Deepak Chopra: There’s a movement in the world at the moment where people are dissatisfied with what they have created. For many decades, and possibly even centuries, people have believed that money is the source of happiness; that technology will bring us health; that weapons and militarism will bring us security. And none of that has really happened.
In fact, the unhappiest people are found in the most affluent of countries. The unhealthiest people are also found in the most technologically advanced countries, if you leave aside problems related to poor hygiene or poor nutrition.
The fact is because we believe so much in technology, we ignore what we do with our lives. And also the most insecure people are in the most seemingly powerful countries.
So something is wrong, and this is the time where we can aspire to an alternate idealist vision. And we can collectively harness our creativity, our intelligence, our caring and our compassion to actually heal our wounded planet. And that’s the most exciting part of my work.
Question: What is spirituality?
Deepak Chopra: Spirituality is to experience a domain of awareness which is universal. And when we experience that domain of awareness, which is beyond our personal skin encapsulated ego identities, then we have the spontaneous understanding of love, compassion. It becomes our nature, not as a moral dictate, but as something which is a natural expression of ourselves. It also gives us insight into the mechanics of how intention orchestrates its own fulfillment.
Spirituality is also a sense of connection with the creative power of the universe, the mystery that we call God. And by having a sense of connection to that creative power, we gain self-esteem and have the ability to create because we align ourselves with the elements and forces of the creative universe. We begin to realize that the universe is creative, that it is conscious, that is evolving; and our personal evolution is somehow linked to the evolution that we call God.
Question: Can spirituality be taught?
Deepak Chopra: Spirituality is experiential. And classically in India, it is taught through yoga. But most people have a misunderstanding of yoga. They equate it with the physical postures that they do in the yoga studio, which are one component of yoga. But yoga classically is divided into for types. And they have to do with four basic instincts that human beings have: being, feeling, thinking and doing.
So the yoga of being is meditation, self-reflection, the ability to shut off the world of the senses and go to the source of our own thought. It’s called raja yoga.
The second yoga is the yoga of love through relationship, and understanding that love is the ultimate truth at the heart of creation; and that through relationship we can move progressively from attraction, to infatuation, to communion, to intimacy, to passion, to detachment, to ecstasy – which is our ground state and the exaltation of our spirit.
So love and relationship is the second means of experiencing spirituality. If somebody doesn’t understand spirituality, ask them if they’ve ever been in love. That’s an experience of spirituality.
The third way of understanding yoga or having the experience of spirit is through service. When you perform service without any selfish motivation, it’s called karma yoga. Then you also get in touch with the same domain of awareness that we call spirit.
And the fourth way of understanding spirituality is through the intellect, through the mind, through signs, through understanding how the laws of nature work, because the laws of nature are, in fact, the mind of the universe.
Question: Can love be taught?
Deepak Chopra: I think that love can be experienced. It’s our natural instinct. It’s the impulse that drives almost all our behavior, including war and terrorism. A person who is violent is also asking for love and asking for attention.
And yes, if you pay attention through deep listening, which is called attention, appreciation of all the good things that life has to offer to you, and affection, and respond to gestures of affection around you, and learning that these gestures are very natural impulses when we are children. And that’s because we haven’t yet been indoctrinated into schisms, and fear, and separation, and then you can remember the experience of love.
So rather than saying can one be taught love, I think a question would be, “Can one remember love?” And yes we can.
Question: How does mind-body focus work in traditional medical practices?
Deepak Chopra: Well there’s very little emphasis in traditional medical practices on mind-body work, but it’s being understood now. And what’s being really understood is that when patients come to see a physician, they come with a story. They have a narrative. And that story is acting itself out in their physical bodies as a distressing signal which, if it’s ignored for a long time, it then manifests actually as dis-ease, which actually becomes disease.
There’s a movement in traditional medical practices for understanding narrative medicine. Listen to the story of a patient. And when you listen, then you understand the meanings, and the context, and the relationships of their life, and the stories that are arising in the consciousness people are telling themselves, and are then manifesting as a physical disease.
If you want to really heal a person, you have to change the story.
Question: And what is the biggest problem or challenge you believe the medical field faces going forward?
Deepak Chopra: The biggest challenge in the medical field today is a reductionist way of looking at the human body, which basically says that if I could understand how molecules behave, then I could fix the machine. And the body is a physical machine that has learned to think; that consciousness is an anti-phenomenon.
That has made us super technicians who know everything about the human body, but lousy healers because we don’t understand that healing is not just physical. It’s emotional. It has to do with relationships, with environment, and ultimately healing the stories that we create in our lives through the deeper wounds in our soul.
Recorded on: Aug 17, 2007