Thank you to Thrive Global for publishing my interview with Deepak Chopra, “Strategies for Success: Mental Health Awareness Month with Deepak Chopra.”
During May, Mental Health Awareness Month, I have been remembering the strategies which have helped me during the uncertain times of COVID 19. Reading Deepak Chopra’s book, Total Meditation, helped me focus on meditation and learn new mantras. I have been listening to the Chopra 21-Day Meditation series since I discovered them during my divorce seven years ago. I was able to speak to him about his brand new meditation series focused on the Divine Feminine with Alicia Keys.
Lisa Niver: This is Lisa Niver from We Said Go Travel, and I’m honored to be speak with Deepak Chopra. Thank you for being with me.
Deepak Chopra: Thank you for having me.
LN: You’re introduced as America’s foremost spiritual guru, but I have to say that I would like to introduce you today as Mallika’s dad. Because I loved interviewing her, and she talked to me about how you taught her to meditate when she was 9 years old. Can you tell us about choosing to introduce meditation to your child, because with her books, she’s really changed a lot of children’s and parents’ lives, which, of course, she learned from you.
DC: As a father, I was not there most of the time, and my mother and my wife actually guided a lot of the upbringing of my children, as did my wife’s mother. So, I was a stressed-out doctor at that time, and I thought since meditation helped me so much, I should introduce it, first, to my family, and it obviously made a big difference, and also made it easier for the fact that I was so busy trying to make a living. When Mallika was born, we didn’t have money to even have the delivery.
I was in New Jersey, and I had accepted a position in Boston for my residency, and we were going to move from New Jersey to Boston, and we were told that preexisting conditions were not covered, and my wife was pregnant. So, that was a preexisting condition, and so, actually, I had to send my wife to India to have her delivery. At that time, the delivery, the cost of going to India was 400 dollars, both ways, and the cost of delivery in Boston was over a thousand dollars. So, I called my father in India, and I said I can’t afford to have a child. He said you’re a doctor in the US, and you can’t afford to have a child? I said, yeah, and by the way, that’s still the condition for most poor people in this country. It hasn’t changed. I agonized because I realized if Mallika was born in India, she would never run for president, but I had no choice.
So, Mallika will never run for president because I couldn’t afford to have a baby in this United States of America. So, during those years, when Mallika was 9, and Gotham, her younger brother, was 6, I was still struggling a lot. I used to work as a resident. My paycheck was less than 400 dollars a month. So, I had to actually what they call moonlight in the…to make money, and I was moonlighting in the emergency room. So, I would work like 24 hours, then go and work 24 hours in an emergency room, sometimes go without sleep for 72 hours. Obviously, I was burnt out. It helped me, meditation, so I introduced it to my kids, and that’s how it all started.
LN: That is an incredible story that I think a lot of people will find, especially during this challenging COVID time, to see that you’ve had such a change in your situation from the stress side and from the financial side. Our insurance and our healthcare is a mess here in the United States.
DC: Our healthcare in this country is abysmal. When we talk about health reform, we are not talking about health reform. We are talking about insurance reform, which is, of course, is important, but you know what this did to me is I felt a lot of empathy and a lot of compassion for people who were struggling financially, number 1, for people who are sick, number two, and for the helpless situation that social and economic injustice creates, and we have not just social economic injustice. We have gender injustice, racial injustice, economic injustice.
As a result, we have conflict, war, terrorism, you name it. The whole thing is insane, and you know, I’m always, I’m reminded of a quote from the great Indian philosopher, J. Krishnamurti, who said to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society is not a measure of your health or wellbeing, and I personally think, right now, when you look at the world, if you don’t think it’s insane, then you’re declaring your own insanity. Any world where humans are comfortable with climate change, social and economic injustice, extinction of species, eco-destruction, mass pandemics because of a disturbed ecosystem of genetic information, poison in our food chain, nuclear weapons, biological warfare, internet hacking, constant conflict between Republicans and Democrats or Muslims and Hindus or Palestinians and Arabs or, what do you call it, Catholics and Protestants.
It is totally insane, and therefore, the rest of my life is going to be just hopefully contributing, in the small way I can, for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier, and joyful world. I’m not interested in anything else right now, in personal achievement or money or abundance, so, even though I write about because I know that abundance comes from abundance consciousness, and most people I know, billionaires, they confuse a net worth with self-worth. So, bottom line, the whole thing is a mess.
LN: It is a mess, and I’m glad you’re helping lead us in a direction, and it’s actually a very good lead-in to something else I wanted to mention to you is that I really love the book that you and Gotham worked on, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes.
DC: It was Gotham’s idea. It was great.
LN: It’s so lovely that both your children are so authentic to their kind of take on meditation and healing, and I loved the part about superheroes because when you talk about these gigantic world problems that seem insurmountable, it seems like we need superheroes.
DC: We need them, although the superhero is not interested in people whose entire life is based on violence. If there are aliens out there, advanced civilizations, they will have nothing to do with us because we are so low on the scale of evolution that we are basically reptilian brains, and our emotional brains are not developed, and our intellectual brains are only interested in self-importance.
LN: Well, so, that brings me to something else that you’ve worked on for many, many years that I, personally, it’s been so valuable for me. I first learned about your 21-day meditation series seven years ago, when I was getting divorced, and someone recommended them to me, and I literally, if they had been vinyl records, I would’ve worn them out, I listened so many times.
DC: Thank you.
LN: Every time I would travel, I would walk in the airport, up and down the terminal, just listening to your voice, you and Oprah talking, and it really, really helped me. So, thank you, because it’s incredible.
DC: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for saying that.
LN: Tell us about the newest 21-day meditation experience with Alicia Keys, about the divine feminine. I love listening to her voice. How did the two of you decide to do this meditation together?
DC: Well, first of all, I’ve been writing about and speaking about the divine feminine for a long time, because I do believe that what we see in the world is the dominance, right now, of a dysfunctional male energy. Well, everything I mention is a problem is the result of a dysfunctional male energy. So, if you look at the divine archetypes in Indian traditions, that’s called Shakti. Shakti means divine feminine, and there are many types of Shakti. The Shakti of joy, it’s called Ananda Shakti. The Shakti of spontaneous fulfillment of desire is called Iccha Shakti. The spontaneous right action is called Kriya Shakti. Clearing the mind is called Jnana Shakti, going over the mistakes of the intellect, Jnana Shakti. These are archetypes that have inspired me throughout my life.
In the Western world, you also have Greek archetypes, Egyptian archetypes. You have archetypes from Africa. They all embody various motifs or themes. So, in Greek mythology, for example, there’s Demeter, the mother energy. There’s Hera, the power energy. There’s Aphrodite, beauty and sexuality. There is Artemis, connection with nature. There’s Athena, wisdom and knowledge. There is Hestia, the homemaker. There’s Persephone, the healer. So, when you look at all these archetypes, you realize that these are the keys for our collective healing. Alicia, I’ve known for many years. I actually was, I did the ceremony for her marriage, many years ago, before her child was born. So, I know her, very well, to be an embodiment of some of those energies. So, when it was time to do this, I asked her, and she said why not?
LN: I’m enjoying it so much. She obviously has such a beautiful voice, and the way you two work together, it’s really beautiful, and I really am enjoying the new version of the app. It’s very beautiful, the new Chopra app.
DC: Thank you. That means a lot. Thank you very much.
LN: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this Friday is World Meditation Day. Tell us about Love in Action, Never Alone Summit. I know you had one last year. Can you talk about what’s going to be happening on Friday?
DC: It’s will be over 100 influencers and luminaries talking about why we should never be alone, why we can support each other for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier, and joyful world, and the Never Alone Summit, originally, was the idea of an actress, Gabriella Wright, who is British and French and part Indian, from Mauritius. Her sister, unfortunately, died from suicide, and she became obsessed with helping suicide prevention. We now know that every 40 seconds, somebody is dying of suicide in the world. It’s become the second most common cause of death in teenagers. So, we want to address this as more urgent than anything else, the mental health crisis. Now, when we talk about depression and we talk about suffering from depression, we’re talking about a lot of things?
It’s not one thing. When someone sees a clinicians, they’ll classify depression, situational depression, manic depressive, this, that, the other. That’s a medical way of addressing what 90 percent of people experience at some point, which we call sadness, and it’s also fear, sadness and loneliness. We focused on certain means, one is attention, giving people the privilege of being heard. The second is affection, letting people know that they are loved. The third is appreciation, being grateful for their presence and their company. And the fourth one is acceptance, accepting them just as they are.
Love without action is meaningless, and action without love is irrelevant, but when you have love in action, then the whole world wants to support you.
That’s why we have 100 speakers. They’re luminaries in every area, poets, songwriters, Hollywood performers, scientists, philosophers, and also, following the summit, we’re doing a special event, same day, which will be with India, with the Hinduja Foundation, which is a huge foundation, and so, we are partnering with the Indian community, back at home, my ancestors, and Bollywood entertainers and other luminaries. We hope to gradually reach a billion people with just one message, love in action. I think if we do that, we have the hope of a better world. If we don’t, we’ll have tried.
LN: Wow, one billion people. That’s quite a global community. That’s very impressive.
DC:That’s what we want to do, and it may take us time, but what the heck? What else is there to do?
LN: I’m happy to be a part of it. It’s a great, amazing goal, and I noticed on the site, in the Never Alone Summit, that you talked about the building blocks for a new mental health culture?
DC: Yes. The building blocks of the new mental health culture requires what social scientists call emergence, shared vision, maximum diversity, gender diversity, racial diversity, ethnic diversity, talent diversity, educational diversity, as I said, everyone from entertainers, to story writers, to songwriters, to philosophers, to scientists, shared vision, maximum diversity, complementing each other’s strengths, transparency, and being there for each other, we could probably create a better world.
LN: That’s beautiful. People resistant to meditation tell me they are afraid that they are not doing it the right way, or in the right place. They don’t have the right pillow, or they don’t have the right mindset. Could you reassure people about that everyone can meditate?
DC: Anyone can meditate, and if you take the time to do it, then you’re doing it right. There’s no such thing as right or wrong. You can do meditation. There are meditations for 20 seconds, and there are meditations, for me, I meditate every night for 2 hours. So, you know, meditation’s all the way from 10 seconds, half a minute, 3 minutes, to as long as you want. It serves many purposes, physical healing, which is biological, emotional healing, and also spiritual insight into the nature of fundamental reality. So, the meditations we offer, both on the Chopra app and in my book, Total Meditation, they are for everyone, and you know, if meditation is stressful for you, and you say you don’t have time to meditate, even once a day, you need it twice a day, okay? So, you know, what are you going to do at the end of your life, say, oh, I made a lot of money, I did this, and you lost your opportunity to discover yourself. Meditation, ultimately, is discovering yourself.
LN: That’s very beautiful.
DC: I’m doing a PBS program at the end of the year on my book, Total Meditation, to be shown in 400 public stations all over the country. So, I hope, with all these things we are doing, whether it’s the Chopra Global app, or it’s Never Alone, or Chopra Foundation, it does not matter. The more people that get into personal transformation, whatever their source is, whether it’s a business, like Chopra Global, or foundation, or internet, or other communities, if you want to reach a billion people, then we need everyone, and there is…all I ask myself is this, is, is this going to make a difference? Is this going to improve another person’s life? Is this going to affect somebody’s journey in the direction of peace, harmony, laughter, and joy? Then, it doesn’t matter. Just do it. It doesn’t matter where you…which platform, and so, the more, the merrier.
LN: That’s excellent. I wanted to just read one quote from Total Meditation that you wrote that I love so much. “You need to live in the present moment with certainty about your purpose. You need to allow life to unfold without knowing in advance what the future holds. You need to trust that, at some level, consciousness is taking you in the right direction. These are the basics, the foundation of being awake.”
DC: So, right now, if I asked you, what are you doing, right now, to regulate your blood pressure, your heart rate, your immune system, what did you do to be where you are from being a fertilized egg to where you are right now, the answer is nothing. Existence takes care of itself if you let go.
LN: I really have to say that I, for me, personally, the meditations have made such a difference, the 21-day meditations. I love your books. I love the books of your children, and I wonder, before we go, thank you, so much, for spending this time with me, one of my favorite mantras from your book is so hum. So, before we leave, will you just describe to people what does it mean, and will you say it for people, a few times, because if they just listen to you, they’ll know they’re already meditating.
DC: So hum is the sound of breath. So is the sound of the inhalation. Hum is the sound of the exhalation, but it also means I am, not I am Lisa or Deepak, I am the spirit behind Lisa and behind Deepak and behind everything else in the universe. That’s what so hum is.
LN: So beautiful. We want to invite everyone to participate with the Love in Action summit, and is there a best way for people to get involved, to register?
DC: Just go on the Chopra Foundation website, or just go to www.neveralone.love.
LN: That is more of what all of us need. We need love. We need 1 billion people to participate, and we need to all move to having attention, appreciation, affection, acceptance, and I look forward to participating in the Never Alone Summit. Deepak, thank you for your wisdom, your inspiration, and for being with me here, today.
DC Lisa, it’s a pleasure and a privilege. Thank you.
Lisa Niver: Thank you so much.
Deepak Chopra: Thank you. It was wonderful.