere have discovered that two common variations in a gene called apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) are responsible for an increased susceptibility to several forms of non-diabetes-related kidney disease among African Americans.

Thirty percent of African Americans carry these particular mutations, and for much of human history this served them well: This genotype is actually protective against a disease called African Sleeping Sickness, caused by certain forms of African trypanosomes. Transmitted by the tsetse fly, African Sleeping Sickness is common in eastern Africa and can cause fever, anemia, and death from neurologic disease. While these variants may still be of some benefit to populations living in Africa and exposed to the tsetse fly, here in the U.S. the genetic variation has little benefit and carries significant risk, particularly since there is no cure for kidney disease. As Martin Pollak, MD, Chief of Nephrology at BIDMC, explains, “We have treatments like dialysis and kidney transplants to keep those who have advanced kidney disease alive longer, but we don’t have any cures.” He adds, “Fewer than 40 percent of patients on dialysis live more than five years.” (And in developing countries, even these treatments are often too expensive to be available.) Pollak’s hope is that the APOL1 discovery—part of a body of research that earned him election into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences—will help pave the way toward prevention and treatment of the disease.untitled-design85

To that end, the BIDMC investigators—among the top researchers on kidney disease in the world—are using every scientific tool at their disposal. They’re developing human, mouse and fish models to better understand the genetics, cell biology and biochemistry of APOL1’s action in the kidney. Pollak and his team are also trying to understand why certain carriers of the APOL1 mutations are more susceptible to kidney disease than others. “That might give us some clues on how to better treat the condition,” he says.

In terms of patient care, their research has begun to inform clinical practice. Increasingly, doctors are debating the merits of genetic screening and counseling for those at highest risk of carrying the APOL1 gene mutation. However, until more is known about how to prevent and treat this form of disease, the benefit of testing is unclear. Based on this work, the hope is that specific methods for preventing and treating APOL1-associated kidney disease will be developed and implemented in the coming years.

“We want to put our own division out of business by preventing this disease to begin with,” Pollak says. “Short of that, we’d like to develop treatments that allow people with kidney disease to live with it as a chronic disease.” Until recently, he explains, kidney disease was much like HIV/AIDS was in the 1980s—a terrible disease that devastated lives and perplexed biomedical researchers. Once the causative organism, the HIV virus, was identified, combinations of drugs were developed, which now suppress the virus effectively. “With the discovery of APOL1, this major form of kidney failure now has a cause, and we can develop treatments directed to fixing the causal problem,” Pollak explains. “With a clearer understanding of the underlying genetics, we’re hopeful that kidney disease will soon be like AIDS—a treatable condition with which people can live long and active lives.”

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 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. His latest books are You Are the Universe co-authored with Menas Kafatos, PhD, and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.discoveringyourcosmicself.com

Mark Zeidel, M.D., is Herrman L. Blumgart Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Physician and Chief and Chair of the Department of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He has made important contributions to our understanding of how the kidney helps control body chemistry, and has led several successful national initiatives in medical education.A national thought leader in quality improvement, he has pioneered the provision of highly reliable, cost-effective care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), where he helped BIDMC’s achieve of outstanding clinical outcomes, recognized by the American Hospital Association, Society for Critical Care Medicine, the Leapfrog Group, and the Department of Health and Human Services. He has received numerous awards, including election to the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, the Robert H. Williams Distinguished Chair of Medicine Award from the Association of Professors of Medicine and the Robert Narins Award for Medical Education from the American Society of Nephrology.

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What Came Before the Big Bang? A Surprise Answer

By Deepak Chopra, MD and  Menas Kafatos, PhD

The most widely accepted notions about the universe are central to how we view reality. One striking example links birth and death. In the age of faith, religion existed to reassure believers about a higher plane of reality. On this plane, the everyday experience of birth and death was negated. Souls were immortal aspects of being human. Depending on your particular religion, the soul either went to Heaven, if one were good, after death or existed perpetually in a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.untitled-design67

Ironically, science has stuck to these possible scenarios with the universe, even though what science is supposedly famous for is its defeat of religion, or to be more specific, its defeat of metaphysics and the whole notion of a higher plane. If you look closely, the way the universe was born in the big bang and will one day, presumably die, is pure metaphysics. In fact, the big bang and expansion of the universe was first proposed by Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, who was an astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven. In fact, many have pointed out to the agreement of the big bang view with Biblical accounts in the book of Genesis. Unwittingly, the general public that accepts a casual idea about the universe being born and dying is actually adopting a metaphysical position about human birth and death, not simple, unvarnished, provable facts.

 

In our book, You Are the Universe, we cover this topic in great detail, but here’s a thumbnail sketch of our argument. If you ask a simple question like “What came before the big bang?” you are posing a paradox. “Before” and “after” have a meaning only in time, and linear time at that. There is no evidence of any kind that time existed before the big bang. Moreover, what we typically think of as time–the tick tock on a clock face–depends on having a human nervous system. Einstein broke free of this model, where we think we intuitively know what time is, when he introduced the concepts in his theories of relativity. In those theories, the speeding up or slowing down of time depends on the frames of references of observers. Time is not universal. For example, a moving observer’s time slows down as seen by a stationary observer. Slowing down of time also occurs when an observer is falling towards a black hole, as seen by a distant observer. The effect is still there, but tiny, in all gravitational fields, including the Earth’s gravity.

 

The relativity of time depended upon a new theory, and if we stand back, we discover that all views of time are human constructs. If time seems linear, that’s because we humans have modeled it that way in accord with our nervous system. It is just as viable to construct other models of time. For example, your body obeys natural rhythms in accord with the planetary, lunar, and solar cycles. The very notion of “time passing” fits with the firing of neurons in the brain, which have a beginning, middle, and end.

 

If you drop every model, something surprising happens. They are not needed. For example, you can view your daily life as occurring entirely in the present moment. The present moment is not a clock phenomenon. Clocks measure intervals–seconds, minutes, hours–while the present moment has no interval. It’s always here, endlessly renewing itself, unmeasurable, and fleeting. Because the instant you try to capture it, it’s gone. This implies that the “now” is actually outside time. It can be defined either as instantaneous or eternal. Both are valid as verbal descriptions but in the end invalid, since the vocabulary of time doesn’t apply to the timeless.

 

The same is true of the big bang or the potential end of the universe. Time doesn’t begin or end in an absolute way. It is a convenient way of using words. Time is simply a concept that fits various physical models. But its origin is as much in metaphysics as in physics. When someone believes he will die and go to Heaven for eternity, the typical, casual definition of “eternity” is a long, long time. But that’s not true, because whatever is eternal must be outside time. Ultimately, the only participation we can have in time, outside time, or with a dimension of inconceivable time, occurs in our consciousness. Whatever we can experience determines the nature of time. It is just as true to say that the big bang is occurring right now as to date it back to 13.8 billion years, because only when we think about the event do we draw the big bang into the world of human experience, and thinking happens in the now.

 

None of these conclusions are speculative–quantum physics and cosmology deal with them–and cosmologists and quantum physicists argue over them–every day. Without settling the vexing questions of “What came before the big bang?” “Where did time originate?” and “What is the timeless like?” we only want to point out that time has no meaning outside a specific frame of reference. There is no “real” time, only models of time constructed in human awareness. Once we realize this simple fact, the capacity to move beyond all models, to truly lose our fear of death, come alive. The spiritual concept that we were never born and will never die then becomes viable, too.

 

 

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 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. His latest books are You Are the Universe co-authored with Menas Kafatos, PhD, and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. discoveringyourcosmicself.com

 

Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, and climate impacts researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals,health and mental professionals, practitioners of contemplative traditions, and corporations on the natural laws that apply everywhere and are the foundations of the universe, for well-being and success. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored 315+ articles, is author or editor of 15 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, You Are the Universe (Harmony). He maintains a Huffington Post blog. You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com

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Why You and the Universe Are One

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD.

It takes a lot to overturn the accepted view of reality, but it doesn’t take a lot to begin. The accepted view of reality holds that human beings exist in the context of a vast physical universe “out there.” Only an extreme mystic would doubt this description, but all of us should. Sir John Eccles, a famous British neurologist and Nobel laureate, declared, “I want you to realize that there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound – nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent.” What Eccles means is that all the qualities of Nature, from the luxurious scent of a rose to the sting of a wasp and the taste of honey, are produced by human beings. Erwin Schrödinger, one of the main founders of quantum mechanics, said essentially the same thing when he declared that photons, quanta of light, have no color, such properties arise in the biology of perception.

 

Those are remarkable statements, all the more because they are all-inclusive. The most distant galaxies billions of light years away, have no reality without you, because everything that makes any galaxy real— with the multitude of stars with their heat, emitted light, and masses, the positions of the distant galaxies in space and the velocity that carries each distant galaxy away at enormous speed—requires a human observer with a human nervous system.  If no one existed to experience heat, light, mass, and so on, nothing could be real as we know it. If the qualities of Nature are a human construct arising from human experiences, the existence of the physical universe “out there” must be seriously questioned–and along with it, our participation in such a universe.

 

When you break experience down into its tiniest ingredients, the physicality of everything begins to vanish. The story we keep telling ourselves depends on reality “out there” having a physical explanation, but it doesn’t. For example, we depend on sight to navigate through the world. No matter what you see “out there”—an apple, cloud, mountain, or tree—light bouncing off the object makes it visible, but how? No one knows. What makes seeing totally mysterious can be summed up in a few undeniable facts:

 

  • Photons, the quanta of light, are invisible. They aren’t bright, even though you see sunlight as bright.
  • The brain has essentially zero light inside it, being a dark mass of oatmeal-textured cells enveloped in a fluid that is not terribly different from sea water. (There are extremely faint traces of photon activity in the brain, but the optic nerve doesn’t transmit photons to the visual cortex.)
  • Because there is no light to speak off in the brain, there are no pictures or images, either. When you imagine the face of a loved one, nowhere in the brain does that face exist like a photograph. How do action potentials in neuron electric firings become conscious awareness, no one knows.

 

At present no one can explain how invisible photons being converted to chemical reactions and faint electrical impulses in the brain creates the three-dimensional reality we all take for granted. Brain scans pick up the electrical activity, which is why an fMRI contains patches of brightness and color. So something is going on in the brain. But the actual nature of sight itself is mysterious. One thing is known, however. The creation of sight is done by you. Without you, the entire world—and the vast universe extending in all directions—can’t exist.

 

Expand this known fact to everything you experience, and every quality of life requires human participation. “Requires” means two things, first, that experience is the ground state of everything, including the activity of doing science, and second, that every quality is a human construct derived from experiences of individuals in human species. Another species with a different nervous system would participate in the universe in a way completely unknown to us with our human nervous system.

 

Physics has had decades to process the insight of John Archibald Wheeler, the eminent American physicist, general relativist and quantum physicist, who originated the notion of a “participatory universe,” a cosmos in which all of us are embedded as co-creators, replacing the accepted universe “out there,” which is separate from us. Wheeler used the image of children with their noses pressed against a bakery window to describe the view that kept the observer separate from the thing being observed. But in a fully participatory universe, the observer and the thing observed are one.

 

You are one with the universe because you experience Nature in your awareness, and there is no other source for reality as we know it. If anything is real that cannot enter human consciousness, we will never know it. How would we even know it? Even if we resort to abstract mathematics which might infer the existence of realities beyond our ability to sense them or measure them, we should realize that mathematics itself, albeit the most refined one, is tied to human observers. It takes a mathematician to understand mathematics. To summarize,

 

  • The universe we live in is a human construct, including everything in it.
  • All activity takes place in consciousness. If you want to point at where the stars are, there is no physical location, because consciousness isn’t a “thing.”
  • The brain isn’t the seat of consciousness but acts more like a radio receiver, and perhaps emitter, translating conscious activity into physical correlates. (The radio receiver metaphor describes the feedback loop between mind and brain, which are actually not separate but part of the same complementary activity in consciousness.)
  • To understand our true participation in the universe, we must learn much more about awareness and how it turns mind into matter and vice versa.

 

These are difficult truths for mainstream scientists to accept, and some would react to them with skepticism, disbelief, or anger. But following the other track of explanation, beginning with physical objects “out there,” fails utterly to explain how we are conscious to begin with. That’s why in scattered pockets, some physicists are beginning to talk about a conscious universe, where consciousness is a given throughout Nature. In fact, the founders of quantum mechanics a century ago agreed more with this view, having understood that quantum mechanics implies observation and agency of mind. In our upcoming book You Are the Universewe call it the human universe, emphasizing where the whole construct comes from. As we will see in future posts, once you realize that you and the universe are one, the whole journey of being human shifts radically.

(To be cont.)

 

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 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. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD  and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

 

Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, and climate impacts researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals, health and mental professionals, practitioners of contemplative traditions, and corporations on the natural laws that apply everywhere and are the foundations of the universe, for well-being and success. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored 315+ articles, is author or editor of 15 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, You Are the Universe (Harmony). He maintains a Huffington Post blog. You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com 

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Wisdom Made Easy: 20 Principles

By Deepak Chopra, MD

There will never be a book titled Wisdom for Dummies, which would be a self-contradiction, but there will never be Wisdom for Really Smart People, either.  That’s because wisdom cannot be turned into a fixed system and taught. In a devalued way, wisdom can be transmitted as experience or lessons from a mentor to a student or apprentice. But Socrates made it his mission to oppose the Sophists, a school of teachers in Athens who founded their philosophy on teaching wisdom to others. Socrates held the contrary idea that to “know thyself” wasn’t possible without going deeply into the mysterious workings of truth, which is accessible beyond words and therefore beyond teaching.

 

In India, the same notion was carried even further. Speaking of the self and the reality it belongs to, the ancient rishis declared “Those who know it speak of it not. Those who speak of it know it not.” By taking wisdom totally away from the field of things we rely upon every day—information, news, opinions, private beliefs, assumptions, experience, memory, and education—the world’s wisdom traditions pose the ultimate challenge. This helps to account for why, in our information—and disinformation—age, wisdom isn’t a goal many people pursue. So much can be achieved without it, simply relying upon the very things that Socrates and the ancient rishis ignored.

The best incentive, I think, for promoting wisdom is to clothe it as something very desirable: waking up. The two actually are the same. They involve a shift in consciousness. The only way to know if you are waking up, or perhaps have already woken up, is to feel the contrast with being asleep. “Asleep” is a metaphor for a state of consciousness that brings unwanted pain and suffering, that constantly finds itself in confusion and conflict, that brings doubts about life’s uncertainty over which looms the fear of death. If waking up can end those ills, then wisdom justifies itself.

 

Wisdom can’t be taught and by the same token can’t be learned. Instead, it’s the kind of knowledge you become. Or in everyday modern language, wisdom is a stage of development, not brought about the way genes direct childhood development, but as a choice to consciously evolve. Being a conscious process, or what spiritual seekers call a path, wisdom does have guidelines and principles. There are various ways you can cooperate with the evolutionary process, the way putting a book before a young child can encourage the innate ability to read.untitled-design63

In that light, here are 20 principles I sketched in some years ago, with hopes of centering a book around them. I recently ran across them again and offer the list without commentary. The purpose is simply to show how I guided myself with the goal of waking up. How you use the list is up to you. It may give you some sense of where you are or want to be. It may remind you of things you’ve already realized but let slip. In any case, I want to reinforce a belief in wisdom that has endured for centuries and continues to survive, even in times where skepticism, materialism, and uncertainty tends to be the norm.

  1. Always think unlimited possibilities. Infinity exists in all directions.
  2. Choose consciously, each and every time.
  3. Pay attention to the timeless core of your being.
  4.              Nurture the richness of your inner life. Daydream, imagine, and reflect. It’s the source of infinite creativity.
  5. Know that everything is connected to everything else.
  6. Instead of asking “What’s the problem? “ask “What’s the opportunity to evolve?”
  7. Understand Karma: No debt in the universe goes unpaid.
  8. Your only identity is I am, undefined and infinite.  Any label you give yourself limits you.
  9. The invisible and subtle gives rise to the visible and material.
  10. Be comfortable with and embrace paradox, contradiction. and ambiguity. Uncertainty is the womb of creativity.
  11. Consciousness regulates and becomes the flow of energy and information in your body, your relationships and your world.
  12. The most effective way to transform into higher consciousness is to pay attention in the present moment.
  13. Our most natural state is joy. It is the foundation for love, compassion, healing, and the desire to alleviate suffering.
  14. Be your own best friend by forgiving yourself and dropping self-judgment.
  15. Intuition is deep listening with the body, mind, heart, and soul.
  16. Know that your self cannot be squeezed into the volume of a body or the span of a lifetime.
  17. Emotional intelligence begins when you feel without labels or evaluation.
  18. Each mind is entangled with all minds past, present, and future through the exchange of meaning.
  19. Ultimately your reality is rooted in your own source. Take responsibility for it at every level.
  20. No matter what the situation is, remind yourself “I have a choice.”

 

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 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. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD  and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

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