Deepak Chopra Has a Special Message For Every Questioning and Suffering Heart.
The year was 1993. A 46-year-old Dr. Deepak Chopra was cozied in a chair next to Oprah Winfrey on the set of her television show, guiding her through an experiment as she dangled a string from her thumb and forefinger. The goal was to assist her in discovering her mind’s ability to control the directional movement of the metal pendulum on the end of the string. As it circled and swung from left to right, he coached her, saying, “Your expectancy determines outcome.” As the audience offered up a choir of faint gasps and chuckling in response to Winfrey, Americans watched from their living rooms, also accepting the invitation for the potentiality of taking reign over their own minds and – ultimately – their lives. “This is living proof that every cell in your body is eavesdropping on your internal dialogue,” said Chopra.
Shortly thereafter, the India-born doctor, who first arrived to the United States as a newlywed with only $8 in his possession, and whose disenchantment with western medicine had lured him to a path of alternative medicine, became a worldwide luminary figure. His first book, “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old” began vanishing from bookstore shelves. In the years that followed, he co-founded The Chopra Center, a wellness center in Carlsbad, Calif., authored more than 80 books (many of which are New York Times best-sellers), won an Ig Nobel Prize and become known for his ever-growing celebrity clientele and collaborations – including Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Madonna and many others.
If the world is a grand arena and Chopra is center stage, spiritual enthusiasts across the globe are shifting eagerly in their seats, athirst for his fluent wisdom. But, in his most recent book, “You Are the Universe,” he says the transformation process you desire not only emanates from you, but actually is you.
What if all of nature as you perceive it – from the sunlight coming through the trees by day to the stars lit up against the blackness by night – is your own reflection waving back at you? From the disk-shaped structure of the Milky Way to the innumerable galaxies that overwhelm you to imagine. With Earth’s abundant wonders – from its volcanic-sand beaches of Santorini, painted deserts in Arizona, coral reefs in Belize and rain forests in Bali. Where the squirrels are at play, the ocean is swallowing and the blades of grass dance in response to the breeze. Where you are stunned by the jaw-dropping sight of an amber-painted sky.
This universe you call home – with its broad strokes and short stops, the goals you achieve and the ones you fail miserably at. The love that can never be encapsulated or defined, the hope that carries you and the inspiration that tugs at you. But also the vices you wrestle, and the aches and ailments you medicate. The light and the darkness – what if you are not of it; you are authoring it? Which is also to say you are the co-creator of that which you choose to experience and see. What if you are not a helpless victim being shuffled and spun through its frames, but the director of a participatory movie?
Continue reading for a glimpse into my intimate conversation with the incomparable author, speaker and healer. In this captivating Q&A, consider that the veil of your human constructs may be lifted, and truth and beauty know no confinements, no defiances and no notions of contrast. This is where you, too, may silence the chatter of your limitations, magnify your heart’s most impassioned reveries and create for yourself an extraordinary world.
On Cultivating Peace vs. Chaos
Johnson: What do you believe creates for a person either a life of peace or one of perpetual chaos – whether it be in career, health or personal relationships?
Chopra: Peace is everyone’s ground state of being. When the ground state of being wants to have an experience and know itself, it has to be disturbed – into thought, feeling and perception. So everything we call an experience, whether it is an experience of the world, of your own body, of your personal relationships or social interactions, these are modes of knowing that arise through our ground state. Depending upon how you interpret and respond to an experience, it can either cause chaos in your life, or a greater and more beautiful awareness and discovery of self. But, you choose.
Johnson: What, then, is the direct cause and remedy for stress in our lives?
Chopra: Stress is just the perception of an experience that is threatening. Whether you perceive being physically, emotionally or psychologically threatened, it disturbs the spontaneous expression of your ground state, which is always moving effortlessly in the direction of perfect harmony, joy and flow. That flow is only impeded when one resists an experience.
Johnson: Do you believe resistance is the cause of all ranges of discomfort – from mere annoyance to crippling grief?
Chopra: Resistance is when anticipation overshadows being present or regret overshadows acceptance. Ninety-nine percent of people are in chaos or feel stressful about certain situations because of thoughts and perceptions that overshadow their true being, which is never anything but peace and the awareness of joy.
Johnson: How can we begin to see ourselves as more than our circumstances and emotions?
Chopra: What we feel is nothing more than a state of consciousness. What we call the world is just you and I experiencing. It is not the same universe for me as it is for a dolphin or a crocodile or a bat. If I showed you a book, you would tell me it was a book. If I showed you my hand, you would tell me it is a hand. But all of these things are human constructs. They are not the same thing to an animal as they are to you.
Anything that you can describe or define – from human bodies to galaxies – those are human constructs. But, those concepts are not the same to another species. For example, the dog in the White House doesn’t know he is in the Oval Office – or even that its label is “dog.” The word is a human attribution. And, going deeper, you don’t even know what you look like to the dog. To it, you have a completely different perceived biological structure.
Johnson: I subscribe to the idea that everyone lives in their own dream, yet we often think that others live in that same dream. We are then surprised when others don’t understand or perceive things as we do. But what, do you believe, is the fundamental nature of this world we live in?
Chopra: The fundamental nature of the universe is just consciousness. It is the state of being aware and observing. In the deeper reality, there is no mind, no body and there are no human constructs. There is only consciousness modulating itself through various modes of knowing, which we then created civilizations out of and science out of and technology out of that. The human universe is created in human consciousness, and mine is not the same as yours. The world as you know it is not quite the same world as I know it.
Reality cannot be a system of thought, whether religion or philosophy, because they are only systems of thought. Reality can only be that which is right to the thought itself.
On Being Free From the Traps of Negative Habits & Limitations
Johnson: In your current book, “You Are the Universe,” you state that paradigms are “self-fulfilling.” This resonates with me, as I see limiting beliefs as somewhat of a fun house that distorts our perceptions, yet we sort of trap ourselves in. If this is true, it also means the only way out is radical change – the sort of “jumping out” process you discuss in the book. How does one “escape” a paradigm that is creating the perception of lack or suffering?
Chopra: This is where self-reflection and self-inquiry must come in. This is also where the desire for transcendence comes in. Through this, you can gradually begin to loosen the hold of your conceptual frameworks, which are programmed through your conditioning. This conceptual framework comes from literally centuries of conditioning, which are formed through the repetition of prior conditioning processes. They come from parents, religion, culture, economics and personal experiences.
Johnson: If our paradigms are products of our conditioning and we are gliding along in our behaviors and acting out through them and because of them – not knowing we are creating frustration and limitations for ourselves – how does one stop the madness and recondition themselves?
Chopra: The first step is to challenge your habitual certainties. And, you have to continue doing this throughout every moment of your life. You have to question everything you believe to be true. Every thought you have is a reflex of another thought. Rumi talked about how one will stay in a prison when the door is wide open. But the door and prison are both invisible, so they only stay in prison because of their conditioning – a prison that never was at all.
On Enriched Living vs. Mere Existing
Johnson: You speak about the dangers of anticipating and always living in a place of planning for the future. In a world that is always inviting us to build and plan, how do we remain fully in the “now”? How do we silence the rushing surge of energy that is always yanking at us to achieve and attain more?
Chopra: You just have to be here now, all of the time. It starts by simply asking yourself, in every moment and wherever you are, ‘Am I aware? Am I here?’ Otherwise you die not having lived.
Johnson: What was your inspiration for writing “You Are the Universe”? Why did you feel the world needed this book?
Chopra: I have been jousted by scientists for much of my life. I have been called a pseudo-scientist, a “charleton” and all kinds of names. At one point, I stopped taking it seriously. But then I met Menas Kafatos, who is a quantum physicist, a cosmologist and a professor of physics, who also understands consciousness. I told him, “I want to write a book about consciousness that includes science in such a way that no one can attack it.” I knew that if I alone wrote it, some people would discredit it. I wanted to make sure the science was correct in the book, while also creating a book that takes the reader beyond science. Then, I sent it to a few others, making sure the science was so correct that it could not be questioned. But my goal was to go beyond the science. Reality is not something that can be accessed through science. It can only be accessed through self-awareness.
On Honing the Power of Who You Really Are
Chopra: Success has become sort of an overrated term because a lot of people who are perceived as being successful are unhappy. When I was practicing medicine, this was true for me, as I was struggling with stress and cigarettes and occasionally alcohol. It was non-stop with patients who were also unhappy and, being a student of philosophy and meditation, I was unfulfilled and knew I had to create a shift. Money and certain occupations are frequently interpreted as success, but I think it is more important to shift your focus to the pursuit of excellence and joy, day-to-day. The experience of success will follow.
Johnson: What steps can one take to anchor excellence?
Chopra: To begin, you should find harmony with the rhythm of the universe. This can be achieved through proper sleep, meditation, yoga, good nutrition, spending time in nature, healthy personal relationships and experiencing emotions such as love, joy, gratitude and compassion. Then, you must remember that you are a field of pure potentiality. You do not have to force anything at all. There is infinite power and the ability to fulfill all desires imbedded in your consciousness.
Johnson: If you could make a blanket statement speaking directly to every suffering heart in the world, what would you say?
Chopra: The only solution to your suffering of any kind is to become acquainted with your true self – the one beyond your ego mind. You are not your thoughts. You are not your fears. You are not your adversities. Those are just a part of your conditioned mind, which is not you at all. You are the consciousness behind all of it. Once you know this, it is powerful because you can begin to choose whichever thoughts and perceptions you desire. The entire world as you perceive it will follow.