For the past quarter century, Dr. Deepak Chopra, MD has been one of the leading voices in alternative medicine. In addition to authoring numerous best-selling books, he offers professional training, coaching, retreats, and various products and services through the aegis of The Chopra Center.
For my latest foray into Dr. Chopra’s work, I read Creating Health: How To Wake Up the Body’s Intelligence. Its basic premise is that our bodies know what’s good for them. All we need do is cultivate the proper habits (and eliminate the wrong ones) to maximize our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
The mind-body connection is a cornerstone of the alternative medicine movement. For every state of consciousness, there is a corresponding state of physiology. For example, happiness induces biochemical changes that usher in a host of beneficial effects on the body. By contrast, anger and hostility elevates heart rate and blood pressure, upsets the digestive track, brings on a cold sweat, and weakens immune function. Even the mere absence of a definitive life purpose can result in higher levels of fatigue.
Because our minds and bodies work together to create health, Dr. Chopra offers the following strategies to maximize well-being:
- Self-Awareness: That to which we pay attention grows. Focus on life-giving, other-centered goals. Maintain a serene inner emotional landscape that does not get pushed around by the crisis of the day. Let life be a partner in delivering on goals.
- Living in the Present: We cannot change the past nor control the future. In fact, if we fixate on something that we don’t want to happen, our attention may give it the power to happen. Rather, stay in the moment and allow the present to grow into its fullness.
- Ego Gratification: Find healthy ways to fulfill our basic human need for love, appreciation, praise, and meaning.
- Job Satisfaction: We all spend a large part of our lives at work. Those who find ways to grow and prosper – either in their paid employment or their off hours – tend to live longer, healthier lives. Mature individuals find creative solutions to make meaning of even routine work and direct their attention toward the positive aspects of their professional lives.
- Channeling the Unconscious Mind: Acquire good habits through repetition, guided by a positive frame of mind. The force of habit becomes a tidal wave on which the conscious mind surfs.
- Diet and Destiny: Respect the body’s intelligence by delivering the proper nutrients within a framework of gratitude. As Dr. Wayne Dyer says: “First, be a good animal.” Dr. Chopra promotes a predominantly vegetarian diet.
- Rhythms, Rest, and Activity: The body functions best when our cycles of activity and rest align with nature’s rhythms. Ideally, we’d rise with the sun and retire shortly after it sets. At a minimum, we should avoid exposure to stimuli prior to bedtime to allow for the onset of restful sleep.
- Having an Open Mind: Chopra tells us that intelligence is like water; it needs to keep flowing freely to stay pure.
- Wonder and Belief: All of life is open to adventure. Stay open to the possibilities and hold fast to a belief in what could yet be accomplished.
- The Way of Compassion: Express kindness to all living organisms. It restores and refreshes the giver as well as the receiver. Compassionate souls are among the healthiest and happiest people in the world.
“Once you feel that you are part of the whole, that you belong to the whole, and the world belongs to you, that very feeling makes you love, and that very love brings forth healing.”
– Swami Satchidananda
Dr. Chopra defines the “soul” as the thinker of thoughts which finds expression through the body and mind. Meditation can connect us to that ground of being. As he says:
“Meditation ushers in a silent self-awareness in which brain activity is fully coherent and effortlessly coordinated with the body to produce a flow of pure intelligence… It brings about the higher plane of consciousness and physiology. It coordinates body and mind to the utmost.”