A while back I had the pleasure of meeting Deepak Chopra at a media event. When I reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime interaction, it amazes me how far I've come personally and spiritually and how much his words of slowing down and taking time to breathe every day would become such a big part of my daily curriculum. Life truly wows me sometimes. Things really do come full circle. As a long-time magazine editor and writer for various outlets, I know I have been blessed to work in the industry that I have. So on to what happened...
Perhaps my wanting to go to this special event was two-fold: On a personal note, I had been going through my own spiritual journey since a health scare in 2013. Professionally, I wanted to learn more about his important messages on how to live happier and healthier. I've always loved yoga too so that was a no-brainer. But for some reason, as soon as I opened the invitation, I knew this wouldn't be your average media event where editors and writers mingle and talk shop or gossip about the latest cutbacks and how print is a lost art. This was going to be a life-changing experience for me so I took it as a sign I had to attend now matter what.
For those of you who don't know, Deepak Chopra is a world-renowned physician and expert in mind-body healing, and has written over 65 books including New York Times bestsellers. He has a huge following in every country, along with many celebrity clients, and is highly respected around the globe for his thought-provoking teachings about alternative medicine. I was excited.
We had to remove our shoes at the door when we got there. A tad unusual for a press event, but after all, it was the opening of the new Chopra Yoga Center in Toronto so it made perfect sense. And actually put everyone at ease.
Deepak entered from the back of the room and the applause erupted. Not surprisingly though, with hence his incredible allure. It was almost as if he had walked out on to Oprah's stage. He was wearing a nicely tailored suit and he stood in front of the table that was set out for him to sit at so he could be up close and personal with our small privileged group. He opened by asking us what we wanted to talk about, which spawned a few giggles from the crowd.
We wanted to hear his thoughts on life, love and happiness of course!
He spoke clearly and calmly and looked straight in people’s eyes as if to invoke some sort of trance. As we listened to his theories on the best lifestyle practices for brain health, and how important they are for busy parents, he said: “Every now and then, stop, and ask: ‘Am I aware? What am I aware of?” And the world will open up.” The audience was silent.
His words filled me with emotion and pride. I’ve made some changes in my life over the past 10 months that have made me a stronger, more self-aware person, too. And hearing him speak about this topic right there in front of me was the affirmation I needed that I’m on the right path.
We were also able to ask him some questions. I was up.
“What was the inspiration behind your book Super Brain?” I asked him excitedly.
What came next was not what I had expected. Deepak laughed. Laughed! (Well, maybe more of a chuckle but it was directed at my question particularly. He said simple and sweet, it was a great question because of the answer he was about to tell.
“It was inspired in the bathroom,” he chuckled.
Turns out he met his co-author Rudolph Tanzi, PhD. in the bathroom at a conference and they casually started talking about the brain and how it was the key to health, happiness and well-being. After a few hours of brainstorming (literally) they had decided to write a book together. Wow! Now, I knew people did a lot of thinking in the toilet, but this was crazy.
What else did I learn?
He said regular exercise, yoga, proper breathing techniques, sleep, meditating at least twice a day, and avoiding alcohol are all imperative to self-awareness. In other words, getting to know yourself inside and out is critical to being happy and healthy. This all made perfect sense to me.
But he also said that multi-tasking is the one skill you can’t make better with practice.
“If you’re doing everything at once you’re not doing anything at all.” This was my biggest takeaway.
I thought about this for a moment. It's so true. As women we try to do it all. We want to be superwoman 24-7. And we pride ourselves on our multi-tasking skills. In fact, it’s often our survival technique. But to my surprise, Deepak didn’t agree with this theory. He told us that women. and moms specifically, need to realize there’s more to the precious time we spend trying to get everything done.
“You need to meditate every day, and if you don’t have time, then you need to do it more,” he explained.
In other words, those of us who claim we don’t have enough time to do things for ourselves, are really the ones who need it the most. So true.
Take a few minutes from your hectic day to slow down. Find a quiet spot in your house or close your office door at lunch and do a 15-minute meditation. How does this make you feel? Are you ready to take on the rest of your day? Try to meditate once a day (preferably in the morning) as it will help clear your mind and relieve stress.
On this last day of Heart Health Month, February 2014, I wanted to share a little bit about why it means so much to me.
It all started on Christmas morning in 2012. I felt a heavy tightness across my chest that I had never felt before. It felt like someone was tightening a belt around my breasts and holding on for dear life. The feeling lasted for two weeks and was so foreign, but I just shrugged it off as normal holiday stress.
After our family returned from a trip to Florida a few weeks later, I started having scary heart-racing episodes 3 to 4 times a week. They would start and stop suddenly for no apparent reason – and it felt like I was running a marathon even at rest. I was also having more headaches than usual, aches and pains in my upper body, shortness of breath going up and down the stairs, and was tired all the time. One morning at work, I even had a panic attack standing in line at the cafeteria. These events were not usual for me because I’m not a smoker and not overweight and have always considered myself a healthy person.
But the next night, as I was putting my kids to bed, I had the most horrific feeling. I got a sharp pain in my right shoulder that shot all the way down my arm. It felt as though someone hit me hard with a baseball bat. Then pain started to trickle around my back so I ran downstairs to where my husband was standing in the kitchen. My arm started to go limp.
Panic-stricken, he asked if he should call an ambulance. But I screamed “No!” because it was my right arm. (Needless to say since then I’ve learned that women can experience different symptoms like pain in their right arms, a feeling of indigestion, or back aches during an attack – but you seldom hear of it.) Then, I had an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. It was only 8 o'clock but if I had of stood there any longer, I would have fallen to the floor.
Looking back I know I should have gone to the hospital that night, but I was in denial. After all, I was only 39 and I had to get the kids to bed, right?!
This is a typical reaction of moms, and women in general, which I've since coined "Supermom Syndrome." It's when we simply do not think about ourselves in times of need.
This was the beginning of my heart health journey and now 13 months later I am happy to report that I am feeling better than ever (except for a torn meniscus in my left knee but that was my own fault during an intense workout. Ouch!).
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about my heart health is that if it can happen to me, then it can happen to anyone. I wasn’t leading a bad life before. I don’t smoke. I'm not obese. I have no history of heart disease in my immediate family, and I don’t have high blood pressure. But I was stressed – and I didn’t realize how much. My body was ready to shut down and I wasn’t ready to listen, until I had to.
This past month I’ve been fortunate to tell my story on various radio and television shows and I hope that my story will inspire others to think about their heart health and take note when their body is telling them to slow down. It’s not easy to do, but it’s very important.
According to a recent Leger survey commissioned by Jamieson Vitamins, only 25 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 25-44 believe they are at risk of heart disease, which is so not the case! In fact, the CANHEART Health Index states that 90 percent of Canadians in this age group are actually in poor cardiovascular health. That's 1 in 5.
It's not just an older person's issue. I'm proof of that.
So there you go, my friends. This is just a snippet of my tale and the self love and healing continues. When I reflect, I truly feel my health scare was a catalyst for what I am doing now: Helping spread the word about being heart aware. After all, the universe does work in mysterious ways and perhaps this is what I was meant to do.
I hope you'll check back for more on what I’m doing to stay on track with my eating, exercise and supplement program; as well as tips on how to lessen the stressors in your life. These are the things that I took for granted before my wake-up call last January and I really want to make sure you think about them in your own lives.
Stay heart aware,
Kerrie Lee Brown is a sought-after health and lifestyle expert. She writes books, blogs and articles and is published all over the world. Kerrie Lee is also a heart-health survivor and has appeared on numerous radio and television shows sharing life-saving tips for women on how to listen to their bodies and slow down. Kerrie Lee is a mom and proud Canadian living in Denver, Colorado.