by Sheila Julson
As a forerunner in integrative medicine, Deepak Chopra, M.D., has helped thousands of people worldwide positively transform their lives by understanding the connection between physical health, spirituality and science. He began his medical career in internal medicine and endocrinology and served as chief of staff of the New England Memorial Hospital (now Boston Regional Medical Center) before transitioning into the holistic arena. Through 86 books, as well as videos and television appearances on shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and Tavis Smiley, Chopra has reformed how we understand the body, mind and spirit.
Natural Awakenings caught up with Chopra to talk about his new book, The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for Life, released January 30. He also shared insight on how fundamental reality and human consciousness plays a vital role in our well-being.
In The Healing Self, you begin with a powerful statement, “Wellness Now—Many Threats, One Great Hope.” What are some of the biggest threats today facing the health and well-being of humanity?
The threats right now are international travel, particularly as it brings infections into the country from all over the world. We are living in a global environment where, through technology, there can be things like cyber-hacking or interference with the information flow. There’s the risk of nuclear destruction, poison in our food chain and the fact that the world, collectively, seems to be so stressed that it’s almost to the point of insanity.
There’s also extinction of species; disease, war and terrorism; and social and economic injustice, creating a situation that is going the way of extinction. Most people walk around in total denial of what’s happening, yet we’re still fighting about irrelevant things—medieval methodologies in the name of religion.
How do those threats adversely impact our physical health?
We know that anybody that feels threatened physically, emotionally or psychologically is stressed. Stress leads to inflammation in the body, and inflammation in the brain leads to premature aging and dementia. That leads to inflammation in the body, which leads to risk for disease. We know now that 95 percent of all disease-related mutations are affected by lifestyle—lack of sleep, stress, lack of exercise, poor diet, dysfunctional relationships and a polluted environment.
What are some areas in which you see contemporary medicine lacking when it comes to addressing those threats?
Contemporary medicine is very effective in treating acute illness, so if you break your leg or have appendicitis or pneumonia, contemporary medicine can help. But the vast majority of illness in our society is chronic, so Alzheimer’s, autoimmune illnesses or diabetes are related to low-grade inflammation in the body. Knowing that, we can actually change the outcome of these diseases through proper sleep, nourishment, meditation, healthy emotions and relationships, emotional intelligence, correct diet and nutrition, interaction with nature, and very importantly, going into the nature of our own consciousness and bringing in what we call self-conscious habits into our awareness, so we can be aware of the choices we make on a daily basis.
Much of your work incorporates fundamental reality and the nature of human consciousness. What is that and how can understanding those concepts help?
Fundamental reality is what we call existence and awareness of existence, so it’s not physical; it’s dimensionless, formless, intangible, timeless and eternal, in which wisdom traditions call the spirit, or soul. Once we understand the dynamics of consciousness and how it moves in the direction of creativity and evolution, then we have at our disposal the raw material to basically choose our experiences to ultimately move in the direction of a more peaceful, just and sustainable world. We can ultimately go beyond the constructs of mortality and death to understand ourselves.
In this instant gratification society, how do you change mindsets to encourage people to put the effort into becoming more proactive in their health of the body, mind and spirit?
It’s a question actually of looking at what is “instant gratification”, and seeing that instant gratification passes very quickly. If you eat that cheeseburger and fries, before you do it, ask yourself the question “how will this make me feel in one hour?” It comes to bringing awareness to experiences as you encounter them, and being aware of the choices you make. Turning that fight-or-flight response into restful awareness uses intuition, insight, creativity and hard consciousness. These are techniques that have been followed in many wisdom traditions throughout the world, and we need to bring them back.
Are you optimistic that more people will embrace these conscious self-healing techniques over the next decade?
Science is now validating things like neuroplasticity, genetic indeterminism, and knowledge about the microbiome and nutrition, and that’s lending a lot of good signs to these self-awareness processes and techniques. So I am hopeful, but I’m not sure that the world at large is ready to embrace it. But slowly yet surely, we’re seeing things move in that direction.
For more information about Deepak Chopra, visit DeepakChopra.com. To order The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for Life, visit PRH.com/TheHealingSelfBook.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.