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Deepak Chopra will visit Buffalo to talk big picture

Deepak Chopra will come to Buffalo on Wednesday to talk about your role in the universe.

Turns out you’re a pretty big deal to the person many consider the leading thinker, author and voice in the world of integrative medicine.

“We are the universe looking at itself,” Chopra said during a telephone interview earlier this week. “The universe manifests through us as what we call our mind, body and universe.”

He will visit the WNED-TV studios on Wednesday to introduce and discuss his PBS special, based on his book, “You are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and why it Matters.” It will air on the PBS station starting at 8 p.m.

Chopra came to the U.S. from India in 1970 to finish residencies in internal medicine and endocrinology. He became chief of staff at the New England Memorial Hospital a decade later, and rocketed to the national stage in 1993 as he shared his philosophy on “The Oprah Winfrey Show." He is co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, Calif.

His willingness to throw down intellectually with scientists who consider his stream-of-consciouness thinking “woo, woo” has endeared him to those who hold similar views.

Not that he hasn’t grown tired of such conflict in 2017 America.

“I’m 70 years old and thinking I might as well disengage from the drama of it all,” he said. “People don’t change their opinion because of logic, believe me. They’re conditioned by their own experiences.”

Q. At 70, are you really ageless?

My spirit is ageless. My body is not.

What we see, what we identify in our corner of the world can make a universal stamp in our consciousness, Deepak Chopra says. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

Q. You say in a trailer for the program, “What role do we play in the cosmos? Are we just an accident on a minor planet, a little speck of dust in the galaxy, in the junkyard of eternity, or are we indeed the universe looking at itself?” What do you conclude?

In the grand scale, even our planet is a speck of dust. But you and I are microscopic specks on that speck. We wouldn’t even be the size of a pixel and yet we can know the universe in our self. That’s a miracle.

Q. What are the key ingredients people need to maneuver in a turbulent world?

Self-awareness – and not worrying about what everybody else is doing. Be the change you want to see in the world. If you want to see peace in the world, you have to be peaceful. Otherwise, you’ll just be an angry peace activist, which is a contradiction in itself.

Q. This message seems to be one of empowerment, optimism. What when you or a loved one suffers from a debilitating disease or the loss of a loved one?

There are things we can change a lot, there are things we can change a little bit and there are things we can’t change. Life is a mystery and grief is part of our life. Life is an experience in contrast, up and down, hot and cold, pleasure and pain, birth and death. There would be no universe if there was no contrast or exchange. If you see grief, you should embrace it and fully, keeping in touch with it. (Thirteenth-century Persian philosopher) Rumi says, “The cure of pain is in the pain. By denying the pain, you only aggravate it more.” You have to embrace life as it comes to you, in every moment.

Q. How does a truly well person feel? How does that person project himself or herself.

Just by being. Being is the highest form of human endurance. If you are at peace, you will project peace. If you are experience love you will project that. Love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant. If you have action and love, you can do extraordinary things.

Q. Are there practices that can help bring us closer to that universal peace and connection?

Sue Zinte owns Soma Cura Wellness Center on Grand Island, where she teaches yoga classes. (John Hickey/Buffalo News file photo)

Meditation, mindfulness, yoga and maintaining good health through good sleep, stress management, healthy emotions, exercise and good nutrition. Those are simple things we can all do.

[RELATED STORY: What's in a yoga name? Different twists and turns to a better place]

Q. And there needs to be an acceptance that our life is going to ebb and flow?

Yes, but your essence, your being, is not in time. If you make that the center point of your experience, you’re at peace.

Q. How can being attuned help in the workplace?

I do a lot of work on that. Create teams that have shared vision, are emotionally bonded and connected, and that complement their strengths. ... Work should be meaningful to you. Otherwise, you will be disengaged and ultimately be unhealthy. Career well-being is the most important component of well-being. The other buckets are social well-being, physical well-being, community well-being, financial well-being, emotional and spiritual well-being, but career well-being is at the top. We spend one-third of our lives at work, so we better make it count.

Q. What elements of workplace wellness are essential in your view?

Leadership is the most important thing. That involves deep listening. It involves emotional intelligence. It involves being aware of what you are observing, what you’re feeling, what you need. How to fulfill that need involves what others are observing, what they’re feeling, what they need. It involves action plans that are reasonable, sensible. Goal-setting is very important, as is taking responsibility for the health and well-being of others.

Q. How do you get buy-in from employees when trying to create a culture of wellness?

You can’t force anything but more and more companies are going in that direction. We have an app called Jiyo. It’s a free app. Among the things we do is a health risk assessment. If they’re willing to listen, we show them how getting a health risk assessment correlates with the bottom line.

Q. The U.S. spends more than $9,000 annually per capita on health care – more than $2,200 a year than Switzerland, the next highest in terms of costs in the world – and its average life expectancy is lower than 25 other nations. What’s wrong with health care in this country and are we on the verge of fixing it?

Deepak Chopra believes there is value in holistic and Western medicine. (Buffalo News file photo)

I don’t think we are on the verge of fixing it. You see the health care debate going on right now. First of all, we are probably the only country in the developed world, or even amongst developing nations, where people do not have adequate health insurance.

More than that, health care reform is not about health insurance. Health care reform should be ultimately, “How do we change the quality of life?” That applies to different buckets of well-being. .. If you do a quantification involving the five buckets I mentioned ... first you find that they’re all related. Secondly, you’ll find that well-being is the number one critical explanation of everything, from crime to social unrest to the quality of leadership to what’s happening in our country or community.

This is quantifiable. The data is there. But it’s the nature of politicians to be more interested in power mongering and corruption and cronyism and influence peddling and all that. It influences their values. We see it every day. People switch their values overnight, depending upon whether they’ll be a new position of power or not. We have, in a sense, moral bankruptcy right now.

Q. You are of the view that there can be a good marriage between holistic, alternative health and wellness and traditional Western medicine.

Yes. Traditional medicine is very effective. For acute pneumonia, you should get an antibiotic. You break your leg, you should see an orthopedic surgeon. ... But 95 percent of the gene mutations that cause chronic illness have to do with lifestyle. That means they’re preventable and reversible.

Q. What can the individual do to live healthfully and well?

Spend a little time in reflection. If you don’t know who you are, what you want and what your purpose is, then you are lost on first base. It’s not important to know the answers. It’s important to live the questions.


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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