By Deepak Chopra, MD
I’d like to explain one of the great mysteries faced by spiritual seekers. On the surface this mystery sounds simple. The most basic statement of it is this: You don’t have to go anywhere to reach higher consciousness. At some level you are already enlightened. All you have to do is to uncover this level within yourself.
There are countless versions of the same teaching. “Be still and know that I am God” is a religious version. So is “The kingdom of Heaven is within.” Outside religion a version from India is called “the pathless path.” However different, all these teachings imply the same thing: The seeker’s goal is here and now. There is nowhere to go, no journey to take, no distance between the beginning and the end of the seeker’s path.
The reason for the mystery is that this teaching hasn’t worked for thousands of people who genuinely want the experience of higher consciousness. Inevitably, they wind up struggling inside themselves trying to locate this mysterious place where enlightenment — you can also call it God, Nirvana, liberation, or self-realization — supposedly lies. Instead of being here and now, the goal remains elusive, far away, and invisible, even after years of meditation, prayer, reflection, contemplation, and other spiritual practices. It’s all very frustrating.
We can unravel the mystery, however, with a simple fact. There is only one reality. There is no division between reality “in here” (subjective) and reality “out there.” The beauty of this simple fact is that you no longer have to struggle within yourself. You only have to unveil reality. So how has reality been disguised from us all these years?
Whatever feels real to you is always filtered through your personal experience. The filter can have any source, usually a worldview you believe in: religion, myth, science, your own personal story. In every case the mind has created a viewpoint that gives you an interpretation of reality, making everything personal. As we each become accustomed to our personal filters, we buy into personal reality totally. If there is a reality independent of the mind, we cannot know it.
Every experience is mind-made, whether the experience happens “in here’ or “out there.” What we call a person is a conditioned identity. What we call the outside world is a conditioned projection. We participate every day in a process that took centuries to develop as human awareness fashioned reality to suit human needs.
Conditioning serves a purpose: to make experience seem continuous. Objects look stable; the mind is constantly active; time flows along. In reality, however, experiences are fleeting and evanescent. They rise and fall instantaneously and cannot be grasped or held on to. Holding on to your last thought is as impossible as holding on to a dream. Stitching reality together through a series of perceptual snapshots, which is what we all do, is very useful, but reality frozen into a series of snapshots isn’t truly real.
If you look at it directly, every experience happens here and now. Now is immediate and present. Once you notice the present moment, another now has taken its place. So now has no duration on its own. It cannot be measured on the clock. In reality, now is outside clock time; therefore it is timeless: the so-called eternal now. We experience anything outside the here and now as a mental projection. The past is a mental construct, including the history of the universe. Mental models created the Big Bang, giving time a beginning when in reality time has no beginning or end.
Only one thing is continuous, staying with us no matter what is happening: Consciousness. By its very nature consciousness is here and now. Consciousness has no divisions, units, or dimensions. We mentally create the dimensions of time and space. Into this matrix we mentally insert matter and energy. Once any of these things is reduced to the here and now, it reveals itself as consciousness. By analogy, physics reduces all of time, space, matter, and energy to ripples in the quantum field. When the ripples subside, the field is unveiled as timeless, without beginning or end, where infinite possibilities emerge.
Since this is the true continuity of life and the true source of everything in existence, it is your true self. By finding a common source in consciousness, we arrive at the one reality. No other experience is necessary.
What keeps this experience far away is that we go around with models of reality in our heads, the current model being materialist and scientific. Models are useful maps and convenient fictions. But reality, being a field of infinite possibilities, cannot be modeled. These infinite possibilities are available here and now. Otherwise, the only possibilities are the ones your mental model accepts. The most damaging flaw in any model is to exclude the infinite, timeless, dimensionless state that is reality — consciousness.
When mind-made veils are removed, reality transcends anything the mind experiences, anything bound by space, time, birth and death, concepts, and models. The eternal now, when we connect with it, is our access to reality. Reality is infinite potential entering creation as endless manifestation.
The unveiling process eliminates everything that is conditioned, illusory, mind-made, the product of the ego, etc. Once these veils no longer color your experience, the mind gets a fresh start. We know ourselves in a new way. We are consciousness. We live with a foot in two camps; one foot in the everyday world, the other foot in pure, undisturbed awareness.
Yet both feet rest on the same ground: consciousness. In one mode consciousness is pure, unmoving, and silent. In another mode consciousness is endlessly creative. On the active side, the play of consciousness is our purpose and our joy. On the side of pure awareness, our purpose is to be, which is absolute freedom.
The only teaching anyone needs is this: Once you remove everything that is unreal, what remains must be reality itself. In the next post we’ll discuss the practicality of removing the veils that block us from living in the reality of here and now.
(To be continued.)
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are The Healing Self co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com