"We are the thinker behind the thought"
An interview with Dr. Deepak Chopra about the key role of spiritual awareness in the healing process.
Dr Deepak Chopra is an India-born, US-trained medical doctor. An endocrinologist by specialty, he is a former chief of staff of New England Memorial Hospital. But Chopra, a long-time Transcendental Meditator, is also a practitioner of the ancient Indian system of healing, Ayurveda, and is currently the Chief of Staff of the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts. In his spare time, Chopra is a best-selling author five well-received books written in the past five years. His latest, Unconditional Life, has stimulated great public interest. He is also a much sought-after lecturer. In the last year, Dr Chopra has been invited to speak at several prestigious medical establishments, including Harvard Medical School in the US, to say nothing of the myriad New Age fairs at which he is a featured guest. In his books and lectures, Chopra draws on not only the latest findings of Western medical science, and the ancient truths of Ayurveda, but also the esoteric area of quantum physics to explore the increasingly acceptable field of Body-Mind-Spirit Medicine.
Share International: A basic theme of your books and public talks is that spiritual awareness a person coming into the knowledge of who they are is one of the keys to the healing process. Could you discuss that a bit?
Dr Deepak Chopra: Spiritual awareness is not only one of the keys to the healing process. Spiritual awareness is the only way that healing can occur. If I may take the risk of defining what a spiritual experience is, it is one in which pure awareness reveals itself to you as the maker of reality where you suddenly discover through insight or meditation or a freak accident that your essential nature is spiritual, non-material.
SI: Are there ways to help foster this spiritual awareness?
DC: By teaching a person the ability to have a quiet mind, to stand back and witness the whole thought process. With that ability comes a major insight: I am the thinker and not the thought. That insight, at a deep level of awareness, is enough to cause a change in ones consciousness, and a spontaneous change in ones biology.
SI: When a patient comes to you from a traditional medical perspective, identifying themselves with the body, or the emotions, or the mind, which most of us do, how do you help them go beyond that?
DC: Its possible these days to talk in medical terminology and convince people that the shelf life of molecules is very short. Ninety-eight percent of all the atoms in my body are gone by next year. The physical body that Im using to speak with you right now is not the one I had last year. If I identify myself as my body, then I certainly have a dilemma. Which one am I talking about? The shelf life of emotions is a little longer. But if I identify myself with my emotions, again I have a dilemma. Which one am I talking about? The shelf life of my psychological make-up is even longer. But that is changing all the time, hopefully in an evolutionary direction. But Im none of those things because it is obvious that I am outliving those things.
That I am not my experiences is very obvious. I am the one who is having those experiences. Spirituality has nothing to do with experience. It is to discover the timeless factor in every experience, which is the experiencer. My attention is usually on a particular experience, but how about the one who is having those experiences, the silent witness who is going through all this? There is a poem from T.S. Eliot, "We shall not cease from exploration. The end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started from and know the place for the first time."
SI: You talk as someone who has experienced this.
DC: I hope so. We go through these dilemmas where we wonder: am I just intellectually enamoured of the whole concept? Because, if I am, then obviously I am deluding myself. Or am I experientially grounded in it? I think all of us to some extent have had the experience of that silent witness. When we were children, there was a silent part of us watching the child. When we were adolescents, there was that same witness watching the adolescent. Middle age, and so on. Every one, now and again, has discovered the self, the one who is watching. There are periods in life when it is very intense. There are periods in life where it is not, when you get caught up in the whole field of relativity and lose your moorings with the absolute.
SI: Was there one particular experience that helped you realize this awareness of the self, or is it there sometimes, and sometimes not?
DC: Its always there. But sometimes it is not so dominant in the awareness. Basically it has to do with the quality of your attention.
SI: It reminds me of something you said in one of your books. You mention Krishnamurti talking about the process of self-observation.
DC: Krishnamurtis term, "self-observation", is good. Id like to refer to it as awareness. Observation still implies (although I dont think Krishnamurti meant it that way) a kind of observing from a sensory level, whereas awareness is non-sensory, an awareness of the self.
SI: Have you had success in presenting this information to traditional medical audiences?
DC: Im finding myself very comfortable talking to medical audiences, and proving to them that underlying the material fields of the universe are force fields. But they are not just force fields. They are not just gravity, strong and weak interactions, or electromagnetism. Every force field is simultaneously a field of information because even physics now acknowledges that an atom is not only a hierarchy of different states of energy, or different states of force fields. An atom is a hierarchy of different states of information that define the statistical likelihood of finding a particle here or there at the time of observation.
Einstein said that a field is not really an actual model for space-time events, but the "continuum of probability distributions of possible measurements as a function of time." In other words, the field (which is what spirit is, a field of pure potentiality) is a continuum of all possible energy and information states that will subsequently manifest themselves as space-time events. Matter is a space-time event. You and I in physical bodies are space-time events. We confuse ourselves with these space-time events, when in fact we are the ones who generate these space-time events.
Somewhere inside us we know that we outlive these expressions of space-time experience. To be grounded experientially in the knowledge of immortality is to lose fear once and for all, to understand that the flow of linear time is a psychological event, that we do not exist in time, but that eternity exists in us. This awareness gives us freedom from both the memories of the past and anticipation of the future. We experience ourselves as the field, the eternal possibility, the immeasurable potential of all that was, is, and will be. There is a nice poem from Rumi, "Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. Ill meet you there."
To know oneself as the field has become a spiritual quest, but also a scientific quest these days. All our technology today whether we use fax machines or computers or speak on phones or watch programs on television is based on the premise that the essential nature of the material world is non-material. All of these technologies are based on the overthrow of the superstition of materialism in the world of technology. The next step is to realize that these so-called fields of force, or information, are actually fields of intelligence and knowledge. Because when information is self-referring, in that it has a feedback loop that influences its own expression, then you cannot just call it pure information. Everybody understands information in todays information age. But the next step in the evolution of this knowledge is to understand that it is not just information, it is intelligence, it is knowledge, it is consciousness. The force fields of nature are force fields of consciousness. They are force fields of knowledge. They are fields of Brahman.
SI: Any final comments?
DC: There is a Vedic saying, "All your life youve paid attention to your experiences, but never to yourself."
Pay attention to your self outside the realm of your experiences and youll discover that there is a light there, there is a love there. Love of one, love of all, merge into love, pure and simple. It radiates from you like light from the sun. This love is not sentiment, but the truth at the heart of all creation. It can solve not only our own problems, but the problems of humanity.