Mind-body guru, Deepak Chopra, says that correct and balanced living, including our rapport with food, is part of the conscious Universe.
Chopra also relates to the responsiveness you ought to have when you are putting food into your body. He observes that you need to possess the soulful qualities of a chef while cooking your food. If you also add to this the love of the cultivator who is growing the grain, the idea will not only influence the life energy, prana, or chi, of the food, but also your entire being.
Picture this: when you know what you eat comes out of a can, it does not provide you the same feeling of energy. Why? Because, the can does not celebrate prana!
Chopra connects just as much to the taste of food - an indicator of what is in the food is in your mind. He says: "Nature gave us the ability to taste because, in Nature, knowledge about nutrition is obtained through taste."
He notes that the ayurvedic concept of nutrition is related to taste and after-taste. Translated, this means that the effects of food are attuned to your consciousness. There is also an aside. For instance, the food you eat may make you feel heavy or light, crammed or keyed-up, or hot or cold. Chopra observes that these are all subjective experiences - a feeling that comes from "pumping" vitality, or energy, into your body.
Food, says Chopra, affects us in different ways. You may eat a great deal, but you don't put on weight. In contrast, there are people who tend to bulge at the very thought of food. There is no perfect "fit" for all - because, no diet is Universal. The reason is, again, simple: we are unique beings.
"I think that the most enjoyable thing about food is the experience of it." He explains: "All cultures traditionally have rituals and celebrations around food, and what we have done is sterilise some of the experience of food intake into calories, nutrients etc., So, once we give thought for food, food becomes a cheerful experience, a very healthy attitude."
His advice: use common sense, your own body signs, or signals. Don't overdo things; don't under-do things. Follow the path of balance, including balance - in everything you do!
What about fat — for instance, the use of ghee [clarified butter] in ayurveda? He says: "The fear that people have for high cholesterol is quite far off-the-mark. Because, results have shown that it is totally unfounded. Why? Dietary intake of cholesterol doesn't control cholesterol levels; it's your body's metabolism that controls cholesterol levels. A lot of it has to do with your constitutional body type and genetics. We are not sure if cholesterol is damaging. It may be the [peroxide] toxic by-product of fat."
The best thing one can do for optimal health or wellbeing, says Chopra, is to follow a suitable programme, or healthy plan of action, which should ideally include a balanced diet, exercise, and meditation.
The idea of wellbeing, of course, is not just for us - you and me, or individuals - today. In Chopra's words: "The new watchword in the corporate [world] seems to be "wellbeing," a term associated with alternative medicine; not the hard realities of business. Google and Apple, among other corporations, have won admiration for providing work environments, full of amenities like on-site gyms, day-care centres, and other life-enhancing add-ons. Japanese corporations pioneered this trend decades ago. But, now a new dimension has been added: the wellbeing of the public, at large, which includes the wellbeing of the environment. Business is beginning to take seriously that their future depends on going green."
To cull a handful of thoughts from Chopra's book, Journey into Healing:
- When the mind is peaceful, inner energies wake up and work miracles for us
- The use of love is to heal
- Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower and draws all good things towards you
- Healthy people live in the present
- An intimate relationship allows you to be yourself
- Accept what comes to you totally and completely
- When life is full, it is only love, and when awareness is full, it brings only love
- Health is not just the absence of disease, it is inner joyfulness
- Enchantment is our natural state
- Attend to your own inner health and wellbeing
- Allow your love to nourish yourself as well as others.
Living well and healing, says Chopra, are spiritual phenomena. He notes that the most important thing to do is to get in touch with that part of yourself, which is immortal, unchanged, and timeless. This is a holistic experience by itself. It's also an understanding that helps us to get rid of the trepidation that we may all have, including the apprehension of mortality. "If you lost the fear of mortality, it wouldn't matter if you were going to die. I think this is important - to lose this fear [of death], and have the experience of timeless spirit."
This, avers Chopra, does not mean that emotional and physical healing are not important. The very word "healing," notes Chopra, comes from the word, "holy." The word, "holy," emerges from the expression, "whole." "My understanding is in the essentials - the part played by the spiritual, emotional, physical and environmental factors, in healing."
CW writer Mary Angela attended one of Chopra's workshops, "Soul of Healing," a transformative journey into healing, in New York, US, recently. Here's her story:
"Soul of Healing"
The 5-Day "Soul of Healing" is filled with balance, healing, discovery and awakening. It helps you clear your mind, lessen anxiety, detoxify your body, empower your nutrition, manage stress, re-centre yourself, and bring peace, health and wellness into your life. In addition to mind-body consultation, participants learn techniques, personal solutions, and daily routines to help them move beyond career, relationships, and personal challenges, that may trap us in our current patterns.
Each day, participants learn and practice the ancient art of Primordial Sound Meditation, Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, and connect at the level of the soul with Deepak Chopra, MD, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, and David Simon, MD, CEO, Medical Director, and Co-Founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, in an intimate environment.
"Soul of Healing" also includes a rejuvenating ayurvedic therapy [panchakarma]. The Workshop is limited to 35 attendees — to ensure a close and personal experience.
Wellbeing means accepting that everything is as it is meant to be, right now, and that each infinitesimal flicker of time is pregnant with infinite possibilities that exist beyond time and space.
In other words, wellbeing means accepting ourselves as we are, and what we are, right now - and, that, we all possess what it takes to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. Put simply, wellbeing includes the whole of the Universe - manifest, and not manifest. Put simply, it encompasses all aspects of life.
Though physics confirms that the Universe is actually in a constant state of evolution and, in a sense, intangible, we are all endowed with the gift to experience this amazing "chimera" called life - in all its varied hues. This only means that we are all bound together, as ever-changing clouds of atoms, by what is called as empathy - or, what some of us would simply call, love.
Thomas Berry, a historian of cultures, speaks of the Universe as a communion and community, and that "we ourselves are that communion [that] becomes conscious of itself."
This means, that, if we experience joy seeing the first blossoms of Spring, the Universe also experiences this delight with us. If we experience sorrow, the Universe also will - because, we are all one. On the other hand, no matter how wrenching our distress may be, or how great our exaltation - life keeps evolving. Reason: our experience is part of a living continuum.
Great teachers like the Buddha, or Jesus, try to remind us of the essence of our being that exists beyond pain, or suffering, time, space, and differentiation. Though this may not ease our occasional pain - it can help place things in perspective. We can witness what we are experiencing from the security of the quiet centre of our being, without be consumed by the flux of life. When we are in Nature, or practicing meditation, to cull a major example, we experience this healing quiet centre within us - the source of our life.
"Soul of Healing" is designed to equip participants with -
- Tools for greater health
- Love, and a sense of purpose.
Drawing on the best principles and practices of mind-body-spirit medicine from around the world, the Workshop focuses its compass, in particular, on ayurveda - the 5,000-year-old healing system from India. Ayurveda means "the wisdom of life." It embraces the connection between the body, mind, and spirit. In so doing, it views human beings as "fields of intelligence in dynamic exchange with the energy and information of the environment."
The Workshop includes six major areas of focus:
- A discussion on the multi-dimensional nature of life in which "the body, mind, and soul are seen as inter-connected aspects of one underlying field of intelligence." It also includes instruction in meditation with each participant receiving their own "primordial sound" mantra to be used during meditation
- A discussion of the five elements that are the building blocks of Nature: space [akasha], air [vayu], fire [tejas], water [jala] and earth [prithvi]. This leads to the exposition of the three doshas derived from the elements: vata [the Wind principle], pitta [the Fire principle], and kapha [the Earth principle]. Participants were asked to fill questionnaires to determine their personal doshas, and each received private consultation to discuss diet, exercise, and how to balance their doshas - to develop a lifestyle that would optimise their mental and physical wellbeing
- "Conscious Communication." Emotional Freedom was an aspect of this segment - the need to become aware of our feelings and reactions, taking responsibility for them without blaming ourselves, or others, and processing them so that they are completely "metabolised." Result: there's no accumulated emotional toxicity which can surface as fatigue, irritability, lack of enthusiasm, depression, emotional reactivity, and cynicism
- "Activating our own capacity to heal, and be a source of healing by metabolising sensory experiences through the five senses." This session included learning how to nourish the body daily with self-abhyanga [therapy], with each participant receiving special detoxifying "rubs" and facial treatments. Healing through sound, sight [yantra meditations], and smell [aromatherapy] was also used
- "Conscious Diet." This covered the typical ayurvedic diet with emphasis on the six tastes [sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent], and how food should be chosen and combined for each dosha type
- Last, but not the least - the Workshop covered yoga-centred restful awareness and Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga developed by Chopra.
Towards the conclusion of the programme, there was a ceremony conducted by David Greenspan, a teacher. The "seventh" point Greenspan made, in his address, was, to me, the most meaningful. Gentleness. Because, no matter where we are in life, whether we are beginners, teachers, seekers, or totally unaware, we all need gentleness to nurture each other - as we evolve together in this wonderful mystery called life.
Emotional Freedom & Wellbeing
When Deepak Chopra discussed "Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Freedom," at the "Soul of Healing" Workshop, he explained how we all experience emotions through our limbic brain - and, how we experience not only our own, but also others' emotions through limbic resonance and bonding.
I kept thinking, that, since we are all one, it would probably be useful to get a "grip" of our emotions from all perspectives. I was impressed by the simplicity of the suggested process, and realised that it might be a helpful tool for anyone trying to "detoxify" themselves from emotional memories that have caused them pain in the past.
Along with the use of meditation, which can help in dislodging memories from the unconscious, the steps Chopra suggested provide us the ability to completely "metabolise" a past experience, so that transformation takes place within us - emotionally, physically and spiritually. In so doing, you will be able to release your "locked" energy.
We must take responsibility for our emotions. Take a moment to think of an interaction - recent, or something in the past - that you still remember as stressful, or painful. Separate the emotion you are experiencing from the other person's behaviour.
- Anger is pain from the past that was not processed
- Fear is anticipation of pain
- Guilt is directing the pain back to ourselves
- Depression comes from all of the above and results in depletion of energy.
Try to encapsulate the emotion you feel now in one word — e.g., anger, fear, guilt etc., Try to be aware not to frame the emotion through words of victimisation.
Witness the pain. Try to identify where you are experiencing the emotion in your body. Generally, pain, at the outset, is registered in one of the chakra areas; if it is not addressed, the pain radiates to other areas of the body. Having identified the emotion and where the pain is located, take time to quietly observe, take responsibility, and define it. For example: "I am experiencing anger, and it feels like a choking sensation in my throat."
- First, write down what happened from your point-of-view
- Second, write down what happened from the other person's point-of-view
- Finally, imagine that you are writing an article for your local newspaper, and record the incident from a neutral point-of-view.
Share the emotion with someone you love and/or trust - without any problem solving. If you decide to share the emotion with the person involved in this memory, be sure to say that you are not blaming the person.
Release. Take a piece of paper; it can be the paper you have written everything on. Create a ritual of release. Rituals are important in this process, because they are ways of trapping emotion and, thereafter, releasing it. Some people may tear the paper into tiny pieces, and let them fly away in the wind; others may burn it, or some may simply "flush" it out - so, apply whatever works for you.
Celebrate. The final step is very important. Celebrate the release in whatever way you feel will make you happy.
Buddha, the Awakened One
In his latest novel, Buddha [HarperSanFrancisco; May 1], Deepak Chopra is in his familiar territory. He draws insights from ancient Indian culture - one that shaped the remarkable persona of the Buddha, and the powers of the mind, a power that is enhanced by meditation.
Buddha portrays the natural internal conflict experienced by any human seeking spiritual wisdom and transformation. What makes the novel different is its narrative: the low-key nature of the Buddha's enlightenment. The best part: it teaches without being "instructive."
"Why I Wrote this Book"
By DEEPAK Chopra
Buddha is the most important man who ever achieved enlightenment. Although we see him as a calm, benevolent figure, the actual life story of Buddha was tumultuous and dramatic. I wanted to bring this mysterious figure, who died 2,500 years ago, into the present in all his psychological complexity. What better way to grip the reader than to tell Buddha's story from the inside. No other human being has lived such a life.
The tale unfolds in three parts:
- Buddha began life as Prince Siddhartha, who was sheltered from the world and raised by his father to become a warrior king. The great fear surrounding Siddhartha was that he would discover that he had a second destiny, foretold by the court astrologers. If he renounced being king, he would become the greatest spiritual leader in the world.
- After 20 years of inner struggle, Siddhartha threw over everything - wife, child, privilege, a throne - to become a wandering monk known as Gautama. Convinced that he could achieve enlightenment only by the most extreme ascetic practices, Gautama starved himself to the verge of dying. This section of his life confronted Buddha with temptations and a close encounter with Mara, king of the demons.
- Just days before what appeared to be the end of his life, Gautama was abandoned and alone. Suddenly, he saw the error of trying to defeat his body and mind by force. Sitting under a huge fig tree, he achieved enlightenment in one night - a feat unmatched in history. By sunrise he had become Buddha, the Awakened One. He was thirty-five-years-old and ready to cause an earthquake in the spiritual life of India. The after-shocks completely altered the course of civilisation throughout Asia.
My novel carries the reader from Buddha's birth to the time of enlightenment. No other book, to my knowledge, shows what it must have felt like to experience such depths of despair and heights of ecstasy, to renounce love in favour of spiritual perfection, to contain in one body enough wisdom to change the world.
To me, that's the essence of Buddha, and I hope an avid readership will greet his story with the same wonder and hunger for spiritual inspiration.
Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment, Pp 288, Price: $24.95
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