News & Information

How to Defeat Aging on Three Levels

By Deepak Chopra, MD

The creeping tide of age has steadily risen over the past two decades, and it has been met with advances in anti-aging. Almost 25 years ago, when I researched aging for a book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, the most encouraging sign of progress was “the new old age,” which signaled a major shift in attitude. No longer was it acceptable to spend one’s old age in a rocking chair, existing essentially as a social discard, worn out after years of productivity. In the new old age, people expect to live a long life with as much pride and enjoyment as in every other phase of life.

Today, the new old age has become a given, no longer revolutionary or even out of the ordinary. But in the intervening quarter century, much more than attitudes have shifted. The mystery of the aging process, which occurs at around 1% a year after age 30, is beginning to yield some viable answers. For example, its genetic basis is now better understood. Researchers continue to probe clues offered, for examples, by telomeres, the end caps to a strand of DNA that ravel with time as the body ages. Preserving the integrity of telomeres through meditation seems like a very promising lead.

But the sheer amount of new data and hopeful clues can be very confusing, so I think it’s worthwhile to summarize in very general terms, where anti-aging is going. The three fronts that need to be covered are physical, mental, and psychological.

  1. Physical aging used to be the only kind of aging recognized by medical science, and yet there were practically no remedies that worked through physical means. A well-balanced lifestyle that includes proper nutrition and a modicum of exercise was the standard recommendation, as it remains. There are still too many of the elderly who don’t eat properly or get enough physical activity. On this front, the biggest promise is genetic, which may sound surprising, since we tend to think of our genes as fixed and unchanging. Now the new genetics is focusing on how lifestyle actually impacts the gene activity in the cells, activity which turns out to be much more sensitive to outside factors than anyone ever imagined twenty years ago.
  2. Gene activity is switched on or off by all kinds of things, including not just diet and exercise but traumatic events, stress, mood, and mental health. the new genetics reinforces the message about making positive lifestyle changes, and then it goes further by prioritizing which changes have the most potency. These include meditation high upon the list along with stress management. In addition, genetics seems to point to much earlier onset of changes in gene activity that are detrimental down the road. Thus most lifestyle disorders like type 2 diabetes and heart disease need to be addressed years and even decades before symptoms appear. Very early prevention may also hold the key to the dementia and Alzheimer’s disease that are most dreaded by people as they age.

But what does early intervention mean in practical terms? While the pharmaceutical companies search for new drugs that have effects at the genetic level, the greatest promise lies in self-care. Deciding to seriously pay attention to your own well-being has become a lifelong commitment that depends on a shift in mental focus. Mind and body form a single, totally interconnected feedback loop, where every cell listens and reacts to all our mental activity. The reason that meditation and Yoga have moved to the forefront of positive lifestyle choices is that both are holistic.
agave

On the negative side, stress also seems to be holistic. There is strong evidence that stress, either psychological or physical, creates chemical markers on DNA that could last a long time, perhaps a lifetime. And low-level chronic stress, the kind that people simply accept as a part of hectic modern life, is probably doing more harm in the long run than acute stress, which rarely occurs and lasts only a short while. With this new knowledge in hand, the main obstacle to adopting new mental attitudes is inertia. Far too prevalent is the attitude that one can live recklessly and let the doctor take care of any problems that develop; even worse is the attitude of looking at aging as inevitable and simply giving up.

Lumped together, the causes of inertia lead to noncompliance, where people know what is good for them but don’t change their ways anyway. The fact that a sizable cohort of Americans still smoke or the current obesity epidemic indicate how drastic noncompliance is. Socially, you are also likely to lack the right information about health issues if you are older, poorer, less educated, and non-white. The new old age has barely touched upon the disadvantaged segments of society.

The answer to noncompliance, assuming that you have access to good medical information, is psychological. You must value yourself enough to make self-care a priority. Many Americans are going to live between 90 and 100 years starting with the boomer generation. This means that at age 45 or 50 each of us is having a second birth–half of our lives stretch before us, leading to territory as unknown as the first half of life is to a newborn baby. In this second life, as it were, we will reap the benefits and deficits developed in the first 45-50 years. We must all be psychologically prepared for this in advance. Inertia, which means doing the same old things as before, will be deadly psychologically and perhaps physically as well.

In the second half of life wisdom can emerge, along with sufficient time to seriously consider the spiritual side of existence. Only then can old age be, not just endurable, but the best part of the human life cycle. the field of positive psychology, which studies what it means to be happy and fulfilled, is still in an early stage, but one finding strikes home: To lead a happy life, make each day happy. In other words, satisfaction and fulfillment lie in the present moment and nowhere else. Things postponed never occur. Even more important for anti-aging, you will never be as young, or as old, as you are right this moment.

I’ve only given a once over lightly to the physical, mental, and psychological aspects of anti-aging. But the major issues and trends are clear. Now that the new old age is firmly established, the next stage has to be a quantum leap in well-being that is self-directed, self-motivated, and self-reliant. Pushing back the onset of aging is desirable and possible, and no one can predict how much progress is eventually going to be made. But being in the forefront of progress should be the aim of everyone.

 

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. 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. www.deepakchopra.com

MORE

How You Create the Universe

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D.

We all identify with the physical world and would be shocked to discover that this is a mistake. Even in an age of faith like the Middle Ages, when people believed in miracles and attributed creation to an omnipotent God, the physicality of things was totally accepted. Rocks were hard and water was wet, no matter what faith you believed in. If you wandered the stacks of the Library of Congress and pulled books off the shelf at random, you’d discover no serious challenge to physicalism except for one book out of a million written by mystics, sages, Eastern philosophers, and other members of a motley crew who were detached from everyday reality.

Even so, it is undeniable that we’re mistaken when we identify with the physical world, and correcting the mistake has enormous implications–it would be like waking up from a dream. The fact that the dream of physicalism is supported by many modern scientists gives it weight and authority, but scientists, with very few exceptions, promote physicalism because they haven’t really examined its faulty assumptions. Like the rest of us, they tacitly assume that the world “out there” is real and dependable. In last week’s post Deepak Chopra argued against that assumption; this follow-up will attempt to answer the inevitable question, “So what?” Unless the end of physicalism makes a difference in our everyday lives, arguing over it seems arcane and abstract. In fact, the very opposite is true.

If we stop accepting the basic tenet of physicalism–that everything in existence is explainable by exploring the matter and energy that compose the universe–a huge shift is possible. Already the role of mind is central in orthodox quantum mechanics, which does not accept a physical reality devoid of observation. Despite the obvious triumphs of science and technology, one has to abandon the traditional scientific worldview, expanding instead on what quantum theories state, if we want to explain the following mysteries:

Where did the Big Bang come from?

How did space, time, matter, and energy emerge from a seeming void? (This is the puzzle of something coming out of nothing)

What is the origin of consciousness?

Is the universe itself conscious?

Why is the cosmos so perfectly suited to give rise to human life on planet Earth?

These still seem like arcane, abstract riddles that belong in a philosophy class, the kind of class students take because they have to–or once did–before they go out to confront the real world. But in fact the real world falls apart if what we call real is Maya, the Sanskrit word for illusion, as it is usually translated. Even though “distraction” might be a more useful definition, let’s go with illusion. What in the world would persuade us that the physical world is an illusion? If a bus hits you in a dream, you don’t die, but in the physical world you do. This example is enough to convince almost everyone that Maya is some sort of Eastern esoteric belief, when it was actually intended to radically challenge what it means to be human.

Here is why being hit by a bus doesn’t prove that the physical world isn’t an illusion. We will number the steps so that each one can be examined and challenged on its own. If every step is correct, then the logic is irrefutable.

awareness

1. Nothing is real unless we experience it directly or know about it through rational investigation. If there is anything real outside our ability to experience it, it might as well not exist, because the human brain provides our only interface with reality.

2. Even though traditional science divides objective facts “out there” from subjective activity “in here,” this is only a matter of convenience. Everything comes down to experience. A dream at night is an experience, and so is the sight of billions of galaxies.

3. Until we know what experience is made of, we don’t know how reality is constructed.

4. All the qualities we attribute to the physical world–such the redness of a rose, its voluptuous fragrance, and its velvety texture–are produced in our own consciousness.

5. Without human perception, light isn’t bright, a summer day isn’t hot, and a rose isn’t red. Photons, for example, are totally invisible when they strike your retina. Sugar is tasteless when it strikes the tongue. A rose has no fragrance when it strikes the nose. These qualities (technically known as qualia) are produced by the mechanism of perception.

6. Thanks to physicalism, we say that perception occurs in the brain, but it doesn’t. There are no pictures inside the brain, no light, no color, no sound. The brain is no more the origin of perception than a radio is the origin of the music being played through it.

7. All we can say reliably is that experience occurs in awareness, is known in awareness, and is made out of awareness. Awareness is the creator and recipient of experience, forming a feedback loop that never escapes the field of awareness.

8. The primacy of awareness can be shown by the fact that as quantum mechanics states, even atoms and subatomic particles have no intrinsic qualities. They display their properties

according to what observational choices the physicist makes. In other words what the human mind looks for, asks about, identifies, and experiments with. When we think we are reducing matter and energy to their fundamental nature, what we are actually doing is subdividing our experience into finer slices, nothing more.

9. The mental activity of using our perceptions to define what is real and then interpreting these perceptions creates reality insofar as human beings know it. We tell ourselves a story built from our experiences, and even when we point to laws of nature and mathematical formulas to bolster our story, they too are experiences.

10. The claim that data, measurements, rational logic, and verifiable experiments have a privileged position is mistaken. Awareness is a single, uniform field, accessed through experience. A scientific fact has the same basis, neither higher nor lower, as our experience of thinking, sensing, intuiting, creating, understanding, knowing, and perceiving.


 

11. Humans are only one species of consciousness. We have no access, except by inference, to the consciousness of other creatures, which belong to other species of consciousness.

12. A critical factor in our species of consciousness is language. Using words, we label our experiences, and in that way two things happen: First, the universe is transformed from a unified, unending process into bits and pieces of isolated “stuff,” each bit being assigned a word or label. Second, we build our story of reality by means of labels, despite the fact that they are our own, totally arbitrary creation.

13. The artifacts we employ to keep our story going have the drawback of misleading us about what is real. The whole scheme of Mind-Body-Space-Time-Particles-Forces-Fields are names we invented for shapes, forms, and activities that occur in our awareness. In reality, awareness cannot be trapped inside these categories. It is formless, timeless, boundless, and without a specific location.

14. Since we have grown accustomed to believing in our own story and tagging everything in nature with a fixed name, we’ve lost sight of what exists beyond this tapestry of Maya: formless awareness, which gives rise to the possibility of form, shape, and everything imaginable. We would appear to be trapped, therefore, in our limited perceptual mechanisms.

15. Yet even this inescapable trap is of our own devising. The fact that human awareness has created a story and then bought into it, forgetting that we are its creators, cannot destroy one true thing: We are aware of being aware.

16. The fact that we are aware can never be eradicated, but we can put it to new uses that would abolish the old uses.

17. The most important of these new uses is to wake up from the illusion.


 

18. Experience is infinitely malleable, infinitely creative. Seeing that this is true, we wake up from a host of limiting beliefs, prejudices, and false assumptions.

19. Awareness is transcendent, existing in an inconceivable domain beyond space, time, matter, and energy. Yet this domain is the source of everything. When we wake up to this fact, we no longer give privileged positions to things that don’t deserve them. Ripe for demotion are death, fear, materialism, the brain-as-mind, and other outworn aspects of a story based entirely on Maya.

20. If our source is unbounded awareness, we should participate in everyday life on the basis of this one true thing, the only truth that deserves a capital T. To be grounded in formless being is to know reality–this is both awakening and freedom.

As you will see if you go deeply into it, this argument is water tight, as much as physicalists deny it. They grow angry in the face of serious challenge to the assumption that the physical world “out there” defines reality. But behind the concerted force of old science, received opinion, ad hominem attacks, and sheer ignorance, there is still the unquenchable need to know what is real. Only by accessing reality will we humans know who we are and why we are here. The next time you see a single red rose, take a closer look. It contains a mystery powerful enough to topple the universe.

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. 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. 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 change researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals and corporations on the natural laws that 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 310+ 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

MORE

Will the “Real” Reality Please Stand Up?

By Deepak Chopra

One peculiarity of our times is that people are so quick to accept the reality they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. We do this automatically, disregarding the fact that every preceding age was totally mystified by existence, to the point that mystics, poets, philosophers, sages, and spiritual teachers, without exception, insisted that there was an invisible, hidden dimension which constituted the “real” reality. In a hidden realm could be found God and the gods, heavens and hells, a domain of perfect forms (according to Plato), Nirvana (according to the Buddha), or some version of spirits, ancestors, shamanistic creatures, and so on.

Where did this “real” reality go? The easy answer was simple. The hidden dimension was extinguished by science. In a scientific age, nothing was considered real unless it was formed by bits of matter (molecules, atoms, subatomic particles) bound by elementary forces. On this foundation, which is often called physicalism, reality became consistent from top to bottom, from the farthest galaxies to the domain of the quantum, leaving everyday reality—rocks, people, trees, the Republican Party—sandwiched in between. Until very recently, physicalism provided a seamless picture of existence, minus all the gods and monsters relegated to the past.

But the easy answer has been unsatisfactory for over a century, even by the standards of science, and now physicalism hangs on by dint of scientific superstition, given that actually proving it is impossible. Without a doubt modern physics has revived a hidden, invisible, formless dimension that exists beyond time and space. This dimension preceded the Big Bang (with apologies for using “preceded,” since the word implies time, and there is strong evidence that time came into existence only with or even after the Big Bang.) Without going into detail, we can accept what modern cosmology asserts, that something came out of nothing, the something being our universe and the nothing a formless dimension we can dub the pre-created state (even though there are problems with any word assigned to describe it, since words are a creation in time and space also).

So the mystery of the “real” reality has returned with a vengeance. This poses an immediate intellectual challenge, to find a way to understand the pre-created state but also a second, more practical challenge, how to adjust our lives, if we need to, to a completely new reality. Let’s confront the first challenge now, with a future post devoted to the second. There are three routes to solving the mystery of the “real” reality:

1. Plug away at it with the tools of modern science until an answer is arrived at. This is the default position of most scientists, who assume that the triumphal march of the scientific method, based on measurement, data collection, and experiments, cannot be stopped.


 

2. Surrender to the fact that a timeless realm beyond our universe will never yield to modern science, because aside from mathematical conjecture (which abounds), our minds cannot wrap themselves around it. This is a minority position occupied largely by a handful of philosophically minded theorists who believe that physicalism is naïve in the face of a formless, dimensionless domain totally alien to the human brain, which without a doubt requires time, space, matter, and energy in order to exist—these are the very things we must do without in order to describe the hidden dimension.


 

3. Develop a new method of inquiry that can work reliably outside physicalism. This new method won’t be science, religion, or mysticism as they are usually pigeonholed, but it could be feasible as a new paradigm.


IMG_9325

You can see that the third route is the most optimistic, since the first has no sound basis and the second amounts to giving up. But in order for a new paradigm to create a reliable kind of investigation, it faces one seemingly impossible hurdle. It must comprehend the “real” reality without relying on time, space, matter, and energy. This seems to imply that we must think about the hidden dimension without using the human brain—a tough obstacle, indeed.

Yet there is a way forward, which is currently being developed by a cadre of theorists who propose that consciousness is the answer. If we live in a conscious universe, there is no need for any of the assumptions of physicalism. Instead of accepting matter and energy as absolutes in creation, every phenomenon becomes a modality of consciousness. In everyday life we accept that only thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images in the brain stand for conscious activity. This makes the brain a privileged object in creation. Even though it is obvious that the brain is made of the same chemicals as a banana, activated by the same forces as lightning, the superstition of physicalism treats the brain as unique in the universe (so far as we know).

If we take the drastic step of demoting the human brain from its (false) privileged position, reality shifts just where we need it to, toward a single entity that is totally consistent, uniform, evolving, self-created, self-regulated, and self-governing. That’s a huge chunk to bite off, but in fact we attribute these very qualities to our brain and to thinking itself. If we shake off the last vestige of physicalism—and why not, since its foundations crumbled long ago? —the primacy of consciousness leads to the following remarkable insights:

* The fossil record, which holds the history of life on Earth, is still accurate. But its existence came about as a human experience and a human interpretation of that experience.

* All biological organisms, including dinosaurs and us, exist in the same way: as perceptual and cognitive experiences in consciousness. Consciousness is not our personal property. We experience the fossil record in our awareness just as we experience our own body-mind in awareness. From the perspective of sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts. Matter and energy “out there” has no privileged status, since even a far-flung galaxy is knowable only as a perception in our awareness. “In here” and “out there” occupy a level playing field.

* Matter, including rocks, tress, clouds, and stars, is an interpretation of our experience in human consciousness. We create our version of reality strictly according to our localized species of consciousness, nothing else. To Bo, a dog at the White House, his species of consciousness creates a different reality. Bo doesn’t know that his owner is the President, for example. That’s a story invented by humans, as are race, nationality, gods, money, myths, latitude, longitude, Darwinism, etc.

* Science itself is a human story invented in human consciousness.

* If we try to reduce our stories to something more basic, known as raw experience, what we arrive at as building blocks are no longer atoms and subatomic particles but the qualia (qualities) of experience. These begin with sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, none of which exist outside us. Photons are not bright; roses have no fragrance; thunder isn’t loud in any intrinsic way. Raw experience is a species-specific collection of sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts. These constitute our perceptions.

* The physical universe therefore is actually the perceptual universe. It exists, insofar as we can know it at all, through our own experience and interpretation. Nothing “out there” has any property we do not assign to it.

* If we attempt to go beyond the human-created universe, we arrive at something inexplicable, which would seem to pose the same insurmountable problem faced by physicalism: something comes out of nothing. Only in this case, consciousness has no pre-created state. It is already without form and dimension, here and now, in everyday life. There is no need for an alien domain devoid of consciousness. Consciousness embraces time and the timeless, dimension and the dimensionless, here and there, then and now.

* Since consciousness is in fact the “real” reality, the rest is a story, a useful narrative for creating history, psychology, the hard sciences, and so on. At present technology is pivotal in the story, since it redounds to our benefit but could also lead to our ultimate extinction through a variety of means, from nuclear warfare and robot armies to eco disasters.

* Yet no matter how worried or encouraged our story may be, all stories are a model of reality, not reality itself. Reality cannot be modeled, because its basic materials have no qualities we can touch, taste, smell, think about, or perceive in any way. Reduced to a formula, Reality = Existence + Awareness of Existence.

* Language plays a crucial role in disguising the “real” reality. We gave names to perceived forms, and then bought into the de facto reality of these forms (matter, energy, brain, universe, etc.). The truth is that all phenomena are united as activities arising in consciousness, persisting for a while, and then subsiding back into the formless state of pure consciousness, the way that waves arise and fall in the ocean. By buying into the play of name and form, we got bamboozled into the superstition of matter as the essence of what is real. In fact, matter is an object lesson is illusion.

These insights have existed in the world’s wisdom traditions for centuries, both East and West, and the hope of modern science that such traditions could be ignored has come back to bite us.

At the very least everyone must agree that the “real” reality is wonderfully inexplicable. Why this matters to everyday existence is the topic of the next post.

(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 and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. 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. www.deepakchopra.com

MORE

How to Get Back Your Personal Power

By Deepak Chopra, MD

There are many ways in modern life to feel powerless, as the world seems increasingly dangerous. None of us can change the evening news, but we can regain the personal power that is undermined by stress, a sense of threat, and loss of control. In fact, without being in control, a person is more susceptible to depression and anxiety, two disorders that exist in epidemic numbers in this society. Unfortunately, the social trends that drain away personal power only grow stronger. Therefore, it’s crucial to find a way to limit that feeling in your day-to-day life. As a start, let’s clarify what power isn’t. It isn’t a force that you use like a weapon to get your own way. It isn’t suppressing what you don’t like about yourself and achieving a perfect ideal that doesn’t exist in the first place. It isn’t money, status, possessions, or any other material surrogate. There are countless people sitting in the lap of luxury who feel even more powerless than the average person. This is so because the issues of power are all “in here,” where you relate to yourself. Now we can address the five things that do limit—or even undo—that feeling of powerlessness.

(more…)

MORE