As a kid, Mallika Chopra’s father, Deepak Chopra, would ask her to explore four questions: Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve? What am I grateful for?
Now as an entrepreneur, public speaker, and the author of the new children’s meditation guide Just Breathe, Mallika uses those questions to help others know their intentions and improve their lives. She has taught meditations to thousands of people around the world, including her two daughters, Tara and Leela. Here’s how she parents.
Name: Mallika Chopra
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Job: Mum, author, public speaker
Family: Husband Sumant Mandal, and daughters Tara (16) and Leela (14). Our dog is Yoda.
Tell us a little bit about your family and your career. Did life happen mostly as planned or were there surprises?
Life for me has been a messy journey. I have found there are times when life seems to be flowing smoothly — relationships, health, inspiring work — and then something happens that makes me pause and ask, “Am I really happy? Am I doing what I am meant to do?” I believe in constantly asking questions.
Take us through your morning routine.
Morning is all about getting my kids to their bus by 6:57AM! Alarm goes off at 6:07, walk the dog, have tea, get ready. My husband makes the girls breakfast. We should leave the house by 6:40 but it’s usually 6:45 and we are rushing to the bus. Let’s just admit it’s not the most peaceful time of our day.
After I drop off the kids, I come home, make my coffee and sit back in my bed and meditate for 20 minutes. My hope is my kids are meditating on the bus as they go to school, but I am sure they are actually just sleeping!
How much outside help do you get as a parent? Who or what can’t you live without?
I have been blessed with a family that is totally involved in raising my girls. My mum has been hands-on since the day my first daughter was born. In fact, I finished my MBA at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University when I had my daughter, and my mother, mother-in-law, and aunt from India took turns watching my daughter while I ran back and forth to classes.
In this episode, we're talking to Sanjiv Chopra and Gina Vild, the authors of The Two Most Important Days. How to Find Your Purpose - and Live a Happier, Healthier Life.
What are the gadgets, apps, charts or tools you rely on?
Just my iPhone. Everything I need is there: Phone, text, email, the news, social media. And I like to measure how many steps I take every day.
Has becoming a parent changed the way you work?
It’s how I found my voice. When I knew I was going to be a mum, I felt a need to explore where I came from and what lessons I wanted to pass on to my children, and that is how I began to write and speak publicly.
Do you involve your kids in your work?
Yes, my kids are completely involved in my work and they are very proud of it. When I decided to write Just Breathe, I actually sat with them to understand what creates stress and anxiety for them and their friends, from test taking to social media to feeling misunderstood.
What does your evening routine like?
Unlike our mornings, our evenings are relaxed. My kids generally are home after school. They do their homework and we try to have dinner together every night. I love that my family talks about the day, and generally we are all obsessed with the news so current events take up a lot of dinner conversation.
I am obsessed with sleep, so I mandate that everyone is in bed by 9PM with rare exceptions on nights when they have to start their homework later.
What’s your favourite technique for staying in the moment when things start to feel overwhelming?
When I feel overwhelmed, angry or frustrated, I STOP. S - Stop. T - Take three breaths. O - Observe the body. P - Proceed. This practice helps transition from a fight-or-flight mode to a more thoughtful reaction to any situation.
It is so easy for kids to press our buttons — because they know exactly which ones to press — and sometimes we react in ways that we regret later. The STOP exercise has helped me take a pause and react in a more mindful and appropriate way. It has saved me from unintentionally saying or doing things I may regret later.
Tell us about a family ritual.
It’s kind of inappropriate but we love watching shows like Scandal and Empire together! I do a puzzle while the rest of the family and Yoda lounge on the couch.
What’s been your proudest moment as a parent?
Knowing that my daughters are kind and respectful. Often, strangers come up to me and tell me that my daughters are polite and engaging and I beam with joy.
What moment are you least proud of?
Reading my daughter’s diary and breaking her trust.
What do you want your kids to learn from your example?
The importance of gratitude — not just of material things — but of relationships, opportunity and the planet.
What’s the hardest part about being a parent?
Trust. Lately my daughter started driving. This took trusting that she can take care of herself to a whole other level!
What’s your favourite part of the day?
Picking my girls up from the bus and hearing about their days. Even on the days they don’t share much, just sitting in the car while they decompress is quality time together. It’s the every day ritual that makes it predictable and so special for me.
Now that my elder daughter is driving and will take her sister to school, I will be desperately seeking something new to replace this special time.
The one thing I would tell other parents who are juggling a career:
Don’t try to do everything — make empowered choices and be willing to let go of some things. As a parent, I have found that I just need to think of timing in different ways. Embracing flexibility gives a lot of freedom.