Wellness guru Deepak Chopra about the ‘failed human experiment’
"We need an emotional shift to reverse global warming"
In the search for solutions to reverse global warming a conversation with a wellness guru may seem unexpected. Although money and technology to meet the challenge are available in abundance, mindsets are arguably the biggest obstacles to necessary political and economic innovation. So, a helpful response to climate change may very well come from a bestselling author like Deepak Chopra who has spent more than 50 years exploring human wellbeing and consciousness.
In Chopra’s vision the problem of global warming is the direct result of — what he calls — “the failed human experiment.” He notes that the creativity of humans has brought “a lot of interesting things”: the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, satellites and inter-galactic probes. However, “humans are insane too,” he adds. “You cannot call a species, that creates mechanized death with drones, nuclear weapons and biological warfare, sane.”
Climate change is just the next example demonstrating that humanity is on a collision course with its own existence. Chopra: “Global warming leads to climate refugees, to new epidemics, to violence, to the economic disasters … it will impact everything.” The solution begins with “declaring our own insanity.” “I’m here and I can’t get out of this. So, my first personal goal is to pick up my visitor’s badge in the insane asylum that we call planet Earth and not contribute to the insanity,” he says.
We are meeting in the gardens of a resort in Palm Springs, California, where Chopra is teaching a 3-day “Infinite Possibilities” course. After writing 80 books published in 43 languages over five decades, giving countless keynotes and leading numerous retreats, Chopra has made it his personal mission to “engage one billion people in personal and social transformation.” Echoing the famous statement — “Be the change you want to see in the world” — of his fellow Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, Chopra argues that there’s no social transformation, no solution to global warming, in the absence of personal transformation. “You can’t have peace in the world, if you don’t have peace in yourself.”
That transformation begins with a new story. “The word ‘environment’ is the wrong word. Let’s start there.” The environment is an external, non-human, dimension. “But you can also say that that tree,” Chopra points to a palm tree that is waving in the wind against the deep blue sky, “are my lungs. If that tree didn’t breathe, I wouldn’t breathe. In fact, we are co-breathing.” He refers to science to support his perspective. If you put a rabbit in a vacuum, it dies. If you put a plant in a vacuum, it dies. However, if you put the rabbit and the plant together in a vacuum, they both live. The universe is continuously recycling atoms including the atoms our bodies are made of. Chopra: “You are star dust with self-awareness, and you don’t even know it.”
All the parts of the universe are connected. The photons coming from the sun are giving food and energy to our bodies. “It may sound esoteric but the first thing is to develop a conscious relationship with your universal body. Are you this changing physical body? Your body is only recycling everything that is happening around you. The universe is recycling as your body. The universe is the best recycling plant there is. What we call our individual mind is the recycling of the collective mind. Most people don’t even have their own thoughts; they are recycling everybody else’s thoughts. My source is also your source. That’s the critical shift in consciousness that needs to happen.”
More environmental science
When that shift occurs, Chopra argues, a new species — the Metahuman, the title of his new book — arises and a new shared vision emerges. He thinks that humanity can transition beyond self-destructive greed when a billion people cross the threshold — hence his personal mission. It may no longer be such a far-fetched dream. Fifty years ago, meditation was an activity that hippies borrowed from ancient Eastern traditions and spread through gurus from India with long beards. Today, yoga studios and meditation spaces continue to sprout in business centers around the world. Seven years ago, a study showed that eight percent of Americans meditate on a daily basis. There’s little doubt that that number has gone up since.
However, for every step forward, there’s usually half a step backward. Increasing awareness of unity and connection goes hand-in-hand with increasing fear of change. While the Internet supports the emergence of a global brain and shared experience, many people seek refuge in “tribal identities.” Chopra: “Many people are caught up in what I call ‘provisional identities.’ ‘I’m white.’ ‘I’m black.’ ‘I’m male, I’m female.’ ‘I’m transgender.’ ‘I’m American.’ ‘I’m African.’ ‘I’m Catholic.’ ‘I’m protestant.’ ‘I’m Muslim.’ ‘I’m Buddhist.’ It goes on and on. All these human constructs have no intrinsic reality. All these identities are only provisional. But when these identities shift, there’s anxiety.”
When it comes to the challenge of climate change, it clearly makes no difference to which religion or creed you adhere. In fact, the quality of the change depends on your perspective. Chopra refers to the mass extinction that happened 65 million years ago. A meteorite hit the Earth and the dinosaurs were wiped out. “From your point of view and my point of views, that was a fortunate thing. We wouldn’t be here if that hadn’t happened,” says Chopra.
Still, he is convinced that humanity can meet the challenge of global warming. “We already have the technologies. The human mind has amazing creativity. I personally know people who can recycle anything and everything in pristine environments. We only need an emotional and spiritual shift to harness these creative solutions.”
Sometimes a top-down approach can help speed up necessary change. Just imagine what could be achieved if ‘the world’s Twitter king’ would jump on the cause? I ask Chopra how he would spend a one-hour audience with Donald Trump?
For a brief moment, his quiet relaxed presence is shaken as he quickly responds:
“I would nor waste a minute with Donald Trump. Forget about an hour. I wouldn’t waste a second because you have to engage with somebody who is willing to listen and who has an attention span. But I wouldn’t worry about Donald Trump. We have an expression in the East: ‘Karma never loses an address.’”
But true to his Indian roots, Chopra looks at the Trump phenomenon beyond a narrow duality perspective: “The confusion and the fear are part of the collective mind. He brought it out. Actually, we should be grateful for him. Had it not been for him, we wouldn’t see the ugliness of our collective dirty laundry. We are seeing the racism, the bigotry, the hatred and the prejudice. There’s one word for it: inflammation. And inflammation causes disease.”
Without diagnosis, treatment can’t begin. The bell rings for the next session of the Infinite Possibilities course. Infinite possibilities? I ask Chopra whether he knows the word ‘impossible.’ He smiles and I notice the word ‘warrior’ on his black T-shirt: “Impossible is just a word for something that hasn’t happened yet.”