man once called the "poet-prophet of alternative
medicine", Deepak Chopra is now directing his formidable
focus towards such fields as consciousness and peace.
He speaks to Rosamund Burton.
“Resonance is synchronicity,” says Deepak Chopra in his soft, clear voice with its Indian intonation. “Resonance means entrainment and being in total alignment with the laws of nature. It means that your biological rhythms replicate very accurately the rhythms of the universe. It’s where nature is meant to go if you allow it to go,” He believes that resonance is also about “the experience of love and compassion, meaning and purpose and a sense of connection to the creative power of the universe.”
This bestselling author, physician and Ayurvedic expert has been described by former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, as “one of the most lucid and inspired philosophers of our time”. He is speaking with me on the telephone from the Chopra Center in California during a break in a SynchroDestiny workshop he is giving there. It is the same workshop he will be conducting in Sydney at the end of April about how to experience the blessings of synchronicity.
Deepak Chopra admits to having studied synchronicity for the last 30 years. He has questioned people who have achieved the extraordinary in their lives, and asked them what they think is the cause of their success. In addition, he has been inspired by many books on the subject and also the work of Carl Jung. He understands that nature behaves synchronistically. The human body, for example, does not do one thing at a time, but is pumping blood, flexing muscles, thinking and talking all at once.
“The deeper consciousness of the universe, which is the creative impulse of the universe, is actually a synchronistic mind,” he says, “and if you can manage to learn to go to that deep level of awareness, which is your soul, your spirit, and introduce intention there, then you experience synchronicity.”
It is how to access that place within that Deepak Chopra is teaching in the SynchroDestiny workshop. Following the principles in his book of the same name, he outlines how to experience synchronicity through meditating, noticing coincidences, moving beyond emotional turbulence, nurturing meaningful relationships and understanding the role of intention.
“I have in a way functioned like this in my own life,” Chopra continues. “And my own life is an example of synchronistic experiences that lead to amazing results.”
Deepak Chopra was born in 1947 in New Delhi in India. His father was a cardiologist and he also chose to pursue a career in medicine. He graduated from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in 1968, before completing an internship at a hospital in New Jersey and training for several years at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, and at the University of Virginia Hospital. Specialising in endocrinology, he became chief of staff at the New England Memorial Hospital and also established a large private practice.
But as he describes in his autobiography, Return of the Rishi, his life was propelled in a different direction when, in 1981, he visited the eminent Ayurvedic physician, Brihaspati Dev Triguna, who told him he was in danger of developing heart disease, and his life needed to slow down.
Deepak Chopra started doing transcendental meditation (TM), a meditation technique that is practised twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes and involves the reciting of a personal mantra. It was this practice, says Chopra that helped him to stop “drinking black coffee by the hour and smoking at least a pack of cigarettes a day”.
In 1984, Deepak Chopra met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the TM movement, who suggested he study Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of health and wellbeing. Realising that endocrinology was not a path he wanted to pursue, the following year Deepak Chopra left his executive position at the New England Memorial Hospital and took a position in a hospital emergency room and in the same year became director of the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center for Stress Management in Lancaster, Massachusetts. He also founded the American Association for Ayurvedic Medicine.
In 1989, Quantum Healing his book on mind body medicine, was published, and in 1990 he wrote Perfect Health about how to follow the age-old principles of Ayurveda for health and wellbeing. What Deepak Chopra describes as starting off as a wonderful experience with the TM movement gradually developed into a dysfunctional relationship, and in 1993 he cut all ties with the organisation. However, he continues today to promote meditation as an essential component for physical, mental and spiritual health, and to advocate Ayurveda. He admits to not adhering to Ayurvedic principles all the time in his own life, but meditation remains an integral part of his day. He meditates each morning for two hours from 4am and again for half an hour in the evening. His daily routine also includes an hour’s physical activity and, he adds, for the rest of the day not taking himself too seriously.
In 1993, his bestselling book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind was published, and he moved to San Diego to become executive director of the Sharp Institute for Human Potential and Mind/Body Medicine. He parted company with the Sharp Institute in 1996 and set up with David Simon MD the Chopra Center in La Jolle, California, which he describes as “a center for wellbeing”. This establishment integrates Western medicine with Eastern healing modalities, employing professionals in the conventional and complementary medical fields. People can drop in for a yoga class or an Ayurvedic spa treatment. There are meditation classes and a range of workshops and programs from perfect health and weight loss to relationships and emotional freedom. People facing health challenges are offered medical consultations and monitoring as they undergo a health and wellness program.
Today, Deepak Chopra is author of over 36 books, more than 100 audio and video/DVD titles and his work has been translated into 35 languages. It is indisputable that his influence has extended around the world and raised the profile in the West of mindbody medicine which used to be exclusively the wisdom of the East.
In typical fashion, he is still expanding his interests and recently finished a script for a film about Siddhartha Gautama, including his early life before he became Buddha. The director is Shekhar Kapur, and the film is not going to be an arthouse production, but is rather about appealing to the mainstream. Another recent product for the mainstream is a video game called “Journey to the Wild Divine”, a biofeedback program that allows you to go on a mythical journey among archetypes and explore consciousness.
In 1999, Time Magazine described Deepak Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century” and “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine”. He is someone who has achieved a high degree of success, both in terms of his fame, and also his fortune, and this has been attained through the desire to make people aware of the mindbody connection and also spirituality. As I flip through The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, which he wrote in 1995, the page opens - synchronistically - at a section about the importance of always giving generously to others and going out of our way to help them.
When asked why he believes so many people in the West are not happy he responds: “We have been programmed to believe that things outside ourselves can make us happy. We think that material success will make us happy. We think that technology will make us healthy. We believe that weapons and armies will make us feel safe, and we believe that money is the solution to everything. That just does not happen to be true. The essence of true happiness lies in relationships. Unless we can understand that the meaningful, nurturing loving relationship is the most important experience of life, we’ll always be looking for happiness outside ourselves.”
Deepak Chopra believes that “relational societies” and communities that are closely connected to nature are much more fulfilled than those that focus on material success.
Today, as well as looking at individual relationships, Deepak Chopra is looking at relationships on a global level.
“There is a lot of confusion, ecological imbalance, war, terrorism, a lot of economic disparities in the world, and they are all interrelated,” he says. The advance of technology, he believes, will carry with it great threats we need to acknowledge and address before we reach a global point of no return. The personal computer, for instance, he believes will be able to wreak havoc, mobile phones will provide the means to interfere with air traffic signals, and nuclear plants and food chains will also become more vulnerable. Yet while he sees this as a dangerous time, he also believes that if a critical mass of people want to change the world for the better, and are working on their own transformation, “then we are definitely on the threshold of our next evolutionary leap”. This growth holds within it, Chopra suggests, our very salvation.
His recent book, Peace is the Way is about finding a path to peace. Endorsed by peace advocates such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the book offers practical ways for the individual to practise peace, and the means for peace to become a possibility at a global level. Chopra has also founded an organisation called Alliance for the New Humanity (www.anhglobal.org). Working with peace activists from around the world, the focus of the organisation is to change global communities to peace consciousness. However, he still believes that personal transformation is the key to changing the collective consciousness. Individuals can make a difference, he says “by thinking peace, being peace, feeling peace, acting peacefully, creating peaceful solutions and sharing what we do with each other”. And he adds:
“If we don’t have love within us then we can’t love. Action without love is meaningless, and love without action is irrelevant.”
One way Deepak Chopra is taking action is by blogging. A blog is a website to which anyone can contribute. Blogs are seen as forums for discussions, and as a means to bring to light issues, or voice opinions that may not be reported in the mainstream press.
On www.intentblog.com Deepak Chopra has written recently about the American presence in Iraq, and the photos from Abu Ghraib prison of US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. “Because I am living in a country that is actually becoming more and more belligerent and unilateral,” he says, “I think that some of us have to speak out.”