Standing for Compassion: An interview with Deepak Chopra

Thank you for speaking with me today, Dr. Chopra. Do you remember your first experience with meditation?

Yes, it was many years ago.

What was it like?

You know, there are three kinds of experiences people have with meditation. The first is they say: “What was that all about? I didn’t notice anything.” The second is they think: “Oh, it was very relaxing, and I felt wonderful,” or else: “I fell asleep.”

I can relate to that.

Well, that simply means you need more sleep.

But the third experience is: you find the Divine. You transcend space and time, and go straight into your Source. Fortunately, my very first meditation experience was like that. I transcended. And life was never the same again.

How so? How does meditation change you?

In our Eastern wisdom traditions, there are four divine emotions: love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. When you experience these emotions, you feel connected to life, and to other people. Your body starts to self-regulate. There are profound epigenetic changes that take place.

Such as?

There’s less inflammation in the body. Your good genes get up-regulated, the bad genes, which cause inflammation, get down-regulated.

Tomorrow, you’ll lead the Global Meditation for Compassion effort. Can you explain what that is, and how it works?

At the Chopra Center, it’s part of our practice to meditate on love, on compassion, joy, equanimity, gratitude. And once a year, we do a global meditation.

Last year, I think we had 150,000 people joining us, from across the world. People set up little satellite centers in various places: from Hong Kong, to eastern Europe; from sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America.

In fact, we were told later that we were in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest number of people meditating together.

People had such a joyful experience that we decided to make this a yearly ritual.

So tomorrow, at our Center, we’ll have approximately 1,000 people in one room, meditating. And we’ll be Ustreaming the whole experience. People will be sending questions on Twitter and Facebook. We’ll do a Q&A. Then I will lead them into a classical meditation, drawn from the eastern wisdom tradition of Vedanta, and also from Buddhism.

Our theme is compassion.

What is compassion?

The ability to feel the suffering of another person, and the desire to alleviate it. Tomorrow we’ll use a mantra technique that allows people to go into deep silence and transcend and sit in that space where we all feel we are members of one mind, one consciousness, one body.

Of the divine emotions, how did you decide on compassion as your theme?

I think the world is in need of healing. And you can’t have love without compassion. Most people think of love in terms of romantic love only which is a wonderful emotion but it’s only about you.

With compassion, you have the possibility of a bigger, more expansive love. And when you have that, there is the possibility of healing as well. So compassion must precede love.

Is there something gained from people meditating collectively?

A lot of people have said, throughout the ages, that when you meditate collectively you create a field of coherence in consciousness. This presumes, of course, that consciousness is a field. That, just like electricity is a field, or how gravity permeates space and time, so does consciousness.

Of course, there are people who don’t agree with that; who say consciousness is a property of the brain, and that only biological organisms with brains have consciousness. But if consciousness is the ability to take in, to process, and respond to information, then it’s everywhere.

For example: a plant is seeking light. It takes in nutrition from the earth, processes it, and it grows, reproduces. Even microbes do that. Bacteria. Small organisms that don’t have brains still seek food. They have sex, reproduce. So there’s another school of thought that says consciousness permeates space and time, and that, in the deeper reality, we are members of one mind.

Just like an entire city can have a million lights, and a million appliances, but it’s still the same electricity, so too does our individual consciousness have its roots in unified consciousness. When we are collectively meditating, we create coherence in that field, and that impacts people who are unaware, even, that this process is going on.

How do we know that?

For example, in the 70s, studies were done that showed traffic accidents, hospital admissions, crime rates all coming down when you had a large group of people, meditating together.

We do know that when you have a large group of people, meditating together there is an enhanced subjective experience yes, but also their brain waves go into coherence, and the biological effects of the meditation are much more profound than when people meditate by themselves.

Now because of technology, those effects could be even more because you have people all over the world in the same stream of consciousness.

Why has it taken western science and medicine so long to catch up to this kind of thinking? Why is there only now this serious interest in the benefits of meditation, for instance?

I think everyone wants proof. We are so brought up with idea that even if somebody is in love, we say to them: “Well, what’s the proof?” It’s so crazy, the world we live in. We want to quantify everything. It’s just the way our system is.

So, it’s taken all these years to begin to actually show that meditation changes you. It rewires your brain for higher consciousness; for creativity, love, compassion; for intuition and imagination. It changes your biology in terms of blood pressure, inflammation. People have subjective experiences of better relationships, better sleep, more energy, more clarity of mind. The data on all of this has been accumulating for the last 40 years.

–Hital Isler from Huffington Post.