Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Chopra Center, Carlsbad California - 12/2012

The end of 2012 finds me at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. I am here attending their Perfect Health retreat: a 6-day journey of healing and of setting oneself on the path to wellness. There are many reasons to be here, from wanting to learn more about meditation, to pampering and nurturing oneself, to undergoing a cure to eliminate accumulated toxins, to immersing oneself in the eastern philosophies. My days here are predictable by now, although predictable does not in any way describe the beauty of being here. I have 2 lectures a day, 2 yoga sessions, 2 meditation sessions, an Ayurvedic treatment at the spa and … bliss.
The Chopra Center is located on the ground of the La Costa Spa and Resort. As guests of the Center, one can choose to stay in a hotel room or book a condo on the grounds, both offered at preferential rates. I chose a condo, which was no great shakes, but spacious and provided me with a kitchen so that I could cook my evening meals, which are not served at the Center. There is a supermarket within walking distance, so a rental car is not needed for your time at the Center.

The treatments at the Center are of a quality and level I have never experienced. Even having been to some of the highest rated (rated by westerners mind you) spas in Asia, I have not seen this level of treatments. Perhaps I need to go to India. Starting with the fundamental building blocks like the size and attributes of the room, adding in touches like the quality of the massage table, the sheets, the oils and scents. Now add the therapists, who are so very skilled not only in the science of the treatments, but in the Art, and you get to the level of a treatment that is bliss at the moment, but therapeutic in nature; in the sense that you are healing based on the result of the treatment. Intriguingly, while the treatment is blissful, the feelings afterwards are not always sunshine and light. It would be very hard for me to explain, but afterwards they feel like work, hard work. It is almost as if you don’t want to go back for another treatment, because there is the unsettled association of it loosening up bad things. I know, sounds odd. Fortunately, the treatments themselves are so blissful, that one returns. It is a bit of a push-me, pull-me.
In our western culture we like to have an explanation for everything; a scientific, objective, rational explanation. That which we cannot explain or measure, does not exist. Dr. Brieske said it well when he said, “5 years ago if I was told that the Perfect Health program eliminates toxins, I would have wanted to measure them. I would have taken samples and looked for proof that toxins where being eliminated.” History has clearly shown us that our knowledge is evolving. As little as a couple hundred of years ago, people burned women to death, tied to stakes, because they believed that the bad weather that killed the crops, or the illness that struck down their children was caused by this woman. This was the ‘knowledge’ they had at the time. Therefore, we must rationally accept that our knowledge today is incomplete. That there are things for which there can be no scientific explanation  - with today’s science.

For the scientific, rational readers, there are clear results on the benefits of meditation. Do a simple Google search to find the 1.59 million results related to the key words “benefits of mediation studies”. To take one example, there was a study published by doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital, in cooperation with Harvard, on the benefits of meditation. They conducted MRI scans of the brain, before and after the study. Participants meditated for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks. The scans showed changes in the physical brain, with “increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.” The study, published in PsychiatryResearch: Neuroimaging, also found “decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.”

Deepak is viewed in some circles as something of a charlatan; spouting ‘new age mumbo-jumbo’. Yet, the things he talks about, he did not invent. He is merely relaying knowledge and thoughts that have been around for a very, very long time in places like Tibet and India. The philosophy that he attempts to make consumable to the Western mind is deep and very complex. For those of us raised in a culture of ‘what you see is what you got’, these thoughts are foreign and therefore to many, unpalatable. Buddhists believe in reincarnation. Western science cannot begin to explain or accept this concept. But we should not assume therefore that it does not exist.  A wise friend put it well when she said that whenever somebody makes a lot of money simplifying a concept so that it is digestible by many, we (our western, rational world) mock them. If it is in the field of medicine, the ultimate kingdom of rational scientific western thought, they are almost invariably labeled a quack.

I highly recommend the Perfect Health program at the Chopra Center. Indeed, for those who are open and ready for change, I believe it can be truly transformative. We live in a stressed-out world. Everything we do and are exposed to, is literally inflammatory. Give yourself the greatest gift: the gift of time and healing. The beautiful people at the Center can help you to learn the tools and develop the skills to reach into yourself, connect with your true nature, slow the world down and see the beauty in every moment of the day. It may sound trite, but it is so true.