In an exclusive conversation with Deepak Chopra, Green Living magazine’s publisher, Dorie Morales, spoke with the meditation mogul about his newest Whole Health Retreat at CIVANA, the science of doshas, and his hope to make mindfulness more accessible.
Tell me, how did you come up with the mission to expand the consciousness of at least a billion people, and why is this important to you?
I believe that there is no social transformation in the absence of personal transformation. So, I go with Mohandas Gandhi’s big statement, that we have to “Be the change that we want to see in the world.” Peace can only be created by those who are peaceful, not by peace nobaloritcs or even peace activists. Love can only be shared by those who have loved, and have received love. Unless we have qualities in ourselves of empathy, compassion, joy, equanimity and love, and love in action, we can’t ask other people to do it. What I drew inspiration from the three jewels of the buddha who said in times of crisis and even otherwise, that when you want to create a new reality, you take refuge in the dharma which is higher cause, you take refuge in the buddha which is higher consciousness; and you take refuge in the sungha, which is community.
In other Eastern wisdom traditions, that is also expressed as Seva, which is also known as service; Sangha, which is community; and Sadhana, which is spiritual practice I have been engaging in this in the last 40 years now, because we have the convergence of information technologies. It is actually quite possible to create a global community of self-awareness and compassion, of awakening and of transformation, for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and joy-filled world. So, that has been the goal for 40 years. It is slowly coming to fruition.
Where are you in obtaining that goal?
In the tens of millions, and it is moving fast. It is happening. Today, we had a livestream function with various media partners. The livestream function reached over a million people, and it is happening with other organizations like Unite. There are many, many organizations right now that are coming together and bringing their creativity and cooperation for bringing the world together, and so one has to work with all of these. Whether it is a The Call to Unite or whether it is global mediations, or our own Chopra Global app, or the Chopra Foundation which does research or peace consciousness, but there are many other organizations including evolutionary leaders, organizations at the United Nations. I think if you want to change the human story from violence to peace, then you need everyone. You can’t, in this case, you definitely can’t have competition. Social scientists are saying that if you want to create a new story—meaning new relationships, new context, new reality—then you need maximum diversity. You need everybody complementing everyone’s strengths and you need emotional and spiritual bonding you need transparency openness you need cooperation not competition.
How does the partnership with CIVANA align with this goal of bringing consciousness to a billion people?
Our Chopra Global company is a modern-day company combining cutting-edge science and spirituality to bring well-being and higher consciousness to as many people in the world. As of this moment, the Chopra app is doing a 21-day meditation with Alicia Keys—which is also reaching millions of people—and the CIVANA Whole Health program is geared to helping people achieve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being with emphasis on sleep—restful sleep—nutrition, breathwork, yoga, mind-body techniques, vocalization also known as chanting, music, and sound therapy as a means to amplify the healing response through vagal stimulation, emotional intelligence, restoration of biological rhythms, and self-awareness. These are programs that people come to for renewing body, mind, and spirit, so it is part of the transformational process which begins with the person and ends with society. The CIVANA program is part of that.
I love that you can take a dosha quiz on the Chopra website. Does a person have one main dosha, but also have other doshas at different times? Or, is it possible to have dual doshas, and all three on certain days?
There are nine possible sub categories. One usually dominates. Soon, people figure out pretty easily what their mind-body type is that helps them out with their nutrition and every aspect of well-being, including exercise, breathing, and nutrition.
What are the main teachings of this Whole Health program at CIVANA? What is one large takeaway that you would like that to be?
We now know most things are associated with chronic inflammation, depression and anxiety, and sometimes low-grade depression, chronic inflammation, and anxiety. This precedes illness by decades sometimes, so if we can prevent inflammation, anxiety, and depression, then we go a long way in preventing chronic illness, whether it is diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune illness, or risk for cancer.
Less than 5% of disease-related gene mutations are fully penetrant. The rest of the genetic predispositions are epigenetically modified, so if you pay attention to our daily activities—eating, breathing, digestion, metabolism, how we experience the world through our senses—and mental activities and thoughts, and go a little deeper into what we call the domain of our consciousness and awareness of spirit, then that becomes a total program for self-regulation, self-healing, and what we call homeostasis, which is the technical term for self-regulation and healing.
Have you followed a plant-based diet your whole life?
I have not my whole life, but for the last several decades.
Why do you feel it is so important to eat a plant-based diet, and use food as medicine?
Plant-based diets offer the maximum diversity of nutrients that are needed for optimal health. Plant-based diets restore the integrity of the microbiome in our gut, which is 2 million genes. We only have 25,000 genes that are human.
How and when did you come up with your 4 intentions that you use in your everyday life?
I just made them up. They feel good. Body, mind, emotions, and spirits. Those are the intentions: Joyful energetic body, loving compassionate heart, reflective clear mind, lightness of being. If you have that, you have everything.
Everyone is concerned about the aging process. Tell me about how the Chopra practices correlate to CIVANA’s mission, and how they can help you age healthier.
We know that biological age does not have to correspond to chronological age. There are many factors that influence how we age, including our perception of aging and including our perception of our body, and whether we think of it as matter or energy or inflammation. Also, how we actually think of aging itself and what it means—perception of the body, perception of aging and what it means, and perception also of how we think of the aging process itself.
If you think that aging has to be associated with infirmity, then actually our expectation gives rights to that outcome, but if you think that you can actually increase your mental and physical capacity in one way or another, then you can naturally slow down the aging process. And, with your diet as well as mind-body practices such as vocalization, pranayama, yoga asanas, emotions, and relationships all influence the aging process, as does plant-based diets, and maximum of plant-based foods and historic biological rhythms which constantly retract with nature or connect directly with the Earth. We actually go beyond our ego identity to a bigger identity, where we move from “me” to “we” and oneness.
All of these practices influence how we age, and levels of an enzyme called telomerase, which influences aging at a genetic level, or the cellular level. Then, there are ayurvedic herbs that we call adaptogenic, which modulate stress on the cellular level. Regarding the aging process, this is the holistic approach— there is not one thing that does it. You are going to be at the August 15-20 Whole Health Retreat at Civana.
What can the attendees expect if they sign up for this week?
I will be teaching a keynote session and guiding an evening meditation.
Will the partnership with CIVANA remain exclusive?
CIVANA is an exclusive program, but no, the Chopra Global is in the process of licensing with other properties with similar programs both nationally and internationally. We are looking forward to CIVANA being a very important aspect of the Chopra Global programs, and we are very enthusiastic regarding our Whole Health Retreats at CIVANA. I am very grateful for this partnership. This is the first time ever that my teachings have been available at a wellness resort. It is the first of many future partnerships.
For more information about Deepak Chopra, the Chopra Whole Health Retreat, and the partnership with CIVANA visit www.chopra.com/wholehealth.