The year 2020 has even gotten to Deepak Chopra.
In early 2019, the prominent New Age figure told The Washington Post’s Geoffrey A. Fowler that he was an “optimist by nature” when they met up at CES, an annual tech industry convention.
But now, amid the raging novel coronavirus pandemic, widespread social unrest and global economic collapse, Chopra, 73, a doctor and author known for his embrace of alternative medicine as well as technology – he has a new wellness app that launched Wednesday – has amended his outlook on life. He’s still an optimist, he says, just “a very guarded” one.
“If you are realistic right now … optimism is not enough,” Chopra says. “If I just sit in my room and be optimistic, then that’s not enough.”
These days, as he churns out digital health and wellness content from his San Diego home, Chopra has been largely focused on how he can play a role in furthering the “social transformation” he says is necessary to keep humans from “self-destruction.” That weighty concern appeared to be on Chopra’s mind when he recently hopped on a call with The Washington Post to promote his app.
Q: How are you feeling about the state of America right now?
A: It’s very difficult to know what’s really going to happen with the situation because it’s not only the pandemic. It’s a worldwide economic crisis. It’s a worldwide stress response. It’s a worldwide conflict. Everything is divisive and quarrelsome. Basically, we’re on the road, I think, to self-destruction, with the eco-destruction, extinction of species, climate change, war, nuclear weapons, biological warfare, pandemics, racism, bigotry, hatred, prejudice. I can’t find a single world leader who’s not a gangster, so I think we’re in trouble.
Q: How does it feel knowing that things aren’t looking good?
A: People need to be a little more reflective. Why do we take everything for granted? Why did we take our well-being for granted? Why did we take even our existence for granted? I think right now we have to ask ourselves, “What is the meaning of all this?” And if you ask me what the meaning of all this is, I think human beings are totally reckless and we are not even slightly self-aware. It’s like a collective suicide mission. I don’t get it. It’s so totally insane.
Q: So how can we recover from this insanity?
A: If we have humanitarians, scientists, technologists, historians, entertainers, ecologists, biologists, all of them coming together with a shared vision – and the shared vision right now could be a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and joyful world – and if you can create an ecosystem that is totally open to feedback, has no agenda other than the collective vision, if you had that system globally – not just one leader here and there, leaders in the family, community, society – and you have an ecosystem where everyone is helping each other, you can make a difference right now.
Q: Creating that ecosystem sounds like a giant goal. In the meantime, what advice can you give to everyday people who are feeling overwhelmed?
A: Short term, it’s very important to recognize that even people who are getting infected, not all of them are getting sick, not all of them are dying. We know the risk factors. We know that elderly people have inflammation, depression, anxiety and chronic illness, diabetes or whatever else. And we also know that the younger people who are getting acutely sick are having what are called inflammatory storms in their body.
Q: What can people do about that?
A: First thing is observe simple rules of physical and mental hygiene. We already know them. We hear them all the time on the news. Wear a mask. Take precautions. Six feet of distancing. I don’t need to repeat that, right?
Q: What do you think about anti-maskers or people who refuse to wear face coverings properly?
A: It’s a funny thing. This is America. People do what they feel like, notwithstanding all the evidence. If you’re not wearing a mask, you’re risking not only your own health, you’re risking the health of others. You can wear a mask for the sake of others. To not look at the scientific evidence is, in my view, idiotic. But how can you legislate sanity?
Q: Beyond the basic health precautions, what should people be doing?
A: Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Don’t panic. Do something to manage your stress, whatever it is. You can socially connect right now and just give people attention, affection, appreciation and acceptance, and you’ll see that you feel better. The only time people panic is when they’re thinking about themselves. When you start thinking about your loved ones and everybody, you get motivated to do something about it.
Q: How have you personally been navigating life recently?
A: I’m busier these days. Doing a lot of social media, actually putting out content on inflammation, on how you can manage stress and you can improve your relationships, how you can improve your nutrition. I put that out every day. I reach about 15, 20 million people. And then in between, I do other events, workshops and webinars and seminars all online, so I’m pretty busy, but I keep my schedule as if I was going to work.
Q: What is your daily routine?
A: I get up around 4 or 5 in the morning. I meditate for two hours. I do yoga for an hour and then I get ready. I have a light breakfast. And then from, say, 9 to 12, I do whatever is on my schedule. I have a meal. Then, I go for a walk by the beach, which is close by, wear a mask and everything. Then I come back in the afternoon and I work again until, say, 5 or 6, doing interviews, social media, producing content. Around 6, I start to wind down and have a light supper. And then at about 8, I sit in bed and meditate on how my day was.
Q: What are you thinking about during meditation?
A: Actually, these days, because I’m 73 years old, even though I’m in perfect health, I meditate on my mortality and the meaning of death.
Q: There’s so much negativity these days. How can we alleviate that?
A: We need a new conversation. We now have the ability to have a collective conversation if we harness the technology that we have.
Q: Speaking of technology, how does the new Chopra app play a role in your vision for social change?
A: My app is an extension of what I’ve been doing for 40 years. I’m an unbridled, undisciplined content creator. I create content every day, and I don’t worry who listens or what they think or who responds.
Q: Why should people be interested in your content?
A: I’ve always felt that, and I don’t know why, but I felt if I could reach a billion people with personal transformation, we would have a different world. I don’t think you can have social transformation without personal transformation. If we do that, we’ll have a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and joyful world. And maybe we won’t. But we’ll have tried.
Q: Is that goal something that keeps you up at night?
A: Yes. Because in my tradition, and I’m a traditionalist when it comes to spirituality, the first 25 years of your life, you educate yourself and get the maximum amount of knowledge. The second 25 years, you seek fame and fortune. The third 25 years, you give back. And the fourth 25 years, you seek enlightenment. I’m now 73. I’m giving back, but I’m also moving on to seek my own self-transcendence. It’s a very critical period in my life, and this critical period has nothing to do with personal ambition. It only has to do with a collective vision for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and joyful world. I’m not interested in anything else for myself at the moment.
THE WASHINGTON POST