Photo: George Burns/Harpo Inc.
On my vision board, there's a picture of a woman on a camel wearing a shimmery gold sari. "Come to India," she beckons. I cut out the image four years ago, hoping to make my dream of seeing that country a reality. I knew it would happen—I just didn't know when.
Recently, I was reviewing a list of the people I'd most like to talk to about what matters in life. I'd already taped several conversations under the oak trees in my backyard for the OWN show Super Soul Sunday and was thinking, Who's next?
Then it came to me. "Deepak Chopra," I told my producer.
"Would you like to talk to him in the studio? In your backyard?" she asked.
In a flash I said, "I'd like to talk to him in India!" Which is how I found myself sitting across from this spiritual teacher, mind-body healer, and author of 65 books, in the beautiful City Palace of Jaipur—talking about everything from meditation (Deepak and George Harrison studied with the same teacher) to the nature of death (he insists it's not something to be afraid of).
Raised in a family of physicians—his father was a cardiologist, his brother is the dean of continuing education at Harvard Medical School—Deepak was trained as an endocrinologist (or as he puts it, "I used to be a doctor, and now I'm a witch doctor"). I've known him since 1993, but while I've always been impressed by his serenity and wisdom, talking to him in his homeland added a whole new dimension.
India was a shock to my system from the moment I arrived. I was trying to see everything at once, but there's just too much to see. A woman in a pink sari riding sidesaddle on a motor scooter. A group of men squatting around a smoking pot on the side of the road. A cow eating from a pile of trash. And people, people everywhere, millions of them, it seemed, rushing by in tiny taxis or on foot, and everyone going right through red lights—so much so that I decided red must mean "go" here. (It does not.)
From the slums of Mumbai to the Taj Mahal, from the city of widows to the best spa I've ever been to (in Rishikesh), India took my breath away. It really merits the word awesome—inspiring awe. I saw myself reflected in the worn, lined face of an old man driving an ox cart, in the widows covered in shawls and forced to beg for rupees, in the nine people crammed in the back of an open cab on their way to work. The level of patience, tolerance, and cooperation one must have in order to live as a family of five in a six-by-six-foot space (yes, I saw this, too) and still manage some happiness is profound. In India my humanity expanded.
And that, of course, is the test of any great journey: When it's over, are you better for having taken the trip? After visiting India, I can say that I am. It is a place that, like Deepak Chopra himself, invites you to see deeper into your soul.
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