A clue to why I write came on the day in medical school when I walked into the room where students meet a cadaver for the first time. My scalpel incised a thin line in the parchment-yellow skin, cutting from the breastbone down the belly, and in one stroke the mystery of the human body was revealed. Yet another mystery was destroyed at the same time. The sacredness of the body disappeared as organs and tissues came to light. My entire writing career has been an attempt to regain that mystery—not for the sake of its beauty or inspiration but to be useful, to heal and to open a new vision of what lies behind the mask of materialism.
My latest book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, is the most radical statement I've made about healing. It's a book that places spiritual wellness first. The physical body captivates the five senses, but ask any physicist and he will tell you that our bodies are 99.9999% empty space. No one would be healed by knowing this fact if the emptiness was inert and dead. But it isn't. What fills that space is invisible, however, and despite all the lore about spirit, soul and God, few people would rely on an invisible world as securely as they rely on medical tests and drugs. In this book, I wanted to turn the tables and show that true well-being begins invisibly and later blossoms as physical health. To be disconnected from your soul is the ultimate disease. We've all learned to live with this disease, even when we consider ourselves well. To cure the disease, a radical shift in perspective is needed.
For me, writing serves two purposes, as a way to think and a way to persuade. The main thought that inspired this book is the idea that the soul is actually a kind of invisible body that contains all the intelligence and creativity exhibited by every cell. The state of the soul, then, can be considered a medical condition. Recent studies have shown that abused children are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. They are four times more likely to endure psychotic breaks when they grow up. These two facts indicate that the psyche precedes the body in causing illness. No one has to adopt a spiritual view of life in the religious sense to accept this. It's enough to realize that our bodies are not things; they are a fluid process all the way down to our genes, ever attuned to the slightest changes in our surroundings.
Medical science is on the verge of overturning many outmoded ideas, such as the notion that the brain cannot heal itself, that genes are fixed, that single illnesses can be matched with the single gene that causes them. Looming on the horizon is a new paradigm in which the mystical belief that the body is a river will turn out to be literal fact. Our bodies are in drastic need of being reinvented. The old metaphor that turned the body into a machine with thousands of intricate moving parts was never realistic. Machines wear out if you use them too much, but our muscles get stronger with use and our brains more efficient, adept and skillful.
If I only confronted a host of new medical facts, this book wouldn't be persuasive enough. I needed to look at how spirit and matter intersect. Brain studies on Tibetan monks have shown that years of meditating on the Buddhist ideal of compassion actually changes the brain, resulting in extraordinarily intense activity in the prefrontal cortex. All the qualities we identify with the soul can be conveyed to the brain—in fact, it's impossible to be a saint without a saint's brain.
Yet, ultimately, this turned into a personal tale, with its roots in childhood visits to the old sages and swamis that one of my uncles doted on. Sitting in their presence, I felt more than uplifted—there was a sense of joy, excitement and inner peace that infused me. This dynamic silence turns out to be the seedbed of true health, and when people experience it, they begin to heal. To the extent that a book can inspire such a state, I've tried to make it real, in the hope that readers will travel past my words into the realm of rich stillness that is everyone's birthright. The mystery that a slice of the scalpel destroyed 40 years ago is actually more alive than ever.
|Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books translated into more than 35 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers in both the fiction and nonfiction categories. His next book is Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul (Harmony).|