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I often joke about the early midlife crisis I went through when I was 37.  It had all of the superficial trappings of such a life-event:  the convertible (Saab, but at least it wasn’t red), the inappropriate relationships (12 years younger), the surprising hobbies (taking up the drums). 

However, there was one aspect of this life experience that was not as frivolous.  I had reached goals I had set out to achieve, then realized I didn’t care about them.  I had climbed the corporate ladder, then felt the urge to jump.  I had acquired the dream house, then resented the time and effort that went into maintaining it.  I started to realize that the life I had created for myself was not the one I was meant to have.  

When I think about it, I believe that every midlife crisis can be boiled down to two key recognitions: 

  • You aren’t sure about your purpose in life.
  • You just noticed that your time is running out.

So this is where I found myself at 37.  Grappling with the age-old question:  “Why am I here?” and its not-so-distant relatives “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and “What will people remember me for when I’m gone?”  It might have hit me earlier than some, but it was painful nonetheless.  It still is painful because, four years later, I thought I had the answer and now wonder if I was barking up the wrong tree…again.

To consider having a life’s purpose or higher calling sometimes feels fluffy to our Western brains.  We are so results-focused, so goal-oriented, so matter of fact, that the idea that we would have a “purpose” rather than a “career” seems silly – purposes don’t pay the bills!  But according to Deepak Chopra (yes, him again), if you can find your dharma, your reason for being on this planet, then the money you need will follow.  That can be hard to wrap your head around, and I suppose it really requires a leap of faith. 

I do know some people who see their job as just that – a job.  They tolerate their job and pursue their passions outside of work.  That doesn’t cut it for me.  I can’t imagine enduring something for so many hours a day so I can live my life on the weekends.  My continual struggle is to develop a vocation – a job that gives me joy, is consistent with the contribution I am supposed to be making to this world, and will sustain my family.  Gee, I wonder why it is taking me so long to figure this out…

I know it is possible, which is why I refuse to give up.  With increasing frequency, I see examples of people who are pursuing their missions in life and finding that it is works out financially, as well as emotionally.  I will leave you with one such example of someone manifesting her purpose.

My friend, Kerri, has always enjoyed bicycles.  She rode them, learned to repair them, and has been working around them for years.  Her love of biking has become part of her lifestyle – she chooses to ride her bike instead of driving a car.  A few years ago, Kerri channeled her passion for bikes into a wonderful organization called The Bike Church.  Through this program, children in Asbury Park help recycle and repair old bicycles, and are given the opportunity to earn a bike themselves in the process.  Kerri had been running this program during her free time, but knowing it was part of a larger mission to get more people riding bikes, she decided to leave her job to expand the program by adding Second Life Bikes, a similar program for teenagers.  She did this without knowing how she would get paid; obviously, she had to have faith and believe that everything would work out.  Well, a wonderful thing has been happening and I have been fortunate to witness it first-hand:  materials, supplies, and financial support keep presenting themselves to her. 

One day in the course of a conversation, Kerri said, “I really need to get an Internet connection in the shop.”  The next day, she mentioned in passing that a friend had stopped by, and while he was there he offered to set up an Internet connection for her.  I said, “Are you telling me that yesterday afternoon, a couple of hours after you mentioned to me that you needed an Internet connection, someone showed up at your space and offered to install one?!”  “Yes,” she said, and her smile said it all:  On one hand she was surprised and on the other she wasn’t.  Everything has been falling into place. 

This has happened repeatedly.  One day, Kerri was thinking that she should order helmets, and later the same day a woman called and specifically said she wanted to donate helmets.   Another time she was thinking about a specific person who someone had mentioned she should call, and that person stopped by.  There are many more examples, and it has been surreal.

Kerri’s experience has been proof to me that when someone starts a journey down the right path, the universe conspires to provide help along the way.  So even though it is exhausting for me to grapple with the Big Question, I know that this is the hard part.  Once I figure out what I was sent here to do, the rest will be like a downhill bike ride…effortless and fun!

The following shall forever be referred to as “The Deepak Chopra Incident”. 

As I wrote about in “My Backstory,” I went through a very difficult personal time and got through it by turning inward.  I spent a lot of time by myself, reading and reflecting and generally trying to make sense of how I ended up in the situation in which I found myself.  Even though I was in a lot of pain, it was a special time for me because it changed my life profoundly and for the better.

There were quite a few books that really helped me during the journey from personal crisis to rebirth, and the one that was especially meaningful to me was The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.  In this book, Deepak Chopra presented me with a new way of understanding the universe and my perception of it, which caused me to reevaluate my life in every way and make some positive, necessary changes.

So, three years later, when I saw that Deepak Chopra would be doing a lecture and book signing through the Open Center in New York City, I was thrilled and excited to attend.  I signed up six months in advance when I first saw the promotions for the event.  Having recommended the book or even given it as a gift to many people, I also reached out to others who I thought would like to attend.   Through my suggestion, more than ten people registered for the event, including my now-husband and my parents.

A few days before the Big Night, I made a point of taking time to think about what I would say to Deepak Chopra if I had an opportunity.  So many things to talk with him about!  Knowing I would have a minute or two at the most, I needed to cull down the volume of thoughts and topics into something short that would impress upon him exactly how much his book, and he as a person, impacted me.  Should I tell him how many people to whom I had given his book?  Should I let him know that reading his book inspired me to move on from a marriage and abandon a career track, completely revamping my life in one fell swoop?  Should I explain that his words got me on a path to rediscover my personal creativity as a form of spirituality?  That I look at the world so differently now and I am a better person as a result?  Should I let him know he inspired me to write a book on leadership, and plant the seed so that he might write the introduction for it when it is finally completed?  Or, even better, maybe I could ask him to collaborate with me on it?  So many things!

Clearly, I had a challenge ahead of me.  There was no way I would be able to get an audience with Deepak Chopra.  In fact, as my father pointed out, it is possible that the books would have been signed in advance and handed out; after all, he must be a busy man and signing all of those books would take hours.  That was the worst case.  The best case was that I might be able to say hello to him while he signed my book.  Nonetheless, I hoped for the best and set about figuring out what to say to this man with whom I had developed an imaginary relationship in my head.

I utilized my sales training and developed an “elevator pitch.”  An elevator pitch is what you would say if you happened to run into a potential customer in an elevator and had only a few seconds to close a sale.  I honed my message carefully, trying to walk the balance between letting Deepak Chopra know how much he influenced me and sounding like a complete stalker.  After mulling it over for a few days, I felt I had developed the perfect thing to say and, as I sat on the train on my way to New York, I jotted the final version down in my journal.  Feeling satisfied and giddy with anticipation, I put my pen down, sat back and relaxed, enjoying the rest of the train ride with my friend.

When we got to New York City, we met our friends and family for dinner first.  I tried to exchange pleasantries but I couldn’t focus.  I wanted to get to the venue and get a good seat.  I was trying to relax and enjoy the meal, but I was getting stressed that we would end up too far in the back to see Deepak Chopra.  Dinner finally ended and we headed over.  We easily got in line and found seats near the front – enough for our entire group – and I started to feel blessed that things were falling into place.  This would be a very good night.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

This is probably a logical place to stop and make a brief mention of my relationship with my mother.  It’s complicated.  In a nutshell, my mom and I are very different personalities and in some ways polar opposites:  I am a tomboy and she is a girly-girl, I am a risk-taker and she likes for play it safe, I like my independence and she craves closeness, I spend Sundays watching football and she spends Sundays shopping.  We love each other, and we just have two very different ways of approaching things in life.

Back to the Big Night.  Deepak Chopra comes out to speak about his book, The Third Jesus (which is excellent, by the way).  His talk is amazing and I hang on every word.  He is funny, insightful, thought-provoking and inspirational.  He talks for longer than any of us expect and we all enjoy it thoroughly.  When he is finished, an announcement is made that Dr. Chopra will be signing books!  I look at my father, wide-eyed.  He is signing the books!  That means I can meet him!

I am in line to get my book signed, and my heart is pounding.  Everyone else in our group is making conversation while we wait, but I can’t participate because I am rehearsing what I had planned to say to him.  I watch the people who are ahead of me, and notice how much time they have with Deepak Chopra before they need to move on.  It doesn’t seem like they are being rushed, and I appreciate how patient he is and how willing to take his time with each person.  I am so looking forward to having my moment with Deepak Chopra that I can barely contain myself. 

Only a few people in front of me.  My heart quickens its pace.  Now only two people.  I am taking deep breaths and trying to stay calm, because I don’t want to miss my opportunity to make an impression on him.  One person ahead of me, and I can tell they are finishing up.  My turn!  It’s go time!

As I walk up, I am very focused, yet vaguely aware that my mother is right at my heels.  That’s alright, I think, she can hear what I have to say.  I move in front of the table where Deepak Chopra sits.  As he looks up at me, I hand him The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and say:

“I was hoping you would sign this book for me as well.  I just have to tell you that this book had a tremendous impact on me.  It caused me to shift my perception in such a profound way that I ended up changing virtually every aspect of my life.”

He looked up at me and, before he could say a word, my mother said:

“And my book club loved it!”

I was shocked and appalled.  This book gave me the wisdom and strength to leave a toxic marriage!  This book caused me to abandon a high-powered job for a more fulfilling career!  This book allowed me to manifest a completely new life for myself!  Your book club loved it?!?  Are you kidding me?!? No offense, but there is really no comparison here!

Then, before Deepak Chopra could say a word, I said:

“Mom, it’s my turn!”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized what I had done.  In one second, I went from being who I wanted to be – a woman on the path to enlightenment – and ended up back at square one – a girl arguing with her mother.  Great…just great.

Everything after that was a blur.  I don’t remember what Deepak Chopra said to me.  I do remember that he seemed mildly amused.   I remember feeling totally deflated that, while I had made an impression, it was not quite the impression I had intended to make.

So I ask you:  Am I enlightened?

Or maybe a better question is:  Is it possible to be enlightened while you are in the same room as your parents?

What would Deepak Chopra say?

About Me

The purpose of this blog is purely self-expression - being creative for the sake of being creative. It has evolved into a collection of non-fiction essays.

All of the anecdotes and incidents you read in this blog are completely true and not exaggerated, no matter how sad, pathetic or unbelievable they may seem.

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© Operation Peace and Serenity, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Operation Peace and Serenity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.