Book Review: Practical Tips for “Living With Intent”
Imagine coming of age as part of a wellness dynasty. Mallika Chopra’s family is medical royalty in India: Her grandfather was a well-known doctor whose patients would travel for days to be treated by him. Her father is one of the most well-known transformational writers and speakers on the planet.
What a legacy to live up to. And what great work she’s done living up to it. Deepak Chopra’s daughter, already a published author, has written her first self-help book, Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy.
Mallika Chopra chronicles her journey from childhood to motherhood. She grew up in a home visited by social, political and spiritual notables. As an adult, she’s worn many hats: wife, businesswoman, author, speaker, and the mother of two daughters.
She’s candid about the Chopra household’s struggles. Early in his career, her father’s drinking, smoking and stress levels were high enough that her mother had planned to leave. That was when Deepak decided to turn his life around by learning transcendental meditation. Seeing how successful it was for himself, he brought his wife to a local center. Soon they were teaching Mallika and her brother, Gotham, to practice meditation.
Exercises in Intent
Mallika describes another family ritual that she says has served her well, eventually blossoming into her new book. The Chopras would read this piece, which comes from a spiritual text called A Course in Miracles:
“I am responsible for what I see.
And set the goals I will achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for, and receive as I have asked.”*
(*This text encourages mindfulness and choice, but isn’t meant to justify abuse or trauma.)
She describes another tool to develop intent: Three questions that set the tone for the next 24 hours and create a daily inner dialog. These can also be written in a journal:
“Who am I?”
“What do I want?”
“How can I serve?”
Mallika defines intents as “expressions of who we aspire to be as individuals-physically, emotionally, spiritually, as members of our families and communities and even as citizens of Mother Earth.” She also calls them “a way of defining what we want and asking the Universe or God for help.”
The book is a lovely collection of stories and exercises. She begins with the acronym “INTENT” to spell out an action plan:
- Take Action
Teaching What She Practices
The book depicts Mallika as a normal woman who faces the same demands as any “hyphenate,” or mother-wife-professional. She hustles to meet all of her responsibilities and she faces self-doubt. She said she often asks herself before speaking, “Who are you to talk about intention when you’re not living yours?” These feelings of inauthenticity led her to a healing retreat, the yoga mat — and an awareness of how powerfully she’s addicted to sugar.
She describes turning to a book written by her father called What Are You Hungry For? She randomly opened to a page that advised her to trust and listen to her body’s messages before reaching for her “drug of choice.”
Mallika winds back the clock, as she does throughout the book, weaving past and present. She recognized the origin of her compulsion: She began conflating love and sweets when her grandmother offered her chocolate cake and milkshakes.
To reset, she suggests an exercise called “Ways to Find Fulfillment without Food.” Another recommendation is mindful eating, during which she savors a meal by seeing, smelling and slowly tasting it, as well as expressing gratitude for those who grew the food rather than mechanically and rapidly devouring it.
Mallika also highlights the power of intent by sharing the story of her paternal grandmother’s desire to meet Jawaharlal Nehru, at the time the newly elected prime minister of India. Other family members were skeptical, but Mallika’s ever-certain grandmother found her wish manifesting.
Tools to Practice What She Teaches
Chopra’s website, Intent.com, provides a safe place online for people to declare intentions and connect with a supportive community to help see them through.
Reinforcing exercises in the book include creating “microintents” — baby steps as practice to help the reader understand that even grander outcomes are possible. She also shares the importance of creating goals that meet criteria to spell out the acronym “SMART”:
Another functional tool is a mind map that allows the reader to draw out what makes them happy. At the back of the book are the templates and journal pages that create space for writing daily intents. Finally, an afterword written by her father, Deepak Chopra, MD, provides step-by-step ideas for putting Mallika’s ideas into practice.
As the book’s subtitle indicates, Chopra doesn’t tie everything up into a tidy package. Instead she acknowledges that she is and we are works in progress — and that the journey continues with love as its companion.