“We are beings of stardust who are aware.”
Those were just some of the words of Deepak Chopra, a world-renowned doctor, alternative medicine advocate, author and public speaker, at a talk titled “The Future of Well-being.” The talk was presented by British Caymanian Insurance Company as part of its ZEST Wellness programme at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on June 23.
Self-awareness was one of Chopra’s main themes in his 90-minute talk as he highlighted some of the ideas in his latest book, ”The Healing Self.”
Chopra framed his talk with logic and science as he took the audience on a captivating journey that suggested human health is linked to self-awareness.
“Humans suffer because we do not know who we are,” he said. Humans are born with about 25,000 genes, half from the mother and half from the father, Chopra said. “Think of genes as words … the story of our life, mind-body experiences of the world,” he said. “Genes are the words that became the flesh. Think of DNA as the alphabet.”
Genes can directly impact health, he said.“Humans cannot change their genes, but, like a deck of cards, they can play with the healthy ones,” he said, adding that new scientific research has shown that only 5 per cent of a person’s genes predispose people to diseases like diabetes and heart disease. “The remaining 95 per cent [of disease-causing gene mutation] is due to the quality of our lives, and this is huge.”
Chopra said people can vastly improve their physical health by addressing six pillars of well-being, which include adequate sleep; meditation and stress management; movement, yoga and a breathing exercise called pranayama; emotional health; making wise nutritional choices; and practising grounding through such activities as a daily 20-minute walk on the beach, which has health benefits far beyond exercise.
Humans are unique in they way they navigate their emotional lives and social hierarchies and the only animals who are aware of the past and the future, Chopra said, noting that how people experience the world greatly affects their health and how they live.
As an example, he said if someone were to abuse a dog, the dog, upon seeing that person again after a long period of time, might feel an urge to bite the abuser. However, that dog would not have been plotting its revenge over the whole intervening time, as a human being might do to the detriment of his or her emotional health.
“Healing is to be whole … of whole experience,” he said, adding that whole incorporates the “body-mind”concept, which he sees as a verb.
“There are no nouns in the universe,” he said. “Everything is an activity.”
Even our bodies are constantly regenerating and in motion, he said, pointing out that 98 per cent of a person’s physical body was not there one year ago as the body constantly regenerates.
“If your body is activity, then you cannot be your body,” Chopra said, explaining that human consciousness is always there, the observer, the part of being that has always been present.
Chopra led the audience through an exercise to show how they could become aware of their consciousness. He started by asking the simple question, “Are you aware right now?” and asking people to answer when he raised his hand. The answer was a resounding “yes” from the audience. Then he undertook the same exercise again, but this time, he had everyone pause for a minute or two before answering. He then explained that both the question, “Are you aware right now?” and the response, “yes,” were nothing more than two distinct thoughts.
“Between every thought, every perception, is you.”
THE TRUE YOU
Humans experience the fundamental reality of their own being, spirit, consciousness as an entity they call “I.” This awareness is not subject to birth or death — it is not situated in time, Chopra said.
He led the audience in an exercise in meditation to experience mindful awareness. Once people were aware of their breathing, their bodies, and their hearts and were very relaxed, he asked each person to quietly ask themselves — in their minds — a series of questions involving self-inquiry: What am I?; What do I want?; What is my purpose?; and, What am I grateful for?
Chopra said the answers will come when people ask such questions when practising mindful awareness.
There are five causes of human suffering, Chopra said, including not knowing the true self; grasping and clinging to that which cannot be grasped; fear of impermanence; identification with ego construct; and fear of death.
When people address these things, they find out who they really are beyond the experience of the body and the mind. This is when they experience life that is transformed in many ways with less stress. They experience flow in their lives, synchronicity, lucky coincidences, or the sense that God is on their side. It is when they become fully aware that, although they are interacting with the world through perceptions and experiences, they have a consciousness that exists beyond time. That is when they begin to know their true selves.