Discover your true potential.
In his new book, You Are the Universe, best-selling author and integrative-medicine expert Deepak Chopra, MD, explains that the universe is participatory and that all of us are creators of our reality. Here, Chopra explores how yoga can help us understand
An integrative-medicine pioneer explores how yoga enlists us as co-creators of the universe.
ALTHOUGH I GREW UP knowing about yoga, as every child in India did, and I later practiced a set of asanas as part of my meditation practice, the real revelation that the physical practice of yoga can serve as the doorway to expanded consciousness didn’t occur to me until fairly recently. The change of heart that turned me from primarily a meditator into a dedicated student of hatha yoga [the practice of coordinating physical yoga postures with breath] was different, perhaps, from what others feel when they make yoga class part of their weekly routine. It happened when I became convinced that body, mind, and cosmos were the same unified activity, thus deserving to be treated that way instead of referring to them as separate entities. I could see that practicing asana could help me access the universal life force that unites us all.
We tend to treat the body as different from the mind, or the mind as different from the cosmos, but we rarely stop to ask why. I believe these separations are symptoms of a larger separation, one that has had the disastrous effect of disguising our cosmic self. Anything that can
put us on the path to rediscovering that lost cosmic self is of utmost value—and yoga is first on the list—because there is a hidden dimension of reality that would deeply benefit us with a greater sense of peace, joy, and serenity once we reach it.
In order to understand yoga’s power to connect us with our cosmic self, let’s start with a question so basic it may at first seem trivial: What is a loaf of bread made of? The currently accepted answer in quantum physics is “nothing,” because all matter and energy (along with time and space) emerge from a void, the so-called quantum vacuum. But we know a lot about this nothing. We know it contains the potential to create everything, from something as vast as all possible universes to something as intimate as a heart cell. Therefore, the void is more appropriately called the womb of creation, or a field of infinite possibilities.
This word, “possibilities,” catches my attention, because it levels the playing field: The possibility of a new genetic mutation or of a new supernova being formed or of a new piece of music being created can be traced to its source. In every case, the source is pure possibility—“pure” meaning that there is no matter, energy, or physical trace of any kind. Physicists sometimes like to say that creation involves something coming out of nothing, the ultimate magic act. And so we face a seeming paradox: A loaf of bread is reducible to nothing, and yet that same nothing is rich with infinite potential. Why would nothing turn into something? What motivates it? In physics, there’s no real answer, largely because motivation implies a mind seeking meaning, purpose, knowledge, and fulfillment—all attributes mainstream physicists don’t consider acceptable.
In consciousness studies, however, these attributes are not just acceptable, they’re totally necessary. When consciousness emerges from the void—whether in the form of the human mind or in the consciousness of other beings—the experience registers as meaningful. If you throw out all the differences between any thoughts, what’s left is the irreducible fact that we experience the world, and we know we are having an experience. Without getting complicated, let’s just say that “knowing” is always united with “consciousness.”
But there’s an epiphany lurking inside that simple statement. If consciousness also emerges from a field of infinite possibilities, and knowing emerges with it, then knowing is also infinite. We can’t back away from this idea as too grandiose, abstract, or theoretical, because it isn’t. In fact, this characteristic of infiniteness is how knowing created the reality you perceive all around you. All the qualities of reality you rely upon—the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures of the world—are self-created. As the eminent Australian neurologist and Nobel laureate Sir John Eccles declared, “I want you to realize that there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound—nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent.” What Eccles meant was that all the qualities of nature, from the luxurious scent of a rose to the sting of a bee and the taste of honey, are produced by human beings. In other words, everything you consider real is actually a reflection of what you know. If you strip away the rose, the bee, and the honey, their physical reality will vanish, but your ability to know remains. This knowing is the leaping-off place for all creativity, because new knowledge is infinite.
Which brings us back to yoga’s connection to the cosmic self. The inspired genius contained in yoga—meaning its entirety, including meditation, pranayama, philosophy, and hatha yoga—was to restore human beings to the status of knowers, a status that is literally godlike. Along with Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, we can say, “I am the field and the knower of the field.” This statement is already true. It is true here and now, right this instant.
The only difference between a yoga master and someone else is their degree of knowing. Before discovering what yoga is about, a person may not feel like the creator of their own personal reality; but through yoga, they absorb that this is true. How? Because reality is different in different states of consciousness, and each asana gently places us in a new state of consciousness, if only briefly and subtly at first. This uncovers another revelation: Every experience is about consciousness. The ancient sages of yoga had a vision that the ultimate purpose of being human here on this earth is to engage in life as a process, and that all processes take place in consciousness, leading in an evolutionary arc—a never-ending journey—to the field of infinite possibilities, which is our source.
When you reach the source and know it personally, it dawns on you that “I am That, You are That, and All This is That.” This saying sounds so arcane and mysterious, but its meaning is actually quite basic: Everything is an activity in consciousness, originating in consciousness, and made of consciousness. This realization is considered the ultimate liberation. We can’t be sure that this liberation lies ahead of us tomorrow, but we can live knowing that this is the goal and purpose of being here. More importantly, we can embrace the glimpses we get of life in liberation, glimpses that come any time we feel joy, love, compassion, safety, a sense of meaning, and the touch of “the light,” however you wish to define that. Yoga is based on the knowledge that no one is weak, lost, or insignificant. We are children of the universe, and for that reason, the human universe spreads out all around us, infinite in every direction.
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is board certified in internal medicine, endocrinology, and metabolism. He is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times best-sellers.