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The Human Body Is Starting to Make Sense

The complexity of the human body has fascinated medical science, and every new discovery leads to a new level of complexity. Now it is no longer possible to talk about depression, for example, as a general disorder or cancer as a single disease. It may be that the brain of each depressed patient is depressed in its own unique way, and the leading research on cancer is heading towards personalized drugs targeted to each patient’s highly specific genetic variation of cancer.

Does increasing complexity actually clarify things? The traditional disease models taught when I was in medical school are fraying around the edges, and some disorders, such as schizophrenia, have no localized cause. There is no known cause for schizophrenia. The general public thinks that you catch a cold because of exposure to the cold virus. But in fact direct contact with the cold virus gives only a 1 in 8 chance of catching cold.

If we try to make sense of this confusion, it turns out that almost every disorder is enveloped in a cloud of causes. In this cloud swirl a number of factors that can make you prone to illness:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Immune status
  • External pathogens such as bacteria and viruses
  • Stress
  • Psychological deficit (e.g., depression, brief, loneliness)
  • Age
  • “Control by host”

The last thing, control by host, is a kind of X factor that explains, all things being equal, why one person gets sick while someone else in the same circumstances doesn’t–our bodies have an invisible means of fending off sickness or giving in to it that is unexplained.

 

The cloud of causes is easy to list, which puts medical knowledge far ahead of where it used to be. But it was much easier simply to assume that germs or genes cause illness. With simple explanations now undermined, we’re stuck with a gamble of risks. Too many causes–none of them being absolute causes–makes the whole picture fuzzy. It doesn’t make sense that our own bodies should be a mystery to us.

The body will only start to make sense when certain basic facts are accepted:

  1. Body and mind are not separate. They should be considered as one thing, the bodymind.
  2. The body isn’t a thing. It is an ongoing continuous process.

3, The healthy state of the bodymind is dynamic balance, known as homeostasis.

  1. Homeostasis is so powerful that it takes chronic imbalance to throw it out of whack, over a long period of time, years before any symptoms appear.
  2. The chief causes of imbalance are stress and chronic inflammation.

These facts are beginning to sink in over the past decade, and one result has been the rise of the self-care movement. Doctors are in the business of diagnosing symptoms and then proceeding to offer a remedy. The actual causes of disease start affecting us years and sometimes decades before symptoms appear. Each of us has to tend to self-care. Certain ways of doing this are well known, such as a diet of natural whole foods, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and taking regular exercise.

What has been missed is that the bodymind has priorities. If you exercise and turn it into work as you grind out each gym session, if you feel stressed at work, and eat fast food on the run, which of these things is good or bad for you? A stressful workout session is still stress. A diet high in fat and sugar leads to inflammation. Unless you know how to prioritize the same things your bodymind prioritizes, you are gambling with your own wellness in the long run.

 

In The Healing Self my co-author Rudy Tanzi from Harvard Medical School and I delve deeply into the whole issue of lifelong wellness, but the upshot is that the whole cloud of factors turns on the same pivot point which is consciousness. The human body will only make compete sense when it is seen as a mode of consciousness in physical form. I know this can sound alien to the typical view of the body as a kind of complicated machine, but in practical t terms, if you want to maintain lifelong wellness:

  1. Tend to stress by reducing it and removing undue pressure from your life.
  2. Increase your sense of safety, security, and belonging.
  3. Learn to trust how you feel.
  4. Stay away from toxic work environments and personal relationships.
  5. Put a high priority on 8 hours of continuous good sleep every night.
  6. Find means of social support so that you are not isolated.
  7. Deal with signs of depression and anxiety early on.
  8. Set time aside every day to do something you truly enjoy.
  9. Learn the value of play and creativity.
  10. Check to make sure that you are actually happy and do what it takes to remain that way.

 

This checklist is very different from the usual risk factors for avoiding disease. those factors are still relevant, but they don’t lead to lifelong wellness. The keys to lifelong wellness are just being discovered, and so far, too few people know what they are or how to take advantage of them. The checklist above makes for a good start.  Every day you either support the bodymind’s healing response or undermine it. By knowing what a healing lifestyle actually is, you are taking the most important step toward a life that is fulfilling here and now. As long as “here and now” remains fulfilled, so will your entire life.

 

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 Future Is Accelerating—Will Humans Fit In?

By Deepak Chopra, MD and P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS

The celebrity inventor, thinker, and entrepreneur has joined other voices who worry about a future dominated by supercomputers and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In a widely publicized podcast, Musk announced that Neuralink, a company he cofounded, plans to announce in a few months a brain-machine interface breakthrough that’s “better than anyone thinks is possible” This would be a device implanted in the brain that would communicate thoughts directly to digital sources like the Internet. In parallel, 60 Minutes aired and then re-aired a story about the futurist Media Lab at MIT where one of the researchers had already devised a headset that can turn mental activity into a message that appears on a computer screen. One aspect of this brain-to-digital conversion is that someone can do a Google search simply by thinking about it and then seeing the answer on the computer.

Musk’s motivation seems to be his fear of the existential threat of AI to humans, which echoes similar fears voiced by leading scientists, including the late Stephen Hawking. What is envisioned is the emergence of supercomputers that not only can out-perform the human brain in speed, storage, and complexity of calculation—none of which exactly looms like a Frankenstein monster—but will somehow cross a borderline to acquire independent “will,” or a simulation of this. What might follow, the worriers fear, is a race of supercomputers with their own agenda, and in keeping with many sci-fi plots, humans will no longer be necessary.

Imagination is free to run wild once this surmise is accepted as a real possibility. Computers could shut down the power grid, destroy the banking system like super hackers, and weaponized themselves, override the nuclear codes to wipe out feeble, backward, fallible human beings. Even though such a scenario feels far-fetched, Musk wants to head it off by continuing to keep humans relevant for the foreseeable future.

His brain-machine link aims to do just that. A “whole brain interface” that totally immerses our cerebral cortex in the hyperspace of computers will, Musk claims, increase the long-term relevance of humans while also, as a side benefit, help detect brain diseases. Such a defiant stance in stark contrast to the capitulation represented by another Silicon Valley savant, Anthony Levandowski, known in Silicon Valley as a pioneering visionary in AI and for his contribution to driverless cars. Levandowski gained media attention in 2017 by founding the first AI church, which he named The Way of the Future. He is searching for adherents and foresees an AI godhead as not ridiculous but inevitable. As Levandowski told an interviewer from Wired magazine, “It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?” What saves The Way of the Future from being a lampoon is the enormous impact that AI is going to have everywhere. The Wired interviewer writes, “Levandowski believes that a change is coming—a change that will transform every aspect of human existence, disrupting employment, leisure, religion, the economy, and possibly decide our very survival as a species.”

Everyone is free to worry about a hollow, dehumanized AI future, but what the first thirty years of the digital age has shown is that the greatest threats come from human hacks, identity theft, cyber-theft, and social media mischief like bullying and fake news. But AI futurists have mechanized the threat and the solution instead.

Neuralink is in many ways the grandest of all of Elon Musk’s enterprises. His vision of an implanted “digital brain layer” would interface with the neocortical and limbic layers of the human brain to allow our 100 billion neurons to effortlessly communicate with the Internet at ultra-high bandwidth. Such a device would also allow someone outfitted with the device to communicate with everyone else in the world just through their thoughts (Star Trek fans know this as the Vulcan mind meld). Eventually, once we are all brain-connected, smartphones, email, Instagram, etc. would be outmoded relics of the past.

It is widely speculated that any whole-brain interface is decades away, although implanted devices are cutting edge in prosthetic research, aiming to enable amputees to send signals to a robot arm or leg as effortlessly as thinking. Musk and others face many ethical issues (do you want somebody to invade the privacy of your secret thoughts?) and technical problems such as biocompatibility, bandwidth, decoding of brain signals, safety, hacking, etc. But never underestimate Elon Musk – Neuralink may well hyper-accelerate the nascent brain-machine interface industry much as his other companies, SpaceX and Tesla, have done.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that a whole brain Neuralink becomes available by 2050. Would a fully interfaced global community expand what it means to be human? Today the main threat to humankind is not AI but our divisiveness. We are bitterly estranged

by race, religion, politics, income, opportunity, and tribalism. Being linked to a prejudiced mind will accelerate this divisiveness at a speed barely hinted at by the current toxic behavior rife on social media.

Futurism is starkly divided between optimists and pessimist. To the optimists, being wired into someone else’s whole brain holds out the promise of fully understanding that person and seeing life as close to their experience as another person possibly can. Syrian refugees huddled helplessly in camps can be ignored as repetitive TV images on the evening news, but not if you are inside their brains. Empathy, one hopes, would become urgent and immediate.

The United Nations and other institutions have placed some hope in virtual reality as a means to close the empathy action gap. One can point to high level meetings where privileged attendees wore virtual reality apparatus that transported them to the pitiful situation of a refugee child; they were moved to tears. And in a more recent experiment done by Stanford scientists, research participants who underwent a VR experience on the harsh realities of losing one’s job, were much more likely to show long-lasting empathy to homeless people (compared to a control group that just read about the poverty and homelessness). But the technology remains imperfect. The core issue is whether technology is the key to transforming human behavior, since after all, the motivation to be compassionate and charitable exists in some people without any technological aid and doesn’t move other people at all.

Pessimists might point out that such technology could just as well be used for manipulating people to do harmful things and may likely strengthen false beliefs. Repeated experiments in social psychology have shown how hard it is for people to change false beliefs

despite being shown hard facts disproving such beliefs. Indeed, in one such experiment when asked if their false belief for an unjust war had changed, it had—they became more stubbornly entrenched in their support for the war. Such an outcome shouldn’t surprise us—it is human nature to resent being made wrong, and having the facts thrown in your face only increases the insult.

But there are other experiments in social psychology that run counter to this one. Psyches are malleable, particularly among children. White children who participate in role reversal with black children have been shown to become more racially tolerant. A child who has grown up in grinding poverty and becomes rich as an adult may become a philanthropist—or a miser. Philanthropy can also be motivated by a lack of greed and a willingness to share, even if the generous person grew up in a prosperous house.

It is unlikely that technology per se has the capacity to alter human nature. Social media is already a very mixed experiment in communal exchanges. Certainly the anonymity of social media has broken down norms of civility and restraint. Sexuality has become more a transaction, usually very temporary, than a part of courtship and marriage. In a world where nothing is forbidden, where everyone can see the most horrific, ghoulish, disturbing sights with the stroke of a key, the outcome is unpredictable. Perhaps, as in life before the digital age, every outcome will ensue, only at accelerated speed and with instantaneous impact.

The best outcomes are included in this. As the rise of micro-loans and crowd sourcing indicate, huge changes can occur by making our best impulses come to fruition at high speed. The rise of smartphones and the Internet in countries where opportunity is blocked by

repressive government, harsh mores, sexism, tribal hatred, and daily violence, comes as a boon and a force for liberation. And if a modern Buddha, Christ, or future Dalai Lama could be wired in, who knows? Elon Musk might usher in a universal age of enlightenment.

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

P. Murali Doraiswamy MBBS, FRCP is a leading physician and brain scientist at Duke University Health System where he is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, as well as a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. Murali is also a member of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development and an affiliate of the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine. He is an advisor to leading businesses, advocacy groups and government agencies, and serves as the Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Neurotechnology. He also co-chaired the Forum’s 2018 Generation AI workshop.

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You Are Cordially Invited to a New Universe

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

Most people have heard about the fragile start that the universe had. Although the big bang sounds big, it occurred in a space smaller by millions of times than the period at the end of this sentence. The forces of nature had to be exquisitely balanced for the infant universe to work once it expanded to its present enormous size. This exquisite balance is known to physicists as fine tuning. If any one of about twenty constants responsible for the nature of the cosmos had been off by one part in a billion, the infant universe could have collapsed in on itself or flown apart so fast that atoms would never emerge from the primal quantum soup surrounding the beginning of the universe.

A constant is an unvarying number like C, the speed of light. Constants aren’t allowed to be wobbly. The speed of light can’t be unpredictable, changing in the Andromeda nebula (the next-door galaxy to our own Milky Way), from what it is here on Earth. Nor can it change from Monday to Tuesday. Whether you speak of the universe 13.8 billion years ago or today, C hasn’t changed, nor have the other constants that regulate all the matter and energy in the cosmos.

But then a funny thing was observed. Certain large ratios of numbers coming from widely different fields seem to unexpectedly be the same. An example would be the ratio of the electromagnetic force to gravitational force being very similar to the ratio of the radius of the universe to the size of an elementary particle. For no logical reason, both ratios are about 1 followed by 40 zeroes.

Why would this be the case?

Dubbed the large number hypothesis by the pioneering English physicist Paul Dirac, this similarity, he argued, could be far from a numerical coincidence. Some have argued that such coincidences point to the unique characteristics of the universe we live in, namely the ability to develop life and intelligence. If a Swiss watch is missing even one tiny moving part, it can’t tell time. Apparently the same holds true on a cosmic scale. If one constant is off by even a fraction, time couldn’t exist and the universe as we know it today would not be. Since everything is inter-related, the same breakdown would make space, matter, and energy impossible, or at the very least would alter them in ways we can’t imagine.

Our brains, being the product of the same constants that regulate the atom, are also fine-tuned. We think using a physical organ that operates from quantum to cerebrum in a chain of processes that depend on everything being meshed with everything else. If potassium and sodium ions had a different electric charge, for instance, neurons wouldn’t work because they would lack the proper chemistry.

The fact that there is a fixed ratio between a given constant and the diameter of the universe raises an obvious question. In an expanding universe, do constants remain the same, or do they expand and shrink like a rubber band to fit what the universe is doing? The latter would be a remarkable state of affairs; it could challenge the way we go about doing science and how we gather knowledge about the nature of the universe. For at least six decades it was gospel that “constants” cannot change (hence their name). But recent findings, as outlined in last week’s post, has thrown this certainty into doubt. There is evidence that when light travels to Earth from some 12 billion light years away, nearly at the edge of the cosmos, it changed by a tiny fraction.

This could be the biggest breakthrough in modern science, small as the variation is thought to be. We are talking about a few parts in several million. But fine-tuning is much more precise. If you tote up how perfectly all the constants have to be, they form a tight matrix, so tight in fact that any wiggle is impossible. The whole house of cards might crash down, leaving us with no universe. Most physicists would agree in principle with that statement. The grand prize will go to the physicist who can prove it in reality.

If the matrix of constants equals the structure of the universe as we know it, then the large number hypothesis doesn’t point to a mathematical curiosity–it’s the key to life on Earth and the evolution of human beings. There is already a theory of creation based on the anthropic principle, as it is known. The weak version of this theory holds that the universe is only knowable through the human brain, and therefore we will inevitably see creation as leading with perfect design to us here on Earth. An alien on some distant planet light years away, if it possessed a totally different brain, would see a universe based on its nervous system, with a creation story that leads with perfect inevitability to its emergence. In both cases, we would have perfect design.

The strong version of the anthropic principle goes beyond having a human (anthropic) viewpoint. It holds that the universe must be geared to life on Earth and the evolution of Homo sapiens because otherwise, we wouldn’t exist. Fine-tuning is for our benefit. Are there other universes that followed a different trajectory? This is possible mathematically, but we will never experience them, because our home universe is custom made for us.

Homo sapiens inhabits a human universe, which is what our book, You Are the Universe, contends. But the new findings that suggest a reality where the constants are changeable opens up a wider, stranger possibility. The human universe may be evolving to suit our own fluid situation. Homo sapiens acquired a modern human brain around 30,000 years ago. But life back then bore no resemblance to life today. Stone Age humans had the brains to build a nuclear reactor or the Hubble telescope, but they needed a more evolved technological setting to bring such achievements into reality.

It would be startling if our species also needed a different universe for each phase of our evolution. This possibility would make us co-creators of the cosmos. Perhaps we must be co-creators of the cosmos. The existence of fluid constants breaks all the rules, but there has to be a central headquarters that keeps reality intact no matter how different things change. A car remains a car even if you redesign the engine. What makes a car a car? It is a concept that engineers and designers turn into a physical object.

In the same way, our universe may be a concept we maintain in its essential nature, but which can be altered creatively in all kinds of ways, the way a Formula One race car is the creative modification of a Model T Ford. If so, then every model of the universe is altered, not by manipulating the physical parts, but by creating new concepts of what belongs to a universe according to collective humanity. We know that this sounds like a wild surmise, but there are leading physicists, following the lead of most of the founders of quantum mechanics, who already believe that we inhabit a conscious universe. It isn’t much of a step to realize that the evidence of consciousness exists because as conscious beings, we insist that reality reflect our state of mind. The human universe has further horizons than anyone ever expected, beyond perhaps what we used to consider as a purely physical 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 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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The Universe Has Become a Risky Numbers Game

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

 

Although advanced instruments like the Very Large Telescope in Chile grab spectacular images and space probes give first-person access to distant bodies like comets, asteroids and planets, the story of the universe is largely told by the numbers. The cosmos holds together, particularly at the farthest horizons, through mathematical calculations. It’s incredibly tricky to calculate what actually occurred during the big bang, for example. At the other extreme, the potential (inevitable?) death of the universe is conjectured, not by envisioning it but by taking the known laws of nature and foreseeing how they play out over time.

 

There are so many variables in this numbers game that huge gaps are possible and possible errors that are more than sizable. Trouble was recently reported in the October 3 issue of New Scientist, a “glitch at the edge of the universe that could remake physics,” as the headline declared. What’s in question–perhaps–is one of the constants upon which most of our theoretical understanding of matter and energy rest. The general public is aware of constants like the speed of light and the force of gravity, but the “fine structure constant,” also known as alpha, has deep implications for the biggest and smallest things in creation.

 

Alpha is known to be approximately 1/137, and it recurs in all kinds of ways arbitrarily, it would seem. One of the most famous American physicists, Richard Feynman called it “one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding.”  But it is accepted that alpha is part of the fine-tuning of the universe, without which creation would be unrecognizable, or even doomed from the start.

 

As the writer of the article, Michael Brooks, summarizes it, alpha lies at the heart of the theory of how electromagnetism works. “Change this number by a smidgen, and you change the universe. Increase it too much, and protons repel each other so strongly that small atomic nuclei can’t hold together. Go a bit further and nuclear fusion factories within stars grind to a halt and can no longer produce carbon, the element on which life is based. Make alpha much smaller, and molecular bonds fall apart at lower temperatures, altering many processes essential to life.”

 

The fact that modern physics requires constants is accepted without question, yet there’s an undercurrent of embarrassment that certain constants, at least 19 in sum for the so-called Standard Model of particle physics, are totally arbitrary numbers that must be injected into equations to make them match reality. In other words, to make the numbers fit what is observed in Nature, physics requires fudge factors. In our book, You Are the Universe, we discuss at length how the discovery of so-called “dark” matter and energy enormously threw the best calculations off balance. Not only was the fudge factor for dark energy enormous, but it seems, mathematically speaking, that the sum total of ordinary matter and energy in the universe is only 4.9% of creation. Dark matter is calculated to be 26.8 % of creation and dark energy 68.3%.

 

It causes consternation to realize that the dark preponderance of creation yields no empirical data; it is speculated that dark matter, for example, may not be atomic, and its interaction with the visible universe is tenuous at best.  But the situation could be untenable if constants are not actually constant. The possibility that constants are fluid or variable, differing over time or from place to place, was intuited decades ago by the imaginative English physicist Paul Dirac. This possibility wouldn’t upset the apple cart on Earth, where alpha varies by only a few parts in 10 billion. This calculation is 100,000 times more precise than computing the constant (nicknamed “big G”) that regulates gravity.

 

The glitch in alpha occurs, if it exists at all, is located in light that has traveled over 12 billion light years from Earth, the furthest that the most powerful telescopes can see.  Since the universe is estimated to be 13.8 billion years old, this is very ancient light. On its journey to Earth, some researchers believe that alpha decreased by a few parts in a million. This might be enough to alter how the cosmos operates at its extreme edges; for example, a new physics might be required that uses new dimensions at a miniature scale compared to the large scale of three-dimensional space.

 

The findings about alpha are speculative, and there is a continual back and forth between what the data seem to say and how this is refuted by other calculations and possible errors. But where Dirac was only intuiting that constants might be inconstant, the door has been opened to this as a reality. If you stand back, the larger picture is quite ambiguous. Science has reached the point, according to no less than the late Stephen Hawking, where there is no assurance that theory matches reality. The accepted set of constants hasn’t changed in over at least fifty years, which would make fluid constants a very big deal. Yet another big deal has already occurred. Instead of being confident that a Theory of Everything would explain how creation works, physics has settled into patchy, at times disconnected theories about small parts of reality.

 

Already the most advanced calculations posit a cosmos that exists in a mathematical hyperspace that isn’t expected to correspond to physical space. Other dimensions and countless other universes in the so-called Multiverse are fitted into the equations, with even less guarantee that they exist. One is reminded of the centuries before Copernicus declared that the Earth moved around the sun. The ancient belief that the Earth was at the center of God’s creation had led into ever more complex circles within circles to explain the movement of the moon and stars. It took a bold, simple insight to overturn the apple cart and bring theory in line with observation.

 

Is physics repeating history, awaiting an insight that will cut through the huge complications of modern cosmology?  We believe so, and the possibility of a new theory, bringing with it a new view of reality, will be the topic of our 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 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 310 325 articles, is author or editor of 19 15 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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Why the Brain Doesn’t Think, and Other Helpful Ideas

By Deepak Chopra, MD

At some point in the history of medicine, a picture coalesced about the role of the brain. From the first basic insight that the brain is the organ of thought, this picture became more and more complex, until neuroscience reached it present state, where the brain is glorified as “the three-pound universe.” Like a magic lantern casting pictures on a blank wall, the brain supposedly projects the three-dimensional world and everything in it.

I ended the last post on the brain by saying that placing the brain on such an exalted plane will lead to a dead end–in fact, it already has. There is no physical evidence that your brain has ever had a single thought, that it projects a realistic picture of the world, or that it creates mind as a byproduct of cellular activity the way a bonfire creates heat. Nothing about the brain suggests anything of the sort. Instead, the brain displays physical activity as thoughts take place, the same as a piano’s keys going up and down as a performer plays the “Maple Leaf Rag” or Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata.

Our experience of life lies at the foundation of being human, and we have evolved by being self-aware. This fact cannot be explained by declaring that the brain, with its 100 billion neurons and up to a quadrillion connections between them, somehow became conscious through sheer complexity. A piano needs only 88 keys to produce every piece of music in Western culture, but there was Mozart and Beethoven when pianos had fewer than 80 keys. Another factor, freedom of imagination, was in charge of those keys.

Likewise, freedom of mind is what the brain is here to serve. As I pointed out in the last blog, the brain isn’t a fixed object. It can produce new neurons and new connections according to a person’s experiences in life (contemplative practices appear to do both). We misuse the brain by conditioning it into fixed habits, beliefs, and behavior. This sort of self-limiting conditioning wasn’t caused by the brain. If you meet a stubborn, angry, controlling, or bigoted person, he

became that way by interpreting the world and coming to fixed conclusions about it. No one lives in a neutral world–the human mind interprets every conscious experience.

Therefore, we have a choice. Unlike a piano, which doesn’t change just because someone plays Mozart on it, the human brain is fluid, dynamic, and malleable. This provides a clue for how we should use it as the instrument of thought. We should think and behave in such a way that old conditioning, the kind that keeps us stuck, is challenged and an open, accepting, fresh approach is favored. If we managed to make such a shift, the unlimited capacity of the human mind would break out of prison.

This invisible prison, which the poet William Blake described as “mind-forg’d manacles,” is a paradox. The mind is both prisoner and jailer. As we engage in the mental act of interpreting the world, we decide what is fearful, dangerous, alien, and unknown. On that basis we lay down our core beliefs. Then when a situation comes along that makes us feel afraid, angry, or threatened, we react automatically, as if we have no control over what the conditioned mind and the conditioned brain are doing.

We have ascribed to the brain far too much independent power when the real power lies in ourselves. The most primal responses that are difficult to reshape, such as sex drive, fight or flight response, and so on, do dictate behavior in a very narrow set of circumstances. these set reactions are an evolutionary inheritance. But the vast majority of fixed responses–our habits, likes and dislikes, loves and hates–were created mentally. One can argue forever about how to reduce violence, crime, war, prejudice, and the bane of us-versus-them thinking, but those matters are secondary.

The primary thing is to reclaim our role as conscious agents who shape human reality. In that role we’ve constructed the human world and all seven billion unique stories that belong to each individual. As a first step to reclaiming the primary role played by consciousness, we need to

stop assigning a leading role to the brain. Its privileged position is a gross exaggeration. The only aspect of life that deserves a privileged position is self-awareness.

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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