14 May Beyond Self-Help: Awakening
Consciousness and Awakening in Dr. Deepak Chopra’s, Metahuman
If you enjoy the occasional indulgence in a self-help book, you may be in for more than you expected in Dr. Chopra’s Metahuman, Unleashing Your Infinite Potential. This is not a quick read like other self-help-genre books like Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: A Personal Guide to Personal Freedom or The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. In The Alchemist, the narrative holds our interest as we follow Santiago on a circuitous journey of self-discovery. The Four Agreements provides a quick list, chunks of wisdom presented as nuggets of philosophical truths. The four agreements: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. They are concise, easy to understand, and so applicable to many situations, that they are often used by high school counselors to provide guidance to their students.
Succinct self-help is not the purpose of Dr. Deepak Chopra’s book. There is no narrative arc or bulleted list. Instead, Dr. Chopra moves the reader in spirals, each idea looping out and returning to the main theme of consciousness. Some readers may find this inevitable redundancy annoying, but I did not. He takes us through the history of mankind with emphasis on the evolution of consciousness. Then, he embarks on a philosophical inquiry using Eastern and Western religions as well as classical philosophy to explain how consciousness is the common denominator.
The expression of consciousness is juggled, tossed through the air, caught and tossed up again through endless permutations and iterations. If you hang on and play along, you will find yourself enjoying the game and anticipating the predictable toss-ups where the objective is always to define the nature of consciousness, in yet another way. He also throws in some quantum physics which sounds plausible, but since I’m not a physicist, I’m not really sure how apt the comparisons to the quantum world really are. If you haven’t given up by this point, you will love this book. It doesn’t achieve the goal of unleashing human potential, of course, but the writing is enjoyable and thoughtful. Chopra references so many great philosophers to bolster his arguments, that the discussion alone is fun.
The title of this book promises an “awakening” which will transform us from humans, and help us transcend “beyond” our everyday existence. We will see that we are “whole” and connected to the universe. In fact, he says we are intimately connected to the universe through consciousness. Consciousness is really all there is.
Our job is to wake up to it and move into that sphere. This is the New Age twist, perhaps, but if you can, ignore it and move on to his essential idea for transcendence: “It’s a little odd that someone must learn to wake up, but that’s the result of living so long with the conditioned mind. Convinced that the spell/dream/illusion is real, our minds conform to it. Waking up happens by dismantling the conditioning that keeps us trapped in mental constructs. When those constructs begin to fade away, waking up is the state we arrive at” (p. 280).
That’s it in a nutshell. Even though I paid attention as I read and enjoyed the journey, I still felt like the awakening wasn’t going to happen to me anytime soon. I decided to follow through by following the 30-day daily plan at the end of the book. There’s nothing new there either, and if you’re conversant in yoga and mindfulness practices, you will sail, impatiently, through the days without waking up. Then, during one of my meditation practices, I thought about awakening and consciousness in a totally different way.
I asked myself if I knew anyone who had achieved the state of consciousness Dr. Chopra describes; someone who had mastered the attention to consciousness in everyday situations. No one came to mind at first, but then, I remembered where I had encountered this awakening concept.
It was in John Steinbeck’s novella, The Pearl. Of course! It was Kino, the protagonist who had “awakened.” In the story, Kino finds the great pearl and believes that the sale of the pearl will lift him and his young family out of poverty. However, when his son Coyotito is stung by a scorpion, the plot takes a dark twist. Kino repeatedly hears songs. So, before danger, he hears the Song of Evil, or the Song of Family, and so on.
“In his mind a new song had come, the Song of Evil, the music
of the enemy, of any foe of the family, a savage, secret, dangerous
melody, and underneath, the Song of the Family cried plaintively.
The scorpion moved delicately down the rope toward the box. ” (Chapter 1, The Pearl)
That’s what consciousness is, I thought. Kino was “awake” because he listened to his intuition and was aware of the unspoken, undefined forces that entered his consciousness. He was awakened to the possibilities, but was too trapped by the “conditioning” of his society to fully benefit from his awakened state of mind. Being awake means paying just as much attention to what your brain says as what you intuit from your inner currents. Kino’s songs were tunes from the Universe itself reverberating in his consciousness. I don’t know how close I am to understanding the true nature of consciousness, but relating it to Steinbeck’s, The Pearl seems to be the closest I can get for now.
Deepak Chopra’s book will not give you a list of agreements or tell you a nice parable, but it will make you think about where religions, philosophies, physics, biology and AI have taken us. Just like Santiago in Coelho’s , The Alchemist, we end up exactly where we began– with ourselves. Consciousness is a slippery construct, but Dr. Deepak Chopra’s is undeterred in his zeal to make us understand it. He takes the reader along for the ride, and despite the gyrations along the way, the journey is worth it. In fact, this is the type of book I will keep on my nightstand because awakening is going to take me a long time and I may need a refresher.