If spending your days in quarantine has allowed you to adopt a simpler life-style and catch up on sleep you may be onto a good thing. Deepak Chopra, renowned wellness expert and author most recently of “Metahuman: Unleashing your infinite potential” explains how adapting to a life in quarantine offers a unique opportunity to find equilibrium with the ecosystem that sustains us. But, according to Chopra, don’t be surprised if you’re feeling a sense of grief over your pre-quarantine life.
The following interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.
So many lives have been impacted by this pandemic, what’s your perspective on this, and what's been going through your mind in the last couple of months.
Deepak Chopra: When I was growing up as a little kid in India, my father used to tell me stories about the Holocaust: the atomic bomb, the Second World War and about the great suffering that occurred when I was born when India and Pakistan split up. There were mass migrations and literally millions of people died. My grandfather used to tell me about the Great Depression and the First World War, and the suffering that happened in his generation. So historically in every generation, there has been something that has caused a global existential anxiety, suffering and even the fear of death. So this is not a unique moment in history; it’s the recycling of human experience and also the recycling, in my opinion, of our taking existence for granted.
What would you say is the underlying emotion we’re feeling right now?
Chopra: Right now we’re forced to find meaning in our existence. As a physician, I’ve seen this. Whenever there is loss of a way of living, or any kind of loss, people go through grief. This is what is happening right now. I’ve seen people go through the stages of grief in emergency rooms when they’re going through the throws of a heart attack. I’ve seen them go through all the stages of grief, and then suddenly they find acceptance. Right now we’re in a stage between frustration, resignation and acceptance. Now we need to discover the meaning. What would happen if we didn’t take our existence for granted? What if we were conscious of our mortality right from the start? Then we would live a different life.
One poet you love is the Indian poet, Tagore. You often use this quote of his; “that I exist, is a perpetual surprise.” Explain its significance to you at this time.
Chopra: I think if you're not perpetually surprised by your existence, your humanity is incomplete. To be human is to have a story about existence. And we have had this very, very biased story about existence in that it's all about us, when in fact life, is an ecosystem, every biological organism is an ecosystem. Even your genetic code is an ecosystem. Every biological organism is an ecosystem of bacteria or viruses or fungi of all other lifeforms.
In fact, there are two hundred times more genes in your body that are not human, that are derived from bacteria, fungi, viruses of all kinds. And every species, by the way, in one way or another, finds equilibrium with its environment. There are only two species on the planet that don't find equilibrium with their environment. One is viruses and the other is humans.
The practice of yoga is very important to you. I’m speaking to you from Santa Barabara, a place where there’s a yoga studio on every corner. Is there an over commodification of yoga and is the potency of mind and body healing weakened by a desire to have better abs?
Chopra: The commoditization of yoga and meditation — or all these integrative techniques — is actually the only way that people will ultimately find the meaning of existence. That's how the West works. Better commodify spiritual materialism, than commodify the sale of mechanized death and nuclear weapons and biological warfare or all the other things we commercialize like cigarettes, alcohol and any other activity that is detrimental. So what is wrong with commodification of spiritual materialism? It doesn't matter. People start yoga because they want to give up smoking, they want better abs, they want to lose weight, they want to look better. Nevermind. It's all right. Sooner or later, they'll bump into themselves.