Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Dr. Deepak Chopra on the topics of healing, consciousness, and the nature of reality.
One of the really beautiful questions he asked was,
Where is this experience we are having now happening?
At first, the answer seems like an easy one. The experience we were having--two people conversing in front of an audience--was happening in a room near Broadway in Manhattan. I could've easily answered "New York City."
Similarly, the experience you are having now--reading words on a screen--is also happening in a physical location. Easy answer, right?
Not so fast.
Let me add a little context. Prior to this question we had already discussed that all physical locations, such as New York City, are structured in space. So the question Deepak was really asking was,
Where is space located?
This is a decidedly tougher question, and there is no answer that everyone will agree on. A physicist might answer that space formed with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, but that still doesn't tell us what the pre-conditions of space were. A mathematician might suggest that the space we know can be traced to an abstract vector space known as Hilbert space. But then where is Hilbert space?
The reason science doesn't have an answer to this question is because it is still trying to cleave space from the mind that imagines it. The simple answer to the question of where Hilbert space is located is that it is in the mind. Yet this answer seems insufficient... why?
We are used to thinking that the mind is exclusively related to the brain, and therefore that the mind is located in the head. Hilbert space couldn't possibly be located in the head of just one person right?
It's a reasonable question, but its premise is wrong. The mind is not located in the head, and is not exclusively related to the brain. This is a common misconception that is taught from grade school through medical school. If you observe the behavior of cells distributed throughout the body, you will see mind-like behavior that includes communication with other cells, eating, drinking, and going through an entire life cycle. These mind-like cells constitute the human body, yet they don't have a brain per se.
The mind is not localized in the brain. Rather, the brain is a partial image of the mind.
This means that what we call the body is the physicalized aspect of the mind, which is not restricted to either a brain or a body, an observation that is consistent with the philosophies of idealism and non-duality.
If we observe the Earth as a whole, we will also see mind-like behavior. The sun rises and sets, the seasons come and go, and civilizations develop and perish. Similar processes can be seen at the cosmic scale with the birth and death of stars. What if all these processes were the activity of mind--not my mind or your mind per se, but the greater mind, of which yours and mine are individuated aspects?
If we can agree that this is possible, as more and more scientists are doing, then we can make a daring hypothesis:
What we call spacetime is the mind.
Anything we can see, smell, hear, taste, touch, and conceive of is the mind. In its most simple form, the mind is what we conceive of as space and time, which self-modifies as physicalized objects. Take a look around you now, including at the objects in the room and your body. All this is the mind, of which your personal mind of thoughts and feelings is a subset.
The mind begins when a center of focus develops in consciousness, which is otherwise without boundaries and therefore infinite. The first center of focus is our personal identity as an individual. When the condition of individuality sets in, multiple centers of focus develop: me/you, here/there, now/then. These foci define the primordial mind--spacetime.
And now we can answer Deepak's question: Where is this experience we are having now happening?
- Physical experiences are in spacetime.
- Spacetime is the mind, which appears as physicalized forms and experiences (like this one!)
- The mind is in consciousness.
These three points are the key to precisely and correctly unifying science with our own intuition and experience of life.
Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership from McGill University. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Follow him @DrAnoopKumar.