Deepak ChopraCalled "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine" by Time magazine, Deepak Chopra, M.D., is the founder and CEO of the Chopra Center for Well Being in Carlsbad, California. Dr. Chopra was born and raised in India and came to the United States in 1970 to train and then practice internal medicine and endocrinology. He has since developed his own philosophy of wellness that combines Ayurvedic healing with Western medicine and focuses on a balance between mind, body, and spirit. Dr. Chopra is the author of more than 30 books on a variety of topics ranging from herbal medicine, aging, and meditation, to quantum mechanics, golf, and the poems of Rumi. He spoke with us about his latest work, "The Book of Secrets."

I was surprised by what you wrote about spiritual seeking. You say, "Seeking is doomed because it is a chase that takes you outside yourself." But it seems that some of your biggest fans are spiritual seekers.

You know, we all go through those phases at a certain point. The seeker will realize that what they're seeking is the one who's doing the seeking.

Seeking can become stressful when you apply the same laws that you apply in the material world—hard work, exacting plans, driving ambition, and attachment to outcome. Ultimately spiritual awareness unfolds when you're flexible, when you're spontaneous, when you're detached, when you're easy on yourself and easy on others.
(Read an excerpt about spiritual seeking from Deepak Chopra's book.)

Are there practical steps that people can take to increase their awareness?

Yeah, in the Eastern traditions, those steps have been referred to as the different kinds of yoga. Yoga literally means union, so the yoga of knowledge, which is a scientific understanding of how the universe operates—the yoga of love, which is paying attention to the impulse of love, which is, after all, the impulse toward unity. The yoga of stillness or contemplation or meditation. And also, the yoga of action, the attitude you have when you perform action, when you do yoga in the spiritual worship or when you have the inner conviction that everything you do comes from God, belongs to God and that every breath of yours and every movement of yours is a divine movement of the eternal being, then those are the steps that bring you closer to the supreme intelligence that orchestrates the universe.

Your book suggests our body chemistry can tell us about our consciousness. How so?

Look at the cells and how they function, you see that each cell has higher awareness. It is doing what it does to maintain the welfare of the rest of the body. The stomach cell's not saying, why should I digest food for the heart and the brain? And the brain doesn't say, why should I regulate the activity of the stomach? So they are inseparably interdependent. They have higher awareness.

Each cell has creativity because every time there is a challenge to the body, the body has to come up with a creative solution. Each cell knows how to commune with other cells instantly, both locally and non-locally, each cell is bonded to every other cell, each cell practices what it does with maximum efficiency—it never hoards anything. Each cell obeys the laws of giving and receiving, each cell has awareness of what's happening in the body, and each cell knows the secret of immortality, because even as it dies, it passes on everything it knows to the next generation of cells.

So if you want to look at the human body as an example of consciousness, it's a direct reflection. Consciousness conceives, governs, constructs, and becomes the activity of the body. And in every human body, or for that matter, in every biological organism, there is an inner intelligence that reflects the wisdom of the universe and is, in fact, the ultimate and supreme genius.

You say that our bodies are always experiencing dying–that "Cells are constantly dying and being replaced" and then ask the rhetorical question, so what are we so afraid of? Why do you think the fear of death seems to be built into us?

The fear of death comes from limited awareness. As long as you think of your real self as the person you are, then of course you're going to be fearful of death. But what is a person? A person is a pattern of behavior, of a larger awareness. You know, the two-year-old dies before the three-year-old shows up, the three-year-old dies before the teenager shows up.

So the real you is neither the perceiver, nor the object of perception, but the real you is that formless spirit that is constantly evolving and sometimes even taking quantum leaps of evolution and expressing itself as both the perceiver and the object of perception. And if you can shift your internal reference point from your skin-encapsulated ego to that larger domain of awareness, then you will find that it's your ticket to freedom—that you do not need to fear death because you're already dying every moment to the past.