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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.


All of Us—Doctor and Patients—Need to Face up to Healthcare Hazards

By Deepak Chopra MD, Nancy S. Cetel, MD, Danielle Weiss, MD, Joseph B. Weiss, MD

Medical mistakes are a touchy subject in the medical community. Both sides of the healthcare system fear them—patients because of their general anxiety about going to the doctor, physicians because of the looming threat of malpractice. The situation needs to be faced squarely, with candor and above all, with reliable statistics. These have varied widely over the years. While the numbers of fatalities reported annually in US hospitals has had estimates from 44,000 to 440,000, even the lower estimate is a public health catastrophe.

We say this against the background of the vulnerable position even the best cared for patient faces. Entering the hospital represents a loss of freedom, exposure to anxiety-producing procedures, a sterile environment, and being handled, physically and emotionally, by strangers. Adding medical mistakes to the list must become unacceptable.

At present, however, preventable mistakes continue to persist and are often more grave. Several publications over the past two dozen years, including our own, have highlighted the alarming frequency and consequences of adverse events during medical treatment. Among the most credibly researched and analyzed findings are the following:

* The US Department of Health & Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, reported that a review of in-patient records from 2008 confirmed 180,000 fatalities occurred in the Medicare population alone, because of medical errors.

* A 2013 evidence-based estimate, using a weighted average of 4 databases, suggested that the current range of annual deaths in US hospitals from adverse events was between 210,000 to over 400,000.

* Most recently, in 2015, journal authors from Johns Hopkins estimates the number as over 250,000 deaths per year, making hospital errors the third leading cause of US hospital deaths after heart disease and cancer.



Regarding the last citation, Dr. Martin Makary, Professor of Surgery and Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, comments that medical care gone wrong is commonly due to “a communications breakdown, poorly coordinated care, or a misdiagnosis,” but these are rarely mentioned when a doctor fills out “primary cause of death” on a death report.


As a result, Makary notes, “these are issues that have lived in locker rooms, doctors’ lounges, and nurses’ stations…in the form of stories and not epidemiological errors.” A recent review of 4,000 medical journal articles showed that even the most accurate medical record review protocol identified adverse events in 2.9% to 18.0% of records, with preventable errors identified in 1% to 8.6% of records. Although alarming in its own right, this number is a significant underestimation of the true frequency of errors. In a telling report that interviewed nearly 1,000 patients in Massachusetts 6 to 12 months after discharge, patients recalled three times the number of adverse events reported in the medical record.


The many reasons why errors would be underreported is all too readily apparent. Avoidance of identification, liability, blame, guilt, financial penalty, malpractice action, job security, disciplinary action, hearings, reviews, etc. are just some of the powerful motivations to avoid reporting an error. Surveys of physicians confirm the obvious, that under-reporting is widespread. Yet without accurate statistics the full extent of the endemic problem, as well as the ability to monitor efforts to reduce errors, cannot be accurately assessed. Human error is inevitable, but every effort must be made to minimize the risk and consequences.



Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, Chairman and Founder, The Chopra Foundation, Co-Founder, The Chopra Center for Wellbeing



Nancy S. Cetel, MD, President and Founder, Speaking of Health and specialist in women’s health and reproductive endocrinology.



Danielle Weiss, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, Medical Director & Founder, Center for Hormonal Health & Well-Being



Joseph B. Weiss, MD, FACP, Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California San Diego.





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Department of Health and Human Services. Adverse events in hospitals: national incidence among Medicare beneficiaries. 2010.


A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care James, John T. PhD Journal of Patient Safety: September 2013 – Volume 9 – Issue 3 – p 122–128

doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e3182948a69


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Overview of medical errors and adverse events. Maité Garrouste-Orgeas François Philippart, Cédric Bruel, Adeline Max, Nicolas Lau and B Misset Annals of Intensive Care 20122:2

DOI: 10.1186/2110-5820-2-2 Published 16 February 2012


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DOI: 10.1186/2110-5820-2-2 Published 16 February 2012


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Christiaans-Dingelhoff I, Smits M, Zwaan L, et al. To what extent are adverse events found in patient records reported by patients and healthcare professionals via complaints, claims and incident reports? BMC Health Serv Res 2011;11:49. doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-49 [CrossRef][Medline]Google Scholar


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After Gay Rights, Gay Spirituality

untitled-design43By Deepak Chopra, MD

It’s taken decades for gay activists to achieve the most basic right that every minority deserves: equality under the law. In principle one might say that the battle has been won, even if some states are dragging their heels and some groups mount fierce resistance. Thirty years ago, it took mass protests to push for major funding of AIDS research, and the overturning of antiquated, prejudiced sodomy laws wasn’t a sure thing when the Supreme Court took up the issue in 2003.

The fact that the court did invalidate state laws against homosexuality was the bellwether for a shift in public acceptance that will only accelerate in the future. It’s time, then, to consider another dimension that has been masked by the headlines over legal battles. That’s the dimension of spirituality, where religious intolerance has been the norm and finding the way to self-acceptance has been a poignant personal struggle for every gay man and woman.

The issues are framed by questions that millions ask every day without being gay, since they pertain to the loss of faith that society has been wrestling with for decades:

Does God love me?

Does he (or she) know that I exist?

Can God relieve my suffering?

Where was God when I endured my darkest hours?

It would be easy, and probably correct, to say that these questions are more pointed for gay people, because they are burdened by social disapproval, hidden prejudices, and long-held dogmas about God’s condemnation of homosexuality. Spirituality is a larger dimension of life, however, based on real personal needs. For gay people to realize their place in a living kind of spirituality, seven needs must be filled:

1. The need to safety and security.

2. The need to be recognized for achievement and success.

3. The need to belong to a community.

4. The need to be listened to and understood.

5. The need to express oneself through creativity and self-exploration.

6. The need for higher moral worth.

7. The need to feel at one with God or other depiction of highest Being.

I hate to announce it to accepted prejudice (both inside and outside the gay community), but in my experience, gay people have done more to fulfill these needs than society as a whole. They may have been forced to face themselves by hostile circumstances; they may be more compassionate and accepting of differences in general; it could be that feeling like outsiders has increased their self-awareness. I can’t point to an exact cause – no doubt there is a mixture of many causes – but the result has been an open kind of seeking that is one of the most valuable aspects of modern gay life.

Which of us has had to pay constant attention to being safe and secure when we walk down the street? Who feels automatically that their achievements will be undermined or their acceptance put into question simply because of who they are? Gay people confront both obstacles to the first two needs on the list, which are taken for granted by the majority population. The higher needs are just as tinged with self-doubt and negative social attitudes. What this means is that your gay friends and those happy gay couples kissing on their wedding day have gone through personal struggles you probably have only a little awareness of. Seeking for God comes down to seeking oneself in the grand scheme of things, and every gay person knows what that feels like.

Spiritual seeking is a huge topic, naturally. On one front most gay people have to come to terms with the religion they were brought up in. For Christians, a landmark is The Good Book by the late Peter Gomes, who held the position of Preacher to Harvard College. Gomes, who came out fairly late in life, devotes considerable space to the condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible, and his approach in the face of these condemnations is summarized in the book’s subtitle, “Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart.”

In other words, bringing a modern mindset and an open heart unfolds a new path, one that isn’t literally tied to the attitudes of Jewish culture thousands of years ago, or the extension of those attitudes by the early Christian fathers. For gay people who want to remain among the faithful, there are churches in every large city that will welcome them. Even the Catholic Church shows signs of softening its strictures under a new, more compassionate Pope.

Not having the church door slammed in your face is barely the first step in filling the spiritual dimension in a person’s life. The seven needs I’ve listed take a lifetime to fulfill, attended by inner work and a desire to keep evolving every day. At the very least the straight and gay world can agree on that, because seeking is a common human project. To fill the spiritual dimension requires a shift in attitudes in all of us. Gay people need to realize that they deserve to be fulfilled spiritually. Straight people need to agree.

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 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 80 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.


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Support Sleep Out for Homeless youth.  You can donate and/or join Chris Clarke, Deepak Chopra and others on November 17th at Covenant House (New York City).

Each year in 27 cities across North America, Covenant House cares for over 50,000 at-risk and homeless kids in their journey from the street to safety, and ultimately, to independence. By participating in this event you are helping to make sure the doors stay open for all the children that need them.

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Everyday Reality is a Human Construct

By Deepak Chopra, MD

It is often overlooked that the role of spirituality was once the same as the role science plays today: to explain how Nature works. As science views reality, objective facts and rational thinking outstrip the traditional spiritual worldview, which explained Nature through higher powers known as the gods or God. But recently the playing field has become much more level than anyone ever anticipated.

Explaining reality through objective means has seriously eroded, chiefly because as science drew closer to the source where space, time, matter, and energy emerge, Nature as we know it vanished. At the level of the quantum vacuum, the zero point of empirical knowledge, something inconceivable is at work. Only advanced mathematics remains as a useful tool when time and space no longer exist, and even then, our mathematical models are suspect, because there is no longer any proof that they actually match reality.

To visualize this situation, imagine that you are a traveler who has followed your tour guide to a borderline. He turns and says, “Up to now we have crossed the land where causes lead to effects, where clocks measure time and space has three dimensions, where physical objects are reliably solid. No doubt you’ve already noticed that your five senses no longer operate, and we had better be careful taking another step, because your mind won’t be capable of reasoning out anything across this borderline. Shall we cross?”

You can imagine that you would hesitate, because across the borderline is simply “beyond,” a realm where reality originates even though nothing we consider real exists. It’s remarkable that thousands of years ago, looking inward through self-awareness, ancient thinkers reached the same borderline, and what they imagined “beyond” wasn’t in fact gods or God, because religion arrived much later to offer a simpler story about “beyond.” The non-simple story was about pure

consciousness. Where science views “beyond” as a dark mystery, the ancient thinkers of India saw the starting-point of reality as a state of awareness that is actually reachable.

In both cases the familiar world of space, time, matter, and energy disappears across the borderline, but for modern science, which takes objective facts as the most reliable guide to reality, there’s a breakdown, because beyond the zero point, the absence of data means there are no more objective facts. In the worldview we dub as spiritual, however, reality doesn’t break down. The “beyond” is continuous with our world as the source of experience.

It turns out, when it comes to explaining reality, that where you start has everything to do with where you end. If you start with conscious experience as your measure of reality, the end is pure consciousness. If you start with physical objects “out there,” you end up with emptiness, a void. A scientific skeptic might protest that the “beyond” can’t be different for two people just because they began with different assumptions. Two travelers visiting the Pyramids are going to see the same thing, no matter what they expect when they set foot on the plane.

But the extraordinary thing is that the “beyond” is an exception. It can be the source of awareness or an empty void, entirely depending on how the human mind constructs it. If the world “out there” is real, once it vanishes into the quantum vacuum, the “beyond” is an empty void or at best a theoretical mathematical space. But if conscious experience is real, then consciousness was constructing reality all along. Having arrived at the borderline, we can look back over our shoulder and say, “Oh, I get it now. Everything I ever thought was real is constructed from consciousness. Consciousness isn’t an add-on. It’s the only thing that was real in the first place.”

This simple realization is what the East calls enlightenment or waking up. One sees that physical reality is a human construct and always has been. When we are in bed dreaming at night, a dreamscape can feel entirely real, but on the moment of waking up, we realize its illusory nature.

To a rationalist who bases his worldview on physical objects “out there,” it sounds bizarre to say that one can also wake up and see the familiar world as a dreamscape. But that’s the great challenge of spirituality, which we should more accurately called consciousness-based reality.

The ancient thinkers explained with detailed specificity how consciousness constructs the entire range of reality from the grossest to the subtlest phenomena. For simplicity’s sake, one can reduce the explanation to twelve salient points, as follows:

1. Everyday reality appears to be a given, but on investigation, it reveals itself as a human construct.

2. The building blocks of reality are not tiny physical objects (atoms, subatomic particles) but exist in our awareness, where everything begins and ends as an excitation (activity) in consciousness.

3. We know reality as the experience of observer and observed occurring in the now. The fundamental experience of both observer and observed is in the form of mental sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts (SIFT).

4. Sensations, images, feelings, thoughts are entangled modifications of awareness, the result of social and cultural conditioning and accepted systems of education. Our awareness gets deeply involved in many systems (education, politics, gender, religion, etc.).

5. Systems are arbitrarily made and changed. Therefore, no construct has a privileged position over another. Truth is always relative inside any system.

6. These constructs, however, are intensely real for the individual awareness embedded in it. We allow ourselves to be programmed by such systems and would feel naked and

vulnerable without them. In the world’s wisdom traditions, this is known as the state of bondage.

7. Excitations of awareness are not as basic as pure, timeless, dimensionless awareness. They modulate pure awareness like a switch that brings the familiar world into existence/experience.

8. Excitations or vibrations take place in the domain of time; in fact, they create the sensation of time itself. Pure awareness is timeless.

9. We are entangled in a vibrational reality that feels real on its own terms but is basically a mental construct, like a dream. To realize this is known as “waking up.” To someone who is awake, everything in the phenomenal world exists on the same playing field. As constructs, the same status is shared by birth, death, body, mind, brain, universe, stars, galaxies, the big bang, and God or the gods.

10. Freedom lies in the experience of knowing yourself beyond all constructs. You are pure awareness before the subject/object split came about.

11. All human suffering is the result of attachment to a construct, including fear of the construct we call death. Death is only real within the limits of the construct we manufactured. It doesn’t occur to the awareness that stands apart and sees all experiences rising and falling in the timeless moment of now.

12. The ultimate goal of all experience is the same: finding the “real” reality in one’s own being.

These points are just as logical and consistent as modern science, and one can argue that they are much more sound as philosophy, given that science hasn’t come close to explaining how bits of matter created conscious awareness while these points assume something everyone knows to be true: we are conscious beings. As unconventional as they may seem, these points offer a better way to find out what’s real. And we don’t have to debate whether ancient thinkers can rival modern advanced science. Consciousness-based reality is just as testable today as it ever way. Each person’s challenge is to accept the invitation to journey inward or not, because ultimately, going beyond depends on individual experience and nothing else.

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 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 80 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.