Mallika Chopra
Living With Intent
TEDxSanDiego 2015

A few years ago, I was speaking to an audience of about 50 people about intent, wellness, balance, purpose. Intent, I explained, is who we aspire to be as individuals, as members of our family, of our community, as citizens of Mother Earth.

They’re very different from goals, which come from our mind and are often task oriented. Intents come from our soul and they represent our deepest desires.

While I was having this conversation with the audience, I was having a parallel conversation in my head. It went something like this, “Oh God, why did I have that chocolate chip cookie and double macchiato right before getting on stage? I have to go pick up the dry cleaning, get the dog food, and, oh shoot, my daughter has a soccer game; I forgot to get the snack.”

In fact, the conversation in my head got so frenzied that I decided to ask the audience to meditate. That way, I would deal with my own drama in peace, and I knew that often people felt very special when they got to meditate with the daughter of Deepak Chopra.

I learned how to meditate when I was nine. I’ve taught thousands of people how to meditate, and yet for years, I was not meditating. I wasn’t exercising, let alone doing yoga, because frankly, I couldn’t do downward dog and I hated yoga.

I ate a chocolate chip cookie almost everyday and as mom of two beautiful young girls, I was busy. As an entrepreneur, my startup company, which felt like a never-ending startup, Intent.com, consumed me during the day.

At the end of the day, I’d feel exhausted, frustrated often, not even knowing what I had accomplished all day, but feeling like I was never caught up.

Most importantly, when we were young, my dad would ask my brother and I to ask ourselves several questions after our meditation: Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve? I realized I had no idea how to answer those questions anymore. I felt like a complete and total fraud.

That day, on stage, I made a decision to change my life and to really think about what health and happiness and purpose meant for me. I spent a year reading everything I could about sugar and fitness and exercise and mindfulness, meditation, health.

I spoke to luminaries in the fields, including my father. To be honest, I had never actually read one of his 85 books and found that, you know, he had actually had some really interesting things to say.

I started to make small changes, which had a huge impact on my life. There was one conversation in particular that was very magical for me. I had decided I wanted to speak to Eckhart Tolle.

He was the well-known author of a popular book called The Power of Now. I communicated with his office and it took me about nine months to schedule a meeting with him.

In that time, I read all of his books, watched his videos, took meticulous notes on all of his work, and knew that he was really going to help me to understand what it meant to live with purpose.

The day of the meeting came. I was flying from L.A. to San Francisco, where he was giving a talk. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning for my early morning flight, and I was besought with the worst allergies I have ever had in my life.

I was sneezing nonstop, my eyes were watery, my throat was scratchy. I felt so miserable that I actually thought, “You know what? I should just cancel this meeting. I’m going to embarrass myself.” Then I realized that this was a very important project for my book and so I was going to just suck it up and go and do it.

I picked up my cellphone, which was on my bedside table, and there was a text message from my father. It said, “Good luck with the interview. Remember, he is always in the now.”

I read it again. Always in the now? What the hell was he talking about? Whatever. I got ready, went to the airport, got on my flight. I was sneezing nonstop. I felt so bad for the businessman who was sitting next to me, who cringed with every one of my sneezes and sniffles. I feel so bad still.

I landed. Another text message from my dad, “Remember, in the now.” I went to the hotel, cleaned myself up, and met Eckhart’s assistant in the lobby. He was incredibly gracious. He said that Eckhart hardly ever took interviews, but he was a friend of my father’s, he wanted to support me, and frankly, he loved the idea of intent.

He also gave me the protocol for the meeting. He said, “You will have 15 minutes. You sit down, talk to him. I’ll come back up, knock on the door, and when you see me, you just get up and leave.”

My mind started racing, too, “I had 15 questions. Let me think about three questions.” I smiled and we headed to the room. In the elevator, my phone buzzed again. I looked at it. “In the now.” At this point, I was really irritated. So I put the phone off and tried to get my breath for our meeting.

We got to the hotel room, and when Eckhart Tolle opened the door, I have to admit, I felt a sense of peace. My grandfather daddy had just died a few years earlier and he was someone I loved more than anything. Eckhart had a similar presence. I also noticed that my sneezing, my itchiness, all seemed to stop.

We sat down. I introduced myself, told him about the book I was writing, and my yearning to really understand what it means to lead a life with purpose. We were about five minutes into the 15-minute conversation.

He listened patiently, and then he said, “Intent is a most powerful concept.” I leaned forward, super excited to be inspired and understand all the mysteries of my life, and then he stopped.

He said, “Do you hear those bells?” I said, “Yes, I hear some bells.” There were church bells in the distance. He said, “When I was young, living in Germany, I used to work in an office and there was a church nearby. These church bells would ring. I’m reminded of that time.”

I smiled politely, thinking, “Okay, we’re about six minutes into the interview.” Then he said, “Let’s listen to the bells.”

I tried to keep smiling. Now my heart started pounding faster. My eyes were getting itchy. I felt like I was going to sneeze. I started to think, “Okay, I have one question. What am I going to ask?”
Eckhart sat there, smiling, listening to the bells. The bells rang and they rang. The damn bells would not stop ringing.

Finally, at about eight-and-a-half minutes, the bells still ringing, I thought, “You know what? I have to listen to the bells.” So I took a deep breath, I surrendered, and I was present, listening to the bells with Eckhart Tolle, completely and totally in the now.

I felt peaceful, clear, purposeful. The next thing I knew, there was a knock on the door. His assistant opened the door. My 15 minutes were up.

I got up, said thank you, and began to walk out. Eckhart said, “No, no, no, no. Sit down. I want to talk to you.” We spent the next hour and a half talking about intention and purpose and what it means to have the universe serve through you.

At one point, I confessed to him, saying, “I feel so frenzied and crazy every day. I’m running around and I feel like I need to do something important, but at the end of the day, I just feel like I’m a soccer mom, driving my kids from class to class.”

He said something really beautiful, which made a huge impact on me. He said, “It’s the everyday people, who do extraordinary things, who are increasing the frequency of this planet.

There is nothing more important, more special that you can do than be a soccer mom at this stage in your life, but do it with love, with compassion, and with conviction, and you will be living a life of purpose.”

I’d like all of you to sit comfortably and close your eyes. I’d like you to breathe in and out. In and out. I’m going to ask a few questions. Don’t feel the need to answer these questions, but just listen and experience the answers.

Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve?

Now take a breath and open your eyes. When we sit quietly, often our mind wanders from thought to thought. Sometimes, if we give it the chance, or with practice, we experience inspiration, peace, knowingness and clarity of intent.

My hope, my vision for 2020, is that we as a humanity, take time to think, to be still, and to know our truth, to know that we are enough and that we all can serve in our own unique way.

In that knowing, we will lead healthier, happier, more connected and more purposeful lives. We will live with intent. So please, please, listen. Listen to the bells. Thank you.