Mallika Chopra Reflects on Motherhood, Mindfulness, her New Book, Life and Santa Monica
"Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement and More" by Mallika Chopra available September 2018
September 6, 2018
It's so great to hear that you are a resident of Santa Monica. How long have you been living here? And what are your feelings about living here?
We moved to LA in 1999 and in 2008 moved to Santa Monica. We love it here. Once you move here, honestly, where else could you live! I've raised my girls here and it a great community we have met through schools; wonderful parented. Your life really starts to be shaped by your kid's lives. I feel Santa Monica is a sweet place for the girls to grow up in. I don't think we would want to be anywhere else because it's a blessing to live here; the weather, food, people, lifestyle, its all amazing!
What do you think of the rise in spirituality here and of conscious living in this area especially?
I grew up at a time when my father started talking about mind, body connection and people thought he was crazy and on the "fringe". They even called him a witchdoctor! So what's happening currently worldwide with the acceptance of spirituality and the kind of work that I get to do now, like public speaking, I'm so grateful for my father's work. I love that in a place like Santa Monica, people are open and willing to experiment and try news things. Sometimes I do get frustrated with the trendiness of it all and things start to get marketed as "bite –sized" instant methods, as I think in life sometimes you can't solve problems that way. You have to really work at it and be patient. It's not a testament to Santa Monica per se, more of the world at large. I applaud all the experimentation that going on, but I sometimes wish for more depth and exploration, as people are too eager to move on to the next fad, myself included by the way!
I love the fact that these practices are evolving and the experimentation. The issue that I have is doing it for a moment and expecting life to change instantly. I teach at Unplugged Meditation here in Santa Monica and I love that they have different types of teachers. Coming from India, we tend to be skeptical of the adoption of these practices. But its amazing that there are these great, innovative, dynamic teachers who posses deep knowledge that does not come when you simply happen to be of a particular lineage.
Why do you think it's a book like this is so important and topical right now?
It's always been important for kids to get a sense of who they are and practices like meditation and mindfulness have always been important. Today, we are living in an environment where there is constant stimulation where social media adds an uncertain factor to people's lives. Parents don't know how to deal with it; in fact the kids are more acclimated to it! Kids are stressed and anxious and social media has bought issues like bullying are at the social forefront. Kids are more aware of it and as adults are more aware of it. So a book like mine, focusing on Meditation and Mindfulness is coming at a time when people are searching for a tool to help their kids and to help themselves.
Many adults have said that this is a good book on meditation as it's so simple. Meditation gets intellectualized a lot and the practices are what the practices are.
You have written other books, more for adults. What made you decide to focus on book entirely for young kids?
One, being a parent! And seeing the need and the fact that kids are open to exploring and have some amazing experiences when they practice. I wanted to write something that was specifically for them but I did not want to write another parenting book to tell parents how to teach their kids how to mediate. But rather to give something to kids that they can explore themselves. And I feel very strongly that parents should not enforce their kids to meditate but rather meditate themselves and set an example.
Do you have a daily practice yourself? Could you share with us?
I learnt how to meditate when I was nine, my father taught me and it was the greatest gift my parents gave me as it is a tool to quiten the mind, deal with anxiety and to know myself .That being said, I was a very irregular meditator and have been in my life. I was too busy and was very irregular when I was younger and as I got older, I realized I was very stressed and that I had lost this practice. So for the last 5 years, I have been a very regular meditator.
My personal practice is about 20 minutes once a day, at tea time. It's a mantra meditation and I sit quietly and chant it in my mind. In the book, I have listed several Mantra meditations.
Growing up did you have a technique that really helped you?
I still use the same mantra meditation that I learnt as a child! For me, that just what I know and I have been doing it my whole life. But I have also explored Gratitude and Mindfulness and these are also incorporated in my book.
Do you think in todays' political and emotional climate, spirituality is the way?
It's the most critical thing today. It is a spiritual anchor, whatever your religion may be, and helps you feel like you are a part of the world. It gives you more compassion, humility, empathy, understanding. The solution has to be a spiritual solution.
You mentioned in the book you started meditating at 9. What quality has this given you in your life as an adult?
For me, I cherish silence, that's what mediation has given me, Silence is where we heal, where creativity comes from and where we feel whole. I'm a real advocate of silence. We live in a noisy world and silence is something we loose in today's world. I did the Vipassana, a silent meditation retreat about 30 years ago but it is a wonderful experience!
Your heritage is Indian; do you still spend time in India, to the spiritual vortexes and ashrams? If so, are there any favorite spots that you like to frequent?
Yes, because my husbands' parent live in India. My mother and sister in law live there. It's important that my kids have a connection with their grandparents so it's crucial to spend time there. Indian connects them.
I am not one to frequent retreats and pilgrimages and I do not have a Guru. I have been around Gurus my whole life, grew up with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and have met all of the famous Indian gurus. For me, it's a personal practice and that's how I approach it.
I respect everyone's path and there is a place for a Gurus . I was fortunate to have been introduced to these tools at a young age and it acted as an anchor in my life.
In writing this book, what are some of the lessons you have learnt in learning more about children? What have they taught you?
I learn everything from my kids, in writing this book; I realize that kids are smarter than we think they are, they are eager and curious, lot of parents think their kids wont sit still which is why in the book I present a real plethora of options, which includes movement.
The biggest take away is that kids are amazing and smart and we should give them tools to life.
Who have been your spiritual teachers and guides in your life? Other than your father of course.
Obviously my father and my mother as well. My mom is the anchor and a mother with a capital M. She takes enormous pride in being a mother, and she never apologizes for it . This has had the biggest impact in my life. To know who you are and what your role is in life. I've been lucky to have meet many great teachers. I'm one of these people who seek people I find interesting, who write well, who speak well.
How was it growing up in a household with Deepak Chopra? He is revered by so many, but to you he is a father and you have a different connection and dynamic.
My father is my father, I really don't know any different. That being said, my dad does not take himself too seriously. We were always taught to have perspective on everything. He does not get involved in the perception that people have of him.
He is smart, he reads, he is intellectually curious, he is obsessed with knowledge, he works very hard and these are the lessons that my brother and I have learnt from him.
Was it a blessing or a challenge to be the daughter of Deepak Chopra as you made your own way in this spiritual world.
There has been a lot of perception and presumption about us. My brother and I were never really spiritual per se. For me, entering this field has been more important when I became a mother, to understand who I am, where I come from, what I believe in. I try to be authentic in my own voice. As a woman seeking balance, trying to figure it out, not being perfect, not doing my practice. Breaking the perception of being a Chopra. Everyone thinks we are vegans and yoga teachers, I cant even do downward dog! There is perception and then there is reality. If I can just share some of the lessons I've learnt on my journey in life, that's great.
You speak internationally, how has your reception been, when you introduce yourself as Deepak chopra's daughter? Do you still get compared to him?
I'm very lucky, because people have a perception of my father, they have a perception of me which is warm and positive. I'm very honest of the way I speak, of my own flaws, so this is disarming and people feel that they can relate to me that I'm just like them in many ways. That's my distinctive to me.
How has motherhood changed you? Have you had to make sacrifices?
Absolutely for me it has been a balancing act with my husband to figure out what are the best choices for our family. And I like to stress that I call them " empowered choices" not sacrifices. In making these, I actually got to write more and speak more. It's a constant balancing act.
What's new in the world of spirituality?
These practices have been around for thousands of years and have gone through their evolutions and have lasted so long because they work. For every other fad that has come and gone, and I applaud those as well, these ancient ones are what have lasted. At the end of the day, I hope people find the technique that works for them and have perspective on why they are pursuing these things. The real reason is to exploring who they were and the secrets of the universe. I see the future not as an evolution of these techniques but a continuation.