Going Deep With Deepak At The Living In Balance Retreat
I can’t resist the temptation to begin this story with the words of Deepak Chopra, the keynote speaker at the Living in Balance retreat I recently attended. He says, “To live without love, compassion, or any other spiritual value creates a state of such severe imbalance that every cell yearns to correct it. Ultimately, that is what lies behind the onset of disease; the body is sending a message that something lacking in the present—an imbalance existing somewhere—has given rise to highly visible, unarguable, physical symptoms.”
The man TIME magazine described as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century” who introduced us to the Seven Spiritual Law of Success, opened up this life-changing seminar at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa, in California.
We Are All Stardust
As he sauntered onto the stage the excitement among the attendees was palpable. I must admit, I too was mesmerized by his extraordinary persona. Deepak Chopra has a distinctive personal style. He made a statement in his black Nehru vest, with the red piping trim, teamed with a black turtleneck shirt and bright red suede Nike sneakers and of course his signature eyeglass frames. Along with his rock star magnetism, he exudes this almost uncanny sense of calm and tranquility.
During his opening address, he shared with us deeply thought-provoking topics. Speaking about the nature of existence in the universe, he made the most complex quantum principles sound simply poetic. He explained that we are all stardust. That the gene, a unit of heredity, is actually a protein code (enzyme) and he shared how our genomics influences our lives.
First there is the one cell, and then approximately 25 000 human genes that differentiate into the whole body and that our body is some 30-40 trillion cells, or more (the Milky Way has 250 billion ± 150 billion) and that the average cell will divide between 50-70 times before cell death. To make a body, there is morphogenesis, to give rise to form.
The Deepak Chopra Way
From that extraordinary introduction going forward, I would experience a virtual feast for the mind, body, and spirit that would shift my own way of thinking about health.
The event progressed with a seamless program of experts in the field of Ayurvedic healing. It provided the foundation for lifestyle enhancement through the Ayurvedic principles of preventative self-care to last a lifetime. Each presenter shared their personal passage into the world of alternative, integrative, complementary and functional medicine. They revealed how they too had arrived at the Chopra Institute at a pivotal time in their lives. Some were from the hardcore corporate America and had dropped out to follow their dream of living a more balanced lifestyle. Others were in mainstream medicine and realized there was a more comprehensive approach to heal the body, from the inside-out. They followed their inner guidance to this particular practice of wellness and became a beacon of light to share with patients.
Our first introductory lecture was with Dr. Sheila Patel. She introduced us to the basics of the ancient Ayurvedic healing. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3 000 years ago in India. It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. It’s a complete system of health, and the key is to identify what’s getting in the way of our natural healing. It is a consciousness-based healing system, beyond the physical.
A System of Self-Healing
True to the words of Deepak Chopra, “in order to trust your body as a guide, the first step is to begin to understand it.”
This system of healing is based on the five elements that are found in all living things—ether, air, fire, water, and earth—which are the building blocks of life. It unites us all as humans, yet we have a unique set of differences that are characterized by ‘doshas’. How the three doshas appear, and in what proportion, is what makes each of us unique. We were given a detailed quiz to identify the characteristics which make up our specific body types. Each type has a set of traits that make the distinction.
One is Vata, (those resembling the wind), the delicate, hyper, long-limbed, lean body, unsettled and talkative one who grazes throughout the day. Then there is Pitta ( one of a fiery nature) which may be the typical “Type A” personality with a strong appetite, fiery and intense with a medium build. Kapha (one of solid nature) is the more relaxed, easy going and nurturing personality. While some typify the exact type, many of us may have a mixture of these tendencies, but can identify with at least one or two. The key is to understand the role these doshas play as they are in constant flux in response to the external stimulus such as weather, lifestyle, and stress.
We then had a thorough and amusing introduction to each of the dosha’s specific characteristics by Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar. He was by far the most fun presenter of the weekend. He never revealed his own specific dosha characteristics, but he was able to portray the most entertaining descriptions of each distinctive type.
As the day progressed we were introduced to the Primordial Sound meditation and its benefits for health and well-being. According to some studies practicing meditation can be effective to reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia. It is also considered one of the key elements to living a balanced life and was integrated into the daily program. It was emphasized as a most important ingredient, especially when one meditates on a specific mantra that is personalized for each individual. We are living in an age of over-stimulation and excessive uses of outside forces from Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMF’s), digital devices, social media and the ubiquitous influence of technology. The practice of restful awareness via meditation is now proven to be most beneficial for our overall well-being.
One take away from this experience is to learn how to become mindful through meditation. To connect with all of your senses, clear away the toxins, get into a routine of healing practices to restore your body’s natural balance to heal itself.
The Value of Good Nutrition And Movement
The second day began with a group meditation and an introduction to Ayurvedic nutrition from Kelly Greene. Then Dr. Suhas Kshirsager shared an in-depth lesson in learning how to eat to balance your dosha. Then at our lunch break, there was a book signing with Dr. Suhas Kshirsager Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life: How to Harness the Power of Clock Genes to Lose Weight, Optimize Your Workout, and Finally Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
This was followed by an in-depth Ayurvedic cooking demonstration with Chef Johnny Brannigan. He told us how he became a vegetarian and vegan chef. Through his experience with the Maharishi meditation, he acquired a deep knowledge base in Vedic wisdom and holistic medicine, as well as a lifelong love of food and cooking. His passion for this practice of nourishment was a veritable feast for all of the senses, with a lesson in the diversity of six distinct tastes that satisfy our hunger.
Chef Johnny Brannigan has published a book “Eat Taste Heal ” He explained the six tastes or Rasas that are distinguished in the Ayurvedic diet are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter. These tastes originate from the five elements and transmit their properties.
Mindfulness Break-Loving Kindness Meditation:
May I Be Happy
May I Be Well
May I Be Filled With Peace
After a dosha-balanced lunch, full-bellied and relaxed, the fashionably forward Dr. Mona Saint explored and explained the Emotions and Stress Management (she also spoke on the last day about Balancing Through the Senses). We had more insightful info on the benefits of Mindful Movement and learning how to read your own body signals. Our bodies are a self-regulating system and we just need to get out of the way, get rid of negative habits (which is not so easy) and let it heal itself.
As Deepak Chopra confirms, “No matter how much it gets abused, the body can restore balance. The first rule is to stop interfering with nature.”
You must nourish your body, mind and your soul.
A Healing Retreat Experience At the Spa
I missed out on the scrumptious dinner feast later that night prepared by Chef Brannigan as I had scheduled a wellness treatment at the Ocean Pearl Spa at the resort. The Honey Pino Dream Body Treatment was just what the doctor ordered to soothe my world-weary mind and body.
The resort amenities and well-appointed rooms were the matched this healing retreat experience perfectly. The highly skilled aesthetician slathered my body with real honey, and also included a Milk and Honey Face Mask. This 80-minute treatment uses myofascial massage techniques, and relieved my muscle tension by unwinding the tissue and increasing the microcirculation of the body. This unique healing treatment utilized a Propolis Beeswax Pad to boost the immune system and applied the honey to relieve inflammation and soften the skin. Although I skipped a most notable dinner, my body thanked me for receiving such tender, loving care.
I learned in the seminar is that it’s not just what we eat that nourishes us. There is evidence-based research on the powerful influence of mind, body, spirit. From our thoughts, to our relationships, our environment, and the necessity for movement – many aspects influence our health. The importance of touch, intimacy, breath, slowing down to stop and smell the roses are all influential. Everything in our environment is actually our extended body, from nature to people to home to furniture.
“An increasing number of US medical schools and centers now have departments devoted to mind–body research and some also to mind–body treatment. These include Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), Columbia University (New York, NY), University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pittsburgh (PA). This now-interdisciplinary research field, which also includes behavioral medicine, is often called psycho-neuroimmunology or psycho-endoneuroimmunology, and “incorporates ideas, belief systems, hopes, and desires as well as biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy,” according to Ray (2004) ()
By the third day, all outside stress had taken a back seat. Especially since I had committed to a digital detox, although I have to admit, I still checked out my iPhone from time to time, but with limited access. And I did give up entirely on my iPad and laptop. In fact, I did not even speak to anyone else in the “outside world,“ just the participants of the event. This enabled me to immerse myself in the experience as if nothing else mattered. I cast all of my mundane stress aside and felt enveloped by the warm, caring staff and intense transformation forces.