Deepak Chopra is living proof that being a guru doesn’t preclude digging state-of-the-art technology. While promoting the release of his latest hardcover, Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life’s Greatest Questions, he visited Google’s Manhattan headquarters to chat with employees and then to rap with a few lucky Twitter and Google+ followers in his first-ever Google Hangout. (You can check out a video of the laptop-based videoconference here.)
Google invited me to stop by and meet with mindfulness master in person, where we talked about healthcare reform, his advice-giving M.O., and blocking unpleasant people online. (And yes, Google's offices are as rad as you've heard. It was a pretty epic day.) Read on for the Q&A, after the jump.
People talk about technology as the enemy of mindfulness—like it’s to blame for our distracted, busy lifestyles. But obviously you just used technology to connect with your fans. How can technology actually be a boon to our mindfulness?
Simple: You use it mindfully. Technology is neutral and if you use it to distract, that’s your problem and not the machine’s. If you parcel out your day—recreation time, relationship time, exercise time, technology time—the technology serves you instead of victimizing you. The progress of technology is unstoppable. I use it wisely, I’m wearing a FitBit to track my exercise and I use the Zeo at night to monitor my sleep. I’m creating my own technology for bioregulation. I think technology can actually make you much more spiritual. I think God finally gave up on human beings and said, “Alright, I’ll use technology to get through to you!”
FitBits and Zeos aside, how do you engage mindfully with technology when you’re sitting in front of a computer all day?
First of all, you shouldn’t be staring at a screen all day. If that’s part of your job, you should be taking breaks and watching your posture and your breathing. When you’re using technology, ask yourself, What’s my intended outcome? When you’re mindlessly responding to every email that comes in, you aren’t working with intention. When it comes to technology, I ask myself three questions: One, is it fun? Two, are the people I’m engaging with fun to be with, even in cyberspace? If I don’t like someone in cyberspace, I’ll delete or block them—I don’t need them in my consciousness. And three, is it helping anyone? If I can say yes to all three, then I engage.
It seems like the Google Hangout today is a good example of that. Has the Internet changed how you interact with fans?
I love to read people’s questions because it gives me time to reflect on how I’d respond to that situation. When people come to you for advice, you realize how much unnecessary suffering is in the world: This guy broke my heart, I was betrayed by my wife’s infidelity. I think, If I were in that situation, what would I do? And then I just respond. There seem to be a lot of people who find that useful! So I’m just singing my song like somebody singing in the shower, except the shower is the planet. [laughs] And now, I’m able to reach so many people at once. It’s like we’re rewiring the planetary brain in a way for a new kind of civilization…well, hopefully.
Good point: As a nation, it seems like we’re fighting a losing battle against obesity and heart disease and Type II diabetes and a whole host of health conditions. But at the same time, I’m noticing this renewed interest in things like meditation and Eastern modalities, in nurturing our spiritual sides. Are you optimistic about where we’re heading?
We are, it seems, losing the battle against obesity as well as many cancers linked with obesity. In fact, almost every disease seems to tie to things like obesity, lack of sleep, emotional dysfunction and disrupted relationships. I think we want to move from a disease-care system into a health-care system, which will involve a lot of work because right now we’re stuck in the former. Even President Obama’s initiatives about healthcare are insurance reform, not healthcare reform. If cancer were cured tomorrow, it would mean a dip in the U.S. economy, just like if all wars stopped. We’re so dependent on suffering.
At the same time, we’re seeing that financial wellbeing, community wellbeing, and social wellbeing, are very key ingredients and components of our emotional and physical wellbeing. So we need to look at how we can engage in those areas to improve the economic wellbeing of our country—because it’s linked. Things are changing, but very, very slowly. Maybe technology will help us.
The average person might not have a sense of how they can help change the system. What’s the most important thing that individuals can do to take charge of their health?
Spend just five minutes a day reflecting: Who am I, what do I want, do I have a purpose, what’s my contribution, how would I like my day to be today? To have some intention and reflection alters your behavior. And in the end, your behavior is all that counts, whether that’s in your relationship with food or with the environment or with other people or even with yourself.