I have always been a fan of speaker and author Mallika Chopra who spoke on our TEDxBerkeley stage in 2013, an event I co-curate every year. Her most recent book, “Living With Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy,” (gotta love the name) takes you on a journey of Mallika’s personal path to intention through trials and tribulations in order to get to that life balance she was (and we’re all) striving for. She talks of her own insecurities as a mother, and tips on how to become more focused and present in your life.
She is also the founder of Intent.com, a website and app focused on personal, social and global wellness, a personal passion of mine. Her goal is to harness the power of social media to connect people from around the world to improve their own lives, their communities and the planet. She is speaking at the Watermark Conference for women in the Silicon Valley Bay Area, an event I plan to attend this year. This year’s event has a fabulous line-up of inspiring and thought provoking women (and even a few men), so be sure to check it out. Below is a dialogue I had with her in a Q&A centered around life balance and health.
RB: You’re both a mom and an entrepreneur — how do you juggle both and what tips can you provide to other women who run businesses and need to constantly juggle?
MC: Finding the right balance between the personal and professional for me has been the key to sanity, health and happiness. One of the motivations for me when I wrote my book, Living With Intent, was admitting that I was always busy, juggling work and my kids schedules, and yet feeling like I hadn’t accomplished by the end of the day. I was exhausted, and on a sugar and caffeine binge just to get through the days. Ultimately, I had to slow down, recommit to my meditation practice (which helps anchor me), and think about what truly made me feel healthy, happy, more connected and more purposeful. In addition to lifestyle changes (meditation, exercise, making small changes in my diet), it also mean letting go of guilt, saying no more often, and asking others for help.
RB: I am a huge believer in the power of intent and the positive impact it can have on your life. I’ve seen it work in my own life and others across cultures. That said, it’s hard to keep “intention” and being present in check when we get hit with so many daily demands and stresses. Can you suggest two simple things we can all integrate into our lives and yet can help us with life balance and overall happiness?
MC: I believe intents are different from goals. Goals come from the mind, but intents come from the soul. They represent our deepest desires, and who we aspire to be as individuals, members of our families and communities, and citizens of mother earth.
I have found, through our website, www.intent.com, that sometimes people feel overwhelmed thinking about life intents. I suggest setting a daily intent, what I call micro-intents, to begin. Perhaps the intent for today is to express gratitude to someone you love, or to remain centered in the midst of chaos. When you write, or post, your intent you anchor it with words. I also think re-affirming your intents, like to meditate daily for me, helps keep you committed to the journey.
RB: Let’s talk about wellness. How do you define wellness in your own life and overall?
MC: For me, wellness is living a healthy, happy, connected and purposeful life. Intent.com, from the beginning is about personal, social, global and spiritual wellness. We need to be healthy personally, but if our society and world is suffering, then we all suffer.
RB: We live in a society that promotes pharmaceutical drugs as a way to resolve our issues, physically and emotionally. With this message going up and up (90% of TV commercials hit American society with “solutions”), how can we turn this around? What could those of us who are aware do to reverse this?
MC: I believe that one should seek professional help when they are suffering from mental or physical diseases. I think there are many complimentary techniques or supplements that can support traditional medicine. But, I believe strongly that we need to take care of ourselves mentally and physically through diet, hydration, good sleep, and exercise. Meditation has tremendous benefits to reduce stress, increase immunity, and support a healthy lifestyle.
RB: What is your view on food and what’s happening in the United States, aka that our supermarkets are exploding with processed food and that far too many Americans fill their carts with more cans and boxes than fresh produce, largely due to lack of education and costs? For lower income families who can’t afford $8 for a dozen organic eggs, what do you suggest as a way to migrate them to a more natural path of eating and living?
MC: The tangled hierarchy of food, GMO’s, commerce, obesity, and disease is overwhelming. When I embarked on my book project, I began to “notice” the effects that food was having on me. I noticed more body pain when I ate lots of sugar or gluten. For my family, over the last 2-3 years, I am trying to buy less processed foods, particularly making weekly trips to our local farmers market. Recently some larger companies have agreed to label GMO foods and I think (hope!) we are beginning to see a commercial shift to more access to information and healthy choices.
Above, Mallik speaking to a group at LinkedIn.
RB: You’ve probably been asked this question dozens of times, but as the daughter of spiritual guru and celeb Deepak Chopra, how has this impacted the life choices you have made?
MC: This is the most common question I get – how was it like to grow up as the daughter of Deepak Chopra? For my brother and me, that is all we know so we accept it. I think most importantly, we were gifted with a very stable and loving family. My mother is all of our anchor and has played the most important role in keeping us close and connected. Because of my father’s work, we were exposed to people seeking healing and meaning in their lives. I think seeing how people truly created better lives for themselves through meditation, healthier habits, and self exploration inspired me to share my stories as well.
RB: While no doubt, your father has been instrumental to your path to a spiritual and intentional/purposeful life, could you name two individuals who have inspired you in your life and WHY? What about their guidance and how they live their lives have helped you stay strong and march forward when the chips are down?
MC: I have been very fortunate to have strong women in my life. My mother is my inspiration, truly. When we were young, and my dad traveled the world and worked incessantly, she was at home with us. She is our anchor. Similarly, my grandmothers were both very strong women. I dropped out of Business School at one point to start a company, and when that didn’t work, I decided to return to school to complete my MBA. My husband had to stay in LA where we lived, and I returned to Chicago with my 3 month old daughter in tow. My mother, mother-in-law and aunt took turns staying with me and my daughter so I could finish school. I am forever grateful to them for believing in and supporting me.