Medicine and mysticism runs through Chopra’s veins
Deepak Chopra is considered one of the greatest thinkers of modern times. Jay Shetty was thrilled to welcome him to a recent podcast interview at On Purpose with Jay Shetty.
The doctor and author is also the founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing and the Chopra Foundation. He has written more than 86 books on health, wellness and medicine; several of which are New York Times bestsellers.
Back to Where it All Began
Deepak Chopra was born in India just before the country gained its independence. There was much turbulence there during his childhood. Chopra considers himself, in the words of Salmaan Rushdie, “One of midnight’s children.”
“It refers to all of us who are kind of at the cusp of the old era of colonialism and independent India,” Chopra explained. His life has been marked by transition and change as well.
His father, an army doctor, was away for a large portion of his childhood, first in battle and then as a prisoner of war. After he was released, Chopra’s father brought his family to England, where he received further training as a doctor. The whole family celebrated when they received news that his father, a member of the Royal College of Physicians, had passed all of his exams.
The joy was short-lived, literally dissipating overnight. Chopra’s grandfather, with whom he was very close, passed away at the end of their family celebration. The range of emotions between ecstatic and devastated was a lot for young Chopra to take in.
“I remember waking up to the wailing of women,” Chopra told Jay Shetty. “He was taken for cremation, and brought back in a little bottle of ashes. One of my uncles said, ‘What is life here? He was yesterday celebrating with the kids and now he's a bunch of ashes in that bottle.’”
Long after the funeral, Chopra wrestled with his uncle’s question “What is life here?” His grandfather’s death and the subsequent wrestling with the meaning of life changed him.
“I remember not only being scared, but also, even at the age of six years old, having my first existential crisis,” recalled Chopra to Shetty. “That continued throughout my childhood, and into medical school and essentially shaped my life. That one episode.”
Father Knows Best
Since childhood, Chopra had secretly planned for a different path in life. He longed to become an author and had his sights set on using his hands for something other than healing, but coming from a long line of doctors, the pressure to follow suit was strong.
At the age of 14, his worlds collided. Chopra’s father introduced him to a set of books focused on the human body and existential issues. With clarity on how these two worlds could intertwine, Chopra set off to medical school.
A scholarship for further training presented Deepak Chopra with the opportunity to study and work in America. The Vietnam War had created a hole in the medical profession that left space for many foreign doctors to enter the American medical scene. After a year working his station at a small hospital in New Jersey, Chopra entered the world of medical academia. In his training, Chopra had approached things via the traditional medical method.
“You're supposed to understand life by looking at a dead body,” Chopra told Jay Shetty. “The body is a physical machine, and the consciousness is a by-product of that. We are molecules that manufacture thoughts, and I lived with that model throughout my medical school years.”
His further work in the fields of endocrinology and neuroendocrinology led him to new discoveries that challenged his traditional thinking. So did the groundbreaking progress in the study of hormones and brain chemistry in the 70s.
“We were discovering in the brain, these chemicals that now everybody knows about called neuropeptides,” Chopra explained to Jay Shetty. What had once seemed cut and dried now seemed less so with the discovery that molecules like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and opioids were emotionally linked.
More Than Meets The Eye
Chopra’s wheels turning started turning. That was the beginning of his being hooked on the so-called mind body connection, and it started to affect how he treated patients.
Chopra began to observe how behavior affected outcomes. He was baffled to see multiple cases of the same medical diagnosis in different people that turned out completely different.
“I was very perplexed as to why two patients who had the same illness could see the same doctor, get the same treatment, and have completely different outcomes,” he explained to Jay Shetty. “One could die, the other one could recover. I wanted to know what made the difference.”
He dedicated himself to studying the distinctions and similarities between cases. Over time, Chopra compiled quite the library of groundbreaking information. Feeling compelled to share his findings with the wider medical community, he presented his work to medical journals.
They weren’t interested in his anecdotal discoveries, however, and turned him down. Repeatedly.
Chopra didn’t give up. He truly believed in the power of what he had discovered and started searching for a different way to publish. So, he turned to self-publishing. His first book was eventually picked up by a large publisher and quickly became a national best-seller.
He has gone on to write dozens of other books, each opening the door for readers to connect with their hearts and the mysteries of reality on a deeper level.
You’ve Always Had the Power
As Deepak Chopra dove deeper into the world of physical body and emotion, he studied the magic of DNA and the body's healing power. What was published in his first book was just the tip of his iceberg.He marveled at the body's ability to heal itself when given the appropriate tools. Chopra’s study of DNA led him to learn about genetics and genetic mutations.
“Only 5% of genetic mutations associated with disease – cancer, heart disease, arthritis, strokes, auto-immune diseases, Alzheimer's, you name it – actually guarantee the disease. Which means if you have one of those mutations, you're going to get the disease.” he explained to Jay Shetty.
What did that mean for the other 95%?
“The rest, even the genetic mistakes that are associated with disease, depends on how you live your life,” he told Jay Shetty. “Very simple things like sleep, meditation, stress management, and movement all have positive effects on your body’s ability to heal.”
This got Chopra thinking about his current obsession – whether humans can reinvent their bodies by resurrecting their souls and going past their minds.
“I'm so glad you're obsessed with it, because the fact that we're responsible for our own well-being is huge in the sense of knowing there are ways in which we can rewrite that story,” said Jay Shetty.
No Angry Peacemakers
Deepak Chopra observed that that world today reminds him somewhat of the 70s and the challenges faced then.
“The audience that's listening now may feel that we're kind of going through that period again in the world,” Jay Shetty agreed. “There's an uprising of conversations around the gender pay gap and women's rights. Conversations around serious problems such as war, climate change, economic disparity and disunity are happening.”
Similar to the time of his youth, Chopra feels the world is on the cusp of change. It is not hopeless, but facing monumental issues will take action. Action will not be accomplished sitting down. The way forward needs more workers.
“We have to actually see why we failed in the past, and that is because idealism without action is useless,” Chopra explained to Jay Shetty.
“You know, they say that love without action is irrelevant and action without love is meaningless,” responded Jay Shetty. “But when you have love in action and love for the greater good, then things can happen.”
Shetty also urges people to get involved while leaving anger at home. “You can't be an angry peace activist,” he said. Chopra agreed. He believes the way of peace is the way forward.
“You have to be a peaceful being,” Chopra said. “In order to create peace, you have to experience love. In order to create love, then you bring it into action. It starts with empathy, which is feeling what others are feeling, and compassion, which is the desire to alleviate suffering.”
Love on its own, though, isn’t enough. The key is still taking action. He urged listeners to let love move them to action as well.
The Beauty of Stillness and Silence with Jay Shetty
Despite being one of the most well-known names in the world of alternative medicine, Deepak Chopra is all too happy to slip into anonymity at least once a year.
“I've kept a week of silence every year, sometimes more than a week,” Chopra told Jay Shetty. “In that week of silence, usually in September, I just go back to a taste of timeless being.”
Chopra described his time away as simple and transformative. He spends the time with monks and spiritual leaders, and long stretches of silence grace his days.
“Our days are just busy with work and family and commitments and events,” Jay Shetty said. “What's something people can do daily that helps them access their true identity, going beyond the ego?”
Chopra encouraged listeners to consciously still their minds and then simply ask themselves four questions.
Who am I?
What do I want?
What is my purpose?
What am I grateful for?
Jay Shetty couldn’t agree more.
“This is just such a simple way of starting to transcend the noise and the clutter that we feel every morning when we wake up,” Jay Shetty said. “The first thing we do is look at our phones. All you have to do is just switch that habit for asking yourself these questions.”
A Masterclass of Reality and Perception
Deepak Chopra started his shift into the world of consciousness and ultimate reality around age 36. His current focus is unveiling fundamental reality, which is the topic of his new book.
“Deepak, every time I sit down with you, I always get another revelation and another thing to focus on,” Jay Shetty said. Already looking forward to next time with Chopra, Shetty can’t wait to dive deeper into his new book.
In a world of noise, Chopra’s quiet voice of truth is turning the tide. As a bridge between the medical and spiritual world, he speaks with an authoritative voice that is laced with humility. Many are passionate about seeing change come, but Chopra and his books are a gold mine of possibility for how that can happen.
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “How To Be More Present & Not Be Overwhelmed With Life” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out his website at jayshetty.me.