ABC: Thoroughly Modern Guru Says Daily Meditation Helps Him Avoid Stress
Deepak Chopra, the thoroughly modern guru, walks through Manhattan tweeting, delivering inspirational messages in 140 characters or less. “The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness,” he tweets to the more than 106,000 people who follow his updates.
Between his tweets, Chopra blogs, has a satellite radio show, and writes books on everything from spirituality, to health, to cooking and even golf. Aside from that, he sells CDs, DVDs and has a pair of holistic centers complete with his own line of dietary supplements.
In the span of one week, Chopra shuttles between meetings with publishers, philanthropists, video game programmers and a promotional taping for his new book, and those are just some of the projects he’s working on.
Chopra is also in talks to produce a television and Broadway show, and is developing an iPhone application to deliver inspirational messages to subscribers.
While Chopra’s schedule sounds hectic, he maintains that he does it all, with no stress whatsoever. It’s a life he describes as one of “effortless spontaneity.”
According to Chopra, one of the keys of achieving “effortless spontaneity” is to get up early every day to meditate. While meditating, Chopra pictures his mind as a rushing river of thoughts. Those thoughts include fears, resentments, hopes, dreams and to-do lists. The goal, he says, is to step out of that river and find some space between the thoughts so that they no longer control you.
While meditating, Chopra suggests focusing on a simple saying, such as “I am.”
“Whenever you become aware that you have drifted away from, ‘I am,’ then very gently bring your attention back to, ‘I am,'” Chopra says.
Chopra says he believes that after only 20 minutes of meditation, you can become keenly aware of your mind.
“The average person on the street is not aware of their mind,” he says. “They’re just acting out their thoughts like bundles of reflexes.”
Chopra says simply being aware of the constant stream of thoughts in your head is the first step. He says that awareness is what keeps him from losing his temper.
“The next time someone cuts me off on the highway, instead of showing them the finger or blowing my horn, I don’t react,” he says. “I witness the whole thing.”
From there, Chopra says he can stop the anger from welling up inside him.
However, there are times when the cool-headed guru engages in heated debate. In early 2009 ABC moderated a panel discussion during which Chopra argued vigorously with evangelical Christians, a group he spars with frequently.
Chopra says that his reaction was not one of anger, but of passion.
“To be passionate, to have discontent is not to be predictably reactive. I think without passion you’d be a walking dead person,” Chopra says.
Chopra was not always able to balance detachment and dynamism. As a young physician he smoked, drank and worked too hard.
“I suddenly one day got up and it was dramatic,” he says of his epiphany. “I said, ‘I been there, done that. It’s over.'”
After his realization, Chopra became a pioneer in the field of mind/body medicine. He has written 50 books, several of which have become bestsellers, spreading his message to 15 million people.
Chopra’s arguments have been met with some skepticism. Some experts in the medical and scientific communities take issue of his blending of science and spirituality.
“What he does bothers a lot of scientists, including me,” said Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptics Society. “It isn’t his summary of recent scientific findings that is the problem. It is in the extrapolation from recent data and tentative conclusions that scientists cautiously draw from those data where Deepak goes too far.”
During the week ABC News trails Chopra, he meets with a mentalist who can bend forks and a physicist who predicts imminent time travel and invisibility. Chopra also argues that one can reverse the aging process.
“I’m going to be 63 in less than a few weeks,” Chopra says. “Biologically I think I have the capacity of a 35-year-old.”
Chopra knows his logic draws its share of skeptics, but that doesn’t seem to bother him.
Deepak Chopra Says Purpose of Life Is ‘Expansion of Happiness’
“They don’t understand what I’m talking about and probably won’t. Paradigm shifts happen one funeral at a time. We have to wait for those guys to leave,” Chopra says.
While some scientists don’t like Chopra, plenty of celebrities love him. He has had close relationships with people like Michael Jackson, Hugh Jackman, Madonna, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and comedian Mike Meyers, who parodied him in the 2008 comedy “The Love Guru.”
Chopra made clear that while he values those friendships, he doesn’t let it go to his head.
“I’ve never sought any friendship with these people,” he says. “I think they have so much power and so much influence that if you could harness the collective intent and collective creativity you could address all the problems in the world.”
If anything, Chopra says his celebrity pals help him draw attention to important causes, and he describes them as powerful allies. Although he says he appreciates the value of having friends in high places, Chopra’s family keeps him grounded.
“In my case, my kids and wife make sure that my ego’s in check because they don’t take me seriously,” he says.
While some consider Chopra a man of contradiction and controversy, to some, he’s something else — thought-provoking.
In one e-mail message Chopra writes, “Remember infinity is around you all the time.”
“If this universe is infinite then wherever you are, you are the center of the universe right?” he says. “I think just to have the notion that every side that I look at is infinity sparks a sense of wondrousness inside me that makes life so magical that I cannot be offended by or bogged by triviality anymore.”