To introduce their Health & Wellness Speaker series, the University Medical Center Foundation chose Dr. Deepak Chopra, a New York Times best selling author and world-renowned advocate of alternative medicine as their first guest.
“A large part of Deepak Chopra’s work revolves around taking personal responsibility for your own health,” UMC Foundation Executive Director Dennece Knight said. “That seemed like a good place to start.”
Deemed by the New York Times a “controversial New Age guru,” Chopra became a household name after garnering the admiration of Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and even Lady Gaga, who once said that Chopra was the most influential person in her life.
But like many doctors who turned to holistic health, Dr. Chopra’s career first focused on Western medicine. He left India in the ’70s to pursue medicine in the United States and soon became the chief of medicine at the then-named New England Memorial Hospital in Boston. Although he was a successful doctor, he grew tired of treatments that only relied on prescription drugs, as well as the direction modern medicine was taking. At the time, alcohol and cigarettes were his ways of coping with stress, he said in an interview with Aljazeera America.
Chopra’s life veered off the road of conventional medicine as he started to learn about transcendental meditation (TM) through TM guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. With roots in Chopra’s homeland, the meditative practice derives from ancient Vedic traditions and is said to help participants transcend their sense of the material world around them and into a state of wholeness.
In the ’90s, Chopra opened the Chopra Center for Well Being, which integrates mindfulness meditation, yoga, herbal treatments, nutrition and Ayurveda, a traditional Hindu medicine system. Others began to take notice of Chopra’s holistic techniques.
“Since I’m a physician, I went through the same frustrations about allopathic Western medicine,” Lotus Integrative Group for Health and Transformation (L.I.G.H.T.) Center co-founder Dr. Sobha Podila said. “For emergencies, it’s very wonderful, but for chronic diseases, there’s not much to offer. Deepak Chopra is like a guide for people like us who want to promote an integrative way of living.”
Podila and L.I.G.H.T. Center co-owner Lynn Provenzano both plan to attend Chopra’s upcoming lecture and share their experience with students at their facility, where they offer classes on yoga, meditation, healthy cooking and group discussions.
Despite Chopra’s acclaim, his practices have been met with skepticism from some, including evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who has questioned Chopra for combining science with spirituality. Chopra’s son, Gotham Chopra, filmed a documentary that claims to shed a different light on his internationally cherished father. As Deepak Chopra ventures into Thailand to become ordained as a Buddhist monk, we see that he, like many others, at times struggles to detach himself from technology and desires that stem from the busy Western lifestyle.
Yet despite the cynicism and revelations that surround him, Chopra continues to be sought out by those searching for an alternative path to wellness. An author of over 75 books and 23 New York Times bestsellers, he has seemingly surpassed the pessimism and distress of the modern world. His upcoming lecture at the Abraham Chavez Theatre will include some themes from his most recent book, “The Future of God.”
As far as future guests for the Health & Wellness Speaker series, organizers are still in the process of choosing various scientists who will appeal to different audiences.
“Over the course of the lectures it is our hope to explore all the ways we look at health and wellness; the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual as well as the larger world: environmental, policy, research,” Knight said. “Health and wellness includes a breadth of possibilities and broad range of topics.”
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Abraham Chavez Theatre, 1 Civic Center Plaza
Tickets: $25-$100, excluding fees
VIP tickets $250 (includes reception, free book, personally signed informal photo)
Tickets available at TicketMaster.com or
the Plaza Theatre Box Office 915-521-7229.