This week’s conversation is with Deepak Chopra, a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.
Deepak is the founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a modern-day health company at the intersection of science and spirituality
TIME magazine has described Deepak as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”
He is the author of over 89 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers.
His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities.
Deepak also has a new short form podcast called – Now for Tomorrow. I had the chance to be a guest and we stitched it onto the end of this conversation so I hope you enjoy it.
In this conversation, we explore big questions — about the nature of reality and consciousness.
We discuss why it’s so challenging to use language and sensory information to try to makes sense of the true nature of what is.
How can we understand reality when what we see and hear and feel is not complete?
My hope is that you’ll leave this conversation with a different perspective on the way you think about what is real.
“All our suffering is based on misperception of reality, including the fear of death.”
In This Episode:
His morning routine
Well this morning I got up at 5:00. I stayed in bed for about half an hour doing nothing, just downloading some answers to some questions that I asked myself before I went to sleep. And then I did yoga for an hour. Then I meditated for an hour.
How he winds down at night
Around 8:30, 9:00, I will reflect a little bit on who am I and what do I want, what’s my purpose? What am I grateful for? I’ll ask myself a few other questions and then go to sleep again. Pretty boring from a regular person’s point of view. But it’s very peaceful, fulfilling, and enjoyable from my point of view.
The catalyst for his life’s work:
My grandfather suddenly had a heart attack, maybe out of the excitement, and he was dead. And they took him to cremation, and next day they brought his ashes back in a bowl about this big. And one of my uncles said, “What is life? Yesterday he was taking kids to the carnival and movies. Where is he now? A bunch of ashes in a bowl… I experienced existential anxiety. What is the meaning of death? Why do we take life for granted? This was at six years of age.
Realizing that medicine as we know it, is not complete
I went to medical school, I became an intern, I became an internist. I then took training in endocrinology, neuroscience, neuroendocrinology, brain science. And at the same time I was treating patients in Boston. And I recognized that, which any physician will tell you, by the way, it’s not a big secret, that you can have two patients who have the same illness and the same doctor, get the same treatment, and have different outcomes. One person dies, the other one recovers. And in between there’s a whole range of responses.
The big question he started asking himself
What is the nature of reality? Is it physical, is it mental, is it both, is it neither? What is fundamental reality, as opposed to this reality? There’s this reality, which we’re experiencing, is a perceptual activity that we call physical reality. But it’s actually not even physical reality. It’s the interpretation of perceptual activity as physical reality.
What is reality?
When I was reading, when I was doing research on my book Metahuman I was looking at the anatomy of the common butterfly known as the painted lady. So the painted lady tastes the world. Tastes the world through its legs. Smells the world through its antennae. Hears the world through its wings. Sees the world with 30000 lenses that move like a kaleidoscope, presumably giving it a shimmering, changing experience of forms and colors. So what is reality? And I realized there’s no such thing. It’s just how you construct it.
Our labels for reality
Humans constructed reality by giving names to experiences and creating constructs like latitude, longitude, Greenwich Mean Time, nation states, money, Wall Street, democracy. And finally we took that to be reality when we all made it up.
The limitations we experience in our understanding of reality
My senses tell me that the Earth is flat. But I know it’s spinning at dizzying speeds and hurtling through space at thousands of miles an hour. My senses tell me that the ground is stationary and it’s not. My senses tell me this solid and I know it’s proportionally as void as intergalactic space. And yet this misperception of reality is necessary for the survival of my biological organism.
His framework for life
In my tradition, first 25 years is education, second 25 years is fame and fortune, third 25 years is giving back, and the fourth 25 years is facing death. So right now that’s part of my practice, every night. I face my death, my physical death. And there are two things that happen. One is a little bit of existential anxiety creeps up. That what I took for real is not real. Or what I thought Deepak was is not really an entity, it’s just a construct. So that’s the anxiety. But then it also … in a few glimpses, gives you the experience of liberation.
What sets humans apart
We are an emblem for the infinite creativity which is inherent in pure consciousness. And we as a species are the only ones who can access that infinite creativity. Because every other biological organism is basically fixed. It has no self-reflection. It has no self-awareness in the sense we are talking about
What is his purpose?
To get rid of the person and experience my infinite being. You see, as soon as I get rid of the person, I’m an infinite being.. I love it because I see that all our suffering is based on misperception of reality… Including the fear of death.
How is he handling the crisis we’re facing?
I’ve found this as an opportunity. I think it’s a waste to not take advantage of an adversity for a better life for yourself and others. So I’ve had the time to reflect, and as I like to say, reinvent my body. Resurrect my soul. I’m enjoying this period of whatever you want to call it. Physical distancing, quarantine, whatever. In fact I do take a week or two of silence every year, so when this quarantine started I did that again. Took a week of silence. It’s been very restful for me.
Why he’s ok with uncertainty
The uncertain, the unpredictable, and the unknown is where we live. Pretending all the time that it’s predictable, known. But all that’s predictable and known is the past. Anything henceforth is unpredictable. And embracing the wisdom of uncertainty is actually the doorway to creativity.