28 Jun How to Live with Intent – Anne Mandler Talks One on One with Mallika Chopra
Anne Mandler interviews Mallika Chopra and explores how to live with intent for the Spring/Summer 2016 No. 2 of ANNE
ANNE: Welcome everyone, this morning, to ANNEMagazine.com. I have a special guest I’d love to introduce today. Mallika Chopra is joining me, and I just want to say a huge heartfelt thank you for joining us this morning, Mallika.
MALLIKA: Thank you. I’m thrilled to join you.
ANNE: You and I have been attempting to connect. We were both at a really lovely conference a few days ago, the Watermark Conference, in San Jose, Silicon Valley. I’ll introduce you from your bio from that event.
Mallika Chopra is a mom, media entrepreneur, speaker, and published author. Her most recent book, Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy was published in April 2015. Chopra is the founder of intent.com a website and app focused on personal, social, and global wellness. Her intent 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. That’s a lot of good, Mallika.
MALLIKA: Thank you. It’s so nice.
ANNE: The other thing I’d like to thank you for, and something I have some specific questions on, is your book, Living with Intent. I had the pleasure to be able to grab it hot off the press when it was released, and I have to say it really had an impact on me because I felt like you were my sister in balancing life as I was reading through it. From finding balance from running a company to balancing a family with kids and being part of the community, I just felt like you hit all of that spot-on, the challenges and also remedies and things that we can do, so I’d love to start out with Living with Intent. How did this book come about and what have you learned since writing it?
MALLIKA: Thank you. You know that’s actually probably the feedback I get most from fellow entrepreneurs and women in general is the relatability of the book. So, you know I have two kids, two amazing girls. They’re 14 and almost 12 and I have my startup company, and I always feel like I’m balancing the home, family, friend balance with what I’m doing at work, and a few years ago I found myself literally speaking to an audience about wellness and meditation. That’s what I talk about, and I found that as I was speaking to the audience, in the back of my head I was having a parallel conversation in which I was thinking, “Oh, I just had that chocolate chip cookie and double macchiato just to get a sugar rush before this talk.
I have to go pick up the dry cleaning and get the dog food and turn in my daughter’s permission slip. And I realized that I was always rushing, feeling overstretched, at the end of the day exhausted but not even knowing what I had accomplished all day. So, in that particular moment, I actually asked the audience I was speaking to, to meditate so that I could kind of deal with my own drama, and as I stood on stage and my audience’s eyes were closed, I really thought about my life.
You know how I had grown up, my father is the well-known author, Deepak Chopra. So I’d grown up with incredible tools like meditation and just understanding more about the mind-body connection, but I really realized that I wasn’t incorporating those in my life. I also wasn’t living what I say was a life of intention, and so my journey began in that moment, actually, where I decided you know what, I’m going to really explore what this means to me, what balance means to me, what happiness means to me, and are there simple tools because you know I can’t make huge, dramatic life changes but simple tools that can just help me lead a better life.
ANNE: That’s beautiful. I love the reference to actually taking action during a presentation because that takes a lot to be able to do that.
MALLIKA: Well, I think again, it’s easy because I could get everyone else to meditate and have time to think.
ANNE: That’s great, on the spot. I know near the beginning of the book you describe a very moving scene, and you referenced your father, who I know through teachings and seeing him speak, and you know, it was really interesting. I think he has also told this story with Oprah Live on his tour, but it’s so moving to read it.
Your parents were having issues when you were young, and there’s a scene where your parents were arguing. It was very heated. Your mother was packing a bag, and you realized that she was getting ready to leave, and your brother realized, and so he made this extreme statement, and he ran to lay down behind the wheels of the car, and he did that, in an effort to say, mom do not drive away.
This is so hard to imagine of course from the way that we know your father, that he didn’t meditate his entire life and that your family experienced those kinds of challenges. How did your story evolve after that, and what does your meditation practice mean to you beginning from this point as a child because not everybody has the experience of growing up knowing what meditation is?
MALLIKA: Absolutely. So, you know, I think part of the reason I or my father have chosen just to share that personal aspect of our family life is that I think it’s important that everyone realizes that we all have messy journeys, and that’s the subtitle of my book, My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy, because we’re all figuring it out, and we do find different roles at different times in our life that help us kind of transition or ask ourselves questions and figure out what needs to be done to get through a next phase. So, in my family, like families all over the world, we’ve had our struggles as well as those moments that bring us closer together. The scene that you describe obviously of the child sticks in your mind, but what I do remember after that is my father discovering meditation, making some really drastic changes in his life, which actually came quite naturally.
He was someone who drank and smoked and was pretty stressed out, but when he discovered meditation, there was a pretty dramatic shift just in terms of his own lifestyle, but then more importantly for me in our family’s kind of relationship and so my dad was around more. My parents were getting along better. It was just a happier time in our family.
So I really appreciate the benefits that came from that practice. I learned how to meditate when I was nine, and I’m forty-four now, so it’s been over thirty five years, but you know, I’m an irregular meditator. I’ve gone through years where I meditated regularly, years where I don’t meditate at all, other times when I’m kind of doing it kind of not. You know, as a mom with a busy business right now, you know I try to find 15 to 20 minutes once a day to meditate these days.
My big piece of advice for people is one, never get stressed that you’re not meditating or you’re not doing something. You know, that goes against the grain of what we’re trying to do here. Just kind of relax, and then find different tools. You know it’s never too late. Find different tools in your life that can help bring you silence and connect to a place where you can ask yourself questions.
I’m a big believer in asking yourself questions, things like who am I and what do I want, how can serve, what am I grateful for, and I think when we combine moments of silence with questions, we start to tap into our intuition. We start to hear our intentions to live a happier, healthier, more connected, and more purposeful life.
ANNE: Beautiful. I know that for me I didn’t start meditating until I was much older, but I so agree. In the beginning, I actually started meditation because I was diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue, and as a new mom with an infant and a toddler, the western way was to prescribe drugs or to go to high-level psychotherapy with drugs, things like that, and it wasn’t until I really discovered meditation that I had relief in a way that I don’t think I could have found in any other space. So, I really appreciate that. I can resonate with the “don’t stress out about not meditating” because also you do go through phases of your life where you know what’s good to do – but you may not be able to be right there, so it’s meeting yourself where you are.
MALLIKA: Absolutely, and I think again that’s when we kind of decided on the subtitle, My Somewhat Messy Journey. We wrote that because it is messy you know. Sometimes we’re kind of on the path or have things figured out, and then the next thing we know we’re confused again or feeling out of balance, and so it’s about kind of reassessing and continuing on the journey no matter where we are on the path.
ANNE: Absolutely. I know that in your book and within the audiences that you speak to you talk about micro intents, and you give examples, everything from your girls, leaving loved ones after a visit abroad. You also give an example of this potential investor in intent.com backing out of supporting the company after months of conversations, and I can so resonate with those types of examples because they’re two extremes, but you decided to clearly state your intent on intent.com and put it out there, especially when you were on these calls with the other investors, “My intent is to be centered in the midst of chaos”, and I thought that that was really a beautiful way to prepare yourself and extend that intention to others that you were about to speak with. Can you talk a little bit about what happened that day and if those micro intents were beneficial for you?
MALLIKA: Sure. You know I’ve had the website intent.com for many years now, over five, six years, and we just have an open-ended question there. What’s your intent? And people from around the world are sharing their intentions for personal, social, global, and spiritual well-being. One of the things I have learned in that process is that question can be very overwhelming for people. It feels like this life statement that you have to make, and so the idea of micro intents really came out of a friend of mine suggesting you know maybe to begin just think about today. Just think about what your desires, what your intentions are just for today or just for the next hour, and so that was really the idea behind what now we’re calling micro intents, which is just think about what you want to achieve in the day.
The example you gave with my investors was definitely a day where I knew starting first thing in the morning that this was going to be a really stressful and chaotic day, and by setting that intent of remaining anchored in the midst of chaos, I found that I had kind of planted a seed for the day and whenever things did get crazy or overwhelming or stressed I could go back to that intent, remind myself take a deep breath and then continue. So I do find that the process of just setting intents daily can really help one, just get through moments but it also over time helps us to think about our larger intents as well.
ANNE: Absolutely. We talked a little bit before about you know the fact that you’re balancing a lot like anyone else is but you have a family and a business and you know what it’s like as a mother to be pulled from mother role to company owner to wife. How has living with intent changed the way that you manage those roles or has it?
MALLIKA: You know, it has because I think what the process helped me do is ask myself on a regular basis one, those questions I had mentioned before. Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve? What am I grateful for? And I think it’s helped me get more clarity in terms of both my kind of priorities and also acceptance of where I am at this stage in my life without kind of like all the guilt and the drama that goes with that, and it’s also just kind of made me feel more empowered in the choices that I’m making.
I think at different times in our life we have the time, the energy, the resources to do different things, and when we are able to (from an empowered place) make choices not sacrifices, but then I think we lead a much more fulfilling life. So for me, the process of writing this book really helped me kind of think through those and clarify them, and just embrace the choices that I’m making right now in a way that has given me so much more fulfillment.
ANNE: Yes, I think what is an extension of what you just talked about is the fact that you speak about things like consciously nurturing ourselves. What is nurture? Do you have any suggestions for how to consciously nurture ourselves?
MALLIKA: Yes, I think as women often we’re so busy taking care of everyone else, our children, our parents, our communities, and people at work that we really forget to take care of ourselves. While logically we say, “Oh yeah, we need to”, the reality is we never have time, and so again, I think it can be simple, small steps that have big impact.
One, I believe that finding a practice like meditation or yoga, and I’m the first person who used to say , “Oh, I don’t have time for that”, but when I found that I made time for that, actually everything else in my life fit and did better.
Second, I felt like often I never had time to keep in touch with people or I was too stressed to do things, and yet I could spend forever on Facebook just surfing and looking at other peoples lives, and so I began just being conscious of where we’re spending our time.
Also, there’s an exercise I have in the book called the balance wheel that I created with my dad, and when I was doing that, I realized that when it came to professional life and family and some things like that I was quite balanced and doing okay, but I had forgotten how to have fun or wasn’t having intellectual stimulation and things like that, so I did small things. I started a book club with my friends, which kind of combined reading novels again instead of surfing the net all the time but doing it in a social way with my friends and kind of having the excuse to get together and just enjoy ourselves and have fun. So, I think there’s small things that we can do, but honestly these can have a huge impact on our general happiness.
ANNE: I know towards the end of the book you referenced a couple of these, but you have a cheat sheet at the back of the book, and it goes through kind of a process. Do you think that people actually have to go through that process in order to live with their intent? Is it a hard and fast process is what I’d like to ask you, or can you skip around?
MALLIKA: No, absolutely not. I think we all have different ways that we find balance and happiness. This was the process that I went through.
So I did it around the acronym INTENT for intent.
I is for incubate, which is finding moments of silence, whether it’s through meditation or walks on the beach but quiet time where we can really reconnect with ourselves and think about those questions. What do I want? How can I serve? Who am I? And what am I grateful for?
N is for notice, which is noticing our internal dialogue. I realized that my internal dialogue was full of phrases like, I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, I’m exhausted, and if I’m telling myself that all day long, that is actually what I was feeling. So noticing and shifting my internal dialogue, noticing the messages my body was sending me in terms of like my sugar and caffeine addiction and noticing the people, places, and circumstances that are around all the time, but we’re so busy and focused on our own drama that we don’t even notice.
T is for trust, which is trusting our intuition, trusting when we ask ourselves what do I want, what do I really want. Trusting that those answers are okay and are empowering and trusting that other people in the universe are there to support us.
E is for express, which is expressing our intent, saying what we want, taking ownership of it, and really planting that seed to say this is important to me, and I’m committed to it.
N is for nurture, which we talked about earlier, which is nurturing ourselves but also nurturing relationships. When we state our intent, what’s amazing is we find that others start to support us. They join us on our journey. They celebrate with us, and it’s very empowering and thrilling to go through that process, and we’ve seen that on intent.com as well.
T is for take action. So, I do believe very strongly that there is a time for taking action, for having smart goals, but when we’ve done kind of all this other work, then taking action becomes much easier because we’re really committed to it. That really was my process and kind of what I came up with in all my multiple conversations with teachers and experts in the book, but I always would love to get more feedback from people and hear other peoples stories because we really learn from each other.
ANNE: Absolutely, I know it’s an acronym, but I love that they all flow so well, and they just seem like yes this is exactly what you need to be able to create at least a starting pointing.
MALLIKA: Well, I can assure you it may sound easy, but that was years of thinking about it, honestly. From what made sense and from a lot research, but I do know from my father and other great writers that acronyms often help.
ANNE: They help with our memory so much, and we can remember them easily.
ANNE: There’s an afterward, Mallika in the book on page 234 that I would love to read a part of and just get your two cents on. It’s from your father Deepak, and he says, “If you live intentionally, the day surely comes with addictions to sensation, power, and security start to lose their foothold. Addictions got replaced by attachments. Attachment gives way to preference, and preference is followed by choice and subtle intention and letting go. The highest state, to use a phrase of the great Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, is ‘choiceless awareness in which the right response to every situation comes to you as it happens’. This is the state that wisdom traditions call total freedom and all freedom traditions aspire to it, and this is my wish for Mallika, for my grandchildren, and for all of you who read this book.”
That is so beautiful and I think to me that kind of sounds like the ultimate that we can all aspire to. I don’t know if I’ll personally get there in this life, but I think it’s so beautiful in the end really telling us what happens when intention is purposeful. It almost becomes like, he says it’s followed by choice and subtle intention of letting go. Do you feel like all of us can reach a part of this?
MALLIKA: One hundred percent, and you know I think there’s another phrase in the Upanishads which is one of the great Indian texts, and it says, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intent. As is your intent, so is your will. As is your will, so is your deed, and as is your deed, so is your destiny,” and I think that’s kind of what we’re doing with intention. We’re starting from that place of deepest desire, what our deepest desire is, and from there, everything starts to kind of unfold. In essence, we all can do that. We can all think about what our deepest desires are and how we can incorporate those into our everyday life.
ANNE: I have two last things for you. I have watched some of the fabulous videos that you have on The Chopra Well, and you take two individuals kind of through a journey, and for me it looks a lot like this almost effortless therapy on one end, but they’re doing a lot of internal work. I remember parts of it actually made me cry.
It’s so moving because both of them are very different people but they’re going through largely similar types of inner work, and I remember there is one video where, you’ll have to remind me what it’s called, but you’re basically taken into a pool and led into an intense but also very light therapy work. You do this with these two individuals through lots of different situations. Did those folks in the end, for people who haven’t watched those, did they really come away with some magnificent transformation from some of those experiences?
MALLIKA: Yeah, so you’re referring to a show we did called Thirty Days of Intent, which we produced and featured on our YouTube channel, The Chopra Well, and for that show we basically took two individuals who were kind of at a turning point in their life and they were young, which is also interesting because many people when they’re older go through a lot of self-discovery. One was just leaving [a career as] a professional soccer player, and the other guy was a YouTube star who basically was on the cusp of the next phase of success, and what we did is we took them through this journey of thirty days of different therapies and exercises and self-exploration, one of which is what you had described.
It was pretty remarkable to watch the transformation and just clarity of thought that came through this exercise. So I encourage people to look it up. It is on The Chopra Well, and we link to it from intent.com as well, and hopefully again, the end exercise is that it helps you think about things that you can do in your life, and both of them, yes indeed, had some real transformation.
It is interesting, I was recently in touch with Natalie, the girl in the show, and she recently became a mother and you know has kind of shifted a lot of what she’s doing professionally, and she was telling me recently that some of the insights that came from that show, like she had like the immediate insights but it’s maybe 2 or 3 years later now and she’s still kind of you know having the effects of those. So again that’s the journey of self-exploration it’s a lifelong journey and sometimes just like with meditation when you’re doing it in the moment you don’t realize the benefits, but these benefits do build up and overtime really do help us in our lives.
ANNE: Yes they do, and I just want to add, after watching those I think anyone can benefit from doing that kind of inner transformational work, whether or not meditation feels like the first thing to do is individual. I recommend and teach meditation as well, and I know that people are at different points in their lives. As you pointed out, and I think that again working to meet yourself where you are and picking one or two things and going from there is so much. You know it was an intense journey that you brought them through on the show, and they obviously signed up for that and I could completely see myself wanting to do something like that after watching Natalie with the horses and you know therapies like that. However we’re about out of time, so Mallika, I want to thank you so much for the work that you’re doing out in the world. How can we help share and spread the word about intent and where can we find more information about your work?
MALLIKA: Thank you so much for the support. I so appreciate it and love chatting with people. I’m on all social media. I love to kind of be on social media, so I’m on Facebook and Instagram. These days my daughter is having me try Snapchat, which I really haven’t figured out yet, but I love to connect with people on especially Facebook and mostly on Twitter, I can be reached there. I would love to invite people to explore intent.com and share their intents or sometimes people aren’t comfortable doing that but just come and see what others are posting because often people get inspiration or connection just through reading. We see that a lot, and then I also, whenever, I always love feedback on my book. It’s always so nice to hear other people’s journeys and kind of share stories. So again, whenever people share on any of the social media, I really love to see that.
ANNE: Beautiful. Well again, thank you so much and I look forward to connecting again soon.
MALLIKA: Great. Thank you so much.
Mallika Chopra is a mom, media entrepreneur, public speaker and published author. Her most recent book, Living With Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy, was published in April 2015.
Mallika is the founder of Intent.com, a website and app focused on personal, social and global wellness. Her intent 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.