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Have Human Beings Stopped Evolving?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

No idea has become baked into the social fabric than Darwinism, and yet Darwin himself never meant this to happen. In his mind, he was scientifically describing “the descent of species,” a specific notion of how life forms changed over time. Evolution was a rebuttal of the prevailing concept that species were fixed–if honeybees, ferns, and pandas exist, they always had. The momentous discovery of fossils, among other things, offered irrefutable evidence that species could vanish, and more importantly, that current species had ancestors.

But the term “evolution” turned into a loose metaphor, quickly escaping the rules of science. And the most dangerous application of the metaphor was to human society, where certain ideas about everyday life became falsely linked with Darwinism. Here are the main distortions that enormous numbers of people believe in without thinking.

1. Nature is all about survival of the fittest; therefore, so is society.

2. Evolution works through bloody competition that weeds out the weak and favors the strong. This applies to human competition and makes violence amoral–Nature is working through us, the ultimate excuse for the powerful dominating the weak.

3. If you are weak, you deserve to fail. Nature demands that survival be ruthless in order to strengthen a species.

4. Poverty is a sign of weakness in the evolutionary scheme.

5. Lower species evolve physically, but once evolution reached the level of early humans, evolution began to apply to psychology, emotions, and social behavior.

There are other offshoots of this main mistakes, but let’s stay with them. The most pernicious application of the evolution metaphor crops up as a justification for inequality. Racism dictates that some races are superior and others inferior. Sexism dictates that men are powerful and women comparatively weak. Free market fanatics push the notion that money shouldn’t be

wasted on the poor, aged, or sick because it is the obligation of such groups to fend for themselves in open competition. Pushed to such limits, the doctrine of social Darwinism, as it came to be called in the nineteenth century, can justify almost any kind of power grab or ruthless competition. As we’ve learned in this country quite recently, the appeal of social Darwinism remains both widespread and powerful. Millions of people feel the attraction of a white male portraying himself as a strong man who is a winner instead of a loser–all are masked Darwinian terms.

The irony is that Homo sapiens long ago left “the state of nature,” the naked arena where physical evolution takes place. In the state of nature, two things determine if a species survives: the ability to compete for food and to mate. Food is the most basic need for survival; mating passes on genes that would otherwise disappear from the gene pool. For thousands of years human beings have consciously departed from these two driving forces.

1. We care for our sick, weak, and old rather than letting nature takes its course.

2. We resort to medicine to wipe out and control fatal diseases that would thin the population if left untreated.

3. We have economies that spread food to every corner of the globe. People can buy the food they otherwise couldn’t raise.

4. Concepts of justice punish those who use violence to harm others or steal what they want.

5. We override who is physically strong or weak with weapons and bullets, allowing us to harm and kill at a distance.

These are only a few of the ways human beings escaped the arena where survival of the fittest rules (not that Darwin ever used that phrase, or espoused it). Some of humanity’s post-evolutionary traits are negative to the point of being horrifying, like the development of weapons of mass destruction, suicide bombers, and even suicide itself. Where evolution promotes physical survival, our ability to willingly end life has been a curse that people volunteer to place on themselves through war, crime, and violence of every stripe. Other post-

evolutionary traits like charities and hospitals exist as symbols of the benefits of escaping the state of nature.

There are evolutionists who continue to maintain that Darwinism applies to human beings, particularly in the two related fields of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology, but those applications have their own skeptics. Let’s set them both aside. Because post-evolution has brought good and ill effects to humanity, and because the metaphor of evolution is still powerful, the crucial question is whether we still want to evolve and if so, how? In its crudest form, the evolutionary metaphor is still about survival, so future evolution depends on such survival issues as the ecology, global climate change, and nuclear weapons.

In less crude form, the evolutionary metaphor is synonymous with progress, and almost everyone in modern society wants progress to continue, despite pull-backs by radical jihadists who yearn for a return to the illusion of religious purity, white supremacists who yearn for equally illusory racial purity, and xenophobes who push ultra-nationalism following a third illusion, that a single nation can isolate itself from the tide of globalism.

Yet the most compelling reason to seize the evolutionary metaphor is to promote post-evolution, to win even more freedom from the state of nature. This largely happens individually as the evolution of consciousness, a notion that was ridiculed fifty years ago, but which now drives the aspirations of millions of spiritual seekers. Having abandoned formal religion, these people have turned inward to find their own path to higher consciousness, and if that term is too elevated or alien, there is the search for inner peace, love, creativity, joy, and fulfillment. Long ago, human beings made the most radical evolutionary leap in history, turning away from physical evolution to mental evolution–hence the amazingly rapid development of the higher brain (cerebral cortex) from which all language, morality, and rational thought emerged.

There is no reason to assume that our consciousness can’t keep evolving, but there is no evidence that the brain needs new structures physically. The brain has enough flexibility

already to set us free by our own choice. We choose to evolve or not, to explore new domains of the mind or retreat into old, outmoded ones. In the end, the reason that Darwinism is the best of theories and the worst of theories comes down to how the theory is used. We are no longer Darwinian creatures, but as a metaphor evolution traces a path that applies to the best and worst possibilities in us.

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

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Reality Is Structured in Consciousness

By Deepak Chopra, MD

One of the most surprising survivors in our society, long counted out as either moribund or dead, is philosophy. The “love of truth,” as the Greek term describes, was defeated by science and its love of facts. So it was unexpected when the New York Times ran an op-ed piece titled “If We Are Not Just Animals, What Are We?” (March 6, 2017) by the veteran English philosopher Roger Scruton.

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The piece begins by nodding toward the tradition of endowing human beings with a soul, a supernatural spark that sets us apart from the animals, and quite realistically Scruton notes that “Recent advances in genetics, neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology have all but killed off that idea.” Although a popular belief in the soul is very much alive, our official secular culture and its primary source of knowledge, science, totally dismisses it.

What then? Scruton uses a split-the-difference tactic, arguing that although we are undeniably animals who evolved from primitive ancestors, we aren’t just animals. We are special creatures, beginning with our sense of morality. Modern philosophy, therefore, continues to ask the same questions about human specialness as ancient philosophy, searching for the true secret of being human. Scruton looks first to morality as a truth about being human, which most people would sympathize with.
“We believe that people have rights, that they are sovereign over their lives, and that those who live by enslaving or abusing others,” he writes, “are denying their own humanity.” But this appeal seems doomed, I think, because in a secular society truth and facts are the same, and for every nice thing that makes humans special, there are savage behaviors that place us far below the animal kingdom. Genocide, whether we like it or not, is just as human as compassion.

Scruton has more to say, but I think there’s an essential point he misses. Placing science up against philosophy doesn’t hold water, because science is itself a philosophy. The noted senior physicist George Ellis has pointed out quite sharply that when scientists disdain metaphysics, as the vast majority do, they are ignorant of the fact that their view of Nature is also metaphysical. To say that we live in a random universe, for example, is just as metaphysical as saying that the universe was made by God. Arguing than human begins are a mere speck in the cosmos, accidents of evolution that probably got repeated on hundreds or thousands of planets in other galaxies, declares a truth about humanness that is philosophical in its ramifications.

So splitting the difference with science isn’t going to breathe new life into philosophy. Scruton winds up with a fuzzy declaration that is unscientific but also inadequate philosophy: “…as persons we inhabit a life-world that is not reducible to the world of nature.” There’s nothing helpful in this, because things we cherish in our “life-world,” like love and compassion, are still going to be reduced to scientific explanations that for better or worse will rule the argument for a long time, just as they rule the argument now. If science is actually a philosophy, the critical question is this: which philosophy is the best one to live by?

The current crisis in physics doesn’t feature the word philosophy, but the predicaments are absolutely philosophical. Let me sketch in just one critical problem, which might be called the fudge factor. Fudging can imply dishonesty or taking shortcuts, but not in this case. Rather, certain numbers and explanations serve as placeholders while science awaits a new model–or even a new perspective on reality–to fill in the gaps. With the “discovery” of so-called dark matter and dark energy, physics has tried to fill in an enormous gap between theory and reality. Certain phenomena like the speed at which galaxies are rushing away from one another, cannot be explained away with new data. To fill in an enormous discrepancy, particularly in the cosmological constant, one of the most fundamental mathematical calculations in physics, dark matter and energy came along quite conveniently. Neither has ever been observed or directly measured. There is a strong feeling that their structure may be totally alien to the accepted structure of time, space, matter, and energy in the visible (non-dark) universe.

Since fudging the numbers requires such a huge adjustment, it was necessary to re balance creation so that 96% of it is dark, while the visible universe, including all the matter contained in stars, planets, galaxies, and interstellar dust, amount to only 4% of the total. This means that reality is largely unknown, for even though it’s accepted in many circles that a special particle known as a WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle) may forge a link with the known universe, no one has ever detected such a particle. Like the multiverse and superstring theory, dark matter and energy may be unknowable. All of these structures are totally mathematical, existing as creations of human consciousness. They provide no data or measurements. Therefore, if you are a radical skeptic, the whole superstructure of modern physics may be just a huge fudge factor.

Even if you aren’t willing to take that spectacular leap, even everyday subatomic particles like electrons are not objective, free-standing things like a loaf of bread or a tree. Being dual in nature, electrons exhibit “thingness” when they are observed but exist the rest of the time aswaves of potentiality with no fixed qualities of any kind. This is a bedrock fact of quantum physics going back to its early days over a century ago. To stitch together a marriage of convenience between the everyday world of big objects and the quantum world of very tiny ones (which are dubiously called objects in the first place), it was necessary to erect a wall separating the two domains. This détente isn’t scientifically convincing, but at least it was reassuring. Quantum events could continue to be “spooky action at a distance” while the everyday world chugged along normally.

Only now it appears that the everyday world of big objects is probably quantum in nature, too. Big objects move so slowly, however, that we are fooled by their appearance of solidity. In reality, nothing is fixed, solid, firmly in place, or unchanging. Every piece of creation is caught up in the same process of flow, unpredictability, and spookiness. Without going into details, let’s admit that the fudge factor, which attests to a huge mismatch between theory and reality, upends science’s claim to hard-headed facts. Science is a collection of concepts created in the human mind, just like philosophy. Electrons exist because in our species of consciousness, we gave them a name attached to a concept, and one of the concepts was to call electrons objects or things. In another mode of knowing–perhaps possessed by “dark” thinkers in a domain we can’t conceive of-electrons are totally different, if they exist at all. All of these ideas are explored in great detail in a new book , You Are the Universe I co-wrote with physicist Menas Kafatos.

Over the past century philosophy has capitulated to science, and all of us, whether we realize it or not, live according to the philosophy that science espouses. Because of science’s triumphant discovery of new technologies, we assume that its philosophy must be right. This is like a medieval person who happened to see an airplane fly overhead then rushes to tell his priest that God is real. Technology isn’t the doorkeeper of truth. There is really only one viable way forward. A livable philosophy must be based on a foundation in reality, and for that purpose, the only way we know anything is through consciousness. Reality is an activity in consciousness, whether it’s a matter of falling in love or creating the concept of an electron. Until everyone begins to explore a consciousness-based approach to reality, the pursuit of science and philosophy will both be hobbled.

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

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How to Be a Know-It-All (For Real)

By Deepak Chopra, MD

Omniscience, the ability to know everything, has a strong spiritual tradition, which places it as a divine quality, not a human one. In secular society, artificial intelligence grabs headlines while omniscience, except for those who believe in an all-knowing God, is an archaic notion. But there’s a reason why omniscience arose in the first place, and its possibility turns out to be very human.
What makes omniscience sound preposterous to a rational skeptic is ingrained in our habits of knowing. We know things one at a time. This holds true for things “out there” like mountains, flowers, and stars, as well as things “in here,” which include thoughts, images, and sensations. One-at-a-time knowledge can’t be omniscient, obviously. But instead of closing the argument, is there a kind of knowing that isn’t one at a time? Clearly there is. Do you know what is meant by “colors”? Of course, and you know colors as a concept that covers individual hues like red, green, blue, etc. There are also intuitive qualities like love, truth, beauty, and creativity that we know without having to tick off one example at a time.

Here is where the twist comes in. What does knowledge of everything, whether inner or outer, have in common? The experience of knowing. A rose has no fragrance without the experience of smelling, just as a rose cannot be crimson without the experience of sight and velvety-textured without the experience of touch. This simple fact leads to the possibility that all the contents of libraries, science, and the human mind can be set aside in favor of one common denominator: the experience of knowing.
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This may sound like something too abstract to make a difference in daily life, yet imagine being a child who believes that movies are real. This illusion melts away once he is shown a projector and the light that emanates from it. Once he knows how movies are made, the child doesn’t stop going to them in disgust at being fooled. Instead, a new world—the making of movies—is potentially open to him when he grows up. Likewise, when everything we assume to be real—objects in here and out there—are shown to be real only because we experience them, new creative possibilities open up—that is ultimately why enlightenment is called waking up.
What blocks us from stepping into this awakened (i.e., non-illusory) state is that we give a privileged position to our bodies—no matter how convincing it is to break a rose down into the experience of light, texture, color, scent, etc., all of which are human-centered, breaking your hand down into the same thing feels wrong—but it isn’t. Think of an infant who doesn’t know the concept of “hand.” He experiences a soft, pink, fleshy object floating in his field of vision, and only after gaining control of it and learning that this floaty thing is a “hand” does it become a privileged part of the body.

It’s hard to see that your body is just a mode of knowing like any other, fitting into the big reality, which consists of other modes of knowing. The mode of knowing the body is rich with sensual perception tied to the infinite wealth of mental activity, while a rock falling on your foot is a much cruder, simpler mode of knowing. Mathematics is a very complex mode of knowing that bears little resemblance to how spaghetti tastes or how love feels. But no matter what corner of reality you investigate, as far away as the newly discovered seven planets orbiting a nearby star or a single bacterium settling on your skin, the common denominator of knowing and experience can’t be subtracted.
Now, why does this fact pass the “So what” test? In one way, it puts the creation of personal reality into each person’s hands, which is why the metaphor of waking up is so often used—obviously it’s better to be awake than asleep. One of the reasons creative people love their creativity is that they feel free of old concepts, liberated to move into new territory in their art. The world’s wisdom traditions go a step further. They advise us to be free of concepts altogether—in other words, to live in the moment with total immediacy.
Yet there are two deeper reasons to adopt this notion that reality isn’t the same as the words and concepts we apply to it.

The first reason comes from Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita when he declares, “I am the field and the knower of the field.” In other words, the essence of being conscious is to realize that pure knowing, also called witnessing awareness, is who youare. It’s not a skill, talent, gift, attribute, or add-on. It’s you, the unchanging, unborn, undying witness that exists in every experience. To live as the witness brings an end to illusion, including the illusion of death, fear, and suffering.

The second reason for redefining reality in such a radical way, shifting everything to the knower, is contained in an ancient Indian teaching, “Know that one thing by which all else is known.” This “one thing” can’t really be a thing but instead is the key to omniscience. The “one thing” is awareness itself, and it holds the key because in awareness everything we actually want from life—love, compassion, intelligence, evolution, creativity, and inner peace—begins and ends in consciousness. The reason God is called omniscient is naively believed to be factual knowledge, like a cosmic “Okay, Google.” In fact, God is omniscient because the essence of all known things has its source beyond physicality. There’s no need to use religious language to search for this source since it is within us. This concept is explored in great detail in my new book, You Are the Universe , written with physicist Menas Kafatos.
Clearly this explanation of reality as an activity in consciousness won’t hold water until the individual undergoes a journey to prove if it is valid or not. That journey is invaluable, the great object of human existence, and every step on the way makes life more worth living.

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

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The Ultimate Self-Help: Upgrading the Illusion

By Deepak Chopra, MD

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The phrase “personal reality” has a range of meanings, and most people would begin with their situation, the place where they find themselves. There’s a natural impulse to improve the situation, whatever it happens to be. If your situation lacks enough money, satisfying work, a loving relationship, and so on, it will improve your personal reality to work on those things. That’s about as far as society tells us we can go. On a larger scale, one person can make a minuscule difference by casting a vote for President or deciding to recycle, but big or small, personal reality has a big outer component, consisting of the external world, other people, natural forces, and so on.

 

It seems so obvious that there is a “big” reality compared to which anyone’s “small” reality is fairly insignificant. But this small reality is personal, so we all spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to upgrade it–all of our life, in fact. So it’s mystifying to run into the world’s wisdom traditions, which perversely turn this whole idea upside down, claiming that the “big” reality is actually a snare, a trap, an illusion. That’s the gist of the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Buddhism, different as they are when taken as religions. In my new book, You Are the Universe , written with physicist Menas Kafatos, we look very closely at how to upgrade personal reality from the ground up, a process that begins with solving the whole mystery of reality.

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A Note to Skeptics: It’s Time to Go Radical

By Deepak Chopra, MD

 

Anyone who has had the audacity to question mainstream science soon runs afoul, particularly in the blogosphere, of hard-line skeptics. Whether they are simply insistent or outright aggressive, the skeptical viewpoint has long been founded on a simple principle. Reality is what lies before us, in the three-dimensional world “out there” that’s verified by the five senses. If you can see it, feel it, touch, taste, and smell it, the thing in question is real (making provisions for scientific instruments like telescopes and microscopes that extend the naked eye).

No amount of argument shakes the skeptic’s credo, and so it’s refreshing that they are being upended, not only by metaphysics or deeper investigation into consciousness–all of which gets dismissed as woo-woo, but by science itself. With the discovery of so-called dark matter and dark energy, which either obeys none of the laws of nature that apply to ordinary matter and energy or else conforms to those laws in a hidden way, the primacy of the visible universe has shrunk alarmingly. Every solid object in the cosmos, including interstellar dust, is barely the cherry on the top of an ice cream sundae, because only a fraction of 1% of creation is constituted by ordinary matter and energy.
This common-sense objection to the physicalists, as materialists now prefer to be called, doesn’t shake their faith utterly, because it might be possible to redefine matter and energy in such a way that the old model of “if you can see it, it’s real” won’t collapse. But other challenges to physicalism are more radical, which is why skeptics need to follow their credo to the nth degree and apply it to themselves. There is almost universal agreement among physicists that the universe emerged from a pre-created state that is a void, known as the quantum vacuum state. This void offers no empirical data. The world’s most powerful high-speed particle accelerators can barely budge any data from the quantum vacuum state, whose existence is so abstract that one might as well call it totally mathematical, i.e., mental.

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If your foundation of reality is mental, it’s obvious that the five senses have long ago ceased to be reliable (skeptics tend to overlook that among the greatest quantum pioneers a century ago, everyday matter and energy had already been thoroughly dismantled). The notion has long existed, as first evidenced by Heisenberg, that elementary particles have no set qualities; instead, nature delivers measurements tailored to the expectations, experimental setup, and observational bias of human beings. There are no fixed qualities of space, time, matter, and energy that exist “out there” without being extrapolated from human experience.

 

If you want to be radically skeptical, look with doubt upon a basic fact like the big bang, which we say in human time took place 13.8 billion years ago. With so much agreement on this fact, how could anyone be skeptical? The reason lies deeper than the clock ticking away on the shelf. The big bang has no known origin when you get to the finest level of time and space, known as the Planck scale. At this level, which is measured in trillionths of a second, the emergent universe is about to be born. Its birth wasn’t a bang, for obvious reasons. One, there was no sound, and two, explosions require a place and a time. The Planck scale precedes time and space (granting that “precede” makes no sense without time already existing).

In this pre-reality, if we can call it that, the universe originated everywhere at once, and contemporary theorists speculate over whether the same is true today as well. You can argue, from various viewpoints like eternal inflation, that the existence of matter and energy, whether at the subatomic scale or on the massive scale of galaxies, is a process that never ceases. Besides being timeless, it is also dimensionless. The whole notion of the quantum vacuum state, which is ground zero for reality, can be mathematically tinkered with so that the void has no dimensions, infinite dimensions, or a specific number in between. In a word, reality at its core is inconceivable, and trying to model it with mathematical formulas may serve a certain purpose abstractly, but even diehards like Stephen Hawking concede that current theory may be far removed from reality.

Skeptics should be chewing on the current imperfect and very malleable state of cosmology before they point accusations at anyone else. The defense of common-sense physicalism is not only outmoded by about a hundred years, but it amounts to an article of faith and a superstition, the very things the skeptic movements is dedicated to oppose. In an era of radical skepticism, should it ever arrive, a post-physicalist perspective could be of tremendous benefit to 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, 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

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