Courtesy of Deepak Chopra
15 Minutes With Deepak Chopra
Reader’s Digest: Over the past three decades, you’ve written more than 85 books on wellness of both body and soul. How have your ideas changed over time?
Deepak Chopra: I’ve gone from just treating the physical body [as a medical doctor] to a more holistic approach. I look at health as well-being on many levels-physical, mental, emotional, spiritual-and expand that to what we call social well-being. That includes career, community, even finances.
How did you initially become interested in mindfulness and spirituality?
As a physician, I was able to see the interface between our emotional well-being and what happens in our bodies. If you experience resentment, hostility, guilt, shame or fear, your biology is totally different from when you’re experiencing love, compassion, joy or peace. The word “mindfulness” is technically not right because [this state] has more to do with being aware. Awareness is the highest intelligence you can have-it spontaneously shifts your modes of thinking, feeling and behaving.
What’s your biggest challenge in maintaining awareness?
I don’t have any challenges. I live in awareness and self-awareness. If there’s melodrama around me, I just observe-I don’t get drawn in.
Can you offer any words of wisdom to someone who’s interested in awareness but doesn’t know where to start?
Slow down. Stop. Inhale deeply and be grateful for every breath. It will expand your awareness of yourself. That’s the first step.
As we get older, many of us experience a decline in our physical and cognitive abilities. Do you have any tips?
Make sure your senior years are enjoyable and productive. Retirement is overrated. I don’t plan to retire. Hopefully I’ll die gracefully, either on the road or in meditation. I’ll be 70 this year and I think this is my best period yet.
In your experience, what is a life well lived?
It’s one where at the end you can say, I lived well, I loved well and I contributed well. To live well is to live in the moment. Loving well requires being passionate about everything around you-a person, an animal, a plant, an idea. You begin to recognize that love isn’t just a sentiment but the ultimate truth at the heart of the universe. And by “contributed,” I mean, what did you do that was in service to the planet?
Speaking of living well, humour is often linked to good health.
Yes! You can’t feel stressed and have a laugh at the same time. We underestimate the power of laughter in modulating everything in our biology, including our immune systems.
Do you have a favourite joke?
Yes. A patient goes to a doctor-like me-and I give him all the advice and he says, “So if I stop smoking, stop drinking and start exercising and meditating, will I live longer?” And I say, “Even if you don’t live longer, your life will seem a lot longer.”
Deepak Chopra delivers a keynote address at the Third Global Conference on World’s Religions in Montreal on Sept. 15.