After Gay Rights, Gay Spirituality

untitled-design43By Deepak Chopra, MD

It’s taken decades for gay activists to achieve the most basic right that every minority deserves: equality under the law. In principle one might say that the battle has been won, even if some states are dragging their heels and some groups mount fierce resistance. Thirty years ago, it took mass protests to push for major funding of AIDS research, and the overturning of antiquated, prejudiced sodomy laws wasn’t a sure thing when the Supreme Court took up the issue in 2003.

The fact that the court did invalidate state laws against homosexuality was the bellwether for a shift in public acceptance that will only accelerate in the future. It’s time, then, to consider another dimension that has been masked by the headlines over legal battles. That’s the dimension of spirituality, where religious intolerance has been the norm and finding the way to self-acceptance has been a poignant personal struggle for every gay man and woman.

The issues are framed by questions that millions ask every day without being gay, since they pertain to the loss of faith that society has been wrestling with for decades:

Does God love me?

Does he (or she) know that I exist?

Can God relieve my suffering?

Where was God when I endured my darkest hours?

It would be easy, and probably correct, to say that these questions are more pointed for gay people, because they are burdened by social disapproval, hidden prejudices, and long-held dogmas about God’s condemnation of homosexuality. Spirituality is a larger dimension of life, however, based on real personal needs. For gay people to realize their place in a living kind of spirituality, seven needs must be filled:

1. The need to safety and security.

2. The need to be recognized for achievement and success.

3. The need to belong to a community.

4. The need to be listened to and understood.

5. The need to express oneself through creativity and self-exploration.

6. The need for higher moral worth.

7. The need to feel at one with God or other depiction of highest Being.

I hate to announce it to accepted prejudice (both inside and outside the gay community), but in my experience, gay people have done more to fulfill these needs than society as a whole. They may have been forced to face themselves by hostile circumstances; they may be more compassionate and accepting of differences in general; it could be that feeling like outsiders has increased their self-awareness. I can’t point to an exact cause – no doubt there is a mixture of many causes – but the result has been an open kind of seeking that is one of the most valuable aspects of modern gay life.

Which of us has had to pay constant attention to being safe and secure when we walk down the street? Who feels automatically that their achievements will be undermined or their acceptance put into question simply because of who they are? Gay people confront both obstacles to the first two needs on the list, which are taken for granted by the majority population. The higher needs are just as tinged with self-doubt and negative social attitudes. What this means is that your gay friends and those happy gay couples kissing on their wedding day have gone through personal struggles you probably have only a little awareness of. Seeking for God comes down to seeking oneself in the grand scheme of things, and every gay person knows what that feels like.

Spiritual seeking is a huge topic, naturally. On one front most gay people have to come to terms with the religion they were brought up in. For Christians, a landmark is The Good Book by the late Peter Gomes, who held the position of Preacher to Harvard College. Gomes, who came out fairly late in life, devotes considerable space to the condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible, and his approach in the face of these condemnations is summarized in the book’s subtitle, “Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart.”

In other words, bringing a modern mindset and an open heart unfolds a new path, one that isn’t literally tied to the attitudes of Jewish culture thousands of years ago, or the extension of those attitudes by the early Christian fathers. For gay people who want to remain among the faithful, there are churches in every large city that will welcome them. Even the Catholic Church shows signs of softening its strictures under a new, more compassionate Pope.

Not having the church door slammed in your face is barely the first step in filling the spiritual dimension in a person’s life. The seven needs I’ve listed take a lifetime to fulfill, attended by inner work and a desire to keep evolving every day. At the very least the straight and gay world can agree on that, because seeking is a common human project. To fill the spiritual dimension requires a shift in attitudes in all of us. Gay people need to realize that they deserve to be fulfilled spiritually. Straight people need to agree.

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. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.

How to Be Timeless Right This Moment

By Deepak Chopra, MD

For most people, the two words “timeless” and “eternal” seem roughly the same. They spell the end of clock time, and for many religious believers, Heaven is eternal, a place where time goes on forever. Whatever you think about it, time coming to an end isn’t a pleasant prospect, because the clock stops, so to speak, when we die. But there are problems with all of these concepts, and if we really go deeply into the subject, time is very different from what we casually accept.

Physics has had a lot to say about time thanks to Einstein’s revolutionary concept that time isn’t constant but varies according to the situation at hand. Traveling near the speed of light or drawing near the massive gravitational pull of a black hole will have a drastic impact on how time passes. But untitled-design38let’s set relativity aside for a moment to consider how time works in human terms, here and now. Each of us normally experiences three states of time: time ticking off the clock when we are awake, time as part of the illusion of having a dream, and the absence of time when we’re asleep but not dreaming. This tells us that time is tied to our state of consciousness.

We take it for granted that one species of time–the one measured by clocks–is real time, but that’s not true. All three relationships with time–waking, dreaming, and sleeping–are knowable only as personal experiences. Time in fact doesn’t exist outside human awareness. There is no absolute clock time “out there” in the universe. Many cosmologists would argue that time, as we know it in waking state, entered the universe only at the big bang. What came before the big bang is probably inconceivable, because “before the big bang” has no meaning if time was born at the instant the cosmos was born. If you go to the finest level of Nature, to the vacuum state from which the quantum field emerged, the qualities of everyday existence, such as sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, no longer exist, and there is also a vanishing point where three-dimensionality vanishes, along with time itself.

What lies beyond the quantum horizon is purely a matter of mathematical conjecture, yet one thing is certain. The origin of everything real is beyond the reach of time and space. The realm that is the pre-created state of the universe can be modeled mathematically as being multi-dimensional, infinitely dimensional, or non-dimensional. Once the everyday four dimensions vanish, any kind of mathematical explanation is open. So it must be accepted that time came out of the timeless and not just at the big bang. Everything in the physical universe winks in and out of existence at a rapid rate of excitation here and now. The timeless is with us at every second of our lives.

Yet something looks fishy in that sentence, because the timeless can’t be measured using a clock, so it makes no sense to say that the timeless is with us “at every second.” Instead, the timeless is with us, period. This world is timeless. There is no need to wait for death or Heaven to prove that eternity is real.

Once you grant that the timeless is with us, a question naturally arises: How is the timeless related to clock time? The answer is that the two aren’t related. The timeless is an absolute, and since it can’t be measured by clocks, it has no relative existence. How strange. The timeless is with us, yet we can’t relate to it. Then of what good is the timeless?

To answer this question, we have to back up a bit. Clock time has no privileged position in reality. There is no reason why it should be elevated above dream time or the absence of time in dreamless sleep. Clock time is just a quality of being awake, like other qualities we know as colors, tastes, smells, etc. Without human beings to experience these qualities, they don’t exist. Photons, the particles of light, have no brightness without our perception of brightness; photons are invisible and colorless. Likewise, time is an artifact of human experience. Outside our perception, we cannot know anything about time. This seems to contradict the cornerstone of science, which holds that “of course” there was a physical universe before human life evolved on Earth, which means that “of course” there was time also, billions of years of time.

Here we come to a fork in the road, because either you accept that time, as registered by the human brain, is real on its own or you argue that, being dependent on the human brain, time is created in consciousness. The second position is by far the stronger one, even though fewer people believe it. In our awareness we constantly convert the timeless into the experience of time–there is no getting around this. Since such a transformation cannot happen “in” time, something else must be going on. To get a handle on this “something else,” let’s look at the present moment, the now, the immediate present.

All experience happens in the now. Even to remember the past or anticipate the future is a present-moment event. Brain cells, which physically process the conversion of the timeless into time, only function in the present. They have no other choice, since the electrical signals and chemical reactions that run brain cells only occur here and now. If the present moment is the only real time we can know in waking state, why is it so elusive? You can use a clock as fine-tuned as an atomic clock to predict when the next second, millisecond, or trillionth of a second will arrive, but that’s not the same as predicting the now. The present moment, as an experience, is totally unpredictable. If it could be predicted, you’d know your next thought in advance, which is impossible.

Moreover, the present moment is elusive, because the instant you register it as either a sensation, image, feeling, or thought, it’s gone. So let’s boil these insights down. The now, the place where we all live, can be described as:

  • — the junction point where the timeless is converted into time
  • — the only “real” time we know in waking state
  • — a totally unpredictable phenomenon
  • — a totally elusive phenomenon.

Now, if all these characteristics are being correctly described, it turns out that we have been fooling ourselves to believe that time is a simple matter of tick-tock on the clock. In some mysterious way, each of us occupies a timeless domain, and to produce a four-dimensional world for the purpose of living in it, we dream it forth. That is, we create the world in consciousness first and foremost. There is no given world “out there.”

This seemingly bizarre conclusion lies at the heart of all non-dual philosophies like Platonism, Buddhism, and Vedanta. None of them had access to neuroscience, so they didn’t fall into the trap of claiming that the brain is responsible for creating time, space, and the messages received by the five senses. The brain, after all, is just another object inside the dream, like a table and chairs, a rock, or a distant galaxy. Nor did these non-dual philosophies fall into the trap of saying that the mind creates reality. The mind is a vehicle of experience, and like time and space, it had to have a source beyond mental experience. If we trusted our minds, we’d equate going to sleep with death. In sleep the conscious mind gives up the world of solid physical objects and clock time. Yet when we wake up in the morning, there is a return of solid objects and clock time. They were held in waiting, so to speak, by consciousness even during the eight hours a day that the thinking mind is out of commission.

In the end, non-dual philosophies, as the name implies, aim to get us free of the dreamscape we mistake as the real world in order to return us to our source. At our source, in pure awareness, we recognize ourselves not as puppets of time, space, matter, and energy but as creators of reality. The merest second of time originated in us. We fill the now with experience. That’s what it means to take the timeless seriously; it changes our very identity. The categories that we lock into separate compartments are in fact part of one unified phenomenon, the unfoldment of awareness within itself.

I realize what a mouthful those words are, but we must wake up to the fact that reality is simply one thing. Body, mind, and spirit belong to this one thing. The come into being all together, and only our belief system turns them into three different things. There is a huge amount to say once you realize that you exist as the timeless source of creation. But the first step is to know that the timeless is with us, beyond any belief in birth and death, time and decay. Things get born and die in our dreams when we’re sleeping, and yet we don’t mourn them because we know that dreams are an illusion. Discovering that the same is true about our waking dream brings the experience known as enlightenment.

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. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.

A Revolution in Reality Is Around the Corner

Whether they think about it or not, people take sides about reality. The dividing line separating science from spirituality was crossed long ago, and it doesn’t take a lesson in philosophy or theology to pick up a smartphone. Therefore, by default reality for everyone is scientific reality. Let’s set the old science versus spirituality divide aside and simply accept that science has taken a journey to the very origin of reality and returned with a story everyone essentially buys into by virtue of how rational and useful it is to live by science.

To get to the origin of reality, science had to scrub away a lot of misinformation and misdirection. The five senses are the source of most misinformation, but so is the brain itself. When scrubbed down to the most basic level, reality as explained in quantum physics has no color, sight, sound, taste, or smell. So much for what the five senses consider real. Scrub even closer to the bone, and time and space vanish, too, even though the human brain depends upon both. When atoms and molecules vanish into probability waves, so does the brain–it has no privileged position in the universe. Surprising as it sounds, this whole apparatus of scientific experiments and useful technology can be scrubbed away until you reach a zero point, a timeless, dimensionless state from which the universe sprang.

Here’s the most fascinating part. The universe didn’t spring into existence with the big bang 13.8 billion years ago. That episode requires the existence of time and space. The big bang is an event constructed in the human mind as if we were there to witness it. “If” you could take the human brain back to the origin of the universe, the big bang is totally real. But that “if” is impossible. A human brain would disintegrate long before you got to the source of the big bang. In fact, the big bang itself had its own origin, which preceded time, space, matter, and energy. Even to visualize the big bang as an explosion is totally incorrect, because explosions only occur in the context of time and space.

So we are left with a startling conclusion. The origin of reality is outside our ability to explain it. Even mathematics, the last stand of the rational mind, can’t be proven to exist outside our mental awareness of numbers. Nothing can be shown to exist outside our awareness. This realization has caused a crisis in theoretical physics, among other areas like philosophy and theology, because on the one hand, the version of reality scrubbed down to zero seems absolutely valid while on the other hand, scrubbed-down reality has nothing we can see, touch, measure, experiment with, gather data about, or even conceive. (Every physicist I’ve debated concedes that all of theoretical physics exists in mathematical imagination, which is itself an activity in awareness.)

Let’s agree that reality is here and that it needs explaining. You can start with a spiritual or religious view of reality and take a parallel journey that scrubs it down to zero, or very close. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” or “The Word was made flesh.” Those phrases speak of a creation that emerges from nothing more than a concept, but since this concept is empty, being merely some kind of “word,” there’s a huge problem. The original word emerged from an inconceivable state. So once again, starting from the very opposite worldview of science, scrubbing reality down to its origin leaves you with something inconceivable.

How do we get out of this paradoxical trap, where the mind takes us on a journey to find out where we came from, only to arrive at a place that has a sign saying, “Please leave your mind at the door. Only then can you enter”? The way out of this trap is to stop asking the wrong questions and start asking the right ones. Instead of asking how the world “out there” emerged from zero (what some physicists call the emergence of something from nothing), we could start with the only thing we know for sure and go from there.

What we know for sure is that we experience reality, and therefore the starting point is no longer zero. In truth, we live at the starting point of reality every day and every minute. Reality is experience itself. It’s a fluid, ever-renewing process that continually spins out the now. Unlike a telescope floating in deep space sending back data from distant galaxies, our minds are dynamic, active, and creative. Set aside the fruits of this creativity. Every mind travels a different arc of life experience. But this diversity disguises a common thread.

If you look at what your mind is doing right this minute, the following things are always occurring:

  • 1. There is a constant stream of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images.
  • 2. We identify with this mental activity, using it to create our personal reality.
  • 3. Confronting the bewildering phenomena that fills reality and floods the senses, we give words to each process, thus stopping the phenomenon in its tracks. A mystery like time turns into “time,” a term we grasp the way we grasp “rock” or “tree.”
  • 4. In this way, our chief creative act is to manufacture a world of objects that perfectly fits one species of consciousness, our own. Animals exist in this objectified world, but we have no entry into their species of consciousness.
  • 5. Therefore, we feel secure in our self-created reality, as if it existed before human beings appeared. In fact, there is no reality outside the mental activity taking place right this minute in our awareness.img_2001

It can take a bit of time to nail down each of these points, but people will accept them as unarguable given a chance to absorb what is going on. When you begin with “reality is experience in awareness,” there is a totally level playing field. Think about having a dream one night where Einstein, Buddha, Plato, and Mozart came to visit you. They start talking about how reality looks to them, each having a strong separate awareness of what their own reality is like. Yet you have no trouble knowing that Einstein, Buddha, Plato, and Mozart are in the same dream, inhabiting the same dreamscape. The fact that they play different roles in the dreamscape doesn’t change that basic shared fact.

It turns out, therefore, that reality can be explained as a state of awareness, and although there are billions of people playing out their own state of awareness, the big tent is one awareness that we all share. it is the awareness of having an experience and knowing what the experience is. Finding such a unified basis for reality should come as a tremendous relief, and it will, I believe, revolutionize life on Earth. We have all accepted science as the measure of the real world, yet soon the news will spread that science has scrubbed reality down to the zero point. This in essence gives us the freedom to start over again. We each have the opportunity to scrub our personal reality down, to discard what isn’t working and retain only what does work.

Here, I’d like to suggest, is what does work:

  • 1. Creating personal reality as each person’s joyful challenge.
  • 2. Seeing past the mask of materialism in order to elevate the inner world of awareness.
  • 3. Fostering the evolution of consciousness as a self-directed project.
  • 4. Granting equal status to everyone as conscious agents, equipped with the same ability to shape reality.
  • 5. Refusing to buy into the state of separation, replacing it with a state of unity based on pure consciousness.

When we focus on these things, reality will shift dramatically. Once you realize that everything, absolutely everything, is an excitation in consciousness, the everyday world gets reduced to the same status as a dreamscape. Time, space, matter, and energy each tell a different story; each has a different feel. But you exist at the center of the dreamscape, knowing that time, space, matter, and energy are all excitations in consciousness. And then comes the kicker: You are that consciousness. This must be what Buddha experienced in a flash sitting under the Bodhi tree. The phenomenal world dissolved, replaced by one thing, consciousness itself. The same realization has been repeated countless times in other minds; the circumstances will look outwardly different, but the result is always the same. At the source of human awareness is the origin of reality. One history unfolds this truth on a mass scale, nothing will ever be the same again.

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. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.