Deepak Chopra is a physician, educator, and author of the new book “Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential.”
Following is a transcript of a video interview.
Sara Silverstein: Mindfulness has become an important part of American culture, and you have been at the forefront of this trend, bringing knowledge from Eastern and Western cultures together with over 90 books over the past 40 years. So can you tell me what is it that Americans most want to understand about the way their brains work?
Deepak Chopra: Well I think in the last 10 years, there’s been a lot of research in what is called neuroplasticity. Which means how you experience everything. From sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and how you interpret that actually rewires the brain. So right now we know through certain practices like self-reflection, self-inquiry, awareness of your body as in yoga for example, or breathing, deep breathing, or awareness of mental space, even awareness of what’s happening inside your body, awareness of the web of relationship. And ultimately just being aware in the present moment to experience as it’s happening, it rewires the brain for intuition or creativity for higher vision, for endless possibilities, ultimately for conscious human evolution.
So this is a new science. It’s also based on another new science which is called epigenetics. Which means that your choices, whatever they are, sleep, managing stress, exercise, personal relationships, emotions, they change the activity of your genes, and if you have for example, love, compassion, joy, equanimity in your life, then genes that cause self-regulation or homeostasis, what the ordinary person would call healing, they go up in their activity, genes that cause inflammation go down. So with these practices now, we’re going to see a huge revolution, not only in personal well-being but hopefully in the way we conduct our politics and our business as well.
Silverstein: And what is it that you think brought on this sort of, it seems like a real thirst for this sort of information and knowledge in America, certainly. Is it that people are no longer having to struggle as much to survive, and we’re looking for more meaning? What is it?
Chopra: It’s the last thing. People are looking for more meaning, and they’re looking for more relevance, and they’re looking for expressing their creativity and vision. They’re also realizing that what they call happiness, is not dependent on external factors. You can have as much money as you want, and still be a miserable person. In fact a lot of people who are extremely wealthy, are also extremely miserable.
Silverstein: So a lot of things come down to happiness and people looking for happiness, what have you discovered about happiness?
Chopra: Social scientists say that happiness depends on lots of factors, the first is do you look at the world as a problem, or as an opportunity? Basically your attitude toward life. Secondly depends on your financial resources, because lot of people are, these days anyway, very scared about health insurance, about retirement benefits, about their future. But that adds about 10-12%. Your attitude determines 50%. And then the last part, which determines 40% of your daily happiness and experiences, do you have the ability to make other people happy? That’s the fastest way to be happy.
Also if you have meaning, relevance, purpose in life. But you’re right, the ultimate goal of all goals, is to be happy. But in Metahuman what I am saying is, metahuman, meta means beyond, human the conditioned mind, that your essential state is already happy. Like a baby is full of joy, wonder, curiosity, adventure, risk-taking, playfulness, that’s our natural state.
Silverstein: And we’re seeing mindfulness and spirituality in a lot of corporate cultures now, does that make sense, and why or why not?
Chopra: It must make sense because already the data once again, is showing that disengaged workers and actively disengaged workers, considered about 80% of the working population in the corporate world. Leading to what $300 billion worth of lost business.
But if people in the corporate environment are at peace, happy, and noticed which means they’re given jobs that are relevant to their talents, and they work in teams where people complement each other, then the rate of disengagement can fall to less than 20%. Or even less. So that makes a huge economic impact and there’s a big movement in the corporate world now, that if employers are happy, then customers will be happy. If customers are happy, then investors will be happy, if investors are happy, then the business will be successful.
Silverstein: And what are the best and the worst ways to do that?
Chopra: The best ways to do that is to create team leadership. Just as in sports teams, two competing teams, almost as good, but the one that will win is the one that has better team leadership. And that means complimenting each other’s strengths, noticing them, being in a team where your strength is noticed, and having a team leader who actually acknowledges your capabilities.
If your supervisor ignores you, your rate of disengagement will go up by 45%. But if the supervisor criticizes you, actually it’ll get better. 20% disengagement because you’d rather be criticized than ignored, but if he or she notices a single strength you have, your disengagement rate will fall to less than 1%.
Silverstein: If they notice a single strength?
Chopra: That you have. Honestly acknowledge that. You’re good at sales. Because of you this is what happened last year. Or you’re good at maintaining relationships. Or you’re good at solving problems. But it has to be authentic and genuine.
Silverstein: And what ways do people try to bring mindfulness into the corporate culture that you think miss the point?
Chopra: Well right now in many corporate cultures, there are seminars, I do them all the time on leadership, on corporate well-being, physical well-being, financial well-being, social well-being, emotional well-being, spiritual well-being, all this is becoming part of corporate culture.
Silverstein: And is that a positive thing or a negative thing?
Chopra: I think it’s a hugely positive things, because otherwise businesses that don’t have integrity or authenticity, or a higher purpose than just making money, in the longterm, in this environment they’ll fall.
Silverstein: And what about the capitalization on this new trend of mindfulness that we’ve been seeing with apps and —
Chopra: I think it’s good. I mean after all there’s capitalization of weapons, and nuclear armaments, and biological warfare, and internet hacking, and everything you’re seeing in the interference of democracies — I think this is a good trend.
Silverstein: And you talk about creativity a lot. Can you tell me how you define creativity
Chopra: Creativity’s a new story, a new context, a new meaning, a new purpose, with the same information and the same data. So you give two people the same data, most people will recycle the hypnosis of social conditioning. Some people, the creative people, will take that whole data and create a new context, new meaning, new purpose, and a new story out of it. It is the story that people buy, not your business. If two competing companies are exactly selling the same quality product, even the same product, the one with the better story will win.
Silverstein: And so being able to create something totally new, how do you harness that sort of energy?
Chopra: You have to go beyond the conditioned mind. You have to silence the mind, that’s really what the word meta means, beyond mind, okay? So I keep saying that because it’s the topic of my book. But beyond the mind is a feel of infinite possibilities. Infinite creativity, unpredictability. But it’s also the source of insight, intuition, creativity.
Many times people will be very creative in deep sleep. They’ll ask themselves a question, and in the morning they’ll have the answer. Because in deep sleep, and even in dream states and particularly in transcendence, as in meditation, there’s the proliferation of connectivity, which leads to creative outcomes. Even though you’re not conscious of it, your subconscious mind is much more alert than your conscious mind. The conscious mind only knows what you’re putting your attention on. Your unconscious mind is eavesdropping on the whole context and meaning and web of relationships.
Silverstein: And in your book, you talk about how difficult it is to create an environment that fosters that, is there any cheat sheet?
Chopra: Yes. Right now there are two ways. One is to create a local ecosystem of your own for creativity. For actually reflection, meditation, and also service. And some kind of spiritual discipline or practice and discourse. But you can also do this online. And there’re really a lot of progressive communities in this country and others, that are actually creating these communities. I work with a community in Florida called Lake Nona. I’ve been going there for many years. They have 35 to 40,000 young people, who call themselves citizen scientists, who are actually harnessing the buzz of creativity and well-being, not only for themselves but for their children.
Silverstein: So I would say that you’re hyper-productive writing 90 books. How do you manage to attain that level of productivity? And is that something other people can attain?
Chopra: Anybody can attain it. I’m not goal oriented, I’m process oriented. So I like to think that my mind and my body are productive but I stay quiet inside. And I let ideas come to me, I start my day by asking in a prayer, let noble hearts come to me from everywhere, and they do! So I keep writing ’til it fizzes out.
Silverstein: Is it removing some of the hurdles as far as fear and things that keep people from putting things out there?
Chopra: Yeah people are limited by their beliefs, which are part of our conditioning. We are told as kids, you’re capable of this, you’re not capable of this. All our education is about information overload, which you don’t need anymore. You can Google anything you want. You don’t need information overload, there’s enough of you. What you need is to harness the creative potential that we all have within ourselves. The word education comes from the words edu-core, to bring out what’s already in the core of a human being.
Silverstein: And what advice do you have for parents on raising a child like that?
Chopra: I would say in the first few years of life, the first eight years of life, it’s very critical that every child gets attention — being heard, affection — being loved and cared for deeply, appreciation — notice their strengths, and acceptance — don’t try to change them.
They mirror your neurons. So you are the best example of their possibilities. Instead of speaking to them, actually give them what I call the four A’s, and be a good example.
Silverstein: And I don’t know if you get this questions a lot or not, but reading your book it’s hard not to ask, especially as you’re going back from the creation of universe, what do you think the purpose of life is?
Chopra: Well on a mundane level, on a personal level, it is the progressive expansion of happiness. But on a bigger level, it is to discover who you are. Because you’re not a human being. A human being is a process in a bigger consciousness, which is timeless, and eternal, and not subject to birth or death. So at that level, the purpose is enlightenment. To be one with the light of truth.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.