Say what?

Deepak Chopra’s new self-help book is ambiguous and complex

There once was a time when I would have scoffed at any self-help book that crossed my path, but since then, I have read several that I found to be entertaining and informative. Grow Younger, Live Longer, by alternative health guru Deepak Chopra, is not one of those books.

This is my first encounter with a book by the noted pioneer of mind-body medicine, and perhaps my opinion of the book has been colored by my high expectations. From the way many people talk about Chopra, you would think that he was the second coming of Christ; Time listed him as one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the 20th century, calling him “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine.” So I know I’m in the minority when I say that I simply don’t understand Chopra’s appeal.

Grow Younger, Live Longer is arranged as a manual, with each chapter expounding on one of the 10 steps Chopra advocates to reset your biological age up to 15 years younger than your chronological age. Some of the steps are pretty elementary: eat well, get plenty of rest, exercise. Other steps claim “you can reverse your biological age by enhancing mind/body integration,” and my personal favorite, “you can reverse your biological age through love.” I guess the Beatles were right: All you need is love.

But wait! You also need “nutritional complements"—or, as we layfolk like to call ’em, vitamins. And thus we come to the main problem in Chopra’s book: He over-complicates everything. Other self-help books I’ve read take a friendly, conversational tone, introducing radical concepts gradually using plenty of real-world parallels to ease you into their way of thinking. Chopra, on the other hand, pens such inscrutable prose as:

“The quantum realm is the fountainhead of pure potentiality, giving rise to the raw material of your body, your mind and the physical universe.”

Yep. That’s just what I was thinking.

Before I get bundles of hate mail from Chopra devotees, let me qualify this review with a few points: 1. At the age of 24, I have no interest in setting back my biological age, so this book is probably not designed with me in mind. 2. Not having read any of Chopra’s previous works, which I understand are wildly popular, I may have entered the Chopra library at the wrong portal. 3. Being a recent convert to the world of mind-body connections, Eastern spirituality and alternative health, I may not have the proper grounding in these concepts to allow me to appreciate this book.

But even if I were 65 years old and completely receptive to the alternative ideas expressed in this book, I’d still have trouble deciphering Chopra’s complex phrasing, and I’d still be frustrated with his blunt, no build-up delivery. He dives into the book with only a cursory explanation of the ambiguous quantum physics connection to health, and the next thing you know, he’s telling you to contact a certified Primordial Sound Meditation counselor and stick a Neti pot up your nose. I don’t know about you, but I need to be eased into the idea of sticking anything up my nose, or into any orifice, really.

Knowing the devoted following Chopra has acquired—which includes several of my friends and family members—I’ll probably give him another go-round before I write him off as unreadable.