- Deepak Chopra says the world is facing three pandemics at the moment — one is the infection, the second is the financial crisis, and the third is panic that is manifesting as stress.
- Chopra says when you feel stressed, follow the S-T-O-P method: Stop, Take three deep breaths, Observe your breath and your body, and Proceed with awareness and compassion.
- Chopra says we are grieving what we consider to be our normal life, but once we get to the final stage of grief, acceptance, we can start to find meaning and purpose in our lives and our relationships.
- He suggests starting each day with four questions: Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? What am I grateful for?
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Deepak Chopra is a physician, educator, and author of many books, including the most recent “Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential.”
Following is a transcript of the video.
Sara Silverstein: Deepak, we are all very much alone together right now, in that we’re separately experiencing a lot of the same difficulties. What is the main message that you’re trying to bring to people right now through your podcast and through this meditation?
Deepak Chopra: Well, the main message is that we can take this time to get in touch with our deeper self, create intimacy with ourselves and with each other. We can do that now through technology. You and I are having a very interesting one-to-one conversation. People are listening to us.
We can enhance our intimacy through acceptance, appreciation, affection, and joy, and help each other manage stress, because there are three pandemics going on. One is the infection, the second is the financial crisis which is causing a lot of suffering, and the third is panic which is recycling as stress, which is weakening our immune system, increasing inflammation, actually.
All the evidence shows that those who get really sick are the ones who have inflammatory storms in their body, which is a result of stress. So managing stress right now, that’s why the 21-day meditation offering with Oprah Winfrey, which is called how to manage these times, unpredictable times, “Hope in Uncertain Times.”
And also the podcast, which is “Now For Tomorrow,” which means what can you do now — not today, now — to alleviate your stress so that you have a better tomorrow and even a better today. So that was the intention behind these efforts.
Silverstein: How do people recognize stress in them, and how do you deal with it if it feels like you’re having a real physical reaction to the stress that you’re feeling?
Chopra: There’s no stress without a physical reaction. If I asked you even to think of a stressful situation in the past, an argument with your significant other, or with your children, or when you lost your job, just the thought immediately makes your heart rate faster, increases your blood pressure, your platelets get sticky and there’s inflammation. So anytime you’re feeling physical distress in any form, behind that is stress, perception of threat. That’s what stress means.
Stress is the psychological, emotional, and perceptual feeling of threat interpretation. And immediately it changes your biology. It immediately compromise your immune system, but you can immediately correct it. So here’s how you correct it immediately. Immediately. Forget all the details. I call this the STOP formula, S-T-O-P. Anytime you feel stressed, obviously, you know that you’re feeling stressed because your body doesn’t feel good, right? So anytime you feel stress, STOP. That’s the formula, S-T-O-P.
S stands for Stop. T, take three deep breaths and smile from your head to your toes, because when you smile, it changes your biology. O, observe your breath or the sensations in your body. When you observe the sensations in your body or your breath, you take away your awareness from the thought. And that’s what a stress response is. It’s a thought and a sensation at the same time. So when you put your attention on the sensation, you take it away from your thoughts and that immediately calms you down. So S, stop. T, take three deep breaths and smile. O, observe the sensation in your breath, take it away from the thought. And P, proceed with awareness and compassion. And do it every time you feel stressed till you get it right and then make it a habit. And then you won’t have stress.
Silverstein: OK, that sounds good. Is now a good time for someone who’s been thinking about starting a mindfulness practice to start developing one? And is your 21-day free meditation, is that a good place to start? Is it for beginners?
Chopra: Yes. The 21-day offered with the partnership with Oprah Winfrey is the best way to get started. It’s online. It’s free of charge. And over the last few years, Oprah and I have actually helped 6 to 10 million people learn meditation practices just online. Just online.
Silverstein: Wow. And for those of us who are sheltering in place with small children, one of the things that we’ve always talked about was starting a family mindfulness practice. Do you have any advice for people who would like to involve their children in their mindfulness practice?
Chopra: If your children are less than 5 years, then actually you should dance with them, play music to them, read poetry and nursery rhymes or great adventure stories of how the great heroes and heroines of the past went through trials and tribulations and emerged victorious. So the children should be only entertained with stories, poetry, music, and movement. That is mindfulness for them.
When they are 5 years, you get tell them, “OK, I want you to keep quiet today only for five minutes.” When they’re 6, then six minutes, 7, seven minutes. At 10 minutes, we introduce them to mindfulness awareness the way we do it but don’t push them into it.
This is a great time for you to actually have fun with your kids and tell them stories. Ask my mother. When I was 6 years old, she used to tell me stories. She’d leave me at a cliffhanger every night and say, “Tomorrow I want you to come up with the ending and it better be a happy ending and it better be a love story.” So share love stories with happy endings with your kids right now.
Silverstein: Great. And can you help us understand — one of the words we hear a lot around mindfulness is the understanding of impermanence, and that is something that a lot of us are facing right now. Can you talk to us about what impermanence means to the human spirit in general and how we should be looking at it right now?
Chopra: Very important question, because every experience we have is impermanent. This experience you and I are having, it’ll be over soon, in a few minutes. Every talk is impermanent. It comes and then it disappears as soon as it comes. Every emotion is impermanent. It comes and then it disappears. If you watch, that’s what mindfulness is.
In fact, if you try hard to hold onto an emotion, you’ll find you can’t. If you try to hold on to a thought, you’ll find that you can’t. You try to hold on to a sensation, you can’t. You try to hold on to any perception, you can’t.
So impermanence is a fact of our existence. What is not impermanent is that which we call I. When I say, “I am Deepak Chopra,” or you say, “I am Sara Silver,” what do you mean? Once upon a time that was a fertilized egg. And then it was a zygote, then it was an embryo, then it was a baby, then it was a child, then it was a teenager.
It’s what it shows up right now. But just, if I look at my photographs behind me of my childhood, I am not that person anymore, but I am still the same being. So experience is impermanent, but the being is not. And actually meditation, mindfulness, ultimately gets you to that place where you know you’re being as your soul and you realize it’s not impermanent. Everything else is impermanent. The body, the mind, the experience of the world, but you are not impermanent. And that’s what the great spiritual traditions have always said. Your soul is eternal. So mindfulness ultimately gets you in touch with your soul.
Silverstein: And is that why the uncertainty weighs on us so much right now emotionally and mentally? And do you have any advice to help people sit in that uncertainty in a way that is less uncomfortable?
Chopra: There’s a prayer in every religion, every religion. In Christianity it goes “thy will be done.” What does that mean, thy will be done? It means that the will of the infinite is playing itself out as situations, circumstances, events, and people. And that awareness, which is fundamental to all experience, is also our awareness.
So there’s a part of you which is not subject to time, or to aging, or to death, or anything — those are human constructs for impermanent experiences. So once you realize that, not intellectually only but at the level of experience, which is what the value of meditation is, then three things happen. One is you experience yourself as a timeless transcendent being. Two is you have the emergence of what are called platonic qualities named after Plato: truth, goodness, beauty, harmony, love, compassion, joy, empathy, equanimity. And then third is you lose the fear of death because you get in touch with that part of yourself which is not subject to death.
That is the essential spiritual experience that we call self-awareness or self-realization, which is actually the ultimate pursuit of every spiritual, religious tradition. When people pray, they’re talking to a higher consciousness. When they meditate, they’re listening to a higher consciousness. So that is what you need to communicate with anything. You and I communicate because we are listening to each other and we’re speaking to each other. Same thing. Listen to your higher self and speak to your higher self for guidance. And you’ll slowly enter the domain of what people call truth.
Silverstein: And a lot of us aren’t just struggling with ourselves. There’s also a lot of interesting relationship dynamics, certainly with people that you’re sheltering in place with, but also with people that you can’t reach, that you’re worried about. Do you have any advice, for instance, for me to get along with my husband better while we are stuck in an apartment together for months?
Chopra: Yeah. So your experience of your body, your experience of your mind, your experience of your spirit is translated. Your experience of your body, your mind and your spirit is translated into everything that we call experience. Personal relationships and also finding meaning and purpose in life.
So right now we are going through grief because we’ve lost a way of life that we thought, “That’s normal.” We took it for granted. And grief goes through several stages. The first stage is, people feel victimized. “Why me?” Well, it’s not just me. It’s everyone right now. Second, they feel angry. Third, they feel frustrated. Fourth, they begin to get resigned and they feel helpless. And then something interesting happens. They find acceptance. Once they find acceptance, they are at peace.
Then they ask, “What is the meaning of this?” So meaning is the final stage of inquiry. And that’s what we need to find in our life. Meaning as far as, what is a healthy body? Meaning, what’s a healthy mind? What are healthy relationships? What is meaning and purpose in my life? And how do I get that through my spirit? This is the opportunity. It would be such a waste if we did not find creative solutions for our life, given that we have the time to reinvent our lives right now.
Silverstein: But this is one of the hardest things for people to do at any time. Finding the meaning and purpose in our lives, certainly for me. Now it seems even harder because so much of that has been taken away. So what do you suggest people do? Because we can’t necessarily be out there doing what we want to be doing to help.
Chopra: So what I do is something very simple. I start my day with four intentions. Joyful, energetic body. Loving, compassionate heart. Reflective, alert mind. And lightness of being.
Then I also follow that with four questions. Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? And what am I grateful for?
Four intentions, four questions. The rest of the day, I just have that in the back of my mind and my relationships, my choices are influenced by those four intentions and those four questions. You don’t have to know the answer. Just ask the questions, have the intentions, take it easy, and you’ll have a very good day.
Silverstein: And I was just going to ask, do you answer the questions, and do you have the same answer to who you are and what your purpose is every day?
Chopra: Yeah. So today, who I am, the answer to me is I am an infinite awareness having a human experience. What do I want? To be fully awake in my self. What is my purpose? To help people heal themselves. What am I grateful for? Existence. That’s today’s answer.
But yesterday I could be, I’m grateful for the fact that my granddaughter just got into university, and she’s so happy, and I’m happy because she’s happy. But things come to you spontaneously. If you don’t live the questions, you will never move into the answers.