The Brown University graduate, author, public speaker, and entrepreneur was inspired by her father, Deepak Chopra, to help people find intention, balance and a life of purpose.
You have spent most of your adult life helping people deal with stress and pressure. Why?
When we were young kids, my dad discovered meditation and other practices which transformed both his life, and my family’s life. This was a family story of transformation that came from tools of connection and self-discovery. As my dad progressed in his career, both as a writer, but then just as someone who met with people going through trauma or diagnosed with a disease or relationship issues, it was really clear to me how stress manifested in illness or depression or sadness in life. I feel very lucky that I was able to see how my dad’s work did transform people’s lives.
Do you think that some stress is normal for a healthy life?
Yes, one-hundred percent. In fact, my book Just Feel, which I wrote for kids, is emphasizing that we all have a range of emotions—that fear, anger, and sadness are as much part of our experience as feeling joyful or happy or excited. Stress is one thing, but I think there are some deeper issues that as a society we’re facing, that don’t seem to be getting that much better. I think that’s why the work you are doing at the School of Public Health is so important.
Who has been an important mentor in your professional life?
My dad has been the biggest influence on my life. Watching his journey, I got to see up close the pain that many people were going through. I think that growing up seeing that made it inevitable for both my brother and I to want to do work that somehow could give back. We both have explored many ways to do that.
You are an entrepreneur. What have been some of your most rewarding and most challenging ventures?
The subtitle of my book, Living with Intent, is My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy. I very much stress the messiness part. To be an entrepreneur you must feel comfortable with messiness and chaos, and the ups and downs of ventures. During my days as a student, Brown made me more comfortable just by the nature of the open curriculum and the kind of students that are enrolled here.
At different times in my life, given my entrepreneurial nature, I started many different projects. Each had great impact. I feel that over the last five years or so, my books and speaking opportunities have provided a platform where I can impact people in a meaningful way.
I was taught when I was young to always think about ‘How can I serve?.’ I’ve become comfortable with the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur and of having to constantly think, ‘Am I doing what I’m meant to do right now? Can I contribute right now?’ That’s why the question of ‘how can I serve’ comes back every day for me.
You are the author of several books. How did these book projects come about and what did you learn from writing them?
My books are a reflection of what I’m going through at different stages of my life. The first two books are about conscious parenting. 100 Promises to My Baby, and 100 Questions from My Child, which I wrote about 15 years ago, were about becoming a mother, about my intentions as a mom and how I can serve in that way.
Goals come from our mind and are very task oriented in execution, but intents comes from our soul and represent who we aspire to be, whether that’s as an individual, as a member of a family, or as a citizen of Mother Earth.
Then fast-forward a few years where I’m a busy mom, busy entrepreneur, and my life was totally out of balance. I felt that I had no time, I was stressed out and over-committed. Living with Intent was my personal process of recommitting to finding balance, to understanding what purpose is, and to bringing tools back into my life that create balance and happiness.
The last two books are Just Breathe and Just Feel. One can think of Just Breathe as the physical, Just Feel as the mental, and soon-to-be-published, Just Be You as the spiritual and self-reflection. The three books really represent how kids need these tools. These books offered an opportunity to create something that really isn’t out there yet.
I watched several TEDx talks where you mention goals and intents – what is the difference between them in terms of your health?
Goals come from our mind and are very task oriented in execution, but intents comes from our soul and represent who we aspire to be, whether that’s as an individual, as a member of a family, or as a citizen of Mother Earth. Practically speaking, I think people in our society are goal oriented, so we can say, “Oh, I want to lose weight, I want to exercise more.” I’m very much one of those people.
Intents go back to a deeper layer. Intents come from that place—before we even know what the goal is. They represent our deepest desires, such as desires to feel healthy, to feel connected to other people, to feel of purpose. I think it begins with understanding from that soulful level and asking yourself honest questions, Who am I, What do I want, How can I serve?
As a school of public health, we teach and measure prevention as a way to improve population health. What are some important prevention strategies that you can share?
I am a big believer in prevention and I’m a big believer in early childhood education and also parent education. The more time I spend researching wellness and resilience, I have found that the early years impact your lifelong journey of wellness. I applaud all the work that universities and other organizations are doing to look at early childhood education, because I think prevention really does begin there. That’s why I’m writing these books for kids.
One of my biggest messages to people is that we lead by example, not words. We as educators and adults in the world need to be good role models.
What do you think is one of the most important things a person can do to improve their overall health?
I would say find a practice that brings you silence, but I do think before that, just on an individual level, I think sleep is very important. I am an advocate of sleep, which I think is part of giving the body and mind rest. And then you add to that whether it’s meditation or movement or other practices for personal well-being.
One thing that I think is plaguing our world and this overstimulated society that we live in, is the inability to disconnect, and I think sleep is a big part of just bringing in more balance to our lives.
What advice would you give to our students and alumni?
By nature the students who do their graduate work in public health are probably people who are asking ‘How can I serve?’, because that’s what public health work involves. One, I would say feel pride in that, gratitude in that, and keep asking that question, How can I serve? So many people in this world are struggling to find a sense of purpose, and without that sense of purpose often that also leads to anxiety and depression and confusion and angst.
If you can really anchor yourself in a place of gratitude and service, one, just celebrate that. Like I said, my guess is by nature, many of the people who choose to go into this field are asking that, and I applaud that.
The second bit of advice is self-care. We all feel the urgency to go out and solve problems and help other people. There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world, which can take a big toll on you personally. Just honor the fact that you need to take care of yourself, you need to sleep, you need to find your own practices, because then you can serve better.