By Deepak Chopra, MD
The cutting-edge programs of the Sonima Foundation are based on an ancient wisdom principle. True wisdom occurs spontaneously, and in this case, I remember the story of how one child discovered it very early. Alfred Stieglitz, who became one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey. His father had fought for three years in the Union army before buying himself out so that he could be home to see his first child grow up.
One winter the boy was seen slipping out the back door, which at first seemed only a bit odd. It was the dead of winter and freezing cold. But when he kept doing it, his parents investigated. It turned out that Alfred was slipping money to a bedraggled vagrant without telling anyone.
The family wasn’t rich, and his father rebuked him. “Why are you giving your money to a stranger?”
“Don’t you see?” Alfred replied. “I’m doing it for myself.”
The same wisdom principle, that in helping others we help ourselves, could change the world. That’s why I feel so dedicated to the Sonima foundation, because they have taken an idea close to my heart—the wellbeing of children—and expanded it. Through a groundbreaking health and wellness program, the foundation is creating the leaders of the future who will be healthy in body, mind, and spirit.
This goal is already far-seeing, because the 15,000 schoolchildren who are being taught yoga-based exercises, healthful nutrition, and related skills are being gently integrated into a holistic approach that will serve them their whole lives. This is in stark contrast with previous generations, even mine, who shrugged off wellness, waiting until they got sick and visited the doctor to get fixed. My generation has had to learn the hard way that drugs and surgery, the chief tools of modern medicine, are far from perfect, and that the vast majority of chronic diseases can be fended off through self-care.
Self-care is the wave of the future. Now that we’re waking up to this, teaching young children the best practices of self-care means that they’ll have an enormous advantage over previous generations: they won’t be living the kind of short-sighted lifestyle that needs correcting. Yoga, meditation, and healthy eating should be as natural as brushing your teeth. It’s an enormous gift to the future to bring that about.
Here’s where the wisdom principle comes in. Self-care is selfish because it benefits the person who adopts it. But self-care based on Yoga and meditation has a chance to benefit the world’s collective consciousness. If you cherish your own existence from the level of inner peace and joy, caring for other people and eventually the entire human family will develop naturally.
So I participate in the work of the Sonima foundation out of a deep, wise selfishness. There’s an ancient Vedic adage from India: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam—“The world is my family.” Looking at the face of any small child reminds me of that, but when I see the faces of the kids helped by the Sonima Foundation programs, I know it will come true.
Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers including Super Brain, co-authored with Rudi Tanzi, PhD. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Coming soon, The Future of God (Harmony, November 11, 2014)