Deepak Chopra on Spiritual Development and Saving the World
Right now, it feels like the world needs Deepak Chopra more than ever. No matter what stories you see on the news (just to pluck three current headlines at random: raging fires in the Amazon; the ongoing Brexit saga; and virtually anything associated with Donald Trump) it seems we could all benefit from deep breaths, mindfulness and meditation.
But the Godfather of Wellbeing isn’t here to sugarcoat the state of the planet. There’s no arm around the shoulder from the great man (even if BALANCE is, somewhat shamelessly, hoping to come away from our chat with our chakras cleansed, soul revitalised and essence enriched). Rather, Deepak is here to tell us, with his blistering new book Metahuman, that we need to change, or die. We need to wake up and realise our collective consciousness is vital if we’re to reverse ourselves from where we’re headed: “extinction”.
“If you look at the world, and you don’t have to go far – on the internet, any news channel or outlet, and it doesn’t matter which: Al Jazeera, the BBC, Channel 4, CNN, Fox News, whatever… Irrespective of how they interpret what’s happening in the world, if you are intelligent, nobody would disagree at this moment, we are risking our extinction.
“That’s not just because of climate change, although it is a very big risk. It’s also because of poison in our food chains, the extinction of other species, ecological devastation, social and economic injustice; it’s a totally unsustainable planet.”
Yikes. That said, the 73-year-old hasn’t got to where he is today by blithely telling us what we want to hear. This is one of the greatest thinkers of a generation, as showcased across 80 books, talks around the world, his “six pillars of wellbeing”, the audio meditation series with Oprah Winfrey and much more. That said, to chat with Deepak is so soothing, thanks in part to that beautiful New Delhi lilt, even when he’s talking about the end of the world. Why, Deepak could narrate The Silence of the Lambs and you’d find the experience blissful.
“Soon, because of climate change, [there will be] even bigger mass migrations throughout the world from regions where people are afraid of surviving, to other places that are more sustainable. But that in itself can lead to violence, bigotry, hatred and, ultimately, new epidemics of diseases. You have to be insane if you don’t agree that the world right now is projecting its collective insanity.
And if you don’t agree, you’re declaring your own insanity. Period. Furthermore, every world leader I look at, every national leader of significance, is a thug or a gangster. It doesn’t matter which country I’m looking at.
“The world seems to be led by so-called leaders who are actually thugs and gangsters. They’re interested only in filling their own coffers and perpetuating conflict in the world so they can take advantage of it.
“So Metahuman is a small offering… It just says we could, if we wanted to, through a critical mass shift in collective consciousness, move towards a more peaceful, sustainable, healthier and joyful world. In that sense, it’s timely.”
CALL TO ARMS
Deepak argues man’s attitude is no different now to how it was thousands of years ago, but its “modern capacities”, such as the advancements in technology, that make the world a scarier place.
“If you look historically, the world has been like this even since Biblical times, or before; people have always engaged out of fear and greed and power,” he says. “They’ve ruined people throughout the history of human civilisation, so it’s not different at all. We are in a very early stage as a species of our emotional and spiritual development. But what is dangerous about now is that we have modern capacities with the same Bronze and Iron Age mentality. We also have modern capacities, like nuclear weapons, biological warfare, internet hacking, trade wars, and that capacity to destroy is much bigger than it was in the Iron Age.
“The US alone has enough instruments of mechanised death to destroy the world seven times over. When you add up all the countries with the same capacities, the ability to cause human extinction and destroy the world, you could do it 20 times over. Not that you need to do it more than once. That is what is frightening.
“I would say human development, on emotional and spiritual levels, is not even in its adolescence. It’s probably infantile. Once we admit that, then we say, ‘What is the key?’ The key is self-awareness; everything that you call the physical world is a reflection of our own collective consciousness. How we think, behave, speak, act in this world is the world. Period.”
And in Metahuman, you will enjoy the experience of having your eyes opened until you have truly awoken. The book even culminates in an exercise for the reader: “31 days of reflection”, as Deepak explains. “Waking up means that you know you are projecting the movie that you call life. At the same time, you would know you had created the movie, and you would know you could upgrade, downgrade, edit or revise the movie as you want.”
BACK TO EARTH
One way of waking up is to better connect with nature, as showcased in new film Earthing, in which Deepak features and which has its premiere at London’s First Health Optimisation Summit on 14 September (see our Culture section for more information). Earthing, also known as grounding, is something you can theoretically do now: remove your shoes and socks and stand on grass. That’s it.
“Then you realise that you, the earth and the universe are not separate; you are all part of one process,” adds Deepak. Thinking of getting AstroTurf because you’re too busy to mow he lawn? Please don’t.
“We know now from the earthing and grounding movement that connection with nature, even direct contact with the Earth starts with a tree, will bring down inflammation in the body and start to reset your biological rhythms. It is a very important insight and, without any side effects, the best way to energise yourself.”
Our relationship with nature, BALANCE offers, seems so one-sided. Deepak points out “But by having conversations like this and expanding the conversation now through the ecosystem, which is our collective brain which is also the internet and media, hopefully we can bring more awareness.”
BALANCE also suggests there is evidence that says by us all doing our bit, we can have a positive impact. And Deepak agrees. “Yes, but we have to not only have the creativity which we have. Human beings have the creativity to repair the ecosystem to not only slow down climate change, but reverse it. But we need more than just creativity; we need the collective will and desire and compassion for a more peaceful, healthier and joyful world. If we do that and engage through media, the internet, education and entertainment, then we can tell another story. Ultimately, the world is our collective story.”
ON YOUR MARKS
One of Deepak’s biggest successes has been taking meditation to the masses. Indeed, his audio series with Oprah Winfrey has reached an audience of a remarkable seven million. BALANCE asks the author about its importance, and he segues into his own “Six Pillars Of Wellbeing” which, as a long-time fan, is a treat. “As we explore the future of wellbeing, it becomes obvious that there are certain things that assure a longer, better quality of life. These include sleep, managing stress, exercising, breathing techniques, emotional wellbeing, nutrition and grounding/earthing.” Yup – that’s the big six. “Of these equally important modalities, stress seems to dominate because it’s the No1 epidemic of our time.
“Many people only think of meditation when they get sick, if someone in the family is diagnosed with a disease, or they’re getting older and facing infirmity: then they think about it. If they’d started at a younger age and made it part of the ritual, like brushing your teeth, or taking a walk, or having breakfast, they would really benefit their quality of life. In fact, the people who say they don’t have time to meditate are the ones who are most in need of it. Sooner or later, they will pay a price either in physical or emotional health, or jobs and work performance.
“There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of studies that show the benefits of meditation, not only biologically, but emotionally and also in social wellbeing and the quality of life. Not only for prevention of chronic disease, but one of the most important things that you can do to manage stress and enhance your capacity for insight, intuition, creativity, vision and performance.”
As a British title, we ask Deepak for guidance on Brexit. Is meditation the answer? “Everybody needs to ask themselves: is the future of the world being in isolation, or is it becoming obvious that everything in the world is interdependent, including economy? Just look at the tiff the US and China are having on their trade wars; it’s affecting the whole world, including all the stock markets.
“Unless we recognise the interdependence of human beings as we move into the future, we are actually regressing and going back to a fear-based way of the world and meditation helps us go beyond the fear.”
So, is Deepak an optimist? Can we really all turn this ship around? “I’m a realist,” he retorts. “You have to look at the dark side of humanity and realise that you cannot fight darkness with darkness.
“But if you can share the light of empathy, compassion, joy, love, peace, creativity, insight, intuition and imagination, then it’s not too late to reverse what we have done.”
Earthing premieres at London’s First Health Optimisation Summit on 14 September. Visit summit.healthoptimisation.com for more info