In my first semester in medical school, I walked into a stifling dissection room and faced a body lying under a sheet. Pulling back that sheet was shocking – and definitely exciting, as well. I took my scalpel and cut a fine line down the skin over the breastbone. The mystery of the human body was about to reveal itself.
At that moment I also stripped the body of its sacred nature. I crossed a line that is nearly impossible to recross ever gain. Thanks to science, a huge amount of factual knowledge has been gained, but at the same time a wealth of spiritual wisdom has been lost.
Why can’t we have both?
It would take a leap of creative thinking, a breakthrough. I’m calling this breakthrough the reinvention of the body. You may not realize it, but your body is an invention to begin with. Pick up any medical journal, and you come away with a host of concepts that are purely man-made. One day I sat down and listed the articles of faith I was taught in medical school. It came to a long list of dubious propositions, as follows:
- The body is a machine assembled from moving parts, and like all machines it wears out over time.
- The body is at constant risk for contamination and disease; a hostile environment teems with invading germs and viruses waiting to overwhelm the body’s immune defenses.
- Cells and organs are separate from each other and should be studied separately.
- Random chemical reactions determine everything that happens in the body.
- The brain creates the mind through a storm of electrical impulses combined with biochemical responses that can be manipulated to alter the mind.
- Memories are stored in brain cells, even though no one has ever discovered how or where this occurs.
- Nothing metaphysical is real; reality comes down to atoms and molecules.
- Genes determine our behavior; like microchips, they are programmed to tell the body what to do.
- Everything about the body evolved as a matter of survival, the ultimate goal being to find a mate and reproduce.
I used to find this list very convincing. The bodies that I examined and treated in my medical practice conformed to it. Patients came to me with parts that were wearing out. I could pare their symptoms down to treatable problems. I prescribed antibiotics to fend off invading bacteria, and so on.
And yet, every one of these people lived lives that had nothing to do with machines breaking down and needing repair. These lives were full of meaning and hope, emotions and aspirations, love and suffering. Machines don’t lead such lives. Neither do collections of organs. Before long I began to see that the body as seen through the lens of science was inadequate and artificial.
Without a doubt, the body needs reinventing. To have a meaningful life, you have to use your body – you can’t experience anything without one – and so your body should be meaningful, too. What would give your body its highest meaning, purpose, intelligence, and creativity? Only the sacred side of our nature.
This led me to the phrase “resurrecting the soul.” I am hesitant to use religious terms, because they are loaded with emotional baggage, but soul is unavoidable. Ninety percent of people believe they have a soul, and that it gives their lives ultimate meaning.
The soul is divine; it connects us to God. Insofar as life contains love, truth, and beauty, we look to our soul as the source of those qualities; it’s no accident that a perfect love is called a soul mate.
“Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul” with Deepak Chopra will be co-presented with The Center for Spirituality & Healing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Northrop Auditorium, 84 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis. A copy of the new book of the same title is included with the purchase of each ticket ($30 University students, $40 single tickets) available at 612.625.6600. Fifteen years after his #1 New York Times bestseller, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra revisits “the forgotten miracle” – the body’s infinite capacity for change and renewal. You cannot take advantage of this miracle, Chopra says, unless you are willing to completely reinvent your body, transforming it from a material object to a dynamic, flowing process. “Your physical body is a fiction,” Chopra contends. Every cell is made up of two invisible ingredients: awareness and energy. Using Chopra’s Ten Steps to Wholeness, you can harness those basic elements to change the distorted energy patterns that are the root cause of aging, infirmity and disease.