All posts by Mallika Chopra

About Mallika Chopra

Mallika is Tara and Leela's mom. She's written two books inspired by them - 100 Promises to My Baby and 100 Questions from Her Child. She started Intent to realize her personal intention to connect with others by sharing and listening to each others stories.

Name It to Tame It

A Powerful Tip I read about in “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain” by Dr. Dan Siegel

I was dropping off my 12 year old daughter to her 7th Grade retreat, and I could see that she was nervous. It was a 2-night trip with new classmates from her new school. She is not one who is keen on retreats – in fact, she generally doesn’t like sleep-overs and has never wanted to go to a sleep away camp. At the same time, she was excited with the discovery of independence at Middle School, and knew that the retreat was a great opportunity to make new friends.

I reminded her that when she is feeling anxious, the first step is to breathe. Pause. Take deep breaths. One. Two. Three. Let the air coming in help push the anxiety out. She didn’t smile exactly as I spoke, but I could see her slowing down with deeper breathes as she listened.

I added a new twist to the exercise – something I had just read about in Dr. Dan Siegel’s book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.

“In the brain, naming an emotion can help calm it… Name it to Tame It.”

He explains:

“For all of us, as teenagers or adults, when intense emotions erupt in our minds, we need to learn to feel them and deal with them… Learning to deal with emotions means being aware of them and modifying them inside so that we can think clearly. Sometimes we can name it to tame it and help balance our brains emotional intensity by putting words to what we feel… There are even some brain studies that show how this naming process can activate the prefrontal cortex and calm the limbic amygdala!”

As Tara was away on her retreat, I found myself practicing the Name It To Tame It technique, and the effects were dramatic. When feeling stressed or upset, I would pause, breathe, recognize the sensations in my body, name the emotion (frustration, anger, anxiety), and continue.  In fact, in a particularly frustrating work situation, I named my feelings through my negotiations, and felt I was much more calm, clear headed and non-emotional.

Tara returned from her trip with a big smile and lots of stories about their adventures. She noted that there were moments when she felt alone and anxious, but she reassured me she took deep breaths, recognized her feelings, and proceeded.

Dr. Dan Siegel is a prolific author and presently a clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine. Learn more about him at his website or purchase your own copy of Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain and let us know what you think!

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Back To School Intents

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Last week, after dropping Leela off to her first day of 4
th grade at school, I came home and a wave of exhaustion, relaxation, elation and depression all hit at once. My 7th grader, Tara, started a new Middle School two weeks earlier.

Back to school bliss or back to school blues?! I couldn’t decide. 

We had had an adventurous summer, with lots of friends and family visiting us. But we also truly relaxed, enjoying days with no schedules. My summer intent for my kids was to let them get bored – rather than sign up for camps, we did a few classes and they spent the days at home figuring out what to do. They read, they watched television, played video games, painted, wrote, and hung out. I let their minds wander, aimlessly, happily, with no agenda.

Yet, within hours of them back in school, I was on my calendar, scheduling after school activities, logistics of two different drop offs and pickups, work commitments. I found myself mentally scheduling time to relax with our new Fall schedule! Why does it seem inevitable that our modern life gets us busy again? I find that despite trying not to get my kids too busy, the homework/music lessons/sports/friends life balance already seems an untenable goal.

As I begin the Fall, I decided to set some Back To School intents for me and my kids.

So here goes:

My intent is to meditate regularly.
This is top priority for me. And if I can commit to it, and show my girls through my example its value, I believe they will want to do it as well. I love meditating with my girls. We sit together in our favorite spots in the living room, we cuddle a bit, talk about the day, close our eyes, meditate, and then set intents for the week or day.

My intent is to make sleep a priority in our life.
My girls are growing, and need their sleep. For the last few months, we have been able to sleep without waking up with an alarm clock. I know the health and emotional benefits of good sleep, and don’t want to compromise on this for our family. We have an early morning schedule now, so if it means compromising some activities, that’s ok. Sleep is more important.

My intent is to focus on nourishing foods.
I just completed a two week cleanse, and for the first time since I can remember am feeling good without my cookies, ice cream, brownies, and heavy carb-filled pastas, pizza’s etc.

Also, while writing my book, Living With Intent, I was more mindful of my eating habits and why I was choosing the foods I consume. I realized that I am passing on my own eating habits to my kids. Once again, if I can guide them through my own example and through the changes in our meals at home, I hope I can teach them better habits.

My intent is to be flexible.
If we need to adjust schedules, skip a dance class, drop tennis, forgo doing extra math homework, I need to let go and know that it’s ok. Together we can figure out schedules and think about “time management”, but at the end of the day our journey is about love and service. I do believe flexibility is one of the keys to finding joy, and want to embrace that idea fully this school year.

My intent is to cherish the love of learning.
My kids are learning so many incredible things in school this year. I want to celebrate the love of learning, and engage in conversations with them about new ideas and discoveries.

My intent is to express gratitude every day.
Early mornings, new schedules, lots of homework – its easy to fall into the back to school blue mode. Instead I want to focus on gratitude, and incorporate it into our daily conversation. I want us to share at least one thing daily that we are grateful for.

 I’d love to hear your intents for the Fall here in the comment section. 

Please do share them on www.intent.com as well, so we can keep the dialogue going!

The Inspiration of Arianna Huffington and “Thrive”

Arianna HuffingtonArianna Huffington is at the top of my list of women who intrigue me and whom I truly admire. Having met and heard her speak many times, I am always impressed by how articulate and smart she is. (Her relationship with my father, Deepak Chopra, dates back decades to when my dad saw her mother as a patient. Both Arianna and her sister, Agape, have become family friends who we see at various events.)

HuffingtonPost was the inspiration behind the original Intentblog – I loved the idea of bringing together real voices on a platform to explore and share big ideas. I truly cheered watching HuffingtonPost become such an incredible success story, because it was entrepreneurial, original, and a venture launched by a woman! Her name on lists like Time’s 100 Most Influential People and her face on the cover of magazines was so well deserved. And every time I met Arianna at book parties she hosted or at conferences where she spoke, I found her to be authentically interested in sharing ideas and expanding the global conversation.

But in her book, Thrive, Arianna admits that while many of us who have observed her years saw the success, she was suffering in other ways. Lack of sleep, exhaustion stress from 18 hour days, seven days a week, led her to actually fall one day and break her cheekbone and get a nasty gash on her eye. And, she was forced to ask herself questions like, “Was this what success looked like? Was this the life I wanted?”

In her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom and Wonder, Arianna explores what it means to lead a good life. She explains how we need to go beyond defining success merely in terms of money and power – that the third metric consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

When I read Arianna’s book, I had many a-ha moments. In fact some of the themes like meditation, noticing coincidences, and trusting your intuition are action steps I am writing about in my upcoming book. I loved her stories about her family, as well as tapping into her heritage and the lessons learned from Greek mythology and great philosophers of our time. There is a lot of research in the book, as well as resources on how to meditate, as well as a great list of apps to help you work more efficiently and without distractions!

One big take away for me was the importance of sleep, and how as a culture, we boast about our lack of sleep when on every measure for success, good sleep seems to be a critical factor. Since hearing about the importance of sleep in Arianna’s talks and the book, I have become very strict as a mom of making sure my girls get enough sleep every night. She references a study in Science that calculates that an extra hour of sleep can do more for daily happiness that a $60,000 raise. I have also followed her tips on de-connecting from the electronic devices. Who knew it would be so hard to go to sleep without my Iphone next to me!?

What I love about the book though is that Arianna goes beyond wellbeing, and includes cherishing wisdom, celebrating wonder, and giving as the other pillars for a life well lived. She writes in the epilogue, “I wanted to share my own personal journey, how I learned the hard way to step back from being so caught up in my busy life that life’s mystery would pass me by. But it was also important to me to make it clear that this was not just one woman’s journey. There’s a collective longing to stop living in the shallows, to stop hurting our health and our relationships by striving so relentlessly after success as the world defines it – and instead tap in to the riches, joy, and amazing possibilities that our lives embody.”

Arianna’s call to live with intent and joy is inspiring, and one I hope many people, of all generations, will embrace so we strive to live fuller, more meaningful lives.

The Power of Breath in Meditation and Fitness

BreatheInBreatheOutPayAttentionI was nine years old when my father, Deepak Chopra, taught me to meditate. Meditation has become an invaluable tool in my life to help  me stay calm, centered, and focused since then.

A vital part of meditation is breath. It is also an important aspect of yoga in wisdom traditions.  We know through sciences that breath is a critical component of the cardiovascular system, supports our digestive and lymphatic systems and is a reflection of our nervous system.

I use breath constantly as a tool to calm down when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. And my daughters have also been taught to meditate to help them deal with stress at school. Your breathing is an expression of the activity of the mind. When we are settled, our breath slows down. When we are excited or anxious our breath gets faster.

There are a few simple breathing techniques you can try to help you stay calm and focused in a nerve-wracking moment. I go through a few of them in these guided meditations from The Chopra Well.

With conscious, intentional breath, we can slow down our automatic responses to situations and be more present in what we may be doing. I use these meditations to help me get through the day, but there are many times when your breathing can help you be more effective in your activities – specifically when working out.

Ann Bruck, a trainer with Sports Club/LA explains that there are two different types of breathing when you are doing physical activity. There’s stimulating breath which aims to increase energy and alertness. You breathe in and out rapidly through your nose with your mouth closed for 15 seconds at a time. The other type is relaxed breath, where you inhale for a count of 1 and exhale for a count of 1. Then inhale for a count of 2 and exhale the same, until you reach a cycle of five. This will help calm your nervous system and bring your body back to balance.

What kind of breathing techniques do you use when you are working out? Do you have any meditations or  exercises you use during the day to help you stay focused? I’d love if you shared in the comments below!

photo by: tokyosucks

Exercise for Joy, Energy, and Happiness

woman-and-scale-shutterstock1Every year I set the same resolutions – lose 15 pounds, cut out refined sugar, meditate daily, exercise 5 times a week – resolutions that seem like nostalgic wishes by mid February. This year I set the intent I am living with the intent to feel energetic, creative, joyful, centered and inspired

And, while I am making a commitment to work out more often and eat more mindfully, I am committing to physical activities that make me feel connected spiritually and full emotionally rather than torturing myself just to shed pounds.

I am discovering a love of yoga (believe it or not, I am not a yogi – read about it here!) through a group class I am doing with other mom friends.  Historically, yoga has been a struggle for me as I have felt like I am “bad” at it.  But this year I am approaching it differently – inspired, as I often am, by the guiding philosophy of my good friend Tara Stiles.

Tara and I recently hosted a SCLA event in San Francisco and as I watched Tara twist and turn in amazing ways to hip hop music during our event, I noticed the intention to find joy, creativity, and challenge by those in her class. Tara’s approach to yoga made it fun, rich and fulfilling for all those in the class, even if they couldn’t keep up with her!

In an interview I did with Tara last year, she talked about the joy she discovered in yoga:  “(As a dancer), everything has to be perfect or you’re not completing the movement. That’s what was so exciting about yoga. You’re going to your own limit and finding the ease in that moment.  From a mental, spiritual and emotional aspect it was definitely key. I was like, ‘I have to do this forever!’”

What I am enjoying about my own weekly yoga class is that I can do it at my own pace.  And its social!  I have as much fun chatting with the other mom friends as I do stretching and breathing. We’ve always been big supporters of yoga here on Intent and encourage all of you to give it a try if you’re looking for a practice that not only works you out but also helps you connect to your body through your mind and spirit.

I’ve also been on a few hikes on the lovely trails here in Santa Monica where I live, not checking my phone for emails, and walking in silence noticing the beauty of nature. 

And, this weekend I plan to start running on the beach again – one of the most emotionally healing things I have done in the past. For my 40th birthday, I ran a half marathon and found a love for running because of how it made me feel emotionally. Working out with an activity that makes you feel happy and better about yourself is much healthier than doing something you hate because it’ll trim fat.

Hopefully my strategy of living with intent this year will help me realize some of the changes I am seeking in my life more effortlessly and with lasting impact.  And more importantly, because I am having fun, feeling connected and inspired, I am anticipating my physical time, rather than feeling burdened by it. This will keep me motivated to stay on the path to healthier living!

Like Mallika’s blog? Support these similar intents on Intent.com!

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From Mallika Chopra: What Makes a Good Intent?

meditationThis afternoon as my husband, two daughters and I wandered the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, we reflected on 2013 and shared our hopes and dreams for 2014.  (We are in Hanoi on an incredible family vacation to meet family who is living here.)

2014 is a big year for my family.  Leela, my youngest daughter, will be turning 10 years old.  Tara will be entering middle school, an experience that will broaden her world and intellect.  My husband has some big milestones that are years in the making, which will manifest in 2014.  And I will be writing my book, Living with Intent!

However, we decided not to focus on what we wanted to do (our goals), but to reflect on how we wanted to feel, what we wanted to create and achieve, and how we wanted to serve (our intents).

There are several steps I use when thinking about how to set intents.  (I will be writing about these extensively in my book, of course!)

Our intents come from a place deep inside of us – they are the kernels of who we aspire to be, what we want to feel connected, and how we feel purposeful in our lives.  To set intents, we need to know ourselves.

So the first step for setting my own intents is meditation, reflection, and silence.  For now, I am calling this step Incubation.  (Please let me know if you have a better word that starts with I – I am trying to create a step-by-step guide based on the letters I-N-T-E-N-T.  I’m not thrilled with incubation although the word expresses my idea.)

Incubation is tapping into the silence between our thoughts and getting in touch with our soul.  It is about transcending our minds chatter, and feeling at peace with our selves – letting go of our insecurities, anticipations, fears. And in this process, we begin to naturally sense the seeds of desire that bubble up from that place of silence and peace.  We know what will make us feel happy, connected, and purposeful.  Sometimes, we may not be ready to express it in words so it is important to give ourselves the time to incubate these deep desires.

With time, we are able to articulate our intents to ourselves and those around us.  I am a believer in creating networks of support to share ones intents.  The support and accountability one gets from others make the journey of realizing our intents meaningful and fun.  And thus why I hope you will all share your intents and your journey with us  for 2014!

Here are some of my intents for 2014:

  • My intent is to connect deeply with those I love – being a source of support, laughter, and inspiration to their every day life.
  • My intent is to feel energetic and vibrant physically and emotionally every day – and in turn, set some goals for diet, exercise, and regular meditation.
  • My intent is to write my book with joy and inspiration, staying true to my desire to share the power of intention to transform ones life.
  • My intent is to grow Intent.com, nurturing a community I feel honored to be a part of.

I look forward to reading all of your intents, and more importantly to read your updates and comments supporting each other as the weeks and months continue. 

Happy New Year!!  2014 promises to be fantastic!!

photo by: tokyosucks

Set Intents Not Resolutions For 2014

Elevator2Every December, like millions of others, I set new years resolutions.

Lose 15 pounds.  Keep in touch with friends.  Exercise 5 times a week.  Start yoga. Write a book.

Jan 2nd or 3rd I usually make it to a yoga class, cramming the studio with the other newbies who have made a similar commitments.  I visit the gym, having to wait for the elliptical machine, in our normally not so crowded gym.  I shop at the local farmers market, inspired by the freshness of the fruits and vegetables and think how could I shop anywhere else?  I call a friend, feeling so happy to reconnect.  I commit to writing and am excited by the possibilities!

But, by week 3, perhaps by early February, my gym visits are down to 2, my excuses for missing the yoga class seem totally justified, and I realize the book project may just have to wait a few more months.  Alas, new years resolutions end up making me feel a bit more guilty about all the things I didn’t do, but wanted to, by mid February.

This is why I believe people should make intents, not resolutions.  I do believe there is a difference between intents and goals/resolutions.

Intents come from our soul – they are who and what we aspire for in our life.  Intentions reflect ones purpose, what gives us meaning or significance.  Intentions come from a place of mindfulness, of knowing what will give us happiness and peace.

So, an intent may be to lead a healthier, more energetic life.  To do that, we may set goals to exercise or eat better.  The intent may be to feel more connected, and one way to do that may be to reconnect with friends.  While it may be a technicality, I think when we thing about our intents, instead of just the goals, we will be more conscious and committed to taking action.

And to achieve our intentions, we need to set up an ecosystem to achieve them – giving ourselves time to be thoughtful and know what we want, creating networks of support from others, recognizing that we need to forgive ourselves for faltering, and taking deliberate action.  When we set an intent, we naturally pay attention to the situations, people and circumstances that help realize them.  In my own life, I have seen that sometimes the way I realize my intent manifests in a way that I never could have imagined.

So, for 2014 (and beyond), I’d like to invite you to set your intents now!  Spend the next week thinking about what you want in your life – what will make you feel emotionally, physically, spiritually connected next year.  Share your intents on www.intent.com and lets support one another.

I’d also like to shout out to Sports Club/LA who has been supporting this idea of intent!  As a sports club, I love the fact that they are sending this message of deeper fulfillment to their members.  Check out the photos featuring Intention on their elevator doors and they have inspiring quotes on intention inside.  Truly an honor to work with a group that is leading the way!

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A Moment With Nelson Mandela, Rest in Peace

Screen shot 2013-12-06 at 8.04.33 AMIn 1999, I had the honor to meet Nelson Mandela.  He was attending a state banquet (in South Africa) and a friend scuttled me in for a quick meet and greet.  I was completely in awe, of course, and don’t think I said anything other than put my hands together in respect when we met.

When I heard the news of his passing yesterday, I relived that moment once again.  And while meeting someone as historical and mythical as he was is undoubtedly a moment in my life I will never forget, so was a poignant  visit to Robben Island, the remote prison that held Nelson Mandela for twenty-six years.

I was in South Africa with my classmates from Kellogg Business School – our intent was to learn more about the country, its people, traditions, and, of course, current and future business opportunities.  We were fortunate to be taken to Robben Island by Ahmed Kathrada, a freedom fighter who was sentenced for treason on the same day as President Mandela.  Mr. Kathrada, who at that time of our visit was a gentleman in his late seventies, was 36 years old when he went to prison, the youngest member convicted in the famous Rivonia trial, and the only person of South Asian descent from the group.

Our tour of the prison was somewhat surreal as Kathrada told us firsthand stories about almost three decades in prison, and the shaping of a revolution.  We had all read A Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s prison memoir, which to this day is one of the most powerful books I have ever read.  It was truly remarkable to stroll the grounds of the prison as Mr. Kathrada showed us how they would use scraps of rice paper to write notes for the book in tiny handwriting, and bury the paper in marked holes in rocks, before sneaking them out with release prisoners.  He showed us the cells they shared, and laughed at the habits each of them came to know of their fellow prisoners.

On that sunny day, it was difficult for me to feel the scope of the sacrifice these men made at Robben Island, until Mr. Kathrada talked emotionally about how they missed being around children while in prison.  Can you imagine a world without the cries or playful laughter of children?  He described the wonderful sensation of holding a child after 23 years of being deprived of seeing or hearing them.

The most dramatic moments in our time together came as Mr. Kathrada spoke with conviction and passion about the cause for which he had fought. I got chills down my spine as he talked about the camaraderie between strangers who had united for a cause for which they were willing to sacrifice their entire lives or even to die.  Mr. Kathrada described the evening when his guards announced that they had been released.

“They came and said, “We have received a fax that you are to be released tomorrow.”  Our first question was, “What is a fax? We had only seen a television for the first time in 1986.”

What followed their release was historic and bold and hard.  In one of the quotes being shared today, Mandela says:

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

Some of the most powerful words and scenes in the book, A Long Walk To Freedom, were the ones where Mandela talks about forgiveness.  The NY Times has a beautiful piece written by John Dramani Mahama, the President of Ghana, about how Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness shaped Africa.

As I read quotes and recaps of Nelson Mandela, I decided to see if Ahmed Kathrada had written something today and was moved to find his emotional words posted on  a South African portal.  Mr. Kathrada writes:

Your smile, which lingers still, was always from the heart, never forced, and the great joy you took in the world around you, especially in children, was unmistakeable…

I had the enviable privilege of being alive and walking the earth with you through the bad times and the good. It has been a long walk, with many challenges that at times seemed insurmountable. And yet we never faltered, and the strength of leaders like you and Walter always shone a light on the path and kept our destination and our people’s future in view.

I feel bereft and lonely. To whom do I turn for solace, comfort, and advice?

Farewell my elder brother, my mentor, my leader.

You can read the full text here.

Yesterday the world lost a hero and a true leader. While we mourn the loss of such a great man, we will strive to keep his memory and spirit alive in all the days to come. Thank you Nelson Mandela, may you rest in peace.

(Photos: NelsonMandela.org)

UNICEF’s I Believe in Zero to Save Children from Preventable Disease

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 8.50.25 AMMy Conversation with Caryl Stern, President US Fund for UNICEF When I was in college, I wrote my senior thesis on the Convention of the Rights of the Child.  I no longer know where that document is or even remember the details of that in-depth study that consumed my last year of college.  What has stayed with me forever, however, is the belief that children have the right to live, to be protected from abuse and exploitation, and deserve basic human rights.  I was also always inspired by the work of UNICEF, and for my first book, 100 Promises To My Baby, I donated 10% of my proceeds to their programs for children affected by HIV and AIDS. Thus, when I had the opportunity to hear Caryl Stern speak about her new book, I Believe In Zero, I was already convinced of her intent that no child should die from preventable causes.

Currently 18,000 children die every day of preventable causes – from things like unsafe drinking water, malnutrition, and lack of access to immunizations.  This is truly unacceptable, and we, as a global citizens, should not think it is ok. I have met many people doing incredible work for others, but Caryl Stern truly impacted me in a way few others have.  In fact, I was so moved by her book that I decided to buy several dozen books to gift to my daughter’s classmates.

In the book, Caryl shares through her own personal stories the plight of children around the world, as well as potential solutions to many of these problems.  The book is hopeful, inspirational, and yet very real, at the same time. I reached out to UNICEF to see if I could interview Caryl for my book, Living With Intent, as she is someone who embodies passion and purpose in a unique way.  I was honored to have a one-on-one conversation with her about 10 days ago in NYC to talk about her book, her family, her work and her intentions.

The US Fund for UNICEF is in a non-descript office building near Wall Street in NYC.  I was escorted up to a waiting room where, while waiting to be called into her office, I watched a staff meeting in a conference room enclosed by glass walls.  The staff at UNICEF seemed multi-cultural, relatively young, and animated from the peek I had into their meetings.  After a short wait, I headed to Caryl’s office and was welcomed by her friendly staff. In the first few minutes of meeting Caryl, I knew this woman is a both a force of energy and passion, but also incredibly warm and welcoming.   Her desk was full of papers and books, not messy or particularly neat, with photos on the shelves, including those of her two sons.  A packed suitcase stood on the floor by her desk, an obvious reminder that she is a woman who lives on the road (something she talks a lot about in the book – balancing her need to travel with being a mom.)

In listening to my recorded interview with her, I realize I was really nervous, chatting for about 10 minutes about my intent before even letting to her speak!  Once she spoke, I was put at ease by her friendliness, and became totally relaxed. Caryl begins her narrative sharing two powerful personal family stories.  In 1939, her mother and uncle boarded a ship as children to escape from Austria during the Nazi invasion.  An unknown woman, whose name they will never know, made sure they boarded that ship safely to escape the horror that could have killed them.   Through her mother’s story, Caryl knows the power that even one person has to save another’s life. That same year, her grandfather boarded the SS St. Louis on a journey that became known as the Voyage of the Damned because Cuban and US authorities denied entrance to the passengers (mostly Jews) saying that they had fraudulent paperwork.

The ship was sent back to Europe, and most on board perished from Nazi persecution.  Her grandfather, one of the few survivors of that journey, taught her “what happens when the world turns its back, ignores the facts, and allows innocent people to die.” In I Believe In Zero, Caryl shares her travels to witness the plight of children around the world, and the work that UNICEF is doing to alleviate their suffering.  From the rainforests of Brazil to Mozambique, Darfur, Bangladesh, and post earthquake Haiti (just to name a few), she shares intimate moments, putting names and faces to the mothers and children whose lives seem so unjustly marred by war, famine, ecological devastation and disease.  But the power of her stories are in the details and emotions she has witnessed – from holding the hand of a woman whose child is dying of tetanus (a preventable disease) in Sierra Leone to sharing an apple with a woman in the desert during the food shortage in Kenya, just 48 hours after Caryl excitedly (and nervously) meets Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Its Caryl’s ability to make everything personal that I realize makes her so authentic and relatable.  During the talk I attended, a young boy asked her, “What is the most difficult part of your job?”  I expected her to answer with a story about witnessing famine, the death of an infant, or meeting children of war, but instead she replied that it was being separated from her two sons.  In the book, she shares the story of being at a refugee camp in Darfur, and getting a phone call from her son in NYC who needs help with his English homework.  Any mom can relate to this feeling.  As a mom, Caryl is constantly figuring out the balance of serving both her children and the world! During the interview, when I applaud Caryl’s belief the no child should die of preventable causes, she responds that her hope is that others will adopt this intent to make it a rallying cry of their own – that it is the ones who stand on her shoulders who will convince others that no child should die of preventable causes and do something about it.  As she speaks, I am reminded once again of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and how the mandates in that charter need constant re-affirmation, communication, and action.

I am inspired that there are people like Caryl Stern who are leading a global community of individuals who truly believe that we can help one another. I strongly recommend Caryl’s book, I Believe In Zero.  It is entertaining, hopeful, and a first step to educating oneself about issues affecting our children.  Caryl has generously donated profits of the book US Fund for UNICEF.  I also encourage you to check out www.unicef-usa.org to learn about the programs and important work that UNICEF is doing daily to help children around the world.

A Chopra in Yoga Class and the Intent to Connect

We are midway through week two of our 21 Day Yoga Challenge with Tara Stiles and Sports Club LA and I want to thank all of you that have participated.

There have been a lot of inspiring intents about creating a yoga practice, getting back into it or simply wanting to create a deeper connection. Here are a few of my favorites that I wanted to share with everyone.

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The best thing about starting Intent has been to foster a community that supports each other and pushes themselves to do better things. That’s the real purpose of these challenges – to bring everyone together and encourage each other. Click any of the intents above to support them or adopt them as your own. If you want to join us you can create your own and put it in the yoga category on Intent.com.

And you’re not alone! I’ve been using the challenge to push myself in yoga as well As a Chopra there is this expectation for me to be really good at yoga, but the truth is I’m not. I’m not at all.

One Christmas, Gotham gave me a gift certificate for yoga classes. The certificate was valid for 6 months, and I had not redeemed it. When the guy looked at the certificate, luckily, there was no date on it — so, I lied. I told him, with a sweet smile, that I received it for my birthday in July. Not a moment of Chopra guilt.

As he was putting my info in the system, he furrowed his brows and I knew the question was coming. “Any relation to Deepak?” I nodded. “Yes, he’s my father.” He replied, “Cool. We have his books here.” I looked up, and my fathers face was smiling at me from above the counter.

“Deepak Chopra is your father!!” A woman waiting in line next to me, squealed with delight. “Oh, my God! I love him. Can I touch you? I have never met anyone famous before.” The rest of the people in line peered at me. I smiled awkwardly. “I’m not famous,” I said. “People know my father…”

The woman was right in my face now. “My name is Sarah. I loved his book – 7 Practical Laws of Love.”
Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” I replied.

Sarah put her mat next to mine. She started telling me about how the Law of Least Resistance had changed her life. The yoga instructor walked in, “I just heard you are Deepak’s daughter,” she announced to the room. “Now, I feel all this pressure!” The other people turned, looking at each other, nodding knowingly. And, then it all went totally downhill. I completely unraveled. It was the moment of truth and the whole room witnessed it.

I kept slipping during Downward Dog Pose. I couldn’t balance during Tree Pose. Forget about even attempting, Sirsasana, the Headstand Pose. Every time I turned to the left, Sarah was ogling me, but also a bit confounded about what I was doing. I felt totally inadequate. I just could not perform. People pretended not to see my awkwardness. Sarah actually stopped looking over. The teacher seemed to have slowed down a bit, embarrassed. Finally, it was Mrtsana, the Corpse Pose, and, thank god, it was over!

I rushed out. I did not glance at Sarah — well, to be honest, she was not even looking at me any more. I did not want to face the teacher. I felt like everyone in the room had discovered my most intimate secret. But as I ran out, the man at the register stopped me. “Hey, Ms. Chopra, could you do us a favor and sign these books?” There was a pile of my dads books on the counter. People started drifting out of the room.

I panicked for a moment. Sarah was looking over my shoulder now. “Oh, wow. I didn’t know Deepak had written a book on yoga.” She actually sounded perplexed. I took a deep breath. I dropped my head in shame. I took another breath. And, then, something miraculous happened. With that breath, somehow, I had re-connected. Another breath. Connection. I was a Chopra. Another breath. Admit it, I suck at yoga. Another breath. That is ok.

I smiled at the man at the register. “Sorry, I really can’t sign those books. They are my father’s, not mine.” Another breath. I started to walk out.

Remember who you are.

“But, you know what,” I turned back in. “I could sign my book, if you carried it…”

Sarah looked up, and the look was coming back into her eyes. The look of hope, the look that there was still something to believe in.
I stood tall, put my hands together in Namaste, and smiled that Chopra smile at her with all of its glory!

Setting goals and intents aren’t about being perfect – it’s about trying. So I hope you try with us!

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