Deepak Chopra's meditation litmus test is simple: “If you’re doing it, you’re doing it right.”
The meditation and mindfulness guru spoke to The Huffington Post at a recent event in Los Angeles to celebrate his daughter, Mallika Chopra, who had just published the new book, "Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy.”
Later in the afternoon, Deepak led the hushed room into a guided meditation, his voice deep and calming, as he offered a seamless transition from a buzzing social atmosphere to a suddenly deeply internal one.
“Meditation is a progressive quieting of the mind until you get to the source of the mind, which is pure consciousness,” Chopra explained in an interview before the event began, his bejeweled transition glasses slowly lightening from dark to clear. “You are not your mind or your thoughts. You are the consciousness in which the thoughts come and go.”
Guests, including many of the Chopra family, packed themselves tightly into the meditation room at Unplug Meditation in West Los Angeles as Mallika told the room that her parents taught her to meditate at age nine and that she would come home from school and meditate with her mother as a way to feel close.
Chopra learned to meditate 35 years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “I was lucky enough to have Maharishi Yogi as my direct teacher. He was the teacher for the world at the time, including the Beatles” he said.
He went on to found The Chopra Center in 1996, a renowned institute near San Diego that teaches all levels of meditation. He has published over 65 books and has made a name (and fortune) for himself as a prominent mind-body spiritual guru. He and Oprah Winfrey have their own meditation alliance and host challenges in the hopes of bringing meditation to as many people as possible around the world.
Chopra says that meditation can have profound benefits for any person, depending on what they need. “If they’re very stressed, it’s a good way to deal with stress. It has immediate effects in terms of better sleep and more energy,” he said. “As you get more into meditation, you realize that there are hundreds of variations of meditation depending on what you’re wanting to achieve.”
But regardless of how advanced one gets, the ultimate goal of meditation is to look within: “Everything that we assume is our identity is really not our permanent identity. Your body is changing all the time, your mind is fickle, your emotions go up and down, your personality is hopefully not the same throughout life. So is there a part of you that is fundamental?”
The more advanced techniques of meditation that Chopra teaches privately and at his center involve what he calls contemplative inquiry: “How [do we] differentiate between experience and the consciousness in which the experience occurs?”
Referring to people who have been meditating for 15 or 20 years, Chopra says that when they get to this place in their practice, “there is a complete loss of fear of death. Because there is no fear of death, there is a loss of the fear of everything else that is impermanent. In a way, the fear of death is the fear of impermanence.”
Chopra meditates for two hours every morning and then does another 20 minutes or so later in the day.
Many meditation practices, including mantra meditation, Transcendental meditation and mindfulness meditation call for about ten to 20 minutes either once or twice a day. “If you say you don’t have time to do it once a day,” Chopra said, “then you’re the one who probably needs it twice a day.”