Existence and the Virus: A Healing Solution

By Deepak Chopra™, MD

The COVID crisis is being fought on two fronts, medical and economic, but most people are suffering psychologically. The word “existential” rarely comes up in normal everyday life, but the crisis has created all the symptoms of existential dread: a sense of futility, anxiety about the human condition, and a deep fear of death. This comes as a shocking occurrence, and if there is such a thing as existential healing, now is the time for it.

Questions about existence baffle people, and there seems to be no reason to confront them until the last moment. One of the reasons that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s 1969 book, On Death and Dying, was seized upon by millions is that she drew a map of grief that showed dying patients that the inevitability of death wasn’t terrifying in the end. The five stages of grief outlined by Kübler-Ross—denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance—coincides with what is seen in hospice care. The prospect of death for most people leads to acceptance.

But there is a sixth stage of grieving that applies right now: meaning. The most fortunate patients go beyond acceptance to see that their lives had purpose, that existence is meaningful, and therefore that death lost its final power, which is fear and dread. This is the healing that I think should be embraced now. The actual deaths caused by COVID-19 are outnumbered by the cases of fear and dread being experienced on a mass scale. One way or another, we have all entered the grieving process.

There are two paths to arrive at the peace that comes when your life is meaningful. The first path is through action and achievement. You set out on a purpose, and you succeed in fulfilling it. Ideally everyone should be able to create meaning through the work they do, the service they offer, the love they share, and the good they achieve. But during lockdown, there is often no outlet for this path. We find ourselves passively victimized by a mindless virus that is achieving far more than its human victims; that is, its purpose in life, which is to find a host and multiply, has been astoundingly successful.

But the second path to a meaningful life hasn’t been touched by the virus, and never can be. This path is one of realization. You go inside and discover that you are sustained by your own being. At your core you find value, no matter what you do in life, and no matter what external threats assail you. This path has been open forever, and its teaching occupies the world’s spiritual traditions both East and West. Nirvana, Moksha, liberation, the Kingdom of Heaven within, the peace that passes understanding: by whatever name, the path is essentially the same.

The problem is that we have erected mental barriers that block this path, which should be the easiest path imaginable. Its message is grasped naturally by children: You are here, and that is enough. There is no need to a pilgrimage to a holy place, years in a spiritual retreat, long immersions in silence, or the proverbial cave in the Himalayas. The only thing to do is to wake up as directly as you can, here and now. So why don’t we? It isn’t as if the teachings from spiritual guides, teachers, seers, sages, avatars, gurus, and saints is lacking. What’s the problem?

Once you ask this question, you are on your way to waking up. Existential dread is actually a mental creation. We listen to the voice of fear in our heads; we let fear become an emotion that we feel powerless to oppose; we are lulled into passivity by the everyday routine of life; we don’t bother to see for ourselves; and we have a lot of desirable goals in mind that make it easy to avoid the inner journey.

If you set all of that baggage aside for one moment of clarity, you will see clearly that existence has never been the problem. In fact, it is the solution. Every moment of epiphany, revelation, divine presence, inner peace, etc. has only one source: existence. You have to be here first before anything, good or bad, can happen. So why not just be here? The thinking mind cannot just be here, because it is filled with a riotous display of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Yet these must have a source, and the source isn’t a thought, feeling, or sensation.

The source is existence. The spiritual promise, the goodie that every religion holds out, is that there is “higher” existence. But this too is a mental construct. Existence isn’t like a luxury high rise that saves the best apartments for the top floors. Existence is the rock solid, indestructible, eternal, immutable zero point at which everything begins. Simply by existing, human beings are given infinite possibilities in life. That alone is the source of life’s vibrancy, as well as our own joy, live, creativity, discovery, and evolution.

The real promise that we should all explore is this: Being is more meaningful than doing. The ultimate healing, the end of all fear, including the fear of death, is contained in that simple axiom. Being is more meaningful than doing. This is why Buddhism engendered the concept of non-doing. Settle down in yourself, meet yourself in silence, appreciate the silence, and accept the peace that is part of existence. You can’t create peace; you can only discover it.

We test out how life works through our experiences. The good experiences encourage us to give a cheer for being alive; the bad experiences raise doubts, fear, uncertainty, and depression. So healing cannot come from amassing more good experiences until your bank account is bursting with them. Goodies don’t make for a good life. Only life makes for a good life. Shed all your experiences temporarily, in other words sit in silence for a few minutes. You won’t know who you really are or what your life means until you meet yourself inside. What awaits is the merging of self, silence, existence, and being. In this merging lies the answer to fear and dread. More importantly, this is where life finally begins to mean everything we want it to mean.


DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a modern-day health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 89 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”

Finding the Universe in a Coffee Cup

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Menas Kafatos, PhD

The universe is hard to explain, because there are so many moving parts and so many levels, probably infinite in both cases. It is a cherished goal in physics to unify these parts, but so far success has eluded even the most brilliant investigators. The average person might take an occasional interest in the latest theories about the cosmos, but we think the mystery of the universe faces everyone on a daily basis, as does the solution to the mystery.

The cosmic riddle is easy to state: Is the universe whole? Do its parts all work together, and if so, how? Clearly the universe isn’t a machine, because machines are assembled from mechanical parts with visible connections like the gears in a car’s transmission. But the universe has a peculiar feature. The moving parts, meaning any physical object, whether as large as a galaxy or as tiny as an atom, depend on probabilities to show us their properties, and these suddenly vanish at the quantum level. Even large, or macroscopic, objects exhibit quantum behavior. To drive the point home, subatomic particles do not have a stable identity. They flicker in and out of one state, following invisible probability waves. The same peculiarity holds true for the other basic ingredients of what we call everyday reality: time, space, and energy. All have an invisible source beyond the physical, even though we experience them in the physical world.

Classical physics, like all of today’s science, depends on reductionism, the method that explains a phenomenon by breaking it down into smaller parts. Reductionism is tied to the fundamental idea that reality is physical and that nothing else is needed beyond the physical. Even though modern physics is hugely complex, the outmoded notion that the universe is a gigantic physical mechanism keeps persisting a century after quantum theory dismantled the very notion that the mystery of the universe lies in its tiniest bits and pieces.

If the mystery of the universe can be solved, the solution doesn’t lie with a purely physical explanation. If we take an ordinary object like a coffee cup, the mystery of everything is contained in it, and in one stroke the mystery can be solved, because in the experience of holding a coffee cup, you can simultaneously throw out a solution that doesn’t work and see that the right solution is dawning. Holding the cup and experiencing it is as important as the cup itself. The two cannot be separated.

Physics can reduce a coffee cup to the smallest scale before everything vanishes in the quantum dimensions known as the Planck scale, named for a seminal quantum physicist, Max Planck, who started the entire quantum revolution in 1903. Measurements of length are extremely tiny, almost infinitesimal at the Planck scale. As a unit of measurement, the Planck length is 100 million trillion times smaller than the proton. Planck theorized that five infinitesimal units that characterize the micro world—length, mass, energy, temperature, and charge—can be reduced to individual quantum scales to the smallest possible values at the scale where the universe, and everything in it, originates. If you try to imagine the womb of creation, the Planck scale is its location.

Planck-scale units tell us the scale at which the universe began during the Big Bang, but they also mark the end of the road. This is where the laws of nature no longer operate, where “smaller” is impossible to measure because length itself, along with the whole setup of three dimensions, time, and every known constant, ceases to have meaning. There is much more to say about the Planck scale, but one thing is clear. Physical explanations stop here, and they haven’t solved the mystery of the origin of the universe. What lies over the Planck scale horizon cannot be known by any kind of physical experiment, data, facts, or any observation.

Where the universe collapses into pure mystery, so does a coffee cup and so do you. You are beyond any facts, which means that physical data concerning you, although interesting and useful, are just provisional, temporary, and relative. In fact, any theory reaches a horizon of understanding about the mysteries that lie beyond. The true, essential you (along with the coffee cup and the entire universe) can only be found following a non-physical path of explanation. This path, which is open to direct experience, is the path of consciousness. We are so conditioned to accept the physical explanation of reality that the path of consciousness seems alien. But consciousness itself already defies the reductionist approach—as another great quantum physicist, Erwin Schrödinger declared, it makes no sense to subdivide the mind. It is far more credible and ultimately self-consistent to explain everything as a creation of consciousness than as a machine-like conglomeration of matter and energy.

The Planck scale cannot be observed, only speculated about. But whatever is happening, you and I are the result, along with everything in existence. Something has to be going on, and if it isn’t material or physical, if it doesn’t take time or occur in space, there is only one thing that the human mind can conceive, which is consciousness. This is a classic example, one might say, of Sherlock Holmes’s dictum that when every other explanation has failed, the one that remains, however improbable, must be true. Consciousness-based reality is ultimately the cleanest, most self-consistent and irreducible view of the wholeness that science and philosophy are trying to reach.

Assigning the leading role to consciousness isn’t improbable. Being conscious is the essence of every experience. Without awareness, there is no known reality. To someone wedded to a purely physical explanation, consciousness is nothing, or at best a lingering mystery that no one can understand, but once you step away from physicalism, consciousness is everything. This choice, between nothing and everything, is crucial; you can’t get around it. Planck himself came to believe that consciousness is fundamental to the universe. In an attempt to salvage physicalism, it is argued that the universe existed for billions of years before human beings appeared on the scene to be aware of it.

Physical explanations miss the point. What does it mean to say you are conscious? It means that you perceive, understand, and know. It means that you can think, observe, speak, and act. It means that you have a sense of self. These features of you cannot be created out of physical stuff. It only makes sense that they have always been around, woven into the fabric of existence itself. Consciousness knows, understands, perceives, observes, etc. These are its basic qualities, just as wetness is a basic quality of water.

So the path of consciousness is built up not from bits and pieces of matter, but the process of consciousness creating anything it wants simply by projecting itself. Its creative ability begins with nothing but itself. It doesn’t need space, time, matter, and energy. They are tools of creation the way a painter uses the tools of color. A painting needs the tools of color to be created, but clearly the painting is much more than those tools. A coffee cup has local qualities and universal qualities at the same time. It is a “thing” and it is the idea of the thing. The local qualities are its color, shape, hardness, lightness, and so on. Its universal qualities are invisible, playing their part behind the scene. These are the qualities of creativity embedded in consciousness.

There is every reason to shift our explanations to be consciousness-based. When you see a painting, its local qualities are in the picture. You can study the Mona Lisa for hours absorbing these qualities. But implicitly you know that it took a conscious mind, belonging to Leonardo da Vinci, to assemble those local qualities. He conceived how to make the model’s smile elusive, her beauty enigmatic, her skin luminous, and the inert paint come alive. Without consciousness, no local qualities can exist. The same is true of the universe, your body, a coffee cup, and anything else. Without consciousness to unify everything, we would be left with the only alternative, which is nothing.


DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a modern-day health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. He is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. Chopra is the author of over 89 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”
Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics at Chapman University and the Director of the Center of Excellence in Earth Systems Modeling and Observations. Author, physicist and philosopher, he works in quantum mechanics, cosmology, the environment and climate change and extensively on philosophical issues of consciousness, connecting science to metaphysical traditions. Member or candidate of foreign national academies, he holds seminars and workshops for individuals, groups and corporations on the universal principles for well-being and human potential. As dean and vice provost, he promoted interdisciplinary educational and research projects, leading many grants. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored more than 333 articles, is author or editor of 20 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer, 2000), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House, 1991), Living the Living Presence (in Greek, Melissa, 2017; and in Korean, Miruksa Press, 2016), Science, Reality and Everyday Life (in Greek, Asimakis 2019), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the NY Times Bestseller You are the Universe (Harmony/Random House/Penguin, 2017, translated into many languages and at many countries). You can learn more at menaskafatos.com

Infinite Potential – Make Your Own Myth / Dr. Jean Houston

In our final episode of Season 1, we come back to the most fundamental questions: who are we and what are we capable of. My guest today, Dr. Jean Houston, sees us as heroes in our own mythic journeys, here to realize our great calling. Jean Houston has worked with Joseph Campbell, Margaret Mead and even Hilary Clinton, and she now joins us to explore our roles in this time of profound shift. Today, we tap into our full human potential. And it truly is, infinite.

Infinite Potential – A Space to Remember / Michael Arad

We humans remember things on a uniquely grand scale. From the pyramids to the Washington Monument, we build memorials so we won’t forget our past. Today, I try to understand why with Michael Arad, the visionary architect behind the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, in New York City. When an act of terrorism changed the world forever, how could we do justice to physical and emotional destruction that occurred? Michael answered that question the only way he knew: by creating a memory space. Join me for this powerful conversation about history, truth, healing and how the spaces we live in and pass through can change our story, both personal and global.


Infinite Potential – Sex is Complicated / Dan Savage

Infinite Potential – Sex is Complicated / Dan Savage

Sex is powerful, and no one knows that better than “sexpert”, writer, podcast host and relationship extraordinaire, Dan Savage. In his decades of experience, Dan’s seen a lot, and he’s paving a unique and profound new path redefining what it means to love and to be in a relationship, or rather, to be in many relationships. Is the human species meant to love one person? Or is love provisional like our identity? Join me as we paint new colors on a very old practice.