The creation of The Chopra Well – the Chopra YouTube channel – has allowed us to do many awesome things, but one of them that means the most to us is having been able to host several Google+ hangouts with inspiring people around the world. We did one for the launch of The Chopra Well last year, but in 2013 we tried to step it up a notch. In April the Chopras hosted a hangout series called “Aspire to Inspire” which covered an array of topics each day of the week. Mallika also stepped in to host a hangout on Mindfulness as part of another series. What we found was that these hangouts enabled us to have in-depth serious conversations with experts and people with first hand experiences to enlighten ourselves and our audience about the world around us and the capacity for the human race to do great things.
As we wind down on 2013 and reflect on the year we’ve had, some of these conversations really stuck out. If you missed them the first time around or simply want to revisit them we’ve reposted a few of them below.
1. The Science of Survival – Deepak & Sanjiv Chopra
Deepak and Sanjiv discuss the physical, mental and emotional process of surviving a trauma or deep loss. Paralympic snowboarder and activist Amy Purdy and pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton who had her arm bitten off by a shark at age 13 join in to share their stories of loss and overcoming these significant challenges.
2. How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life – Mallika Chopra
Mallika and a knowledgeable panel of experts look at the role of intention and other mindfulness practices in living a more meaningful and healthy life. The discussion will help answer questions about how to turn goals and aspirations into reality; understanding the difference between an intention and a goal; and the relationship between intention and other practices that lead to mindfulness such as meditation, prayer, service, and yoga.
3. Coping and Surviving Bullying – Gotham Chopra
Gotham Chopra is joined by poet Shane Koyczan, whose video for “To This Day” went viral due to it’s honest, heartbreaking prose about the lifetime effects of bullying. Other guests include: Martin Shervington who will offer insight from his experience in psychology and life coaching, Margot Leitman – a comedian who just released her first book “Gawky: Tales of an Extra Long Awkward Phase,” and Kevin Epling, the National Co-Director and Michigan representative for Bully Police USA.
4. Supporting our Veterans Overseas and When They Come Home – Mallika Chopra
Mallika Chopra is joined by Levi Newman, Rob Schware, and Rick Collins to discuss veterans and PTSD. Newman is a veteran with over 10 years of service and a writer for Veterans United and the Huffington Post. Schware is founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, which helps soldiers returning from duty transition back to civilian life and provides resources to deal with PTSD and other mental disorders that occur after time in the field. Collins is the founder of Vet360, a charity that gives Veterans upon their return home a 30 day program to help educate, counsel and prepare them for civilian life.
5. Coping with Loss – Mallika Chopra
Mallika Chopra hosts a discussion on “Coping with Loss.” She is joined by Todd Hartley, CEO of WireBuzz who lost both of his grandparents at the same time; Chelsea Roff, who has been featured on CNN and the Hallmark channel with her story of coping with a mother who has alcohol induced dementia; and Laurel Lewis who practices as a hospice nurse and also runs Death & Dying Dinner events in Southern California. (You may remember Laurel from 30 Days of Intent!)
Which of the hangouts were your favorites? Tell us in the comments below!
Over the course of my life I have been given certain “gifts” that have forced me to step into the arena of life. I’m a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and if we don’t step up and use our experiences as catapults for change and growth then we’re throwing away opportunities to touch and heal other people with similar challenges.
Over the past year I made a conscious choice to step out and speak my truth around my battle with Cancer and the loss of my marriage. My sole intention has been to be honest and authentic about my struggles and imperfections with the hope that my story will inspire and heal the many people who suffer silently.
For most of my life I have stayed silent to avoid feeling wounded, but now my voice has become my medicine, and a necessary part of my survival.
Last week I took a risk with a blog I posted online. It was a very vulnerable and heartfelt blog that I was really excited to share because I truly felt it would resonate with so many people struggling with similar feelings.
While I have posted plenty of vulnerable blogs in the past, this particular post left me feeling like I had stepped up onto a podium completely naked. The minute I hit submit, I wanted to take it down.
While I’m well aware and prepared to encounter naysayers and haters that post provocative comments, somehow the few attacks that immediately showed up below the post rattled me. After the first comment my instinct was to contact the website to ask if they could take the post offline. I felt completely powerless, and like I was standing in front of a firing squad waiting for the next bullet to be fired. I panicked, tried to defend myself, and then had an incredible feeling of wanting to run away to another country.
I was completely enveloped in shame.
I know from working on myself and learning about vulnerability from my mentor Brene Brown that I put myself at risk for shame when I share my imperfections with the world. It’s a conscious choice (and risk) I want to take. I just never thought it could feel so awful.
The hardest blow came from a comment that held the implication that as a therapist I should have “known better”, and that I shouldn’t be dealing with this kind of “problem” in the first place. Apparently there are people out there who think that being a therapist and being human are mutually exclusive. The truth is that it would be impossible to do the work I do without acknowledging my faults and mistakes.
I’ve learned more from my own life than I could ever learn in school.
I share this story with you because I want you to know that we need your voice. It’s lonely out here in the arena of life, and while I know it’s terrifying to show up in this way, we need more people to stand tall in the face of imperfection and vulnerability.
This is particularly true when it comes to the stigmatized and shame ridden experience of divorce and disease.
I realize that when people aren’t ready to play in the game of life, they sit on the sidelines yelling at the players without really knowing what it’s like to be out there. When it comes to my I own life, I would rather be in the game and get injured, than to never know what it’s like to play.
Here are 3 easy ways to make a difference with your voice:
Comment on posts that impact you. Whether it’s negative or positive, your opinion and voice matter and will invoke change. How many times have you thought about something you read, but didn’t respond to it? Keeping your thoughts and ideas to yourself is like holding onto a life preserver while watching someone drown.
Override the discomfort of being seen with being heard. Many of us don’t want to draw attention to ourselves so we stay in the shadows hoping not to get noticed. Remember that it’s not about you; it’s about your message. Your words are more powerful than you could ever be, so don’t let your personal insecurities get in the way of what you have to say.
Share a quote or words from another source when you don’t trust your own voice. It’s less risky to speak through someone else’s voice, so vicariously sharing in this way is awesome as long as it truly represents your point. Use a quote or affirmation to express yourself. Think of it as a form of ventriloquism.
When I started studying acting with Robert Lewis, co-founder of Actor’s Studio, one of the first things he said was that in rehearsing a play, you have to figure out what is your intention. The same thing, I learned, is important in life. What are we doing, what do we want, and why?
We’re told by our parents, mother usually, that our health is our greatest gift, that without that, you won’t be able to have the life you want. It almost goes without saying that for much of our lives, we take our health for granted; it’s something we don’t think about when we are young. We are invulnerable, untouchable. Yet we are not, especially in today’s world.
Until I was 60, I had taken my health for granted. First, my mother’s great mantra was that her greatest gift to her children was perfect health, “wonderful genes.” How she knew that in the 50s remains a mystery to me. But I went along with it, until one day in May, over a decade ago, I went for an annual ultrasound to monitor a pesky ovarian cyst which hadn’t bothered me too much for over seven years, but having been told to check it annually, I did so – and got the shock of my life! Suspected ovarian cancer, and not only that, “aggressive ovarian cancer.” I knew little about ovarian cancer but soon found out it was one of the most lethal and difficult to diagnose of all the female cancers, known as “the whispering disease” because the symptoms are so subtle, a paradox, as the disease is so very dangerous.
As my doctor told me this, although he was gentle, he was also straightforward, I collapsed inside. I remember saying to myself, (the mind can have so many messages almost simultaneously), “Now, stand up straight and show you are OK.” I remember pulling back my head and lifting it and looking at the doctor as if bewildered. Tears were forming as I thought, “It’s a beautiful day outside and I have come in touch with my mortality. How is this possible?”
Back in my car, in a cavernous garage, dark and empty, I railed, first at my mother, for the perfect genes which turned out not to be and then just at my frustration. I had done so much work on myself and now this. But I am fairly pragmatic and while driving back to New York City from New Haven, I regulated myself fairly quickly and started making mental lists. In times of dire circumstances, a good list can come in handy. From then on, I did everything to stay healthy and prepare for surgery. I bought a wonderful book by Bernie Siegal, Love, Medicine and Miracles which I highly recommend.
It turns out that my intention was strong and already forming as a plan for my survival. I would find out everything I could from reliable sources, go to the therapists I already knew, including my GP and do everything anyone smart told me to do as preparation. My intention was to survive and beat it but then to get as healthy as I possibly and follow whatever regime, diet, exercise, meditation and all of those to stay grounded, calm and alive. So far, it’s worked.
Betsy Horn’s book, A Little Touch of Cancer and How it Made Me Well one woman’s travels through ovarian cancer, is now available on www.betsyhorn.com through a direct link to Amazon.
For the culmination of our “Aspire to Inspire” series and in celebration of National Cancer Survivor’s Day (June 2) our last hangout will be about Cancer survival. Rich and Annette Leal Mattern will be joining us from Breast Cancer Answers. Steven Callahan who survived being lost at sea 30 years ago and two years ago was diagnosed with Leukemia will also be sharing his story with writer/director Justin Rubin who lost his brother and sister on the same day, 20 years apart, from the same type of brain tumor.
We hope these stories, and all the others from the rest of our Google+ hangout series, inspired you and gave you strength if you are coping with a similar situation. Please tell us your thoughts and share your own stories in the comments section below!
Also check out these beautiful short films by Justin Rubin on his experience losing his brother and sister to the same form of brain tumor, on the same day 20 years apart:
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I just turned 40. Even writing, 40 seems strange and yet here I am, 40 years old. I remember as a 15-year-old celebrating my Mom’s 40th birthday. At the time I was a depressed and angst ridden 15-year-old who couldn’t imagine living another year, much less turning 40. That belief that I would not live past my 20’s stayed with me until I did, in fact, live past my 20’s through my 30’s and now I’m 40. I never really thought about growing older because for a good part of my life, I didn’t think I’d live long enough to grow old. And then in my late 20’s something clicked, something changed. I decided I wanted to grow older, I wanted to enjoy life. This was a new concept for me, enjoy life because for so long I fought against life’s enjoyment.
At 15, my Dad called me into his study and when I approached he had a gun to his head threatening to kill himself because he could not handle the stress of life. At that moment, I didn’t want to grow old. I didn’t want to have to deal with life’s stressors. Thus began my downward spiral of not caring and trying not to grow old, until I was twenty-eight. At twenty-eight, after years of drugs, drinking, and virtually destroying my body, I decided to try to live. To the outside world, I had it all together, on the inside I was constantly tormented. After spending weeks in my apartment, too depressed to get out of bed, I left the apartment to see a therapist. She said to me, you have a Master’s degree, you can beat this, you just need to decide you want to. I walked out of her office feeling that I could beat this. Years later, I have in fact beaten the demon of depression. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and one day at a time, one step in front of the other, I rose up from the dark dungeon of my depression and learned to not only live, but enjoy life.
I didn’t take any miracle drugs, in fact I have found that prescriptions don’t work, you have to change how your mind thinks, eat healthy, have a routine, exercise, and surround yourself with people who believe in you. While my road to being happy has not always been easy, each day gets better and better. As I go on the path of helping others through my work, my blog, and my writing, I am constantly amazed at how each day brings a brighter future, with more dreams and more accomplishments. Turning 40 was one of those accomplishments. For most of my life I let my ego, my Self, get in the way of enjoying the moment. This birthday, I decided to try something different. I didn’t hold on to any idea of how the day should go, I just let it be. I let go of any expectations or any desires and just enjoyed each and every moment. Perhaps that was why this was one of the best birthday’s I’ve ever experienced. My husband, family, and friends showed such caring and love for me. Maybe that’s because I’ve learned to love myself. There are still days that I struggle but those days are fewer and fewer.
I surround myself with positivity to help cultivate this happiness inside. I meditate each morning, giving my mind positive mantra’s and time to just be. I practice yoga and exercise daily, read positive books, do things I love and be around people who make me feel good. Not every day is perfect, some days I go backwards a few (or more) steps but I know I will move forward again. I don’t take any medications but instead rely on healthy food and a healthy environment to keep myself going in this positive direction. I truly believe if you feed your mind and your body positively, you will see great results. I am living proof of this. And so, I celebrate turning 40. I celebrate the art of growing older and sharing with others how to accomplish what you want, if you just put your mind to it.
Mastering a sport is no easy business, even with fully functioning limbs and organs. Yet some athletes reach this level of physical prowess even in spite of tremendous obstacles, such as paralysis, cancer, or losing a limb. The difficulty associated with lost limbs, especially, is on the minds of many in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, which makes it all the more inspiring to see what athletes like snowboarder Amy Purdy, surfer Bethany Hamilton, and others have been able to accomplish.
Sarah Reinersten – Ironman Triathlete and Paralympian
Zach Gowen – Professional wrestler
Kyle Maynard – Mixed martial arts athlete
Bethany Hamilton – Professional surfer
Amy Purdy – Snowboarder and Paralympic athlete
Melissa Stockwell – Paratriathlete and U.S. Army Officer
Welcome to the first Google+ hangout in our “Aspire to Inspire” series! The discussion begins LIVE, right here and on The Chopra Well at 12pm PST – so if you’ve come here early then be sure to refresh the page right at noon.
In this conversation, the Chopra brothers – Deepak and Sanjiv – will discuss the physical, mental and emotional process of surviving a trauma or deep loss. Paralympic snowboarder and activist Amy Purdy will also be joining to share her story of losing both her legs to meningitis and what it took to come back stronger than ever.
Survival is more than just staying alive. It entails maintaining or rebuilding a sense of strength, purpose, and optimism in spite – or perhaps as a result – of facing tremendous odds. We hope this conversation will inspire you to find the greatness and resilience present in your own being.
Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss next week’s Google+ hangouts in our “Aspire to Inspire” series!
How do individuals survive horrendous accidents, illnesses, and traumatic events? The resilience of the human body, mind, and spirit is truly awe inspiring, and that’s why Deepak Chopra will be hosting a Google + Hangout on Air, “The Science of Survival” on May 23 at 12PM PDT to highlight some of these incredible stories. Deepak will be in conversation with his brother Sanjiv Chopra, paralympic snowboarder and activist Amy Purdy, as well as other guests. Please join us at The Chopra Well or on Intent Blog for this one-of-a-kind event!
“The Science of Survival” will kick off our “Aspire to Inspire” Hangout series which will also have hangouts hosted by Mallika and Gotham Chopra on coping with loss, veterans, bullying and culminating with a National Cancer Survivor’s Day discussion on June 3.
Make sure you tune in for the hangout on air at The Chopra Well YouTube channel, leave questions for our guests here, and tweet with the hashtag #AspireToInspire so you can see them asked live during the Hangout!
Subscribe to The Chopra Well to receive all our updates about the #AspireToInspire series, as well as other events and videos!
Sam Parnia is head of the intensive care unit at Stony Brook University Hospital in New York. He is also a doctor known for specializing in resuscitation – or, more colloquially, bringing people back from the dead. Under his care, a patient who has suffered from cardiac arrest and receives treatment has a 33% chance of being brought back to life (compared with a roughly 15% national average.) His secret? Time, mainly.
Not only should hospital personnel continue resuscitation measures beyond the current 20-minute norm, but they should also, Parnia says, cool the body in order to preserve brain cells and recycle blood drawn from the deceased back through a membrane oxygenator. Such measures, Parnia urges, would give supposedly deceased patients the chance to respond to oxygen and medication, beyond the limit when they would be definitively declared dead.
If the thought of resurrection from death isn’t enough, Parnia takes his theories a step further to question the nature of consciousness. The pervasive scientific notion that the brain produces the mind starts to unravel when you consider the minutes, even hours, of death from which people have returned to life. From Parnia’s own experience, even after a patient’s mental activity has completely shut off, some “psyche” or “soul” remains and can reanimate after resuscitation. It it this phenomenon that leads Parnia to suggest that the mind and memory are non-neuronal in foundation.
While you consider that, take a look at these three amazing stories of people brought back from the dead:
This British soccer player went into cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match. His heart stopped beating for 78 minutes, ten of which responders spent trying to revive him onfield. Despite being officially dead for over an hour, Muamba returned to life and was later discharged with an electronic implant in case of future heart trouble. Medical personnel were unable to establish what caused the 22-year-old’s heart to fail, but let’s hope it doesn’t happen again (at least for many decades to come)!
The 12-year-old was enjoying a day at the beach with his church youth group when waves got out of control and swept him under. It was roughly 25 minutes before the rescue team pulled Dale from the choppy water, but onsite resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. The boy’s pulse miraculously returned once emergency responders got him to the hospital, and after a several-day coma he finally began showing signs of life.
Kate Ogg gave birth to her premature twins at just 27 weeks – still 13 weeks shy of a full term pregnancy. The baby girl survived the delivery, but her brother, little Jamie, was pronounced dead after 20 minutes of CPR. In her grief, Kate unwrapped her fragile newborn and held him to her chest for two hours, at which point he began breathing and came back to life. According to Kate, “The doctor kept shaking his head saying, ‘I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it.'”
Know of any amazing stories of recovery? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
The primary concern for all life forms is survival. In the case of humans, the basis of everything we think is somehow about our survival. Everything we feel is related to our survival. Even everything we understand is about our survival. What we understand is what we can categorize. A category presents us with a version of reality we can live with. If we can live with it we can survive.
Thinking is our human blessing and our curse. We are blessed when our thinking is fresh and creative. We are cursed when thinking only feeds our habit of categorizing. It is not that thinking and categorizing are wrong. Thinking thoughts is not the problem. But the reliance on some thought that we can grasp, or keep, or keep away in the name of survival can keep our attention bound to categories.
At any point we are weaving multiple thoughts into stories. Our stories can be complicated. These stories often have multiple themes dealing with profound personal and even cosmic issues. We also have thoughts and stories that come from what we read in the newspaper, or from advertisements, or from our power to create fantasy. All our stories are part of the sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrific and always awesome mandala of life.
At some point in a person’s life of storytelling, the curiosity to discover the source of thoughts or stories can be more compelling than following the particular thoughts and stories. Feeding innate, free curiosity with inquiry nurtures direct discovery. In the spirit of discovery, we can pull the thread that begins the unraveling of all stories of identity. Pulling the thread reveals the capacity as a conscious human being to recognize that the beingness in human being is conscious and free.
The revered 20th century sage, Ramana Maharshi, said the last obstacle to this discovery of oneself as free is self-doubt. Self-doubt is a form of knowing; and knowing is about survival. We believe that if we forget to doubt ourselves, we could die, or the world could crash. Self-doubt gives rise to “Yes, but,” or “It couldn’t be that simple,” or “Not me” — all thoughts that can habitually follow the most sublime moments of discovering oneself as free consciousness.
My teacher, H.W.L Poonja (Papaji) said, “The last obstacle to freedom is the belief that there is an obstacle.” Whatever you may tell yourself about any obstacle to the immediate fulfillment of yourself, is a thought that you can recognize and penetrate. You can discover what is underneath any thought or story, but to discover what is underneath the thought, you must be willing to recognize the thought, or story, that engages your attention. The story of any obstacle to lasting fulfillment is finally just another story that can be unraveled in the willingness to pull the thread.
This willingness is permission to be curious and to not know the “answer.” It is the willingness to experience what needs to be experienced without knowing beforehand what that may be. It is the willingness to not know what the outcome of inquiry will be. Then your natural curiosity is available to you, unencumbered by what you think you should learn, or what you think you should know, or what you think you should think or feel to survive.
Free unencumbered curiosity is possible for you now in your life. All that is required is willingness. That willingness is a servant to truth. That is what brought you here.
This blog is adapted from Gangaji’s new book, Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, which was published by Penguin Tarcher in 2011. In this life-changing book, Gangaji uses the telling of her own life story to help readers uncover the truth in their own. Publisher’s Weekly said, “This gently flowing but often disarming volume invites readers to examine the narratives that shape them, and is a call to pass beyond personal stories to find a deeper, more universal self.” Visit www.gangaji.org for more information about Gangaji and her upcoming events, including the monthly Webcast / Conference Series, With Gangaji, which is currently making in-depth study of Hidden Treasure.