Even though this is technically an interview, Deepak Chopra also counts as one of the most amazing discoveries I have made in my time on this planet. I discovered him almst twenty years ago, when Shane (my partner) gave me a present of a trip to a retreat called ‘Stop The World’ which was in a big country house somewhere in Devon. The house had huge, squishy sofas and lovely log fires and it was quite heavenly. But the most heavenly thing about the retreat was when I happened to find a tape in the library of Deepak Chopra talking about perfect health and how to achieve it. Just the outrageously soothing sound of his voice and the serenity with which he spoke was enough to put me in a state of bliss. And the excitement that came from hearing the wisdom that he shared has stayed with me ever since that moment. I have met and interviewed Deepak several times since then, and have been to his retreat at La Jolla, and every time I meet him or listen to him speak or read his work, I pick up another sparkling gem.
This interview first appeared in the Irish ‘Sunday Independent’.
Why do some people get cancer and some people don’t? Why do some people recover when some people don’t? Why do some people live longer and feel better than others? Just some of the questions that bothered Dr Deepak Chopra, a young endocrinologist, in Boston. Was there a cure for terminal illness? Was there a cure for death itself? All doctors are warriors, doing battle with death, he realised, but was it a war he and his colleagues could win? In the mid eighties, in search of an answer to this eternal question, Deepak made a trip to his native India and had a meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a sage of the ancient tradition of Ayurveda, which is the Indian ‘Science of Life’. This meeting left him exhilarated.
‘I felt as if I had been carried up to the sky,’ he says. ‘I had been shown how to pierce the mask of matter.’
Practicing medicine, which had once seemed mechanical and hopeless took on a whole new dimension, when he returned to America to begin to test the Maharishi’s ancient techniques for healing on his Western patients. He began to see astounding results, in a short space of time. And he set up a series of institutes for what he terms ‘Mind Body Medicine’, with tremendous success. Twenty years on, Deepak Chopra is an internationally famous multi-million selling author, lecturer and guru, but the message that he conveys has never changed. ‘The truth is simple,’ Maharishi had told him. ‘Make it clear. Let it stand on it’s own and don’t get lost in complications.’
The science for living of which the Maharishi spoke and which Deepak began to apply had recipes for every aspect of daily life. And Deepak began systematically to disseminate the information in such a way as to target every possible area of concern. He wrote a series of books, ‘Perfect Health’, ‘Perfect Weight’, ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,’ ‘The Path to Love’, and many, many more of them, each one addressing specific needs and desires, but each one saying the same thing. That the answers to all of our questions, the potential to heal all of our illnesses and the power to create any outcome that we desire, that all of these come from the same place. From the source of all life, from the unified field of pure potential, from God.
It was not, he says, his intention to end up as an internationally acclaimed guru. He wanted to be a novelist. Back in Poona, he attended an Irish Christian Brothers school and although he was beaten by the brothers for bad behaviour, he was also introduced to great literature, for which he is grateful. And it nurtured his ambition to become a novelist.
‘A novelist?’ I say, incredulous. ‘What on earth for?’
‘It was my passion!’ he laughs. ‘I love books and I read constantly. And I love to tell stories.’
But Dr Chopra senior, who was a Western trained cardiologist had a clever solution to this problem. Realising that he wouldn’t convince his son to be a doctor by bullying him, instead he gave the boy a series of novels to read, each of which featured a doctor as protagonist. And it worked. Having decided to become a doctor, Deepak moved to Boston and worked in a hospital, but discovered that doctors were over-worked and stressed and not always effective in treating their patients.
‘It’s a well known fact that patients never get to finish a sentence!’ he laughs. ‘Doctors don’t listen. But one of the things that patients really need to know is that you care.’
What Deepak did differently was that he applied himself to managing his own stress by learning transcendental meditation. What was ironic, he says, is that even though he was brought up in India, he learned it from an American, in Boston. And he began to not only teach it to his patients, he also meditated with them. And studied the results on their healing abilities.
‘What Ayurveda does is to activate the bodies own internal wisdom,’ he says. ‘The underlying concept is that the body knows how to maintain balance, unless thrown off by disease. Therefore, if one wants to restore the body’s own healing ability, everything must be done to bring it back into balance.’
Stress, anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, all of these have a negative and quantifiable effect on the body’s immune system, he had already discovered in his research. By creating a level of total relaxation, the reverse occurred. Immediate changes resulted, including increased growth hormones, improved immune function and greater recovery. In many cases, which he has documented, spontaneous remission from terminal cancer was the result. But often the patients were fearful that the cancer would return. So he decided to further research and document exactly what causes healing. This is, he says, an obsession which drives him continually to delve into the nature of consciousness, the nature of reality.
I first encountered Deepak at his centre in San Diego. I had picked up a leaflet about it in a bookshop, decided that I would love to go there, but dismissed the idea because the programme was very expensive. A week later, I found myself being enrolled in his programme, courtesy of an unexpected benefactor. I had just finished reading one of his books on creating what you desire simply by imagining that you can, and I was curious as to whether I had indeed manifested that desire. Every desire has, inherent within it the seeds for it’s manifestation, he says, if we only follow our inner guidance long enough to find it.
The programme consisted of what he calls ‘Primordial Sound Meditation’, which was combined with yoga, Ayurvedic massage and a diet which was tailored to the individual ‘dosha’ or type. At the time that I entered the programme, I was highly anxious and prone to extreme mood swings, I was also suffering from digestive disorders and low energy. After two or three days, I was in a state of total and utter bliss, I felt more energetic than at any time that I could remember, and my digestion was perfect. My friend, who had accompanied me on the programme approached Deepak in the hall, one afternoon and told him that I wanted to give him a blow …. Which wasn’t strictly true, but I was more than impressed with the work that he was doing. Luckily, he had a sense of humour and was happily married.
There have been many authors of self-help books and it can be difficult to discern which ones are worth buying. Personally, I read all of them, but Deepak Chopra is one of the very few whose life and career truly mirror what he writes about. He actually appears to have achieved everything that his books promise. Neither he nor his wife, Rita have been sick and neither have their children. He has had Ayurveda adopted by millions and they have far more money than they need. There hasn’t been a divorce, they love each other, and their children and grandchildren. He seems truly happy, healthy, wealthy and wise.
Having met him, I discovered that this inner radiance is what sells his books and the tapes, because it speaks a language that transcends words. If I am anxious about something and I play one of his tapes, I find myself feeling serene, without paying attention to what’s being said. Serenity, he insists, is the key to healing. When you let go of fear, you don’t even fear death and that is the greatest comfort of all.
www.chopra.com for more info