“Your brain creates the illusion of constancy, yet in truth the person or thing you believe to be in front of you is actually a ghost of what was in front of you a few thousandths of a second ago.”  -Deepak Chopra

The great teachers of the past have been telling us for thousands of years that the idea of physical reality is a mere illusion. Now it appears science is telling us the same thing. It seems time for us to revisit the wisdom of the past and combine it with the new information available today in order to gain a better understanding of the reality in which we live. In turn, we can make informed decisions when eliminating belief systems that do not serve our best interest.

Seeing is Remembering

To demonstrated the non-reality of life experience, Deepak Chopra described how even when we see someone in person there is a delay, albeit in milliseconds, between the time the light hits the retina and creates an impulse traveling to the brain and registering an image. According to Chopra, this is, in essence, nothing more than a memory and similar to any other memory of the past, such as remembering the image of the person’s face and then “seeing” that image again in the mind at will. The author goes on to state that the same could be said about any of the senses.

To me, this is an excellent way to demonstrate that the world does indeed only exist in the mind. Science tells us as much by describing physical reality as being nothing more than energy vibrations picked up by sense perceptions and being processed by the mind. In describing seeing and remembering his mother’s face the Chopra wrote, “Therefore, even in life she existed as a stream of memories in my awareness. There is nowhere else to find her except in me.” The author went on to write, “Your brain creates the illusion of constancy, yet in truth the person or thing you believe to be in front of you is actually a ghost of what was in front of you a few thousandths of a second ago.”

Chopra went on to suggest the brain, with its billions of neurons connected by threads branching out forming a vast network, is like a telephone system taking a thousand calls per second. He wrote, “Having a single thought is more complex than sorting out one message from all the telephone calls in the world.” In speaking of remembering a patient’s face and telephone number of a former patient from 20 years prior he wrote that, “…it wasn’t my brain that recalled his telephone number, any more than my radio contains the music I hear in my car.”

I Am the Receiver

According to Chopra, it is actually the mind that is doing the work described above and not the brain. The author posited that Einstein’s inferior parietal lobe was found to be 15 percent wider than normal (his brain has been preserved since his death). The author argues this phenomenon is rare and is no proof that “genius” can be found in the brain. He suggested it is found in the mind and the brain is merely a receiver of information from the “field,” much like a radio is a receiver of radio waves.

I would like to suggest an alternative reason Einstein’s frontal lobes were found to be larger than average. Perhaps Einstein’s IP lobe became larger from more use, much like a muscle becomes larger from exercise. Indeed, studies have shown changes in brain function in long-term meditators from their practice of quieting the mind, as well as actual physiological changes in the structure of the brain, including the frontal lobes. It is because of these physiological changes in the structure of the brain that habits of the mind, once established, are difficult to break.

Powerful Habits of the Mind

Habits of the mind are so powerful in part due to the length of time required to build neural pathways. I once heard of a study done by NASA in which astronauts were provided with special glasses that flipped everything upside down. After 25-30 days every one of them experienced their mind automatically flipping it back. The researchers concluded that it takes 30 days for the mind to form new neural pathways to make this possible.

Neural pathways are like the grooves in a record, they will keep re-creating the same thoughts (sounds for the record) until they are severed. When the pathway has been disconnected, new pathways can be formed and therefore, new trains of thought are created. This is similar to the process of how, when a record is scratched, it skips and a portion of the original sound is bypassed. Of course, in this day and age, a better analogy might be with a CD getting scratched and skipping a portion of the program.

Another helpful way to view neural pathways is to compare them to paths on a trail. When we make a trail in the woods it pushes down the plant life so that we can more easily pass from one place to another. If we decided to make a new trail, it would take more effort, but eventually, that trail would be much easier to traverse. Meanwhile, the original trail would become overgrown with vegetation and no longer be useful.

What We Focus On Expands

Similarly, when we turn attention to new thoughts, it takes more effort to keep the mind heading in that direction because new neural pathways must be formed. However, in time the new neural pathways make clean connections while the old neural pathways whither away from lack of use. In turn, thought patterns change, creating new habits of the mind. This will happen with or without our help. The question is do we want the paths to be created for us? Or, would we prefer to blaze our own thought trails?