“I don’t take myself that seriously,” says Deepak Chopra. This is somewhat surprising, given the influence the Indian-American doctor, author, motivational speaker and self-help guru has amongst his millions of followers. Chopra has been named by Time magazine as one of the ‘top 100 heroes and icons’ of the 20th century — although he sounds suitably embarrassed when I remind him of this. He has sold over 20 million copies of his books (21 of which have hit the New York Times bestseller list). He has over 1.5 million followers on Twitter. And, he claims, he never gets stressed.
But Chopra is also a pretty divisive figure as well. Time magazine also described him as “a magnet for criticism” and he picked up the Ig Nobel Prize — an American parody of the Nobel Prize — “for his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty and the pursuit of economic happiness”. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins — himself a lightning rod for criticism — has described Chopra’s theories as “hocus pocus”.
Not that any of this bothers Chopra, of course. When questioned as to how it’s possible for anyone to never be stressed, he simply laughs.
“This is my life — I find it joyful to be like this,” he says. “I wake up every morning with the intention that I’m going to have a joyful energetic body, and a restful and alert mind. Then I can do a lot more, and accomplish a lot more.”
More recently, Chopra has been outspoken about the state of the US, his adopted country, which has been suffering both from a weakened economy and political stalemate on Capitol Hill.
“What concerns me about America right now is the polarisation in our politics and the extremism,” he says. “There is a little regression in terms of racisim, bigotry and prejudice — you know, how people are threatened by immigrants.
“But it shall pass — I think America is a robust and vital country precisely because it has so many people from so many diverse cultures. So I’m hopeful, but there is a lot of anxiety in the US right now because the demographics are changing.”
Chopra, who is visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi at the end of this week to give two seminars, seems to be a fan of the region. So what will he be talking about while he is in the Gulf? First up is the importance of wellbeing — not just physical wellbeing, but emotional, social, financial and so on. This is an issue that Chopra has been working on with the Gallup Organisation, where he is a senior scientist.
“We have a very precise method now for measuring wellbeing in all those categories, and to see how they correlate with GDP,” he says. “The future of a country, its economy, the crime rate, the social unrest, the quality of leadership — they are all connected.
“We have ways to resolve even what might have been centuries of conflict, and can improve the capacity for everyone’s wellbeing.”
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