My parents tell a story about a debate around my birth.
They were newly married and had moved to the US for my father’s medical training. They had arrived in this country with $8, but through hard work and determination, were building a life together. They believed in the American dream.
The fact was that it was expensive to deliver me in the US, and it would be less expensive for my mother to fly back to India and have me there, surrounded by her parents and in-laws. My grandparents could then buy the ticket for her to return here with me.
In 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?
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.
With the recent government shutdown, dysfunctional Washington politics, and passionate opinions on both sides of the political aisle, I’m going to make a bold assertion: what happens in the political world will be largely irrelevant to your personal reality.
There. I said it. I know it’s almost blasphemy; we are taught that being politically involved is our civic duty. That what happens in Washington affects all of us. That this country is doomed if (fill-in-the-blank with the party you’ve decided is evil) takes control. And finally, that it is simple common sense to make sure that that the particular party that doesn’t represent our self-interest is stopped.
I don’t disagree with some of these premises. Obviously, policies on healthcare, the economy, energy, and the environment do affect our daily lives on some level. I also think in order for a democracy to work (or, rather, a Republic, which is what the United States is), we must make our individual and collective voices heard.
But with those objections preemptively addressed, I’d like you to consider whether or not a Democrat or Republican in the White House is really going to dramatically alter your daily reality. Have you ever seen a billionaire become poor because a Democrat is now in power? Sorry to break it to you, but people that are successful and know how to attract wealth on a personal level will just continue to do so. They will find creative outlets, lucrative business deals, cultivate meaningful relationships, execute on ideas, and utilize the best accountants and lawyers just as they did before. Sure, they may be taxed more or be faced with greater regulations, but their individual point of attraction and their ability to attract abundance on a spiritual / energy level is something politics won’t change.
On the flip side, do you really think someone who currently lacks abundance is going to magically be catapulted and become wealthy, productive, inspired, and motivated because of a shift in power in Washington? The truth is, only you, as an individual, are creating your own reality. You have the power within YOU to create opportunity, motivation, abundance, love, and creativity regardless of the political climate. And if those traits are blocked within the individual, a shift in political power isn’t really going to help.
Think about your own life: if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been alive in periods when both a Democrat and a Republican have been in power. Has the trajectory of your life really changed that much in either case? Have your relationships, your passions, your inspirations, and your goals been significantly altered? No Democrat or Republican politician can save you from yourself, or can shift your energy for you.
For all the angst and anger about our national politics and who wins, the truth is, it’s not really affecting your ability to create your own personal reality. You can choose to be happy, healthy, and successful through your personal choices. And it’s these choices that are the true, effective catalysts in creating the changes you seek and the life you want, not the speech that some guy in Washington gave on election night.
Dr. Kulkarni is a New York City based physician, spiritual author, and personal coach. Find her @Dr_Kulkarni or visitwww.leveragingthought.com to learn more.
A good story is the story of the hero’s quest, and a hero’s quest begins with a dream. This is why all great leaders are visionaries. They ask themselves mythical questions: Who am I? What do I want? Who are the heroes and mentors our society can learn from?
In this week’s episode of “The Rabbit Hole” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra explores the key elements of visionary leadership. History traffics in myth-making, which is based on personal charisma and uses spin to evoke an aura of destiny. But it is alarming to witness how often leaders come to power through the force of arms and money. When the strong and ruthless rise on the world stage, we find ourselves led by kings and generals, autocrats and dictators, power-hungry premiers and presidents. Leadership of this sort is flawed. Power and prestige do nothing to ensure leaders like this will actually improve the lives of those who follow them.
A truly successful leader, Deepak suggests, learns to cultivate her power as the result of being tuned in to her inner voice and guided by intuition. The inspired leader walks a path laid out by her own soul, characterized by love, creativity, and intelligence. In her core self she strives for alignment with the greater, collective society she serves. In this way, listening comes first, followed by comprehension, empathy, and, finally, action.
In the midst of chaos, certain individuals step out of the shadows in order to lead society in new directions necessary for further evolution. Only a truly great leader will find wisdom in the face of mythic-proportion challenges. And only a leader who operates from the soul level, with vision, creativity, and love, will be remembered as such.
What parenting topics are most important to you today? What should we be talking about on this show?
By far, the number one response that I got back was friends asking us to discuss how parents should deal with social media. And most of the responses expressed fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about how to control their kids.
I’m sure parents of every generation feel they are dealing with trends that are ahead of what they understand or even know about, and they are overwhelmed with uncertainty. And with each generation perhaps we feel we live in more difficult times than those before us.
Social media seems to be the big theme amongst my fellow parents. Questions like: When should they get a phone? Are they on Instagram? What about Snap Chat? What are the other apps and sites out there?
Here is what’s going on in my house:
My elder daughter, Tara, is eleven years old. She has had email for a few years but is not really into it. We set it up so that she can keep in touch with her grandparents. She can only use it to email cousins, grandparents and her close friends.
She uses a computer for most of her homework already, and is more adept at searching for information and using Dropbox to download and upload her homework assignments. She already types faster than me, does better Powerpoint presentations and makes iMovies.
She does not have a cell phone – perhaps half of her friends do have phones. She uses a “family” phone when she is at a non-school event alone (not at play dates, other peoples homes or classes). Every wish, every ask, is for a cell phone.
She is not allowed Instagram (the social media platform most of her friends are on), let alone Snap Chat – which I don’t think she even knows about yet. (Snap Chat really freaks me out.)
Her school says no students are allowed on Facebook or Twitter. I haven’t heard of any of her friends on those platforms.
So far, while we have proven to be a bit more conservative when it comes to social media, it hasn’t become a huge issue yet as I think half of her social circle has similar rules in their houses. But, I know we are months away from that all changing.
Sixth grade seems to be a turning point, with middle school the point of no return when it comes to social media. I have to admit when it comes to my kids, social media has been ensconced in a general aura of fear. It’s the unknown that promises to expose my kids to too much information, too much access, too many opportunities to interact with people I don’t want them to interact with.
But something happened last month (after we shot our social media episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”) that started to take the fear away.
My husband and I were in Munich for a conference and the girls were in Washington DC with my parents for the presidential inauguration. Tara had the “family” phone and we began to text each other throughout the day.
What unfolded was an entirely new, and absolutely amazing, form of communication with my daughter. Her texts were funny, insightful, moving. My husband and I would wait to get her messages, and smile all day long as we read them. She texted us the moment President Obama took the stage at the inauguration – we could experience and share her emotions through her limited characters and words and laugh as we saw her snap and text photos of her and Leela
smiling in the freezing cold. We felt connected, engaged, so incredibly happy that we had this amazing tool to be in touch.
I realized that like the generations before us, we as parents will ultimately figure it out with our kids. There will be bumps along the road no doubt, but hopefully and optimistically we will find ourselves more connected because of technology.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”, as well as how you deal with social media in your family. We are all very eager to learn from each other!
Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss next week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”!
What are the secrets to charisma? Is it something you are born with or can you develop it over time?
In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra outlines three key ingredients to charisma, demonstrated by the greatest leaders in history. Leadership may come more naturally to some than to others, such as Deepak’s example of Bill Clinton, but we can all learn to practice these skills over time. They are what Deepak teaches in his “Soul of Leadership” course at Kellogg School of Management, and also in his book by the same name.
The three keys to charisma:
1. Be completely present in the moment. Make those you interact with feel that they are the most important person in that moment.
2. Be responsive to feedback but immune to both criticism and flattery. You will not be offended by criticism, and your actions will not be influenced by flattery.
3. Radiate warmth through compassion, empathy, joy, and equanimity.
Who is the most charismatic leader you know? Let us know in the comments section below!
No, it’s not Obama. But it’s the next best thing — Iman Crosson! You probably know Iman as Alphacat, the YouTube sensation famous for his hilarious Obama impersonations and music videos. Iman also stars in The Chopra Well’s upcoming series, 30 DAYS OF INTENT, which launches on October 2. We interviewed Iman on his feelings surrounding the show’s launch and what he took away from the experience.
The Chopra Well: 30 Days of Intent is finally launching next week! Are you excited to share your journey with your friends and family? Nervous about anything that’s going to be shown?
Iman Crosson: I’m absolutely ecstatic! I’m very excited to share my experience with everyone. I’m probably most nervous to watch myself back in some of the therapy sessions. I was in a much different place emotionally back then and I’m an incredibly honest person with my emotions. I took the chance to take the whole experience and be honest with myself, so it should be interesting to watch.
CW: When you embarked on the 30 Days adventure, what was your driving motivation and what was your intent?
IC: My driving motivation while on 30 Days of Intent was to find a better balance within myself. I had gone through some things that just really threw me off, so being on this show was a much welcomed experience.
CW: You and Natalie tried a lot of awesome and bizarre practices during the 30 days. Can we have a sneak peek of something particularly intriguing to look forward to?
IC: Natalie and I experienced a horse therapy session which was really intriguing and different. I had never heard of such at the time. I think the audience will find it really interesting. Also, we took part in a water therapy session as well. That was very cool.
CW: What was the greatest lesson you took away from the experience? Would you do it again?
IC: The greatest lesson I took away from the whole experience was that we ‘die everyday.’ Sounds morbid, but I look at it as every day an unnecessary piece of us can fall away, creating a better, improved person all around.
CW: With the election just around the corner, can we look forward to some great Alphacat Obama impressions? What else have you got coming up?
IC: With election season coming everyone can definitely look forward to some great Obama comedy. I have a lot planned for that. I’ve also just starred in my first movie called “Along the Roadside.” I can’t wait for everyone to see it!
Horse therapy and Iman getting emotional? That’s right! It’s all coming up on 30 DAYS OF INTENT, launching on October 2 with two weekly episodes throughout the Fall.
Subscribe to The Chopra Well today so you can follow Iman’s journey!
I have recently been listening to the audio-book for Imagine: What America Could Be in the 21st Century. It is a collection of essays written by some of the most prominent inspirational speakers in America today edited by Marianne Williamson.
One of the segments that really stood out to me and made me stop and think was from an essay called “Our Collective Soul” by Caroline Myss. Ms. Myss speaks to how powerful our words are and the devastating impact they can have on our collective consciousness if our tongues are not held in check.
On one particular occasion, she tells the story of when she was with a groupof people in the late nineties discussing the controversy surrounding President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski. A few of the people had quite a few negative things to say about him, but one man remained silent.
When she asked the man his thoughts on the subject, the man replied, “I have no right to an opinion because I didn’t pray for him. I owe him an apology. He doesn’t owe me one.”
What an enlightened view of personal responsibility in a democracy that purports such a connection with God. I have heard much criticism lately about people pledging to be “servants” for President Obama. And I have heard many otherwise religious people tearing him apart with vicious words. I wonder how many are actually taking the time and energy to pray for him and having faith in God that He will give him wise counsel.
I, for one, owe President Bush an apology. I hope to never make the same consolation to our current President.
We all voted for Obama, or most of us at least. I think we need to start supporting the man we elected for office !!! He gets so much critizam from the other side, he doesn’t need those that voted for him slamming him as well. If you were in his place you might be faltering a bit right now as well. I think he is doing a damn good job so far and has not even been in office for one year yet. Don’t condem the man before he is even half way through his term and give him credit for all he has done, things are improving and looking up. Read the statistics before you judge, know what is going on with all. Just because you personally are not feeling the effects of improvement doesn’t mean they are not happening. Nothing is going to be fixed fast that is not possible. Support the man we elected, and if you didn’t elect him support him to the point that you are at least not being insulting, he is your president. Ok I was not nice to or about Bush but I was not insulting to him.
For those of you who are unaware, the ‘Birthers’ movement is a pejorative term (like the 9/11 Truthers) used by the many in American media to ridicule those right-wing polemicists who believe that President Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is a ‘fake’ and because they believe that he was ostensibly born in Kenya, not the United States, he was never eligible to be president in the first place.
Seriously, all of the people in the ‘birther’ movement need to get a life (and a clue). They need to get out of their mothers’ basements in their tighty-whities and open the front door to inhale some fresh air and a much-needed dose of reality.
Sadly, certain right-wing media commentators, including high-profile polemicists like Alan Keyes, Liz Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs have all at one point or another doubted the veracity of President Obama’s ‘natural-born’ American citizen status to further their own myopic right-wing agenda and help to distract from the pressing American issues of health care reform, two ongoing wars in the Middle East and a recession that rivals only the Great Depression in its scope and breadth.
President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii at 7:24pm on August 4, 1961. According to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the Obama presidential campaign released a digitally-scanned image of his birth certificate in June 2008 to quell the rumors that President Obama was not a natural-born American citizen (a legal requirement for becoming President under Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5of the United States Constitution).
Unfortunately, that proof was not enough for members of the Birther movement. They would go onto claim erroneously that either the birth certificate ’seal’ was missing, there was no signature block on the document or there was no certificate number on the document to help spread their nefarious rumors throughout the blogosphere and Internet.
For any reasonable (and slightly objective) observer out there, the controversy should have ended right here.
Nonetheless, this faux controversy does not end there. Just a few days after an angry protester, waving a birth certificate, confronted Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) over President Obama’s origins, California Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) took to MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews to promote his congressional bill requiring presidential candidates to submit copies of their birth certificates.
According to Politico, it did not take long for the interview to turn to questions about whether Campbell believed Obama himself was American-born.
“What is going on that so many Americans doubt the obvious, that Barack Obama is a citizen, to the point that you felt it necessary to co-sponsor this crazy proposal?” MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked Campbell.
That wasn’t enough for Matthews, who pressed on — and accused Campbell of trying to appease “the nutcases” while holding up a copy of Obama’s birth certificate.
Luckily, even some conservative commentators have taken the Birthers to task for the lunatic scope of their conspiracy theories. MSNBC Morning Joe host (and former Republican Congressman) Joe Scarborough described those who ascribe to this belief as “cartoon characters” who “would rather, instead of trying to actually figure out what’s happening to their country — the terrible things that are happening economically to their country — they embrace conspiracy theories.”
Scarborough further marveled that it was “not enough for these people” that Obama’s “has been shown” as well as a birth announcement for Obama in theHonolulu Advertiser, on the day Barack Obama was born 47 years ago.” Scarborough also compared birth certificate conspiracy theorists to people who believe “the United States government blew up its own buildings and killed its own people on September 11th” and believe that we “never landed on the moon.”
If the Birther movement is not a racially-motivated fringe group of right-wing nutjobs, then it would be a logical conclusion that they would express the same dubious citizenship outrage if Senator McCain had won the 2008 presidential election.
Which brings me to my final (rhetorical) question: If the ‘white guy’ had won the 2008 presidential elections, would we have ever heard a bloody peep from the Birther’s movement?
Yeah…I didn’t think so…
That is what makes our current American ‘debate’ over presidential birth certificates the moral equivalent of modern-day ‘freedom papers’ because of a black man named Barack Obama who happens to be our naturally-born American president.