Published on August 30th, 2017 | by Giovanna Rossi Pressley0
The Path to Intent: An Interview with Mallika Chopra
by Giovanna Rossi
Mallika Chopra, founder and CEO of Intent.com, is the daughter of well-renowned Deepak Chopra, mom to Tara and Leela, and the author of three books. Her experience includes launching MTV in India, Michael Jackson’s Heal The World Foundation, and working with various internet companies. She holds a B.A. from Brown and an M.B.A. from Kellogg University.
In this interview, we get a chance to talk about living with intent and why it’s so important to be true to your deepest desires.
Giovanna Rossi: What is your involvement in the Chopra Center besides being Deepak Chopra’s daughter?
Mallika Chopra: I am not involved in the Chopra Center. As a family, we’ve all been involved since the beginning. Dr. David Simon was a close friend of mine as well. I am so proud to see how the Chopra Center has grown. I have been involved more as a speaker in the last two to three years since I wrote my own book and got on the speaking circuits. For me, it’s lovely. It’s like being at home with family.
GR: Before we get to your book in just a moment, I’d like to talk about Mallika as the person. I think you might be labeled a lot because of your dad being so famous and such a leader in awareness, meditation and well-being. This surely had its benefits but also, has it been a burden or challenge for you?
MC: Honestly, for me, that’s what I know. I am very grateful for my family. We have always been a close family. My mother, who is not so much in the limelight, is really the anchor of our nuclear family with just me, my brother and my dad but even more so of our extended families in Boston, all over the U.S., and in India. My dad gets to do everything he does but my mom is the nucleus that’s kept everything very anchored.
My brother and I laugh often. As our dad became very well known, we remember being at a soda machine getting a Coca-Cola. Someone would see us and say, “Oh, we’re going to tell your dad.” We would laugh and say, “Oh, this is for our dad!”
I think there are many assumptions about the way we are or our father is. I think we’ve grown up to realize that there is the mythology of a person and then there is the real person and our families. I really have not seen it as a burden. My parents and my brother and I always felt that you must live as authentically and be who you are. When my brother and I graduated from college we really didn’t have any interest in our father’s work because that was not our work. I went and joined MTV which was launched in India and my brother became a journalist. I went to business school, etc. I always wondered what brings people to this world of self-help and self-improvement and self-exploration. It was never something I was into but that shifted when I was about 30 years old and pregnant for the first time. One day at five months pregnant, I woke up one morning and it was the morning of 9/11 and suddenly an urgency to understand who I am, where I came from and how I could serve arose within my core because now I was going to be a mother. I believe that was the first step in my personal journey of exploration. That was about 15 years ago. My journey has been more of a personal one in figuring out how to balance life, being a mom, and get through the day and be happy. So, my journey has been a personal one, separate from my father.
GR: Great answer! I want to dig into something you said about your realization to connect with who you really are and your purpose. Why do you think you were open to hearing that at that moment? I think we’re often given these messages but we’re not always in a place to hear and act upon it.
MC: I think about the people that have come to the Chopra Center. Often it is from a dark and scary place and you start asking deeper questions. Maybe people have been diagnosed with a disease or lost a loved one. Suddenly your every day is shaken up. For me, when I was pregnant, I was so excited and joyful about all the magic of becoming a mom. On the morning of 9/11, we had a few hours where we actually thought that my brother was on one of the planes and suddenly all of that turned into fear and anxiety. I began to question “What am I doing, bringing an innocent soul into this world?” So, it happened at a time when I was authentically asking those questions. I had grown up always asking those questions, but then I just went with the flow. There came a time where I had to really figure out who am I, because I was becoming a mom raising those innocent souls. I felt that I really needed to know where I came from and what values I had that I wanted to pass on.
GR: I want to ask you about your book Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy. I love it. It’s messy, the whole journey of balance. We, as women, juggle so many things in our lives. What lessons have you learned from your busy life?
MC: Intent.com is basically a social media platform where people are sharing their intents and supporting each other from all over the world. Intention was a part of my upbringing. When I grew up my dad had us think about our intents every day. My first book 100 Promises is about my intents to be a mom. I reached out to some of my mentors and teachers to really think about what does health, wellness, balance, happiness, and living a life of purpose actually mean. Out of that I came up with the path of intent which I talk about in the book. It is around the acronym I.N.T.E.N.T.
I is for Incubate
N is for Notice
T is for Trust
E is for Express
N is for Nurture
T is for Take Action
GR: Let’s talk about the first one, Incubate, because that is such an important part.
MC: One of the things I realized about doing this work for many years is that often when we ask people what their intent is, they don’t know. I think many women don’t know because there are so many demands on us that we have not had the chance to think about what we want.
GR: It might be like ‘I just need to do the laundry’, or ‘I just need to get to work’. That could be my intent.
MC: I thought a lot about word I would like to use for the ‘I’ in Intent. There were other attractive options like imagination, etc. Incubate for me represented the idea of being quiet, like during meditation. Honoring silence, but also honoring time. When we incubate we really have to go to a quiet place and we have to listen. It’s like having a baby. We incubate the baby for nine months of pregnancy. And intent is like planting a seed. We put it in the ground, put the dirt on it, and let the sun and the rain nurture it while trusting that it will blossom into something beautiful. It takes time to connect and really feel what our intentions are.
GR: Yes, that’s so important. It’s very difficult because we want to do, do, do. “How do we get there?” “How do we make this happen?”
MC: Intent is very different from goals. Intents come from the soul. They come from a place where we ask ourselves: “Who am I?” “What do I want?” “How can I serve?” When we were young, my dad would always ask us “What do you want?” We would often say “Tickets to the Celtics,” “A trip to Hawaii” and then he’d say, “Well, what about asking for love, affection, inspiration?” So, we were taught that these qualities in our lives would make us happier, healthier and more connected. That’s what intentions are. They represent our deepest desires. Goals are different, they come from the mind. Like task orientation and end results. Intents are more like “What are the qualities that I desire in my life?”
GR: And as goal-orientated women, when we set an intention we sometimes turn it into a goal.
MC: There definitely is a time for goals and to act. I see intents transforming into goals, but when you do it, having done these other steps, it’s coming from a deep, more authentic and effortless place because you’re really anchored in those deep desires.
GR: Marianne Williamson, when I was at her Sister Giant event in Washington DC, talked about the intersection of spirituality and politics. She was speaking to the spiritual community that it’s not just about individual work. At some point, you actually do have to engage in the outside world and take action.
MC: Marianne is one of my heroes. I had the privilege of speaking with her when she was running for Congress for this book Living with Intent. I love that she is action-oriented. In one of the chapters of my book I ended up holding a fundraiser for her when she was running for Congress. I was bringing a number of women in my community to hear from her. Marianne, for me, is probably the greatest example of someone that is a spiritual teacher. She is fierce and bold and she’s taking action in a way that we all can learn from.
GR: We’re going into a segment called super powers for success. I’d like to ask you a few questions. The first one is, what does success in life mean to you?
MC: For me, it’s living authentically and being connected with those I love in a real way.
GR: What is living authentically?
MC: Being true to my deepest desires. Living from a non-egoic place, versus just checking off the boxes.
GR: When did you know that you were really good at what you do?
MC: I still don’t think I’m really good at what I do (laughing). But I have been thrilled and humbled that I am able to connect with people. Sometimes when I’m speaking to a group and I can see a few women that have really been affected and touched, that makes me feel very happy.
GR: Can you describe one person or habit that contributes to your well-being?
MC: My meditation. I am an irregular meditator, but I’ve been meditating for 35 plus years. And for me, that is the way that I connect. And I recalibrate. When I’m not meditating, my life is totally frenzied. So I realize that it’s the meditation that anchors me.
GR: What is your meditation practice? You are an irregular meditator? That gives permission to all the women out there meditating that what you’re doing is OK. You can start meditating again TODAY.
MC: I grew up doing Transcendental Meditation. But I practice Primordial Sound Meditation now which they teach at the Chopra Center. It’s basically a mantra-based meditation. You can use any sound like Om or So Hum. You find a sound that’s comfortable to you. I try to find 15 minutes, once a day, to meditate. I am not following the formula of the Chopra Center or others that suggest 30 minutes in the morning and in the evening. I have not done that for 15 or 20 years. But if I can find 15 minutes once a day where I can truly be quiet, be present and do my meditation, that provides the anchor for everything else.
GR: One of the most challenging times in my life for my meditation practice was when I had tiny babies and a toddler. I would say I’d get up early, before they wake up. As soon as you get up they’re awake even though they normally don’t wake up at that hour.
MC: Yes, at the point you’re just grateful to be taking a shower. That reminds me of when I met Marianne Williamson. We started talking about her journey and my father’s journey because they’ve been friends for 30 plus years. And I remember Marianne laughing. She said when she was a single mom with one daughter she didn’t have anyone else to support her. She said, “Your dad had your mom. Your mom was taking care of you so he could run around.” She had to structure her work life in ways that she was there with her daughter. That literally meant that she could not travel for more than two nights at a time. It’s just funny that sometimes we give these prescriptions for things. But if we cannot even take a shower in the morning how do we find twice a day 30 minutes to meditate?
GR: I remember having that conversation with my meditation teacher. She did not know what to tell me. What superpower did you discover you have, only to realize that it was there all the time?
MC: The ability to connect with people, sharing my stories. Before, I was very self-conscious about it. And maybe with my dad being so well-known I figured I could never do it well enough. I have seen that sharing honestly and authentically can create a shift in another person. That is a real gift.
GR: What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
MC: Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. I got very caught up in the goals and degrees and the material things. I’m very grateful that I’ve done well. I think I could’ve done the same things if I had checked in with myself and asked myself “why am I doing this?”
GR: Do you identify as a feminist?
MC: Definitely, but I would not know how to define a feminist. I am a mother with two daughters. The urgency to make sure that they are empowered—and doing that by leading by example—is of utmost urgency to me. We are also living in a time where the devastation for women, on so many levels, is overwhelming. I have been personally struggling with that in the last six months and so I am feeling, more and more, the need to understand what it means to empower our voices, to find our voices, and share.
Giovanna Rossi is the founder of Well Woman Life. To hear the full interview, visit WellWomanLife.com/078show. To learn more about Mallika Chopra and her work, visit MallikaChopra.com or Intent.com.