Monthly Archives: February 2012

This is how to build a movement: Peacelearning at the National Peace Academy

What are the local and global challenges and obstacles to ecological peace – and how are these obstacles nurtured and sustained?

What opportunities exist locally and globally to nurture ecological peace?

What strategies can we use to nurture ecological peace, both locally and globally?

pigeon-leaf-globe illustration
These are questions that participants discussed at the opening World Café event of the National Peace Academy Peacelearning Conference last weekend in Boulder, Colorado. Throughout the conference, participants explored the challenges and opportunities relating to peace and the environment, and planned strategies that we as individuals can take to foster sustainable peace in our communities and beyond.

The National Peace Academy turns three years old this year, and this was the first official NPA conference. According to its web site,

The National Peace Academy supports, advances and nurtures cultures of peace by conducting research and facilitating learning toward the development of peace systems – local to global – and the development of the full spectrum of the peacebuilder – inner and outer, personal and professional. In all its operations, internal and external, the National Peace Academy strives to embody and reflect the principles and processes of peace.

Indeed, principles of peace — such as dialogue, community building, respect, and empowerment — were present in every aspect of the conference. This was not your average conference, where you sit and listen to a lecture and drink coffee. Yes, there was coffee on hand, and yes, there were a few lectures – but the conference was centered on dialogue, engagement, discussion, framed in such a way as to encourage and empower participants to develop plans of action for ecological peace.

What is ecological peace? The National Peace Academy defines peace according to the Earth Charter, which says that ““peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.”

Five spheres of peace are defined: inner, social, political, institutional, and ecological. Ecological peace, the focus of this conference, “requires establishing right relationships with Earth and the ecosystems of which we are a part and on which our survival and quality of life depend.” Participant-led workshops included topics such as mindfulness, building peace through food, sustainability in education, nuclear issues, encompassing the full spectrum of inner and outer peace.

Startup Telepresence Roundtable at DC's AT&T Innovation CenterWhy is this important? If we want to live in a peaceful world, we need to not only foster peace in ourselves, but to learn about peace and learn the skills needed to make peace a reality. This is really what National Peace Academy is all about – creating lifelong peacelearning opportunities to foster inner and outer peace. In the opening session, the NPA team discussed how initially the NPA was conceived to be “like a West Point for Peace” – a training academy for peacemakers.

In visioning and brainstorming, however, the founding partners realized that the shape and form of the institution would have to be significantly different in order to align with peaceful principles, more bottom-up than top-down. As such, the NPA has worked to partner with educational institutions and nonprofits around the country who offer peace-related courses, both offline and in-person, for the NPA Peacebuilding and Peacelearning Certificate Program. In this way, a wide variety of peace-related courses are offered by those who are experts in the particular areas.

Meanwhile, these organizations and institutions benefit from being a part of a greater movement. Prior to the NPA’s certificate program, these partners had surely been doing the same work in their corner of the globe. Now, they are part of something greater, and part of a cohesive movement to cultivate a culture of peace both nationally and globally.

As a participant in this conference, I highly valued the opportunity to be engaged in dialogue and discussion with others working in the peace field. I also appreciated being able to learn from my peers through engaging workshops and activities. As a facilitator, I relished the opportunity to launch a new project, PeaceMeal, and share it with my peers. I now have the confidence to take this project into my home community and beyond.

Imagine a world in which everyone learned about peace, and all learning was directed towards creating a peaceful world.  This is the world I want to live in, and the world NPA is striving to create. I hope you’ll join us!

For more information on upcoming NPA courses, click here.

Creative Commons License photo credit:

Mallika Chopra: Gurus, Yoga and Sex Scandals

Ugh. Several people have asked me to write about the John Friend scandal. For those who don’t know about it, you can read yesterday’s NY Times article (which happens to be the most popular one of the day). The scandal involves John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, who apparently had sexual indiscretions and inappropriate interactions with his students. (For the record, I have no idea who John Friend is and don’t think I have ever met him.)

I’ve avoided writing about this topic, because with a dad (aka Deepak Chopra) who many see as a guru, I am always very aware (and uncomfortable) of the perception of who he is (ie who people want him to be) and who he actually is. In fact, my brother, Gotham, is premiering a documentary, Decoding Deepak, which addresses this very question. Gotham’s story in the film is a reflection on the father/son dynamic – one that is even crazier with a well-known father.

Perhaps my discomfort with the perception of my dad stems from the fact that our family is very close. Being so close, we are very aware of each of our vulnerabilities, including my father’s. We see him as an incredibly smart man who can write and speak well, who can inspire people with his words, guide them to discover more about themselves. But we also see my dad as a man who has his strengths and weaknesses — just as each of us do.

Like with many celebrities, it seems to be human nature to build up personalities (authors, Nobel Peace Prize winners, the President) as heroes. It is common knowledge that Mahatma Gandhi was not “saintly” at home and personally struggled with his own morality. Great leaders inspire. They become the symbol of change in societies that are ready to change.

In similar ways, I think “gurus”, “priests”, certain “teachers” are simply guides for others on their journey’s of self discovery. But keeping the message and the messenger separate for me is so important. I have seen with my father, and with many of the other amazing teachers I have encountered in my life through him, that people are people. Some speak well, some make us feel inspired, some have sharp minds and can move us to our core with their words. But at the end of the day, I have yet to come across a truly “enlightened” teacher.

I spent much of my childhood around Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. No question Maharishi exuded something that made you feel different. But, I learned through years of interactions between my father and Maharishi that even “our guru” was a perception of what we wanted him to be.

So, my thoughts on John Friend… We’ve seen the same behavior before – not just with yoga teachers or the “gurus” from the East as the NY Times article goes to lengths to point out. We have been disappointed and aghast with leaders in the Catholic Church, in our politicians, President Clinton himself. Perhaps these individuals play the mythical role of the hero that we inherently seek out. And so when the expectations fall, the disappointment is so much more.

Maybe we are seeing more and more, in a world where the truth, I believe, always come out, that great teachers are really just our guides and nothing more. And in the end, we can hold only ourselves accountable to the high standards we wish to see in others.

Image via the NY Times

Why Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat (infographic)

Careful, the title is a bit misleading. I was hoping this infographic would be about the virtues of healthy fats, but it reads more like anti-carbohydrate propaganda upon closer look.

While I’m glad someone is making an effort to un-demonize fats in the mindsets of health-conscious Americans, I’m not sure it was necessary to deem another nutritional element murderous in the process.

Sure, the modern day diet is probably a bit too carb-heavy (hence the rising epidemic of diabetes in this country), but let’s be honest… we can’t blame carbs for our poor choices. Carbohydrates are the only nutritional molecule your brain can use for energy, and a little natural sugar (the kind you get in apples, brown rice, and even broccoli) never killed anyone.

Rather than making some nutrients “good” and others “bad,” perhaps it’s time we take a broader, more nuanced perspective on healthy eating. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are the result of a multitude of factors — many of which are more rooted in social and psychological factors than merely what’s in our food. The nutritional fads — low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free, etc — go in and out of fashion, but if you ask me it’s moderation that we’re all seeking. It’s all about the balance, baby.

Thanks to the Massive Health Blog for sharing.

Of Odes and Ohms

This Sunday — day of rest for the restless – I’m signed up to take a yoga class for writers.  I love the idea of unleashing my imagination while aligning my spine.  Time to get limber, physically and lyrically.  Enter me, muse, through the sweat of my arm balance, the tears of my back bend.  Deliver me from distraction and ennui, that I may find stillness in sequence, flow in a single ah! bright breath.

It used to be that writing came most easily to me in times of turbulence.  The ink seemed to burst best as my heart did the same.  For what is creativity at its core but some ancient limbic urge to feel pleasure and solve problems?  But these days, I find words pouring into and out of me at all times.  Surprising this, especially, as calm is the pervasive element in what has been a lifescape of topographical diversity.  I still have highs and lows, but the delta between is slim.  Life is groovy indeed, and even more so, as I find creativity also abounds in this space.

So why a class?  Well, why not?  There is always much more to be learned, explored, and shared, especially from a great teacher, who one admires — physically and lyrically.  But I do have a specific charge in mind.  While prose and commentary come quite easily to me, writing poetry presents a steeper challenge.  Partially, it’s because verse is so important to me that I struggle with the thought of putting forth mediocre poems.  I think it’s less about my ego and more about wanting to honor more adequately the greatness of the art.

Sure, I write poetry as mode of personal expression.  But, in another circle of my soul, I strive to craft verse as a prayer offered in respect for the illimitable power that a true poem conjures.  One example: the briefest lines from Auden can bring me to my knees in awe.  “Lay your sleeping head, my love,/Human on my faithless arm…”  Another: I spent a night last week with Craig Arnold’s final collection, entranced by the spell of his woven words.  “But the heart loves the sound of its own breaking/It circles itself in a knot of ice and glass and steel/a kaleidoscope that she never tires of turning over…”

I could list thousands of lines that slice me to the core in the most delicious of ways.  That’s why I mostly write about poetry – to pass on the pleasure.  But, this Sunday, with the help of the magical and marvelous mojo master Mark Morford, I’ve decided to work on unlocking my own poems, as he guides us back and forth from our mats to our notebooks.  Each of my vinyasa-loosened jottings will be offered as a love letter to the poets who have brought me immeasurable joy through the grace of their touch.  I will dedicate my practice and what ever arises from it to them with appreciation, rather than self-judgment.

For so much of yoga is about finding one’s own unique expression in a common and repeated pose. Form — whether the asanas of yoga or the meter and rhyme of verse – is a container that allows us to open up.  Oh, blessed paradox.  Our fullest selves coaxed from a crucible of constraint.  We need those challenges, however, to teach us what we’re capable of, to show us what we have to give, and to remind us that we stand on the shoulders of giants…and that they too were human, they too walked the path, stumbled, suffered, and still kept reaching towards us. Reach back, feel them move in you, let them move through you.

Listen for and hear Rainer Maria Rilke:

Beyond your own life build the great arch of unimagined bridges… only in bright and purely granted achievement can we realize the wonder… Take your practiced powers and stretch them out…


Gotham Chopra: Decoding Deepak — The Journey

Last week, someone approached my dad at one of his speaking events and said to him, “I heard your son made a movie about you.”

He told me he smiled back at the person and replied: “Actually, he made a movie about himself.”

As much as I hate to admit it, he may be onto something.

It was about a year and half ago that I set out to Bangkok with a my dad, a creative partner named Mark Rinehart that I’d only met about 10 days earlier, some cameras and tape, and the vague notion of making a movie about my father that would reconcile the strange pop cultural icon he’s become to the world vs. the real man I thought I knew. A few days later, while spending the days interviewing my dad in quiet gardens at the 5-star Peninsula Hotel and then the nights with Mark rolling film on the neon blitzed sex market of central Bangkok, I realized I was trying to reconcile something much bigger.

As is the habit the has made my dad a bestselling author, he could wrap lyrical poetry around the frames of the film we’d started shooting, and yet the substance of those frames was often all too visceral — teenagers selling themselves in dank alleyways, Japanese tourists chasing young boys deep into maze of Bangkok’s endless underground. As has often been the case in my life, I struggled to balance the deep philosophical insight of my father with all too often horrible realities of real life on planet earth. Maybe that’s what the film really need to be about.

That’s the thing about documentaries: You start with one thesis and quickly find yourself tracking something entirely different. Don’t get me wrong — my film ‘Decoding Deepak’ is very much a journey into the identify of my father Deepak Chopra, the guy my sister and I have called ‘papa’ all of our life, even while people like Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian started to call him their guru in the last few years.

After those triply days in Thailand, I tracked my dad around the world several times over. Thailand, Japan, India, not to mention places like NYC, Sedona, San Diego, Los Angeles and elsewhere. But even as the scenery continued to change from city to city, country to country, I saw that my dad hadn’t. Wherever we went, he kept on talking about whatever it is he talks about: consciousness, quantum entanglement, plank scale geometry. In and of itself it was sort of interesting, the inside of a rabbit always is, right? And yet the same nagging doubt crept into me — that my movie had to be about something more than the existential Truman Show I’ve always suspected I’ve lived in.  This movie couldn’t just be about my dad, it had to be about my finding him… which, indeed, really would make it about me.

There’s precedent for this, a history of Indian gurus popularized in the west — Ramana Maharishi, Swami Vivekananda, and more recently Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Osho, and these days a guy who goes by the name Sri Sri. By and large they’ve’ll have the same look – the saffron robes, long hair, and cheery smiles. It’s probably why I could never really think of my dad as one of them. That and… I mean, he’s my dad.

But traveling the world with him the last year, I started to realize that maybe my dad was indeed one of them, maybe he was some Indian Guru as strange as that may be. He just didn’t have the robe and long hair. He has sparkly glasses, red sneakers, and a crew cut. Be not alarmed, I’m not trying to tell you that I’m now a follower of my father or convinced he’s some prophet. Far from it. But you’ll have to watch the movie to glean my final verdict on that front.

But in looking more closely at my father, I was reminded of something Osho once said. Like my father and many of his Indian spiritual predecessors, Osho had his detractors, people who called him a “snake oil salesmen,” “fraud,” and “prophet for profit.” Osho shrugged it off. He claimed to think of those that loved and hated him with the same relative detachment. “They see in me,” he said, “what they want to see. They see in me that which they either love or hate in themselves.”

Indeed, that right there is very much he story of the spiritual guru. I think (hope) it’s the story of my father and my movie too. In my search for him, I did in fact start to search for myself. I stopped looking to him for answers about the atrocities of Bangkok and looked deeper into myself for them. I stopped wondering about what Lady Gaga saw in him, and started to find what I did.

And now I’ve realized something else about my movie. When it’s all said in done, when the final credits roll on the film, I hope I’ll actually prove my dad wrong. Because I don’t want this movie to be about him. Or me. I want it to be about you. See in it what you want to see in it, what you want see in yourself.

‘Decoding Deepak’ premieres at the South by Southwest Film Festival March 11th.

Intent Video of the Day: How Social Media is Changing the World

“What could be more in alignment with the yogic principles than Facebook and Twitter?”

Joshua Plant, a blogger and  self-proclaimed social media junkie, created this ‘enlightening’ little video about the power of social media for a video campaign leading up to the upcoming SXSW Conference in Austin, TX. According to Plant, “We grow as people and as a society through collective musings shared and shared again… This is where we get off the mat and onto the keyboard. This is our digital revolution.”

In just a couple weeks, the ladies of the Where is My Guru Show will be presenting Radio Free Yoga: Self-Realize x Social Enterprise at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas. To contribute to their video campaign, check out their call to action and post your thoughts about how social media effects your life on their Facebook page.

Everyday we spotlight one remarkable video to inspire you to fulfill your intentions and improve your life. Do you have a video you’d like to suggest? Send it to us at editor [at]

Proper Nutrition to Keep Your Workout Rocking

By Tamal Dodge

We all want our workouts to have a result. It could be on a subtle level of getting peace of mind or a physical quest of losing body fat and gaining toned muscles. Regardless, nutrition plays a huge role in every facet of our goal. If we have the right foods and nutrients in our bodies, we will not only see results, but have more energy to keep our workouts rocking!

A few tips:

1. Fresh air. Oxygen is the most important nutrient for the human body. If you exercise outdoors, you will have an extra boost for your cells and attain deeper mental clarity. If you live somewhere cold and working out outdoors is not realistic, try to go outside for at least 5-10 minutes daily just to breathe deep. It will enhance your day incredibly.

2. Water. Drink lots of water — at least half of your body weight in ounces.  (If you weigh 100 pounds, drink 50 ounces of water every day.) Some people have a misconception that drinking too much water results in bloating and looking heavy. If you don’t drink water, you retain more of it, which really manifests your fear. Proper hydration helps you look leaner and boosts your energy.

3. First meal. The word breakfast come from the saying “breaking a fast.” Since it’s the first meal since the previous night’s dinner, you want to eat something highly nutritious and sustaining without being heavy. We often make the mistake of eating a huge meal first thing, draining our energy and slowing us down. I suggest drinking a smoothie or eating fruit, especially if plan on working out immediately after.

4. Eat plant-based foods instead of an omnivorous diet. The more you switch your food choices to plant-based foods the more energy, enzymes, nutrients and vitality you will have. Get your protein and carbohydrates from whole grains, beans, legumes,nuts and seeds. Try eating raw fruits and vegetables throughout your day, or with every meal to get your vitamins, phytochemicals and enzymes. This dietary shift can potentially change your entire body and give you longevity, according to studies such as the China Study and Blue Zones.

These are just a few tips to keep your workouts rocking and to see results from all your efforts.

Tamal Dodge is one of the youngest and most respected yoga instructors in the world. He was born and raised in his families yoga ashram in Hawaii and has been teaching and practicing yoga since childhood. Tamal will be teaching two classes at the Tadasana Festival in Santa Monica over Earth Day weekend: Intro to Inversion and In the Land of Power and Flow. By using his promo code, tamal7, you save $50 off a three-day festival pass until April 1. Purchase tickets here.

Photo by flickr user Tom Mooring.

The Importance Of The People Around You

sky dive

One of the hardest things that people in recovery from an addiction have to deal with is their relationships with the people in their world. While dependency and co-dependency often go hand in hand, there are also more peripheral relationships that can be toxic to a person in recovery. These toxic people are so negative, so dark and so destructive that they have to be removed from your life to allow helpful, positive and supportive people to come in.

Toxic people are all around us in the world. In my book, “The Law of Sobriety”, I talk about the effects of these individuals. Often they are very subversive and covert in their negativity, which can be even more difficult to understand. It may be hard to explain and see the havoc they are causing at first glance. Key signs of a toxic person to your recovery include:

  • A person that always sees that the glass is half empty and never sees the glass as half full.
  • The person that always just wants to “reality check” if something is a good decision, particularly if it is something that would take you in a direction away from them. The reality check always results in you deciding not to do that specific thing.
  • A person that always makes you feel unsettled, unhappy or dissatisfied with your life or some aspect of your life whenever you are around them.

These people often have a very strong influence on a person in recovery. They can tear down all the hard work that the addict and the therapist do, but it is always done under the guise of trying to be a friend. Friends don’t discourage, friends encourage. Friends don’t focus on the negative, they encourage you to stay positive and move forward in your life.

Getting a toxic person out of your life is often a difficult issue to deal with. However, once you have that negativity out of your environment you will find that positive people come in to fill that gap, inspiring you to keep moving forward and seeking new opportunities as you move down the road of recovery.

Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Please download your  free E books at   Contact Sherry at for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements. Listen to Sherry on “A Moment of Change with Sherry Gaba”on CBS Radio

Creative Commons License photo credit: Bilal Kamoon


A Blessing of Embracing God’s Will

Lord God, again we ask that You come into our consciousness so that we are open to receive You in full. And we know that means we must give up our limitations and be willing to increase our capacity.

John Morton, D.S.S.

We also acknowledge You are the one. You are in all things, all situations. And when we are being true to our consciousness and our awareness, and experiencing the truth in our experience, we find love, unconditional love in every way. And we find that time becomes eternity and forever. There are no bounds.

And whatever the conditions there are, they represent a temporary state in which You teach us, in which You bring about the experience that we need so that You are always about this divine process that keeps us learning and growing and brings us into the realization that You and I, that we are one.

We celebrate this oneness, that we are a family. So we live together. We work together. We strive together to bring about what is better. We have the wit to ask for Your will being done and to realize it is already done. It is for us to embrace.

We also recognize we are co-creators, and that You are raising us up into our full strength, our full ability, our full knowledge, so that we can be eye to eye with You no matter how we see that or perceive it in the levels of Your creation.

We give thanks. We allow for the healing which is the redemption, the restoration and the renewal. We claim what is the transcendent, the one who overcomes, who triumphs who uses all for upliftment, to come into the state in which the beloved reigns as You.

Baruch Bashan
The Blessings Already Are

View John offering this blessing at and scroll to the “Letting Go, Letting God” webcast from August 2006.

Learn more about John Morton at  Contact John at

Four winning ways to overcome mental illness

Mental Patients Against Stigma Mental health problems have run in my family for years. I spent my childhood with a mother who was in and out of mental facilities in the 1940s and 1950s, and bless her heart, she did as well as she could in those days. In the United States we are finally coming into a time when many understand that a person with mental health issues is not some spooky kind of person, but is a person who needs medical treatment, just like people with physical health issues.  We have treatments that are far advanced to what was available when my mother was struggling.

However, if you or a loved one are suffering from a mental health issues such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder, it is still a struggle even with the best medical help.  Having been around so many people in my family with mental health issues, I have come to see that the people who are proactive and have the will to fight for a happy life do indeed find joy.  Those who give up are not very happy.  Here are four things that I have observed people do to create a good life despite their mental illness.

  1. Be Proactive: The winner is proactive about getting treatment. Knowing that it takes time to diagnose and find the right medication to treat a mental health issue, the winner is patient and keeps going back to the doctor until he or she feels better.  Those who have clinical depression and their loved ones are well aware that a psychiatrist may have to experiment with several medications before finding the one that works for a particular patient.  The winner does not give up during this difficult time. He or she watches funny movies to lighten this difficult period of time.
  2. Eat healthy: The winner is aware that eating a healthy diet is more important than ever now, and stays away from a lot of caffeine or alcohol.  The winner instinctively knows that feeling good physically is crucial now.  This IS the time to learn to cook new healthy food. This IS the time to spend an afternoon investigating a new market that sells freshly grown local food.  These activities bring a sense of well-being to the winner.
  3. Exercise: The winner exercises regularly, unless there is some physical reason not to do so. And even if the winner does have some physical challenges, he or she asks the doctor to recommend exercise that is appropriate.  The winner understands that exercise releases stress from both the body and mind, and exercise can help a great deal.
  4. Spiritual Practice:  The winner has a spiritual program to turn to, be it a church, temple, twelve step program or support group.   The winner does not drown in self-pity but finds a way to have gratitude for all that is good in life.  While fighting a mental health problem it becomes more important than ever to have faith that life will get better and that there is a Higher Power, God or Divine Consciousness there to help.

Of course there are some who grapple with such severe mental health issues that it becomes impossible to even engage in these behaviors. Our hearts go out to them.  But a greater percentage of those with mental health problems ARE well enough to be winners, if only they stay motivated and do not give up. I have seen many of them succeed.  Should I ever have a mental illness, they will give me hope. I am so proud of those I love who have mental health issues and are winners.


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