What's better than talking politics and collective consciousness with Deepak Chopra himself? Our founder, Sharleen Oborowsky, had the opportunity to interview Deepak at an intimate event in Alberta, Canada. The interview is profound, covering diverse topics from leadership, raising the collective consciousness and finding our purpose.
Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. And here in Canada we have a liberal government; our Prime Minister is Justin Trudeau. And in Alberta, we have, after a 44-year streak of progressive conservative, our democratic party now in power. What do you have to say about all this change in the world? And how can we be at peace with all this change happening while the world is not at peace?
Deepak Chopra: I was going to say Trump should take his meds, but that's a different story. So, actually, it's not just the U.S. where this is happening right now. It's happening in France, as you know, with Le Pen; Brexit in England. There's a kind of a reaction to the progressive zeitgeist at the moment and it's coming from fear. And then, of course, the fearmongers take advantage of that. I think, the more I reflect about it, the more I think maybe it is good that Hilary didn't win, and I'll tell you why. She would have been, of course, a better leader and, you know, she's seasoned, a great leader, woman, all of that was important. But the system would not have imploded. Right now, you know, in the U.S. what is politics, and it's actually in a lot of parts of the world. There's a lot of cronyism, corruption, power mongering, influence peddling, the 28 lobbyists in Washington for just healthcare. Then there's the whole military, industrial lobbying that's there. And lobbying is a nice word for corruption, isn't it? Official lobbying. So, I think what he's going to do is, he's going to destroy. Today, in fact, the news was the United States was downgraded as a democracy. I don't know how many people saw that? You know, there's some international body that actually talks about this and the U.S. has stood for democracy in the world, and free nation and all of that, and what he's doing with freedom of speech, with the gun lobbyists, it's going to decimate the system and we're going to have to start all over again. So, you know, maybe it's a good thing. You have to have the whole thing burned to the ashes and then the phoenix should come again, maybe. In the meanwhile, what we have to do is we do what we do.
If consciousness is a field and we are part of that then only a critical mass of peaceful people will make the world peaceful. You can't have angry peace activists no matter what you say. It's a contradiction. So, peace can only be shown with those who are peaceful.
I read somewhere where you say you can't fight darkness with darkness. After the initial reaction of darkness how do you think the collective consciousness will emerge?
I think after the initial reaction, what's going to happen is, slowly a new paradigm is going to emerge. So, let him make all the mess he wants. It's only going to help because the contrast also will mix so much. I mean, there's nobody talking about leadership right now in the White House or amongst the people. They're bogged down with trivial matters and like, "How big was the crowd?" Who cares? Or inventing alternative facts.
So, you mentioned consciousness. Can you explain what consciousness is?
So, consciousness is that which makes this experience possible...By the way, that is the subject of my next book. It's called “You Are the Universe.” Right now, the hottest science, the two hottest -- which I’m not going to talk about tonight -- but the two most important questions in science, one is "What is the Universe made of?" And we don’t know because 96% of it is invisible dark matter, dark energy, which is not atomic, so we can’t interact with it. We call it matter because it’s responsible for most of the gravity in the galaxy. The second most open question in science is "What is the biological basis of consciousness?" So, how does the brain, which is electro-chemical activity, produce this experience? Or any experience: emotions, love, compassion, thought. So, these are called the hard problems of science. And so, what is consciousness? Consciousness is that which makes experience possible, that in which any experience occurs. Perceptual, mental, etcetera. It is that in which experience is known. The subjective element of knowing, in any experience. And here’s where science may be going in the near future, it makes experience possible, it makes us know that we are knowing beings, and the feeling is that there is consciousness in the universe, it’s not just your brain. So, without using the word, “God,” but the universe is more mind-like than matter-like. (Learn more about consciousness and how to achieve Higher Consciousness Through Vibration and Meditation.)
So, how can our leaders raise our collective consciousness?
I think in any case you have to aspire to something grand. Anything. Sports teams are the best examples. Shared vision. Collective passion. Complementing strengths. And connecting emotionally. Now, you can connect emotionally in a dark way as was done in the recent election. But when people have a shared vision and a shared passion for something great, and when they complement each other’s strengths, and when they’re emotionally connected, that’s a winning team, no matter what sports, business, anything.
We live in a time where we're so tapped into our devices. We’re connected to these phones and we’re multi-tasking and we’re losing touch. How can we consciously multi-task? Because I don’t think we’ll give up these devices.
Okay, here’s the low-down. The conscious mind cannot multi-task. Period. Even when you think you’re multi-tasking, you’re moving from one thing to another very fast. So, it’s the one thing that gets worse with practice. It also messes your neural networks. Now, this is the conscious part of our brain which we call the cerebral cortex. The rest of our brain is multi-tasking anyway. Right now, it’s controlling your blood pressure, heart rate, everything that’s happening in your body. That’s being controlled by your brain; not the cortical brain, but in the mid-brain and the limbic brain. The limbic brain is the emotional brain; it reacts emotionally to every situation.
Which part of the brain is where we choose our political parties we favor?
The emotional brain. People don’t make rational decisions, people make emotional decisions. Great leaders inspire hope, trust, stability and compassion. And that’s, again, it’s based on good research. When I did a fundraiser for Mr. Obama at our center in New York, and I called him to one side in the beginning, I said, “Mr. President, you’re like a little brother to me. I want to give you these four words to remember: hope, trust, stability, compassion.” So, halfway through the event he came back to me and asked, “Hope, trust, what are the other two?” I said, “Stability and compassion.” And then at the end he brought his Chief of Staff. He said, “Write down those four words, will you?” And not because he’s not a smart guy, he’s one of the smartest people in the world. But when people are of that stature and everybody’s coming at them for the whole evening, you know, it’s very difficult to be present and not distracted. This is good research. So, people react emotionally to that, if you’re out there. So, it has to be authentic, which means you can’t fake it and it has to come from a place of integrity. And then your body language reveals that and people notice that. What happened now is an anomaly, you know, it’s based on fear. What happened now is really an anomaly with all the terrorism in the world and all of that, he took advantage of that. And it’s amazing that he got away with it. But his history of abuse with women and all of that, it’s an anomaly. (Read more about A Life With Integrity.)
Deepak, I know you’re a proud husband and father and a very proud grandfather. What would you say to us as we try to be great family members and great leaders at the same time?
Your children, particularly at a younger age, will see through hypocrisy. So, you can talk all you want to them, but if you’re not actually walking your talk, the kids will see it. And so, the most important time in a child’s life is the first four years when they emotionally connect with their parents. And they require four things: attention, affection, appreciation and acceptance. Acceptance means you’re not trying to impose change on them the way you think, you know, "I did this, I did that." Appreciation is noticing good qualities. Affection is making them feel safe and nurtured. And attention is being a good listener. If you do those four things their emotional brain develops very strongly and there’s a phenomenon that actually occurs. It’s called limbic resonance. Your limbric brain, which is your emotional brain, resonates through mirror neurons, so the child’s neurons mirror the neurons of the caretakers. And so, it’s automatic. You don’t have to say anything, you have to be that. And as far as spouse and other family members are concerned, I think the most important thing is acceptance. Again, when there are marital conflicts it’s because each person is trying to impose their idea of how things should be. And having been married for over four decades I know that my wife accepts me as I am, and so I do. I don’t like the word, “tolerance.” It means you’re suffering because you’re tolerating. You accept the other person as they are. You don’t try to impose change. And that’s the key. You can have a lot of love without wanting something in return because that’s what a relationship is. It’s giving your love and if you give it enough, you get it.
Beautiful. What advice do you have for us people that are trying to find our purpose?
First of all, in all honesty, there’s never a point of arrival. You’ll never get to say, "I’ve arrived." That is just not there. Everybody’s in a hurry to get somewhere. If you go on vacation with your kids, they keep asking, “Are we almost there?” Life is like that. We’re "almost there" when we’re actually there. So, we’re almost there all the time. But I would say, it sounds like a cliché, but pursue excellence, ignore success. Success is a by-product of the pursuit of excellence. Also, success is a journey, it’s the progressive realization of worthy goals. It has to be with love and compassion. And you have to have true self-esteem, which means you’re not dependent on others for validation. (Learn more in Guided Meditation for Finding Your Life's Purpose.)
Is there anything you believe to be absolutely true when you’re 40 or 50 that you no longer believe in?
You know, life is infinite possibilities. Whatever you think is possible, is possible. Our fundamental state of being is all possibilities before our mind gets conditioned. Our mind gets conditioned by culture, by the prevailing social dialogues, zeitgeist, by economics and mostly that conditioning is fearful. But if you are in touch with your soul, then I may get there tonight with a little bit of experience. But it’s also a journey, right? So, as you get older, you get less attached to drama. You also realize that hard work, exacting plans, driving ambition, are actually stressful, right? If you’re always working hard and you have driving ambition and you have exacting goals, you’re likely to be disappointed at some point. So, life is meant to be enjoyed as well, with all the goals we have. And some people get there and some never do. They spend their whole life trying to get somewhere and by the time they do get there they have rotten teeth, high blood pressure, sexual impotence and lousy tempers. What’s the point?
The Dalai Lama said, "We spend our lives trying to get somewhere at the cost of our well-being and then we spend all our money trying to get better again." So, I have one rule these days. I mean, not these days, meaning the last 20 years or more. I’m 70 by the way, so this is if you’re very healthy and never taken any medication. I don’t see doctors, I think they’re not good for your health. But I have only three criteria for doing something. Number one, "Is it fun?" If it’s not fun, why are you doing it? Number two, "Are the people that are involved (and, you know, nothing that we do is in isolation, we do it with others), are they fun to be with?" And the third is, "Are you making a difference?" If you can say "Yes" to those three things nothing will stop you, and you’ll have fun, too.
How should we be taking care of our Earth? I heard you say that we treat our Earth as though it’s separate from us.
Yeah, I don’t know how that happened, but the earth is recycling as your body. The water and ocean is recycling as your circulation. The air is your breath. The trees are your lungs. Why do we even call it the "environment?" It’s our body. We have a personal body; we have an extension of our body. We call it the environment, that’s the wrong word. Because what’s there in the soil is going to be in your body. And right now, one of the main areas of research for us, and that research I’ll share, is called the "microbiome." The microbiome is 2.2 million genes that come from bacteria and from the soil and plants and other things. And because we have contaminated the earth with antibiotics, including in agriculture, hormones, petroleum products (because all insecticides are petroleum products, which means inflammation, fire, right?), 30 percent of the microbiome has disappeared in what we call the "civilized world." You have to go to remote places to find the healthy bacteria or the healthy soil. And there’s a lot of evidence that it’s responsible for everything from all the chronic illnesses, including cancers, and only five percent of gene-related mutations, and I’ll talk about that now.
Autism is kind of a different category because it’s not one disorder, it’s a whole spectrum and it’s probably multi-factorial. So, some of it is, obviously, multi-genes, and then some of it is environmental and some of it is epigenetic, so it’s a complex thing. But otherwise, five percent of disease-related mutations are fully penetrant, which means if you have that gene it is 100% guaranteed that you’ll get that disease. Ninety-five percent are not fully penetrant, which means something to do with the environment, something to do with basically how we live our life, our lifestyle. So, this is a very important topic. Forget the climate change, just for our well-being it’s not good right now to contaminate the earth.
There are people developing alternative, very smart technologies right now. I just interviewed somebody who has developed a device that will create solar energy, even in places where there is not that much sun, and store it. And he also captures water from the atmosphere. And he’s revolutionizing this whole industry. And there are other people in other parts of the world who have developed technologies where even minor shifts in the air will create electrical energy. So, a lot of interesting things are happening. But again, politics. People have to invest in these sources and really in the beginning be bold enough and have the courage to say, "We have to save our planet. We have to save our food supply." There’s no doubt in my mind that climate change is real. So, some people say it’s too late already, but when you meet these amazing, creative people who have actually created new technologies, you see nothing is impossible when you have the right mindset and when you have people behind that movement. In my college days -- which is now going back to the 60s -- we started the feminist movement, the green movement, the peace movement, and now we have Donald Trump.
But I hear you said the '60s still exist.
They’re here. Yeah, I mean, I think. We’ll see. The future is full of possibilities if enough creative people get together.
How can we use technology to raise our consciousness?
We have a project, for those of you who’re not familiar, please download this app called Jiyo at Jiyo.com. We are working in the city of Aspen. There’s a county outside of Aspen which has the highest suicide rate almost in the whole country and depression, alcoholism, etcetera. So, if you track a person’s well-being and you track the well-being of a certain demographic population, whether it’s a city or whether it’s a professional organization or a business, you can ultimately relate — and this well-being tracking is in many areas, it’s not just physical well-being. It’s emotional wellbeing. It’s professional wellbeing, means are you enjoying your job because that’s where you spend one third of your life or more, right? So, are you enjoying your job? Is your career, your calling your job all in alignment? Are you financially secure? Is there good social support systems? So, we have career/job well-being, physical well-being, emotional well-being, financial well-being and community well-being. This is the way to track well-being. And I’m on the board of Gallup. This is what we do. You can relate it to everything, from hospital admissions, to traffic accidents, to the quality of leadership, to social unrest. So, right now the well-being of the United States is suffering. Guess which is the number one country in well-being in the whole world? Anyone?
No, that’s a myth. There are a lot of poor people in Bhutan. A lot of happy people, but a lot of poor people. Number one is Denmark. And guess what is number two? Canada. Canada is number two in the world for well-being. The United States is number 14, now less. They’re now less. So, it’s Denmark, Canada, then the rest of the Scandinavian countries, and it’s also Panama of all the places, and Costa Rica. These are high up. Because Latinos, they like to enjoy life. And Panama right now, there’s a lot of infusion of money and technology and the same thing is happening in Costa Rica; it’s an amazing country. They don’t have an army, so they save a lot of money. Unilateral disarmament, they’ve no military ambitions. You know, the United States has the capacity to destroy the world eight times over. I mean, once is good enough, right? Why so much? So, Canada’s actually right up there, number two, ahead of all the others in the top 10. By the way, that’s different from happiness, okay? What I’m talking about is well-being. And that includes career well-being, social well-being, physical well-being, community well-being and financial well-being. So, community well-being is very important. The way they test that is crime in the community and social engagement in the community. Do you feel safe walking in your city at night, etcetera? And other questions. But it’s very, very well done, this whole collection of this data.
Thank you so much Deepak; it has been an honor interviewing you!
Deepak Chopra, MD FACP, is the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. He is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism, he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians; Clinical Professor in the Family and Preventive Medicine Department at the University of California, San Diego; Health Sciences Faculty and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Additionally, Dr. Deepak Chopra also serves as co-founder of Jiyo, an Adjunct Professor of Executive Programs at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and of Columbia Business School. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” The Chopra Center for Wellbeing holds sought-after workshops and retreats, including programs such as Perfect Health, Seduction of Spirit and Journey Into Healing.