Monday, 21 April 2008

Disappointing Deepak

I was given a ticket to attend Deepak Chopra’s much-publicised seminar at Sandton Convention Centre this past Saturday. I’d heard the ads on radio, saw them in the paper and didn’t know much about him except that he was a big name in the consciousness and mind-body connection movements. I found him uninspiring, dull and unable to string a logical sentence together.

The newspaper advert announced, “Do not miss this rare opportunity to: See one of the most influential personal development authorities in the world today; Learn new knowledge to help you stay ahead of the same; Discover new ideas and practical tools required for success; and Become energised and inspired to break free of your fears and awaken your potential”.

Deepak promotes a number of themes: the holistic interconnection of mind and body, especially relating to meditation and self-awareness in healing; various religious themes relating God as a projection of human awareness; personal consciousness, where a person’s awareness in the present shapes their existence after death; and the development of a critical mass of people operating on a higher consciousness.

I’d been online before the talk to read up a little about him and to check his age; he’ll be 62 this year (he looks early-50’s in the photo used on the ads).

We were told to get there at 12, with the talk starting at 13h00. As usual, I was punctual. Over the next hour 3000 people filtered into the massive room, which was filled with chairs arranged in blocks and rows. Deepak rocked up on stage at 13h22. I was already irritated; punctuality is important – lateness shows disrespect and inconsideration for his audience. He then thanks he friends and “renaissance” for hosting him in South Africa… it was Regenesys (a business school; he corrected his error promoted by those in front); their name and logo was projected on the 4 massive screens and on the wall above his head.

For the first hour of this presentation I was flabbergasted; and not by any display of profound thought and insight. He was like that guy on The Apprentice who my friend eloquently agrees was “that awful prat described as stringing words together and thinking people would be impressed”. His verbal sentences didn’t make much sense (to me). I frequently listen to TED Talks and I can comfortably follow neurologists, rocket scientists, architects, mathematicians and writers so I do not doubt my comprehension abilities nor intelligence.

Deepak spent the hour flinging numbers across the room like how often the liver replaces its cells (he worked through various organs) and how many atoms are in the human body. This was linked to the concept that the body our mind resides in today is not the same body we had 3 months ago… And in the breaking down of the old cells atoms are released which we share with other people so I am made up of atoms from you, and a person in Durban and another in New York… and because atoms are conserved I even have atoms from Ghandi in me…

I quite liked his bit about the body we’re in now isn’t the same as the body I had 3 months ago (new skin, new blood, new liver etc) but I don’t buy it. You replace an exhaust pipe in a car one week and a battery the next but it is still the same car. As for sharing atoms… He then hammered on about consciousness this and consciousness that.

I’m all for colour therapy, chakras, meditation, yoga, Feng Shui and related esoteric elements but I wasn’t sold on Deepak’s concepts. Perhaps it is because I’m an ex-cell biologist and geneticist? Of interest, Deepak is a medical doctor board-certified in internal medicine and endocrinology.

At half-time I asked the girl next to me whether she could sum up in a few sentences what he’d been talking about. She was about my age, Indian, a lawyer and a big Deepak fan; she’s read all of his books. She couldn’t sum up his message. I hoped the second half would be better.

I made a couple of notes in the second session to make sure that I wasn’t missing anything. He blabbed on a lot about universal consciousness and universal manifestation… I still don’t get what they are.

He did 3 “meditations” during the sessions, which were guided by loud, swelling music and voiced by a movie-trailer voice that didn’t seem logical and coherent either (the meditation was not guided by him).

My experience of meditation has been quiet, focused on self-awareness and the stilling of our “naughty monkey minds” which are never content to be in the present; instead our minds constantly turn to the past or future. I prefer this less “Americanised” version.

He has music CD’s, videos and has authored 40 books - pumping out two to four books a year. He pulls crowds. The cheapest tickets were R390, next at R590 and next at R700 and a couple of VIP tickets at R1300. There were probably close to 1000 people in each of the three ticket categories.

Deepak says, “Money will not make you happy; happiness will make you money”. I’m sure he’s a very happy guy.

After listening to this presentation by “one of the World’s greatest experts in the field of leadership, personal and emotional intelligence” I should have been moved to rush across to the bookstore to buy his latest offering. I wasn’t.

Another thought I did have during the talk was that if he’d taken on a physical challenge like a multi-day adventure race in his younger years he would probably have found a different path to enlightenment.

For me adventure racing and staged ultra running are life-altering journeys of self-discovery. There is no book or seminar that can teach self-reflection and the lessons about yourself, your abilities and other people as succinctly as a distance event. These challenges put you in touch with your existence, they repackage your perspective on life, aspirations, stresses and priorities; and they take you out of the river of memory and into the present, where nothing exists but eating, sleeping and forward progression.

Don’t waste your time indoors in a massive hall with 2999 other people listening to a talking head on stage. An adventure race or mountain run is the best unlocking your potential and deeper meaning, true nature and purpose of our existence seminar you can attend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa

I read this entry quite a while ago, and have given it a lot of thought. I was quite surprised to find an entry of this nature in your blog...

I am not that familiar with Deepak's work. There are parts of your entry that do resonate with me, though. I practice yoga. All sorts, all the time. I would like to have role models to look up to. A guru, if you may. But I have discovered a world of weirdness instead. I have had a so called yoga teacher tell me "Your intuition is wrong. God does not bla bla". And then I have also had to listen to half baked logic, mixed with a guilt trip if you do not believe the drivel.

There is a guru out there for each one of us. That guru is closer than what we might think. He (or she) lives in our hearts and minds, in the form of our own intuition. If you connect to that source by prancing around in the mountains, then so be it!

The rest of the crowd are only guides at best, or wolves at worst.

Having said that, Swami Niranjananda from the Bihar school of Yoga will be in the country in June. I wish I could have told you that I was completely equinanimous to his visit.