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Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

The Power of Desire—What Do You Want, Anyway?

posted by Admin

Desire is inescapable, and one could spend years trying to discover if human desire is a blessing of a curse. But right this minute a more practical question demands attention. How can you get what you want? Beyond the basic necessities for food, water, and shelter, which are enough to satisfy the desire to survive, human beings invent countless other desires. What we all experience is that some of our desires come true while others don’t. That seems clear enough, but in fact people approach this simple fact from very different angles. If asked, “How do you get what you want?” or an even bigger issue, “How do you make a dream come true?” people will offer answers that aren’t at all compatible:

–Desires are fulfilled and dreams come true if you work hard enough and never stop fighting for what you want.

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–Dreams come true only if they are meant to. It hardly matters what you do; destiny or karma plays the major role.

–It’s pure luck which desires come true and which ones don’t.

–Making your dreams come true is a spiritual journey. Prayer, meditation, and good karma are critical.

–Dreams come true by the grace of God. To make your dream come true, you must surrender to divine will.

–Desire is self-fulfilling. Every intention includes a path to fulfillment within its structure, however remote fulfillment may seem to be.

–Getting what you want is inevitable, but you have to look deep enough. Fulfillment can occur on the level of fantasy, dream, or imagination. It doesn’t have to be physical.

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Out of this list of explanations, people pick the ground rules of desire that they choose to believe in, but do principles, rules, and deeply held beliefs really help us? The picture of desire seems more confused than ever, because fulfilling a desire could require hard work or the opposite, total surrender.  If something wonderful falls into your lap, does it matter if God or random chance caused it? These appear to be exact opposites, yet in India’s wisdom tradition, the Bhagavad-Gita fuses opposites when Lord Krishna says, “Perform action without attachment to the fruits of action.” In other words, use focus, determination, and hard work all you want, but stay detached about the outcome.” In that dictum a commitment to action and surrender to the outcome are fused.

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But why is this a wise strategy? In everyday life we’re all attached to the outcome of desire. We want the paycheck, the girl, the raise, the nice house. Focusing on those desires without caring about the outcome doesn’t seem like wisdom. It seems self-defeating. We need to go back to the common experience of having a desire. Let’s say three people want a piece of chocolate cake.  Person A goes to work and earns enough money to buy a chocolate cake. Person B comes home to discover that by coincidence, his wife just that day baked a chocolate cake for him. Person C orders chocolate cake at a restaurant only to be told that the last piece was already sold–sorry.

The unlikely truth is that all three desires operated by the same mechanism in consciousness. This mechanism is intention working to a conclusion.  Despite the fact that an actual piece of cake appears–or doesn’t—the entire mechanics of desire takes place in consciousness.  Why don’t people see this automatically and accept it as a fact? Why don’t we expect our desires to come true without hindrance or struggle, letting fulfillment unfold through consciousness alone? According to Vedanta, consciousness is always in play from the seed of desire to its completion in the outer world. If you want chocolate cake in your dreams, it appears instantly. Vedanta holds that consciousness as it operates in waking life is meant to be exactly the same. The possibility that all desire is self-fulfilling is the central mystery of desire.

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The inner path of desire is masked because a person’s consciousness varies enormously according to many factors:

–To be effortlessly fulfilled, an intention must be clear. Mixed messages bring mixed results.

–We send out mixed messages because of hidden beliefs and self-assumptions that muddy the waters (such as, “I don’t deserve to get what I want” or “It’s sinful to want too much” or “God wants me to be pure.”)

–Intentions can take a direct path but also many indirect ones. Forcing your fulfillment to come only one way while being blind to other ways often leads to disappointment.

Intention will reach a conclusion unless blocked or thwarted. A desire is blocked or detoured by karma, unclear or conflicted desires, self-judgment, the person’s level of consciousness, etc., all of which are internal obstacles Intention is not blocked by external obstacles except insofar as they reflect internal obstacles. On its own, the mechanics of intention works to find the shortest and most economical path to fulfillment.

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There are so many variables in even the simplest desire that the mind cannot calculate them. Wanting a piece of chocolate cake, persons A, B, and C followed the same mechanics of desire but got three different results, and now we see why. Their intention was the same, but their inner world wasn’t. Your awareness is like a filter through which a desire must pass, or better said, awareness is a maze of twisted turns that intentions must negotiate.

You are too complex inside—and there are too many unforeseen circumstances in life—for you to control or even figure out. Therefore, the Gita’s advice to remain detached isn’t just a snippet of ancient wisdom.  It’s practical advice, which can be literally stated as “Let the mechanics of desire bring your fulfillment without interference. The more you interfere, the less likely you will get what you want.”

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A skeptic might protest that this whole scheme makes no sense, for two reasons.

  1. Intention isn’t what makes desires come true. There is no connection between a subjective event (the mind saying “I want chocolate cake”) and the external outcome.
  2. Invoking some kind of inner block anytime a person doesn’t get what he wants isn’t a real explanation. Any sort of imaginary inner block can be hauled in to justify failure.

These are strong objections; they make perfect sense in a belief system where only tangible things are real. Seat-of-the-pants materialism is the default belief of almost everyone. We feel secure with things we can see and touch. To get beyond this bias, you have to experiment with your own desires. If the whole path of intention is inside you, only you can work through the various obstacles in your own awareness. If you remove them and find your desires coming true more effortlessly, then the Gita was right after all.

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In the next post I will describe the process of clearing the pathway for desire. This is accomplished by a special kind of action that most people don’t know about but which lies at the heart of getting what you want.

(To be cont.)

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 Future of God 

 

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Do Your Emotions Help You or Hold You Back?

posted by Admin

Recently, a close friend of mine made the remark that our emotions for the most part are basic, primal, immature, and unevolved. Ever since then, I have been ruminating on the validity of this statement. If our emotions are basically primitive, then how they be our allies, especially on the path to personal growth? Might emotions be so backward that they are enemies of growth instead? Like most generalities, this one about the primitive nature of emotions seems to be equally true and untrue — and therefore, possibly a half truth. In nature’s scheme, nothing is wasted. The universe is a big jigsaw puzzle where everything seems to fit.

 

According to the evolutionary model that goes back to Darwin, nature favors emotionality as a feature of natural selection.  Natural selection has only one intention — survival. According to Darwin, fear readies the animal for flight in dangerous situations. Anger readies the animal for combat. Jealousy alerts the animal to the possibility of usurpation of reproductive chances, etc.

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Anger by itself is not considered a toxic emotion. On the other hand, hostility is felt to be very toxic. Hostility occurs when there are resentments or grievances, and when there is an unconscious need for getting even, for vengeance, or for retribution. Hostility is considered to be the number one risk factor for premature death from cardiovascular illness by epidemiologists.

 

The best way to handle toxic emotions is to become aware that not all emotional turbulence is necessarily toxic. Fear, hostility, guilt and depression are considered to be the most toxic emotions. Depression undermines the immune system and makes one more susceptible to cancer and infections, according to some psycho-neuroimmunologists. Hostility and aggression predispose one to autoimmune illness and cardiovascular accidents.

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Psychologists tell us the best way to deal with these toxic emotions is to go through the following processes:

 

  1. Take responsibility for your own emotions. If you are waiting for somebody else to change so you can feel better, you might wait for a long time.

 

  1. Witness the emotion. All emotions are sensations in the body. Feel the physical sensation associated with those emotions.

 

  1. Define the emotions in an emotional vocabulary that does not represent victimization. Feeling sad, for example, is a genuine emotion. Feeling abandoned, on the other hand, represents victimization.

 

  1. Express emotions by journaling, preferably in the first person, second person and third person.

 

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  1. Share your emotions with a close and trusted friend, or lover.

 

  1. Release emotions, preferably through ritual practice.

 

  1. Celebrate and move on.

 

If you feel that your emotions are basic, primal, immature and unevolved, remember what Charles Darwin said — natural selection favors them as part of the evolutionary scheme.

 

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 Future of God 

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Powers of Mind: In Praise of Subtle Actions

posted by Admin

At a time when the mass of headlines seem to be about the brain, artificial intelligence, robotics, and smarter computers, not enough is said about the mind. When reduced to a mechanism, the mind somehow is thought to turn into the brain, with no difference between them. It’s true that the brain seems to exhibit physical changes that correlate with every activity of the mind, and one day the word “seems” may no longer be necessary. The brain as mirror of the mind may be completely understood and mapped out.

 

It should be underlined, however, that neuroscience is far from understanding the mind’s subtlety, and the most sophisticated brain scans take broad swipes at mental processes–there is no fine detail. The same areas of the brain devoted to language will light up on an fMRI whether Shakespeare is writing a sonnet or a very bad poet is writing doggerel. There is no area of the brain that can remotely be detected in such detail that a researcher reading the scan can say, “Oh, that’s Mozart.” In fact, if you present our brain scan to a neuroscientist, he won’t be able to identify who you are, either. The broad strokes of current brain research yield interesting and medically valuable information, but they don’t come close to explaining the activity I’d call “subtle action.”

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Here are a dozen subtle actions you perform every day that no computer can match.

12 SUBTLE ACTIONS

Intending

Imagining

Meditating

Bonding

Surrendering

Accepting

Praying

Loving

Respecting

Appreciating

Contemplating

 

These actions aren’t incidental. The fact that they cannot be programmed into a computer or analyzed on a brain scan is critical, because it’s these activities that make us human.  A computer can be programmed to imitate these actions, but there isn’t anyone at home. Churning out the words “I imagine” or “I appreciate” or “I love”  in a machine-like way doesn’t come close to the aspect of mind implicit in each of these actions: self-awareness.

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Self-awareness can achieve almost everything we value in a person. Consider the list again and ask yourself, “Would I want a partner or friend with these qualities?” You undoubtedly would. The notion that AI will one day produce a machine that’s self-aware has been a standard feature of science fiction, where robots that feel rebellious or sad have come to be. But self-awareness has no content; therefore, there’s nothing in the form of information or data that can be programmed into a machine. This means that self-awareness will remain a human property, untouched by computers.

 

But does this rule out a neuroscience of awareness?  If Shakespeare is sitting at his desk saying to himself, “Maybe To be or not to be is better than To exist or not to exist,” will a brain scan one day tell us exactly how he arrived at this conclusion? Or to be strictly scientific, will a neuroscientist of the future, handed two brain scans, be able to pick out which one belongs to an actor reciting “To be or not to be” and which one to an actor reciting “Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt”?  The difference is self-evident to anyone hearing the words, because we have understanding, which grows out of awareness.

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I’ll pose the notion that subtle actions are a dividing line between mind and brain, meaning that these mental activities define how a life unfolds, even though there is little or no evidence of corresponding brain activity. Self-awareness lies completely outside any plausible brain model. More importantly, we should be turning the tables around, because subtle action is the most powerful way to change the brain. In the next post we’ll discuss how this works.

 

(To be cont.)

 

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 Future of God 

 

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Can Science and Religion Save Each Other? (Part 2)

posted by Admin

Science is used to being dominant, and religion is used to being defensive–these are familiar poses for two worldviews, the one being on the rise, the other on the decline. Generally when an entire belief system is on the decline, it steadily disappears. There’s no need to believe that the king’s touch can cure disease once modern medicine appears, and no need for bleeding to be a medical practice when its usefulness is experimentally invalidated. But the model of progress that substitutes automobiles for horse-drawn carriages doesn’t apply to religion. It may lose adherents who accept the argument that scientific rationality is superior to faith. The values of modern secular society are constantly on the rise.

 

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Yet no matter how far science rises, no matter how convincing rationality appears to be, the triumphs of science do not spell the end of religion–quite the opposite. As we saw in the first post of this series, science may need religion to avoid a dead end, and religion may need science to reinforce its cherished beliefs. The reason for this unexpected turn of events is reality itself. Reality has two components, the physical creation and the domain that lies outside the physical creation. By defining only the former as real, science has made enormous progress. Religion, whose specialty has always been the invisible, transcendent realm beyond the stars, lost its claim to be about reality.

 

But then science found itself stuck–as it remains stuck today–when it reached the limit of what physical investigation can discover. Physical investigation cannot tell us where time and space came from, or what preceded the Big Bang, or how mind and brain are connected. It cannot describe where thoughts come from, or how memories are stored and retrieved, or even what the nature of consciousness is. The fact that the human brain can produce the perception of a three-dimensional world is as utterly mysterious today as it was to the ancient Greeks.

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Let’s say that a scientist, speaking candidly and off the record, acknowledges that progress on all these fronts has been stymied (the standard line in science stubbornly insists that if we just wait long enough, answers will be forthcoming without altering the same method that has yielded no answers so far).  Assuming that one can find such an obliging, candid scientist, he might say something like the following: Yes, examining the physical world has reached its limits or soon will in the foreseeable future. There is something that lies beyond the physical universe, a pre-created state that gives rise to time, space, matter, and energy. But why should we turn to God for the answers? It’s not as if religion has been a progressive force or a reliable source of knowledge.

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The objection seems valid as applied to conventional organized religion, which lays no claim to explaining reality according to the standards laid down by science. That’s why it needs rescuing as much as science does. Modern secular society isn’t going to accept faith as a justification for God. Half of reality, the physical half, has so dominated our attention that the other half, the transcendent, has withered into amorphous vagueness. God doesn’t need rescuing, but our mindset about the transcendent does. Therefore, if an obliging, candid scientist questions whether the religious worldview can possibly help science out of its current dilemmas, here are some valid reasons.

  1. The pre-created state isn’t open to physical investigation because it isn’t physical. Another mode of investigation must be developed, and such a mode exists in the world’s wisdom traditions.
  2. These traditions investigate consciousness. They do so because all experiences, including the experience of doing science, take place in consciousness.
  3. Having investigated consciousness for thousands of years, the greatest spiritual thinkers have come to the same conclusion as modern science: reality streams from an invisible source into the realm of space, time, matter, and energy. The fact that this discovery was made has nothing to do with faith. The discovery came about because consciousness is capable of examining itself.
  4. A bridge was formed between inner and outer reality, making the division between objective and subjective much less strict that the division posited by science. The ideal of perfect objectivity doesn’t exist and cannot exist as long as consciousness is part of every phenomenon.
  5. If consciousness is the common link, it may have its own natural laws, rules, behaviors, and parameters. If so, these could be as useful and provide as much valid knowledge as science. In fact, because consciousness can’t be taken out of the equation, any explanation of reality, from the smallest to the largest aspect, cannot be trusted when consciousness is disregarded.
  6. The present exclusion of consciousness, which is standard operating procedure in science outside the most rarefied theoretical circles, is the cause of the rift between the scientific and religious worldviews. Each has arbitrarily put up walls where no walls exist in the structure of reality.
  7. Once the arbitrary divisions and walls are removed, it becomes obvious that there is only one reality, not two. The fact that human perception makes a distinction between the physical universe and the transcendent domain is irrelevant. Reality is what it is, regardless of our stubbornness, denial, hidebound beliefs, and cherished points of view. Without a doubt the human project labeled as religious and the human project labeled as science are incomplete without each other.

 

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The fact that modern times have widened the separation between these two projects has actually distorted each of them. Religious fundamentalism and arch physicalism are extreme deniers, holding opposite views that are equally untenable. It is untenable that religious scriptures are the indisputable truth; it is untenable that materialism and it sole focus on physical reality are the only truth. From the two extremes have grown many beliefs that are more casual and tolerant but just as flawed, which must be so once your worldview is dualistic. You will always wind up explaining only half of realty while ignoring or undervaluing the other half.

 

The only way forward, then, is a holistic worldview as the starting point.  The correct beginning is to say, “there is one reality. Let’s all agree on this and see where it leads us.” From this unified starting point, every branch of investigation has something to offer. It appears that some scientists, especially in the younger generation, are seeing the value of a unified worldview. They offer the best hope for understanding reality as it is, not as second-hand beliefs and assumptions declare it must be.

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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 Future of God 

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