Integrated medicine pioneer and best-selling author Deepak Chopra sat down with Varun Soni, Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at USC, for an in-depth conversation on a range of New Age concepts related to our well-being. . Monday’s talk was part two of the THRIVE series by USC Visions and Voices.
Chopra, a former physician, stepped out of his traditional medical training at the event to discuss how alternative medicine and certain Eastern philosophies can help improve our overall well-being.
His messages on alternative medicine were well received by senior journalist Paloma Chavez, whose family was helped by alternative medicine at times when Western practices were insufficient.
“My mother’s great thing is that Western medicine is like a band-aid, while the East and the alternative [medicine] really gets to the root,” Chavez explained.
When Chopra began listing her six pillars of wellness, Chavez jotted them down in her notes: good sleep, introspection, emotional resilience, diet, exercise, and connection to nature.
Chavez and his family attended the virtual conversation together, despite being physically spread across the country.
For Jolie Goldberg, a USC business major and performance science minor, the theme of holistic wellness drew her to the event.
“I think it’s a lifestyle,” Goldberg said. “It’s not about, you know, taking a pill and making the disease or the symptoms that you have go away. It’s about nourishing not only your body, but also your mind, your environment, the people around you.
Beyond the realm of alternative medicine, Chopra also introduced philosophies that seemed as radical as they were soothing.
“The body is a verb, not a noun,” Chopra said in response to Soni’s initial question about what we should pursue in life.
Chopra calmly went on to say that our bodies and minds are constantly changing, but are also temporary activities of consciousness. He asserts that the ultimate goal of spiritual practice is to discover who we are beyond these things.
One of my favorite spiritual insights from the event was Chopra’s explanation of the Hindu concept of Satchitananda.
As described by Chopra, Satchitananda can be broken down as follows:
– sat – the truth of existence
– chit – awareness of our existence
– Ananda – the joy of existing for no reason (this part was my favorite)
“Look at a baby,” Chopra said. “You see babies bubbling with joy for no reason, unless they’re wet or hungry. So that’s our innate condition. We don’t need to chase it; we need to go home from where we went.
Sometimes I think of all the stress and angst we put on ourselves for no good reason. The pressure to achieve some form of the American dream, the toxic self-comparisons we make, the desire to protect our fragile pride – it’s all largely self-induced. What if we let go of some of these social constructs for a moment and allow our pure sense of wonder to resurface? Would we then experience the happiness of simply existing?
On the other hand, abandoning social constructs won’t put food on the table or pay rent. Chopra made sure to address this when he said that it is often the very poor and some of the very wealthy who are unhappy, as these are the two groups who can only think about money; the very poor need it to survive and the very rich need it to justify their self-esteem.
It reminded me Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Before achieving self-realization at the top of this hierarchy, one must first progress through the lower levels, with the basic physiological needs at the very bottom.
My question to Chopra: isn’t a life devoted to spirituality (and therefore free from social constructions) a privilege?
Given the remote nature of the event, USC has opened the THRIVE series to the public, rather than just USC students and faculty. If you missed Chopra’s speech or just want to revisit some ideas, you can watch the full recording hereon the official USC YouTube channel.