At first glance, Mallika Chopra is the definition of mindfulness. She’s the founder and CEO of the online wellness community Intent.com, an author and public speaker, and a mother of two who’s been meditating since age 9—oh, and she happens to be the daughter of renowned alternative medicine expert Deepak Chopra.
But that doesn’t mean Chopra is immune to stress—or that she always stays cool under pressure. She gets overwhelmed, craves sweets, and stresses about finishing her to-do list just like the rest of us. It’s what happens next that’s different. Instead of going into panic mode, she stops, takes a deep breath, and sets an intent.
Chopra’s just released a new book—called “Living With Intent”—about this practice, and how meditation and mindfulness can fit into the hectic day-to-day. We caught up with her to hear more about growing up in the Chopra family, what “intent” really means, and her favorite centering-mantra.
“Living With Intent” follows your personal journey to purpose. Was there one moment when you realized you weren’t living the life you envisioned for yourself?
I had an “a-ha” moment onstage while I was teaching a group of people about wellness and the benefits of meditation. As I was speaking to the audience, I was having a parallel conversation in my head that went like this: “Can’t believe I had that double macchiato and chocolate chip cookie right before this talk! I have to pick up the dry cleaning, get the dog’s food and turn in that permission slip for my daughter’s field trip.” I realized that I was speaking about health and balance but lacking it in my life. I asked the audience to close their eyes to meditate so that I could deal with my own drama! I felt tired, overwhelmed and like I was running around all day, but at the end of the day often wondered what I had actually accomplished. So I made a decision and set an intent to explore what balance and living with intent actually meant for me.
Why do you think meditation and mindfulness is so important to you personally? Why should someone who has never meditated try it?
Meditation was a gift that my parents shared with me when I was 9 years old. I have been meditating now for 35 years (although I readily admit I am an irregular meditator). I believe in the power of silence, of tapping into that quiet place between our thoughts where we connect with our soul—who we really are beyond the thoughts and labels that often define us. I think when we tap into silence, we feel more confident, rested, inspired and connected.
And there are different ways to do that—whether it’s through quiet walks on the beach, yoga, or dance—but meditation is an easy technique. Scientific research now validates the many physical and emotional benefits of meditation, but there is a reason these techniques have lasted for thousands of years in cultures around the world—they work! Sometimes it may take trying different practices to figure out what works best for you, but with patience, I do believe people discover the personal benefits.
Your father Deepak is a well-respected physician, author, and wellness guru. How has your family and upbringing influenced your perspective on mindfulness, intent, meditation?
When my father began speaking about the mind-body connection 30 years ago, he was labeled an "East Asian witch doctor who sold snake oil.” He was attacked and ridiculed by many, and yet he stayed focused on exploring, researching, and helping others. So, the most important lesson my father taught me was to live with intention and purpose. Do what you believe is right, if it is coming from a place of service.
My brother and I were also the guinea pigs for my father’s many experiments—from hypnosis to memory techniques to playing with the ouija board. But one of the phrases he would have us repeat after every meditation was this:
- I am responsible for what I see
- I choose the feelings I experience
- And set the goals I will achieve
- Everything that seems to happen to me
- I ask for and receive as I have asked
He would ask us, “what do you want?” We would reply with things like a trip to Hawaii, tickets to the Celtics, or a new Atari game. He would listen to us patiently and then say, “How about asking for love, compassion, inspiration, a sense of purpose?” He taught us to ask, daily, for the qualities in our life that would make us healthier, happier, more connected, and purposeful. I think of intentions as the seeds of desire of who we aspire to be as individuals, members of families and communities and citizens of Mother Earth.
What helps you feel relaxed, centered, and content? Can you share any daily rituals or favorite activities?
I recommitted to my meditation practice when I began writing the book. Usually before picking up my girls from school, I make my favorite tea and wrap up my work. Then I meditate for 15 to 20 minutes. I love and cherish this time. I am also a strong believer in sleep and I prioritize getting to bed on time with my kids. I try to avoid getting lost on social media before going to bed, although I will admit sometimes I end up playing video games!
What would you tell someone like yourself—a busy wife, mother, and professional—struggling to live with intent?
Don’t be hard on yourself, because life can be hard and overwhelming. Know that you are not alone and ask for help when you need it—sometimes this is very difficult for women.
I have an entire chapter in the book on “Nurture”—nurturing our relationships but also ourselves. We cannot take others if we can’t take care of ourselves. You don’t have to change your life to find more happiness or balance. Sometimes it’s small steps that have a huge impact. For me, recommitting to meditation and paying attention to my internal dialogue helped, but so did starting a book club with my friends and deciding to have more fun!
Can you share a short meditation practice that pretty much anyone could do?
When I lead meditations, I like to ask people several questions to prompt the seeds of intention. Here’s a very simple meditation.
- Find a quiet place and sit comfortably.
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply—in and out.
- Take three more deep breaths, noticing the pause between your breaths in and out.
- Now, ask yourself the following questions, giving yourself time to experience the answers:
- Who am I?
- What do I want?
- How can I serve?
- What am I grateful for?
- Take another deep breath in and out.
- Slowly open your eyes.
There is a phrase in the Upanishads that says:
- You are what your deepest desire is.
- As is your desire, so is your intent.
- As is your intent, so is your will.
- As is your will, so is your deed.
- As is your deed, so is your destiny.
Knowing your intent, begins with asking yourself what will make you happy, connected, and of purpose. Being authentic and honest in your answers is the first step in truly living with intent.
Photo credit: Mallika Chopra