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A Quiet Revolution
The other day I was listening to a recently recorded conversation (on
www.integralnaked.org) between Deepak Chopra and Ken Wilber. Ken Wilber is an American philosopher best known for pioneering an integral approach to possibly every arena of human thought and practice. Deepak Chopra, an East Indian by birth, is a MD who has contributed enormously to the integration and balance of Eastern and Western approaches to health and healing. In the dialogue, Chopra introduced an idea in a way I had not considered before. I find that how I understand myself and see the world is changing perceptibly as a result of it. I’d like to explore it a bit further here, hoping you will find it intriguing ‹ if not revolutionary ‹ as well.
Chopra’s exposition went like this: It is largely understood that the mind is the repository of memories; when you remember something, you fish for it in your mind. Modern science has discovered that the oldest cell in any person’s body is about seven years old. Most are significantly younger than that. This means that every cell in your body dies and is replaced on a regular rotating basis, some more frequently than others.
I’m not sure how often the cells in our brain turn over, but it’s safe to say, somewhat less than every seven years. It is also widely believed that the brain is the seat of the mind in the human body. If that is so, and memories are stored in the mind sited in the brain, how is it that I can vividly recall many details of my 16th birthday party over thirty years ago? Sixteen different men (including my 10 year old brother, my father, and a few anonymous waiters bribed at the restaurant) kneeling before me, each handing me a white carnation with a virtue penned on a little card tied to the stem, and planting a kiss on my cheek ‹ the miniscule cells storing those particular memories have long since dried up and bit the dust. So how is it that I can still remember what happened?!
Chopra and Wilber both agreed that what many mystics have understood over the ages must be true. That is, the body does not contain the mind, but rather the mind contains the body.
Wow. I’ve heard this said before, but never has it sunk in so deeply.
My mind ‹ the seat of all my ideas, memories, interpretations and more ‹ is not in my body. Well then, where is it and who the heck am I anyway?! What is the relationship between my body and my mind, and where do I fit in??? These are huge questions!
For me, Chopra’s elucidation is helping to make sense of ideas I have read about and experiences I am having. Recently, while meditating, I have been fairly regularly entering what is termed “the witness state”. This is a state of consciousness where I clearly observe whatever my attention is directed to without identifying with it. This means I can observe the so-called “my body” and its sensations and the so-called “my mind” and its thoughts and not identify the body, sensations, thoughts or mind as “mine.” I observe “my body” and “my mind” almost as if I was observing another person in the room or a tree out the window.
So where or who am I? In my experience, I am who is observing, but not in the same sense of how we usually understand observing. In this altered state of consciousness I do not interpret or judge what I observe. I do not relate to what I observe in the way we usually understand relating ‹ i.e. I like this, I don’t like that. Instead, I just notice. When I am deep in this state I don’t even name what I notice in the usual sense: dog barking, sunlight, shiver, orange flowerŠ
My understanding is becoming more congruent with my experience. There is only One Mind ‹ the Mind of Spirit/God. There is only One Body ‹ the Body of Spirit. There is only One I ‹ the I of Spirit. Have you ever had an experience of Oneness ‹ no separation between you and anything else? If so, you probably realize that for Deepak Chopra to say “the body is contained by the mind” is not the whole truth. Ultimately there is no separation between them, or between anything at all. But just starting with the idea that the mind contains the body can be revolutionary enough to lift you into a whole new journey in life.