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Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

A New Hot Button: Consciousness-Driven Evolution

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Science is meant to be the opposite of a belief system. No one underlined this point more securely than Charles Darwin, who devised a theory of evolution that defied the strongest belief of his time, the all but universal belief in the bible version of the origins of man. The fossil record supported a notion contrary to the Bible, that creation was a process, not a single event dictated by a divine Creator. Despite a century and a half of proof that Darwin was right, taking God out of evolution still sticks in the throat of many people.

 

Pollsters find, to the dismay of trained scientists, that God remains in play for many when it comes to our origins. For example, a 2013 Pew Research poll found that one-third of respondents believe that human beings have always existed in their present form. When broken down by religion, this anti-Darwin, pro-Bible view is held by 64% of white evangelical Protestants and 50% of black Protestants broken down by political party, only 43% of Republicans believe that human beings evolved over time versus 67% of Democrats and 65% of independents.

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With this as background, it’s no wonder that evolution as a public debate causes heated divisions, even though among scientists there has been no serious challenge to Darwinism. But now it seems that a new hot-button issue, actually rooted in science, has caused evolutionists to react as if their own belief system has been attacked. This is the issue of mind and consciousness and the part they played in human evolution. Specifically, did early humans make choices that facilitated our evolution outside the framework of random mutations and natural selection, which are the two pillars of Darwinian theory?

 

Natural selection, often tagged as “survival of the fittest” (a phrase Darwin himself never used), is about gaining an advantage in the two things that matter for survival: getting enough food and passing on genes through mating rituals. The food part is self-evident, since a species will dwindle and die out if it loses the competition for food. Random mutation is a bit more technical. Species evolve by changing in ways that adapt better or worse to their environment, and such changes occur at the genetic level. Genes mutate at a predictable rate in an apparently random manner. In other words, an early giraffe might exhibit a longer neck, thanks to a random genetic mutation, and if this longer neck allows it to compete more successfully for food and mating rights, the new mutation has a chance, over time, to allow all giraffes to have longer necks.

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Darwinism, as it is presently taught, is very careful to make this process totally random and mindless. In other words, giraffes didn’t desire longer necks. They only sprung up by accidental mutation, not through any intent or purpose, which are both mental traits. Going back to the original step of tossing out the divine mind, evolutionary theory also excluded all minds from the process, including the human mind. Our ancestors, so the theory dictates, had no say in how they evolved, despite possessing a state of elevated consciousness far beyond that of any other primate. Primitive hominids and early humans were bound by random mutation and natural selection, along with the rest of life on the planet.

 

But several factors have raised two possibilities, and depending on which one you support, you find yourself pressing a hot button. The first possibility is that the mind or consciousness must be included in the evolutionary mix. Evolution is a field where data are constantly argued over, but it appears that Homo sapiens has evolved with unprecedented speed over the last 8,000 to 30,000 years, which seems to many scientists, to be too fast for the operation of random mutation and natural selection alone, especially since they take millions of years to create major alterations in a species. To account for this sped-up timeline, the X factors that could make a difference are culture and making choices, both of which are conscious activities.

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If a culture values basketball, for example, it quite possibly would choose to feed its basketball players well. Women might find tall men more desirable, and thus an intervention has taken place. Nature isn’t the only factor selecting who survives and who doesn’t. Conscious choice has stuck its thumb into the genetic mix. This is obviously true when it comes to modern Homo sapiens.  We long ago escaped the rigid constraints of Darwinism in various ways. Here are a few undeniable ones:

 

— We take care of the sick and weak. They don’t die off as the result of losing out in the competition for food.

— We treat and cure diseases. Adverse mutations don’t simply run their course. They are countered by medical knowledge.

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— — We artificially tamper with the breeding pool by treating childhood diseases, insuring the survival of children whom Nature has condemned to death if the disease in question is fatal.

— We give food and shelter freely or at drastically reduced expense to those who cannot get them for themselves.

— We choose mates for mental reasons that have nothing to do with food procurement or the ability to physically defeat male rivals.

 

Simple logic tells us that these traits had to evolve over time; therefore, the real question isn’t whether consciousness plays a part in human evolution but how and when it began to. Totally excluding mind from evolution is not science but the exercise of a belief system. Current evidence doesn’t support the belief, and yet the belief blindly wins out. But the rising field of epigenetics is on the side of the mind, because it indicates that lifestyle, behavior, experience and stress level can be passed on, not through genetic mutations but by chemical modifications of your DNA (called “marks”) that change the activities of existing genes. These marks can occur during calamitous events (i.e., if your ancestors went through a famine) and are hypothesized to be passed on to future generations (as the result of a past famine, you may be statistically more prone to diabetes). For example, children born to parents during the horrible Dutch famine during WWII, are more prone to obesity and diabetes.

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This form of “soft” inheritance is being widely validated at many levels of biology, from microbes to water fleas to mice. Epigenetic marks on specific genes have been associated with risk for diseases like Alzheimer’s disease as part of the recently published national Epigenome Roadmap project. Once culture has been allowed into the evolutionary picture, with the support of epigenetics to indicate how life experiences can change our gene activities and perhaps even be passed on to the next generation, the opening for the role of mind and consciousness in the process is undeniable.

 

But we said there was a second position that can be taken on the issue. This is the contention that consciousness is the most important ingredient in the mix. Instead of being one factor out of many that must be considered, consciousness may drive evolution. This brings in banned words like purpose, meaning, and intention.  Thanks to the anti-science, pro-Bible camp, many geneticists feel that they are defending the Alamo in a knee-jerk reaction against attack whenever the words “mind” or “consciousness” are raised. Science isn’t meant to have radioactive words or strict dogma.  The seeker of truth must go where the data lead.

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We feel that the data lead to a place where pure randomness isn’t viable and where blind natural selection must take mind and culture into account. Certainly these two points hold true for modern Homo sapiens, as we just saw. How far the argument can be expanded into the entire process of evolution will be the subject of the next post. (Our forthcoming book Super Genes covers each point in great detail, for anyone who wants further scientific validation.)

 

(To be cont.)

 

 

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. Chopra is the co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, Assistant Clinical Professor, in the Family and Preventive Medicine Department at the University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences, and Senior Scientist with The Gallup Organization.

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RUDOLPH E. TANZI is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor  of Neurology at Harvard University and Vice Chair of Neurology at Mass. General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi is the co-author with Deepak Chopra of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain, and an internationally acclaimed expert on Alzheimer disease. He was included in TIME Magazine’s “TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World”.

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How to Make Quantum Reality Our Reality: Looking for a Better Deal

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By Deepak Chopra, MD and Ruth E. Kastner, PhD

 

If you ask a scientist to talk about quantum mechanics, it’s predictable that the first thing he or she is likely to say is that this is the most successful theory in the history of science. At the minutest level of Nature, the overall behavior of subatomic particles such as electrons, photons, and quarks is amazingly predictable thanks to quantum theory. But strangely enough, this triumph has had almost no effect on our ordinary lives. And that’s not just because the quantum domain is so tiny, billions of times smaller than anything we can see with the naked eye.

 

The real reason is that the everyday world is isolated from the quantum world. An apple falling from a tree gives the non-scientist a handle for understanding gravity’s universal action. No such clear image comes to mind when we think of quantum processes. The strange behavior of subatomic particles doesn’t translate into how objects behave all around us. For decades quantum theory has tried to build a bridge between daily existence (described by classical physics) and the shadowy, seemingly alien world that nevertheless gives rise to everything in existence (described by quantum physics).

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It’s no easy task, and even physicists who realize that all matter boils down to invisible clouds of probability still go to work driving a car, which behaves like a normal tangible object, not a cloud.  How are we to understand quantum reality as our reality, too? A single word may hold the key: interaction. In the classical world (i.e., everyday reality) everything is built from small units interacting to form something larger. Society is built from the interactions of individuals; thoughts are built from the interaction of neurons in the brain; even a sand dune cannot form unless grains of sand interact with each other. As a fact of Nature, nothing is more obvious. The Mona Lisa is a work of genius, but it wouldn’t exist if molecules of paint didn’t interact with the canvas, causing the two to adhere. When Da Vinci tinkered with this process, his masterwork, The Last Supper, started to flake and crumble only a few years after its completion.

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Is there a quantum clue hidden here? A historically overlooked approach called the Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (TIQM) can shed new light on how everyday reality comes into existence. TIQM’s different way of understanding quantum theory was initially proposed in the Eighties by John G. Cramer at the University of Washington. In his interpretation, the transfer of tiny quantum objects is a two-way process, like a business transaction. In fact, the processes closely resembles a real-estate deal. The seller offers property, and one or more buyers responds by indicating an interest and a proposed bid. A negotiation then ensues, and one buyer is selected, receiving the property for the agreed upon price.

 

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In quantum terms TIQM’s principles follow the same pattern:

 

  1. The offer: An ‘offer wave’ is emitted by an atom
  2. Interested buys: A confirmation of the offer wave comes from one or more possible absorbers for the particle (usually other atoms).
  3. The deal is closed: A particle is transferred from the emitter to the chosen absorber.

 

For the moment we’ll leave aside the technicalities, which are about how quantum behavior can act like either a particle or a wave. TIQM will be of value only if it can solve various problems, kinks, or glitches in quantum mechanics.  Let’s turn to the famous puzzle known as ‘Schrödinger’s Cat.’ This unfortunate cat has been placed in a box with an unstable atom that may or may not send off a radioactive particle within one hour. If it does, the radioactive particle will set off a Geiger counter hooked up to a hammer that smashes a vial of poison gas and kills the cat. If the particle isn’t emitted, nothing happens, and the cat lives. The puzzle consists in the dual possibilities of the atom that serves as the trigger. It stays suspended with both possibilities—giving off a radioactive particle or not—simultaneously coexisting. This is known as “superposition” in quantum theory.

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As soon as someone opens the box, they will see only one outcome, either a dead or live cat. But before the box is opened, if the atom holds both outcomes at the same time (superposition), then (according to the usual story) so must the cat, which makes it alive and dead at the same time. What is going wrong here? Obviously the real world, where cats are either alive or dead, hasn’t been bridged in any satisfactory way with the quantum world, where A and B, instead of being either/or, can be either/and—this is what superposition comes down to.

 

It turns out that there is probably a lot more going on that hasn’t been taken into account in the usual approaches to quantum reality. Specifically, whenever a quantum particle is emitted (offered), it prompts responses from prospective absorbers (buyers), as described in steps 2 and 3 of TIQM. The prospective absorbers in the Geiger counter respond to the atom’s offer, and it turns out that this leads to a real ‘collapse’ of its potential states—the particle is either conveyed to the Geiger counter within the hour or it isn’t. There is no need for any paradoxical superposition that persists during the hour, affecting the other objects in the experiment, including the worried cat.

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The way Schrödinger’s Cat is usually interpreted overlooks the absorber response, and when we include it, we can understand why cats are never trapped in dicey superpositions. If a seller tries to offer something and it isn’t noticed or responded to by anyone, no deal can be concluded. This is what has been afflicting our understanding of quantum theory for so long: Conventional approaches take into account only what is being offered, not the responses to that offer. Therefore, the superposition seems as though it must continue through all parts of the experiment and into the realm of ordinary experience. It is as if a person trying to sell their home engages a realtor who is unable to drum up any interest, and so that realtor engages an advertiser who also fails to generate any interest—if this goes on, we end up with a whole string of people engaged in trying to sell a property that can never be transferred, because there is no response from any prospective buyer.

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TIQM’s solution is to include responses to an offered quantum particle in the mix.  ‘Bidding’ responses have a specific representation in quantum theory—it has been in the background there all along in a mathematical sense when calculating a result.  TIQM says that there really is active participation by prospective buyers of quantum particle offers. This is what explains why we always have a definite result whenever we do a measurement. So why has TIQM been neglected? Because it includes one strange feature: The responses of prospective absorbers, which correspond to the negotiation stage in a real-estate transaction, seem to go backward in time (technically known as reverse causation). While an offer proceeds in the usual time sense, the confirming responses apparently proceed toward the past. This strikes many researchers as too high a price to pay for a solution to Schrödinger’s Cat. Interestingly, however, the TIQM interpretation precisely matches the mathematical formula that must be used to calculate the probabilities of outcomes in quantum theory.

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If we take the mathematics of the theory in its most straightforward sense, the situation is even more surprising than the apparent backward-in-time behavior of the responses. It turns out the quantum offers and responding confirmations have a multi-dimensional quality that makes them too big to fit into the ordinary, spacetime world. So it appears that quantum negotiations aren’t actually going forward and backward in time at all. Rather, they are happening in a subtle, multi-dimensional realm that lies beyond spacetime. The events that we see in the everyday world of space and time arise only at the final stage, from the concluded transactions (closed deals) in this underlying Quantumland.

 

At first blush we seem to have defeated our original purpose. We didn’t set out just to rescue Schrödinger’s Cat, but to build a bridge from quantum reality to everyday reality. Now it seems that the two worlds are farther apart than ever. But that’s not so. If TIQM’s insight is correct, quantum particles are interacting in much the same way that everything in the classical world interacts, sending messages across the border between one world and the other. A connection has been made which may turn out to be the connection that seals the deal. A package mailed in China manages to cross borders that separate languages, races, nations, customs, and beliefs. Along the way, these barriers are subtly affected: there is much going on behind the scenes, even though to the naked eye nothing is happening except the passage of a wrapped parcel from location A to location B.

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When you buy a Ming vase from Shanghai, you and the seller are interacting in subtle ways that go much deeper than a business transaction. In the same way, quantum transactions happen according to the customs of Quantumland, while negotiating for a new home follows the familiar customs of our land. Yet the concept of “transaction” is recognized in both places. The implications are amazingly far-reaching, but we’ll focus on only one. If quantum transactions are multi-dimensional, expanding beyond linear time, they also expand the usual notions of cause and effect, not to mention space and everything that interacts in space. In other words, our reality is far larger than it appears.

 

A quantum offer ripples throughout Quantumland, permeating every dimensional level. Could the same thing be happening when we perform an action or have a thought?  Surprisingly, it appears that physics can accommodate just such a possibility. If this is right, human beings will be ready to escape our self-imprisonment in spacetime to explore the multi-dimensional domain that is our true home.

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The 13th Disciple: A Spiritual Adventure.

 

Ruth Kastner has an M.S. in physics and Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a recipient of two National Science Foundation grants for research into the interpretation of quantum theory. Her latest book is Understanding Our Unseen Reality: Solving Quantum Riddles

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Self-Compassion: Tips for loving yourself just as you are

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Do you love yourself just as you are? The way that people answer this question reveals a great deal about their upbringing. Well-loved children absorb from their parents a sense of self-worth that lasts a lifetime. But receiving mixed messages as a child is more common. These messages include the following:

 

I love you as long as you love me.

I love you as long as you are being good.

I love you as much as you deserve.

I love you, but don’t ask for too much or you’ll be spoiled.

 

You may remember such mixed messages from your childhood or not, but they all place conditions on how much parents love their children. Conditioned love is the norm, quite likely, even though unconditional love is the ideal. Can you change your inner image of how much you are loved and lovable? I believe so.

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The path to unconditional love involves two things. The first is finding the place inside you where unconditional love exists. The second is removing the obstacles that block you from remaining in this place. They two are connected, because you can’t turn conditioned love into unconditional love by an act of transformation. It won’t work. But the world’s wisdom traditions speak of pure consciousness as containing bliss, joy, and ecstasy. It’s by contacting this quality, known as Ananda in the Indian spiritual tradition, that you culture an appreciation of how to love yourself.

 

Getting to the source of love isn’t difficult. It can be achieved through meditation. Any contemplative technique, in fact, including Hatha Yoga, that centers you in a calm, peaceful place, will connect you with the source. Yet lightly touching this place doesn’t keep you there, because old memories, habits, and beliefs pull your attention back to somewhere else.

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It takes time and patient to accomplish any transformation, and this is no exception. The first and most important step is to take an attitude of self-compassion, being as kind to yourself as you are to those you cherish in your life. Starting today, you can begin to follow some dos and don’ts.

 

To be kind to yourself, DO

Smile at your reflection in the mirror.

Let others compliment you.

Bask in other people’s approval when it comes your way.

Be gentle with yourself over small mistakes.

Value who you are and stand up for yourself.

Get to know yourself like a friend.

Be easy about your personal quirks.

Be as natural as possible, not worrying if you are pleasing or displeasing others.

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Speak your truth when you know you should.

 

The do list is centered on relating to yourself with a kinder attitude. The don’t list is about removing self-judgments that, because in the end, all lack of self-love is rooted in judging yourself.

 

To keep away from self-judgment, DON’T

Brush away compliments.

Reject other people’s appreciation.

Belittle yourself, even with self-deprecating humor.

Dwell on your faults as a topic of conversation.

Rationalize away the times when someone else hurts you.

Accept indifference from people who supposedly love you.

Associate with others who you can see have low self-esteem.

Silently swallow bad treatment when you know you should speak up.

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If you wake up to them, the reflections of how you feel about yourself exist all around you. Even negative reflections are incredibly useful if you take them as guides for change. Are there people in your life who take you for granted when they shouldn’t? Rather than trying to change them, see this as a reflection of how much you value yourself—in this case, not enough.

 

You might even want to print out the following checklist, and over the next week check off each time something on the list happens to you. The list contains typical reflections in everyone’s life, both positive and negative.

 

How My Situation Reflects My Sense of Self

 

Positive reflections:

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___   Someone appreciated me.

___   I liked the person I saw in the mirror.

___   I received a sincere compliment.

___   I felt proud of something I did for myself.

___   I felt as if I belonged.

___   Someone expressed love for me in a meaningful way.

___   I felt lovable.

___   I felt well loved.

___   The beauty of the life I’m living really hit me.

___   I felt like a unique person; there’s no one in the world quite like me.

 

Negative reflections:

___   Someone criticized me to my face.

___   I frowned at myself in the mirror.

___   I felt guilty or embarrassed by something I remembered from long ago.

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___   I put myself down while talking to someone else.

___   I felt unwanted, an outsider.

___   I received what felt like an empty word or gesture of love.

___   I felt unlovable.

___   I sat through someone else’s litany of complaints.

___   Something pointless about my life really hit me.

___   I felt bored by my existence and the people I keep seeing every day.

 

Most people would resist these two lists because they’re too afraid of what they’ll find. Or they might think that noticing negative reflections is another sign of low self-esteem. It’s not. You are taking a major step toward self-compassion by looking around and being truthful with yourself.  Being kind to yourself requires a decision to embrace change. Self-judgment keeps us from loving who we are right this moment. Every step you take to walk away from negative reflection is a step in the direction of unconditional love.

 

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. Join me at The Chopra Center’s Second Annual Global Meditation on July 11, 2015.

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The Health Benefits of Practicing Compassion

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Compassion is changing before our eyes. A religious concept associated with Jesus and Buddha (known as “the Compassionate One”) is being researched today through brain scans and positive psychology. In positive psychology your aim is to reach a state of well-being. The actions of a compassionate person, being kind and sympathetic, turn out to bring personal benefits as well. This is one way that a spiritual value acquires practical, everyday value.

As part of a compassionate lifestyle, a person:

  • Lets go of judgment
  • Is more accepting of others
  • Appreciates how other people feel
  • Tries to help in difficult situations
  • Acts as a sympathetic listener
  • Renounces anger and aggression
  • Works to maintain a harmonious, peaceful atmosphere at home and at work.

The reason a compassionate lifestyle leads to greater psychological well-being may be that the act of giving is equally or more pleasurable than receiving. A brain-imaging study led by neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health showed that the “pleasure centers” in the brain—the parts that are active when we experience things like dessert, money, and sex—are equally active vicariously. We feel pleasure, for example, when we observe someone giving money to charity as if we were receiving the money ourselves. A complementary study at the University of British Columbia showed that even in children as young as two, giving treats to others increased the givers’ happiness more than receiving treats themselves.

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In a description written from the viewpoint of positive psychology, compassion is “an evolved part of human nature, rooted in our brain and biology.” In other words, as human beings evolved, we became more aware of the good that results from empathy and kindness. We developed an alternative to selfishness. Studies have suggested that compassion is indeed an evolved part of human nature, vital to good health and even to the survival of our species. Compassion motivated 26.5 percent of Americans to volunteer in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

recent study found that the pupils of infants’ eyes widened when they saw someone in need—a sign of concern—but their pupils would shrink when they could help that person—or when they saw someone else help, suggesting that they felt better. (Babies as young as four or five months will try to help their mothers pick up something dropped on the floor.) They seem to care primarily for the other person and not themselves. It was calming to see the person’s suffering being alleviated, whether or not they were the ones who did it.

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In the same vein, research by David Rand at Harvard University shows that adults’ and children’s first impulse is to help others, not to compete with them. Other research by Dale Miller at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business backs this up. Compassion involves feeling what someone else is feeling, which forms an invisible bond. But the bond is more than mental or emotional. Research in positive psychology suggests that connecting with others in a meaningful way helps us enjoy better physical health and speeds up recovery from disease; it may even lengthen our lifespan.

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These physiological findings go back almost 30 years to experiments at Harvard where people watched a film on the charitable work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted her life to the poorest children in India. As they watched, the viewers’ heart rate and blood pressure changed in a positive direction.

 

More sophisticated measurements are available to us now. New research at UCLA and the University of North Carolina evaluated the levels of cellular inflammation in people who describe themselves as “very happy.” Inflammation is suspected to be at the root of cancer and other diseases and is generally high in people who live under a lot of stress. We might expect that inflammation would be lower for people with higher levels of happiness. But there was an important distinction. People who were happy because they lived a life of pleasure (also known as “hedonic happiness”) had high inflammation levels, while people who were happy because they lived a life of purpose or meaning (also known as “eudaimonic happiness”) had low inflammation levels. A life of meaning and purpose is one focused less on satisfying oneself and more on others. It is often a life rich in compassion and altruism.

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As for longevity, a compassionate lifestyle may be beneficial because it provides a buffer against stress. A recent study conducted on a large population (more than 800 samples) led at the University at Buffalo found that stress was linked to higher mortality rates, but not among those who helped others.

In sum, the spiritual value of compassion has been shown to extend to mind and body as well. It’s in our nature to be sympathetic and kind to others while doing great good to ourselves at the same time.

 

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He invites you to join him in The Chopra Center’s Second Annual Global Meditation on July 11, 2015.

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