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The Mystery of the Eternal Now

People have become convinced that there is a spiritual benefit to living in the present. This is a surprising phenomenon, because nothing seems more mundane than the here and now. You wouldn’t expect anything special to emerge from the constant flow of seconds, minutes, and hours that fill everyone’s life from the moment of birth. There must be a deeper reason for giving the present moment a special value. (As an introduction to the significance of now, please see my recent post, “What Does It Mean to Live in the Present?”

“Now” is a concept that runs deeper than you might suppose. First of all, it cannot be measured by the clock. Before the tick of the clock is over, it has vanished into the past. Likewise, the experience of now as a subjective event is ungraspable by the mind. A thought is gone the instant you think it, and there’s an argument from neuroscience that says the words you perceive as a thought are after-effects of the brain activity that created them, since the electrical impulses and chemical reactions inside neurons take fractions of a second, while the words in your head take much longer.

In fact, because the now can’t be measured or seized upon, it doesn’t actually exist in the scheme of time. The present moment is like the mathematical definition of a point, which has no length–it is merely a marker dividing one measurement from another, as in the number 1/3 expressed as .3333 on to infinity.

But the same convention misrepresents time as it really is. Time is relative, as Einstein showed. It can slow down and speed up depending on where you are standing in relation to a moving object. (The fact that time speeds up in the presence of a large gravitational field is used every day to give precise locations on the Earth from GPS satellites–they must compensate for the different rates of time between outer space and within the Earth’s gravitational field.) Time also comes and goes. It has a very different nature in the quantum field than it does in the everyday world, and when you go deeper, into the quantum vacuum, time disappears where it came from, a void without dimension that is the source of space, time, matter, and energy.

You don’t have to delve into these points of science, or the mystery of time as studied by philosophers, to realize something important. Time in the human world is a malleable, elusive experience, which is why we feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day but also that time hangs heavy on our hands. The difference between not enough time and too much time is completely personal.

The timeless is just another word for the now. Being outside clock time, the now is unique. For each of us, if we stop buying into the convention of clock time, the now is the meeting point between the known and the unknown. The known is the past, the unknown is the future. What makes the now so intensely real is that life consists of nothing else but the flow of the known into the unknown. You know your last thought, but your next thought is unknown. So the real issue is how best to live at this ever-flowing, omnipresent reality?

Most people, conditioned to be afraid of the unknown, try to ignore it or at the very least blur its impact. They think, say, and do the same thing today that they thought, said, and did yesterday. No one is immune from this habit. We need a buffer from reality so that it can’t hurt us so much–or so we suppose. In any encounter we bring a set of expectations that buffers direct contact, whether it is contact with another person or a new situation. These expectations tell us where we are in relation to the person or situation.

From one perspective this setup is all well and good. You don’t want to meet your family at the breakfast table and ask them who they are, and you don’t want to go to work and learn your job over every day from scratch. The continuation of memory keeps things moving along. But the thread that memory provides is in time. It has nothing to do with the now, which is timeless. Memory, habit, social conditioning, and everything else that makes life continue day by day has one fatal flaw: nothing new could ever happen. Without the eternal now, which constantly renews our experience, life would be a ceaseless repetition of the old.

This gives us a clue how to live in the now. Be open. Let the new emerge. Be alert to unknown possibilities. Don’t get stuck in your old habits and expectations. This sounds all very well, but what in practical terms do you need to do? In terms of physical and mental activity, there is nothing to do. Doing happens by the clock, as so does thinking. You can only live in the now if you go beyond time. This journey occurs in consciousness. One striking feature of Buddhism is known as the teaching of non-doing. It gives instructions for how to be timeless or to put it another way, how to live in the now.

Non-doing has two parts. The first is to get unstuck from outworn beliefs, memories, and conditioning. The second is to be mindful of the here and now. Again, this sounds all well and good, but there’s seemingly a flaw. to get unstuck and to be mindful are things we’re asked to do. so how can you do and not do at the same time? You can’t. Non-doing isn’t something you can practice. One might go so far as to say that there’s nothing you can actually do that will get you unstuck or make you mindful. They are both the outcome of a shift in consciousness, not a recipe for creating the shift.

The only agent that can create a shift in consciousness is consciousness itself. This isn’t a riddle or a paradox. If you think about it, at every moment when the known flows into the unknown, your awareness shifts. The shift can be tiny, like becoming aware that you are hungry or sleepy, or suddenly realizing that you have a dental appointment. The shift can also be momentous, as in a sudden insight of “aha” experience.  Since you never known what the next experience will be, consciousness can’t be managed or controlled. It has been shifting all your life outside your control. So the basic truth is that consciousness has always been the creator of experience and therefore the creator of reality. Your personal reality has been nothing else but the unfolding of experience.

Why does this truth matter? It matters in lots of ways. Once you see that consciousness is doing everything, you can stop hindering it. People have devised countless ways to remain unconscious. They go into denial.  They go into unrealistic daydreams, rationalizations, and fears. They fixate on the past and anticipate the future. They obsess over obtaining something that will bring lasting happiness, only to discover frustration and disappointment when this cherished thing doesn’t appear, and almost equal frustration and disappointment if it does appear and they wind up no happier than before. Between fantasy and distraction, fixation and habit, denial and repression, our mental life unfolds almost entirely outside the now.

The most important thing you can actually do, therefore, is to want to be here now, because in reality you aren’t. You are somewhere else, and in that somewhere else, the unconscious has stifled the most precious aspect of being human: our infinite potential. Just as the now is timeless, it is also infinite. It has no boundaries except those we impose, which the poet William Blake called “mind-forg’d manacles.”  Once you want to live in the here and now, you send this message throughout the field of consciousness. What happens next no one can predict. The only common element is that you start to wake up. The transformation from unconscious to conscious happens by steps of waking up. You can wake up a little, many times a day, simply by pausing, taking a few deep breaths, and reconnecting with your sense of self. In effect you open a line of communication to yourself instead of being distracted from yourself. In this simple act, if repeated often enough, you expand your awareness–or rather, it expands by itself. The process that totally transforms a human being into a conscious creator of reality is the ultimate fruit of non-doing, where being here is enough and you are the essence of the eternal now.

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 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are The Healing Self, co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

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The Most Revolutionary Idea Is Here—and It’s Catching On

By Deepak Chopra, MD

In a news-driven society more attention is paid to events that will soon fade away than to ideas that could alter civilization. Modern secular society needs the impetus of great ideas to add meaning and purpose to our lives, as religion once did when it was the dominant force around the world. In turbulent times the prospect of a single idea that can transform humanity seems remote.

 

But just such an idea has arrived. It travels under various tags, the most common being “the one mind.” It’s the notion that there is only one mind in the universe despite the appearance here on Earth of seven billion minds. On the surface the radical possibilities stemming from “the one mind” aren’t obvious. In fact, the last thing anyone would want to give up is the claim to be a unique individual. That’s not what the one mind is about—it’s about expanding into higher consciousness as a practical reality. If humanity shares one mind, and this mind has a cosmic dimension, the very idea begins to cause one’s consciousness to expand.

 

Radical ideas are rarely new, and in the history of religion there has always been the concept that everything is happening in God’s mind. Without religious overtones, the one mind brings in attributes once considered divine, such as omniscience. An all-knowing god is remote; an all-knowing consciousness that you are part of is intimate. In place of divine omnipresence, the one mind brings timelessness down to Earth as a human attribute.

 

Can you in fact feel the effect of being timeless and all-knowing? There’s a wealth of tradition behind the possibility that the human mind can transcend the physical world, reaching a domain of higher reality. Undertaking the journey to reach that reality is at once an ancient challenge and a contemporary one. The one mind isn’t about inflating our sense of self-importance. You can’t experience what it means to be timeless and all-knowing as if those traits belong to the individual ego personality. “I” is a limiting concept. By transcending the everyday mind you get a glimpse of your source, which is where the timeless and all-knowing originate.

 

The point is to base reality, including your personal reality, on consciousness. That’s a radical departure from the official story that human beings are essentially physical, with the evolutionary add-on of a higher brain. When the one mind becomes the official story, all of life finds the same foundation in cosmic consciousness. There is no longer higher and lower life but one life that must be cherished and seen as a whole. At the very least, adopting this view can make saving the planet more central to everyone’s purpose. Clearly the crisis of climate change only deepens the longer we believe in separation between nations, belief systems, and individuals.

 

It would sell the one mind short, however, to call it a viewpoint or a story. What’s at stake is the hidden reality that humans have continually glimpsed and yearned to reach. It’s the realm of peace where there is no fear of death because death doesn’t exist. It’s the beginning of creation and the end of suffering, because suffering is caused by creation gone awry.

 

Ours would seem to be the last era when such a vision can reach fulfillment, but in the long view it was necessary to bring the one mind down from myth and mysticism. Science needs to confront nature head on and affirm that the one mind is real. Huge steps have been taken in this direction. Almost a century ago a quantum pioneer like Erwin Schrödinger affirmed that consciousness was one and indivisible, and another genius in physics, Werner Heisenberg, asserted that physical reality cannot exist without the interaction of an observer.

 

Despite these radical insights, or perhaps in defiance of them, physics has clung to the idea that nature is what is seems, a given that cannot be challenged. Now the challenge has not only arrived but is making headway. Serious consideration is given to the concept of one observer in the universe, and after decades of failing to show that mind can be created through physical processes, the idea is rising that the cosmos has always been conscious—mind is a feature as innate to creation as gravity or the speed of light.

 

I’m barely touching upon the explosive implications of the one mind. (Anyone curious to read a complete in-depth treatment should consult Larry Dossey’s riveting book, The One Mind” How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness.)  Science is poised to go in an intriguing direction, but where I feel the most hope, and genuine confidence, is in the future of spirituality and personal evolution. Without transcendence, we are stuck in the domain of separation. Body and mind inhabit separate compartments, and within the mind there is a war of opposing impulses, feelings, and thoughts.

 

The prevailing attitude is to live with the divided mind, protect yourself form the worst aspects of human nature, and boost the self-interest of “I, me, and mine” as far as you can. At best this strategy has left us feeling insecure and dissatisfied. At worst it has led to the catastrophes of war, xenophobia, and the specter of an environment damaged beyond repair. The primary attraction of the one mind is that it heals everything created by the state of separation. In itself, that is enough to create a new future. Who would settle for the old one that is looming before us when healing and renewal have arrived to save us from ourselves?

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 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are The Healing Self co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

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Nutrition Takes Another Spin–Why Can’t the Experts Get It Straight?

Fad diets come and go, but officially the subject of nutrition is guided by science. The public stubbornly thinks in terms of “good” foods and “bad” foods, so when the government’s nutritional experts issue scientifically based advice, any attempt at a nuanced picture generally gets lost. Recently there were headlines when the highest board for dietary protocols, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council, reversed a government warning about avoiding foods high in cholesterol, which has been in place nearly 40 years.

The public is likely to shrug off this about-face, or else decide that eggs, the most common food high in cholesterol, is no longer a “bad” food but has moved into the “good” column. This ignores the council’s message, which weighed one thing against another. For people in a normal state of health, saturated fats from animal products pose a higher risk than high cholesterol. This finding is more a shift in focus than an about-face. It’s still unhealthy, the majority of nutritionists agree, to eat too much red meat as opposed to eggs, but eggs are high in saturated fat, too, so you shouldn’t overdo them, either.

Nutritional science is a foggy subject, not only to the non-scientist but to the experts.

The picture of the human body as a machine works only so far, and after that all kinds of confusion sets in. Too many processes are happening on too many levels, each interwoven, for the machine model to be simple in the first place. Imagine a car that ran on gasoline, air, water, and a dose of daily vitamins and minerals. If a car that runs on gasoline alone is complicated, adding these other elements would require an engine beyond our present power of engineering.

Now substitute food for gasoline, and no amount of knowledge can reduce the body-as-machine to a level of useful comprehension. Some vitamins, being soluble in water, leach from the body quickly, the oil-soluble vitamins stick around for a long time. Some minerals like potassium also readily leach out in urine, while iron levels remain steady for years at a time. The processes that affect every nutrient are subject to mental factors that seem far removed from food intake, such as stress and depression. A cascade of hormones influences digestion, assimilation, and weight, so going back to the analog of a car, what would it be like to press on the gas pedal and have the car refuse to accelerate because it feels depressed?

Until the body is redefined as a process rather than a machine, nutrition (not to mention all of medical science) will never be a settled matter. Human beings are omnivores, and our capacity to digest a huge range of food has resulted in diets around the world of amazing diversity. Even the fact that the microbiome–the sum total of bacterial populations in the intestinal tract and elsewhere–is different all around the globe stymies any attempt to standardize the human diet. Not only is the body a process, but through the microbiome we merge into the surrounding ecology.

In fact, the most useful model of the body would approach it as an ecology that reflects the planetary ecology. Just as the separation between mind and body is totally arbitrary, so is the division between what our bodies are doing and what Nature as a whole is doing.

So where does that leave you when you next go to the grocery store?

The answer isn’t going to be a shopping list. Almost everyone has gotten the message that a whole foods diet is the best, and in this general category a Mediterranean diet has distinct advantages, largely because its reliance on fish and olive oil is healthier than a reliance on saturated fats and red meat. The high fiber content in any whole foods diet gives the microbiome the nutrition it feeds on. There’s not much more to advise, because almost everything else is mental. Stress is worse for you than a bad diet. Depression, too. Habits are mental, and it is habit that keeps Americans eating processed and junk food, far too much sugar and fat, probably too much salt, and so on. As long as 1 in 10 meals is eaten in McDonald’s, which can stand symbolically for the gamut of fast food, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council seems a little out of touch.

Because the poor and uneducated have the worst health and consume the worst diet, the ideal of a perfect American diet runs into one more huge snag. But “perfect” has always been the wrong goal. “Balance” is the right word, boring as it sounds, and to really get it right, there must be a holistic mind-body balance. I don’t know when the machine model will ultimately be discarded, but no one has to await the official word. Individuals can take the power for themselves to take wellness seriously, incrementally end bad habits, reduce their stress for real rather than always procrastinating, and stop obsessing over “good” and “bad” foods. When you throw out the wrong model and begin to appreciate the right one, major changes in the right direction are actually achievable.

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 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are The Healing Self, co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

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Deepak’s Reflections

 

“Join me for today’s reflection on #AmazonAlexa. Enable the skill and ask Alexa to “open Deepak’s Reflections” https://www.amazon.com/LivePerson-Deepak-Chopra/dp/B07JJNX41X

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There Is No “Real” Universe. Now What?

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

More than six decades after Einstein’s death in 1955, his prestige is enormous and worrisome. It is enormous because relativity remains tremendously important and to this day, both the special and the general theories of relativity remain valid. It is worrisome because Einstein harbored a deep skepticism about quantum mechanics, even though quantum mechanics has been validated time after time experimentally and despite the fact that Einstein himself was one of the founders, receiving the Nobel Prize for the quantum photoelectric effect. The embarrassing fact is that quantum mechanics, which explains the behavior of the smallest level of Nature, cannot be reconciled with general relativity, which explains the behavior of the universe at the largest level. They are both right but not merged yet.

A recent article in New Scientist describes an incredibly elaborate experiment using light emitted from quasars, the most distant objects in the cosmos observable by optical telescopes on Earth, which attempted once and for all to refute Einstein’s objections to quantum mechanics. Titled “Einstein was wrong: Why ‘normal’ physics can’t explain reality,” the article hardly seems newsworthy to the general reader, but it is. The behavior of quanta-like photons, the particles of light, defies ordinary reality. Two paired photons, for example, remain linked (the technical term is entangled) no matter how far apart they are in space. If one photon changes a certain measurable quantity, the other instantaneously mirrors it in reverse. This involves the travel of correlations between the two far away photons between the two photons to travel faster than the speed of light, which is impossible according to relativity.


Leaving aside a more detailed description (which can be found in our book, You Are the Universe), what Einstein stood for is the principle known as realism, which holds that the universe is an independent object existing “out there” independent of any observer. There are various varieties of realism, but one way or another, they defend the common sense notion that what you see is what you get. The most common variety is local realism, which now seems to be refuted. Global realism is even stranger than anyone can imagine, so that for now is left out of physicists’ thinking.


Realism has taken many blows over the centuries. Since the sun doesn’t actually rise in the morning and set in the evening, the universe isn’t reliably what we see. Atoms and molecules were supposed to be tiny bits of things, the irreducible building blocks from which bigger things, up to the entire cosmos, can be constructed. But they were undercut by subatomic particles, which are even smaller, to the vanishing point. The fact that quanta do vanish as regular behavior, existing also as waves of pure potential, knocked realism for a loop–but not definitively.


Einstein still believed that there must be an underlying reality more normal than the weirdness of the quantum world that would explain how things really work. The New Scientist article, however, reaffirmed that no such force or influence exists, going back almost literally to the birth of the universe 13.8 billion years ago. Ancient photons from distant quasars behave exactly as quantum mechanics predicted they would. Case closed.

But closing the case on realism also closes the case on the common sense notion that what you see is what you get.  Nobody outside the specialized field of quantum mechanics is going to sacrifice the physical world “out there” on the basis of arcane theories and advanced mathematics, no matter how credible the calculations are. This is a loss, not just to science but to the understanding of the human race.


Quantum mechanics seems exotic, even esoteric, but it affords a glimpse of a new reality where there would be no contradiction with relativity. It takes a radical leap, however, to form the necessary concept behind this new reality.  What it takes is to adopt the necessary concept of oneness. If we knew without a doubt that reality operates as a whole, then Einstein’s instincts would be correct, even if his science didn’t hold up in the matter of quantum mechanics. There is an underlying reality, as he intuited. It reconciles the contradiction between relativity and quantum mechanics by doing the simplest thing–in the state of oneness, no contradictions exist in the first place.


We can approach this with simple analogies. If you were an alien observing Homo sapiens for the first time, it would seem contradictory that human beings constantly exhibit opposite behaviors, loving and hating, laughing and crying, acting cruel and kind, creative and destructive.  Yet a single dimension–human nature–encompasses all these contradictions. They are not to be explained with separate theories, because no matter how extreme human behavior is, the same consciousness is the source of everything.


The second analogy has to do with the phenomenon of dreaming. In dreams any crazy thing can happen, and it does no good to formulate a theory about why elephants can fly in your dreams or trees vanish in the blink of an eye. The accepted dimensions of time and space are warped and fluid in a dream, too. Dreams can only be unified by waking up, at which point the inexplicable events that occur in dreamspace are revealed simply as aspects of consciousness while a person is dreaming.


Combine these two analogies and you come close to how realism can be replaced with a more valid conception of the “real” universe. Such a universe is unified by taking place in human experience and by having its source in consciousness. Perhaps this is the case for a global realism that current physics is reluctant to touch. In our book we take several hundred pages to unfold a “one reality” view of Nature and the universe. A considerable number of physicists are inching closer to such a view, we believe, in particular by accepting that consciousness is as fundamental in the cosmos as gravity or electromagnetism.


The “one reality” hypothesis reconciles relativity and quantum mechanics by not insisting on a universe separate from the observer. In some way, like it or not, human observers must be present for the universe to exist.  Each version of the universe that has emerged since the ancient Greeks has mirrored where human consciousness stood at the time. The universe evolved with us. That is an absurd statement to anyone who stubbornly clings to an outside existing reality, as realism does, yet the universe has been unreal for a very long time. It has no valid foundation in anything found “out there” without the participation of human beings. 


For realism to finally give way requires another step–ending the division between mind and matter. There is no mind “in here” and matter “out there,” but only consciousness adopting different modes that we arbitrarily call objective and subjective. As long as this arbitrary distinction is defended, physics will be stymied by self-created contradictions. There is a perspective that erases those contradictions, and once we adopt it, the era of the human universe can emerge, offering answers not dreamed of today in mainstream science.

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 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are The Healing Self co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. 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, groups 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 325 articles, is author or editor of 19 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of You are the Universe (Harmony). You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com 

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