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Often, when people first meet me and find out who my father is, one of the first questions they ask is, “What was it like growing up with Deepak as your father?” And I understand, my father is an amazing man who has helped so many people heal themselves. But what people don’t know is that my dad didn’t become the globally-renowned author and spiritual teacher you all know today until much later in my life. In fact, the dad I knew as a young girl was very different from the dad I know today.
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My brother and I grew up in a suburb of Boston, where we had a very normal childhood. My mom and dad had moved to the U.S. for my dad’s medical residency, and they came here just after they had gotten married, with only $8 in their pocket. My mom soon found out she was pregnant, and at that time my parents couldn’t afford to have a hospital delivery in the U.S. because they didn’t have health insurance. So my mom went back to India, where I was born, and then my grandparents helped send us back to the States. I feel like my parents are a wonderful example of living the American dream. They came here with so little, and together they created an incredible life.
I feel deeply grateful for my family and life, yet my early memories of childhood are not so happy or wonderful. Then, my dad was a stressed-out doctor completing his residency and working 24/7. Whenever he had free time, he was at the hospital moonlighting and making extra money just so our family could survive. I don’t remember him ever being very happy. My mom was always home taking care of me and my brother, and we were part of a very close-knit Indian community, but when my dad was around, it was more stressful. Even when he was with us, it never felt like he was truly present. When he did come home after an eighteen-hour day at the hospital, he would usually have a drink to help him relax enough to fall asleep. He also smoked cigarettes reguarly and couldn’t make it through the day without several cups of coffee. I think these unhealthy behaviors were a way for him to cope with his stress, because he didn’t know another way to manage all the weight on his shoulders.
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And then one day when I was about nine years old, something changed quite dramatically. My dad went through sort of a midlife crisis. He was unhappy with his work, going non-stop, and feeling unfulfilled. That day he was walking in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he happened to pass by a meditation center. He was curious about meditation, so he went inside, and his first meditation was amazing. For the first time in his life, he felt total silence, quiet connection, and peace. I imagine he’d never really felt that before because his mind had always been racing and he had always been running towards some goal in his life.
How Meditation Transformed Our Family
I remember very clearly that when my dad got home that day, he seemed really happy and excited. Being the melodramatic man that he is, he told my mom, “I’ve got to take you to learn meditation right now.” And so they went that same day, and my mom learned to meditate. My mom, who is very grounded and is the core of everything in our family, said that for her, meditation was like coming home. It was peaceful. The next day, my brother and I learned how to meditate. The day after that, my dad’s brother and his entire family learned, followed by my mom’s sister and her entire family. By the end of the week, the entire Indian community in Boston had learned how to meditate.
I feel very grateful for what meditation brought to my family. When my parents started meditating, things began to change for the better. My dad was happier and more peaceful, and he was home more. He finally paid attention to my brother and me. So as a family, meditation really transformed our life.
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Once my dad started meditating, he began a journey of self-discovery and self-healing, and then he started speaking and writing about it. My brother and I were the guinea pigs for all of his experiments. At one point he tried to hypnotize me to overcome my addiction to chocolate. It was a total failure because I’m still a chocoholic. He made us do memory tricks and we’d play the Ouija board. We had a lot of fun doing crazy things.
One of the valuable things that my dad taught my brother and me soon after we started meditating was the concept of intention. After our meditations, he would ask us to repeat the following words:
I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I experience and set the goals I will achieve.
Everything that seems to happen to me, I ask for and receive as I have asked.
Then he would ask us what we wanted. Growing up in Boston, we obviously would ask for tickets to see the Celtics or the Patriots, a trip to Hawaii, video games, or clothes. We’d ask for all of these material things, and he would listen patiently and say, “Okay, we can work on all of that, but what about asking for love, connection, inspiration, and a sense of purpose?” And we were taught on a daily basis to ask for the qualities in our life that would make us feel happier, healthier, more connected, and fulfilled. I truly believe that this practice helped me find happiness and fulfillment in my life, and I am grateful to my father for sharing this practice with us.
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