To some he is a prophet; to others he's a forward thinker; and then there are those that just think he is full of crap. Deepak Chopra may be guru to the stars – his followers include Demi Moore, the late Michael Jackson, and even the Dalai Lama – but the jury is still out on whether he is merely a western vessel for eastern fantasy, or if he does actually have some answers up his sleeves. This month you can decide for yourself when Chopra speaks at the two-day I Can Do It! retreat.
The heart of Chopra's theories lies in the connection between body, mind and soul. "Science is confirming more and more what some cultures have known for thousands of years," Chopra tells Time Out via email. "Our thoughts and our feelings have a measureable affect on our body's organs and cells." The principle he is talking about is popularly known as Ayurveda (‘wisdom of life' or ‘the science of longevity'), and is a 5,000-year-old medicinal tradition of India that considers not only physical health, but emotional, mental, environmental and spiritual health too.
Chopra comes up against a lot of criticism from followers of more traditional western scientific methodologies, who often blame him for creating false hope for very ill people. "Our field is known as complementary medicine, with special emphasis on the word ‘complementary' not 'alternative'," he offers by way of defence. "No one in my field dissuades anyone from seeking all forms of medical advice. I stand for alternative medicine but am a board-certified endocrinologist. I straddle these two worlds because I envision expanded medicine in the future, not alternative or mainstream medicine as divergent choices or warring camps."
Chopra and his contemporaries want to push healing towards the internal. "The body makes all kinds of drugs: sleeping aids, tranquilisers, and immuno-modulators," he explains. "And it knows when to administer these chemicals and in what dose." He offers meditation as proof for his cause, claiming that scientists are now able to measure the affect of meditation on the body. "This is where, I believe, there is the perfect meeting point between spiritual healing and scientific fact."
So what exactly is his aim at the I Can Do It! workshop? "To lead people towards a future influenced by Ayurveda to the point that they actually enhance their consciousness and wellbeing," he offers. "Australia is one of my favourite countries to visit and on this occasion I'll be discussing the many breakthroughs in the field of healing and higher consciousness."