Living a Chopra Centered Lifestyle
An Interview with Dr. Tim Brieske
Every day we all make hundreds of decisions about how we spend our time, the foods we eat, the words we speak, and how we respond to life’s unfolding events. Each of these choices can move us towards greater happiness, balance, and love – or contribute to emotional turbulence, imbalance, and stress. A cornerstone of the Chopra Centered Lifestyle is conscious choice making – focusing our attention and intentions to make choices that nourish us and those around us.
This month we had an opportunity to sit down with Chopra Center staff physician and educator Dr. Tim Brieske to explore the process of conscious choice making. A board-certified family doctor and mind-body healing expert as well as a husband and father of two teenagers, Dr. Brieske offers a wealth of healing wisdom garnered from both his personal and professional experience. We hope you enjoy this interview and that you will come away with inspiration and insight you can use to create more balance and joy in your own life.
Chopra Center: One of the great challenges in life is juggling it all. You are an emergency room doctor, family man, and physician and educator at the Chopra Center – how do you do handle it all?
Dr. Brieske: I don’t know if I handle it all. [He laughs.] I try to consciously choose what it is that I want to do and make heart-oriented choices that are influenced by my brain as opposed to brain-oriented choices that are influenced by my heart. I focus on anchoring my awareness in the present moment. I also try to orient my perception internally instead of externally. I imagine how and where it is most likely that I am going to thrive. And I do work that I love that is service-oriented. Choosing to be in two different worlds – working in the emergency room of a local hospital as well as at the Chopra Center − creates contrast and that allows for the expression of creativity.
Chopra Center: Tell us more about your dual lives and how they influence each other.
Dr. Brieske: My role as an ER and hospitalist physician is what you’d probably expect. I generally see people in crisis who come into the emergency department and are very anxious and fearful of what might happen in their lives. Sometimes they need to be admitted to the hospital. Our medical system reflects and can compound the anxiety we all feel when we sense our lives are threatened. I try to be a calming, grounded influence in that environment so that healing is more likely. I love having an opportunity to intimately relate to people medically in an effort to help restore balance to their lives.
At the Chopra Center I also care for people, though in a much more calm and beautiful setting! I perform medical consultations, teach people about Ayurveda, write, and lead an emotional healing workshop called Healing the Heart. Incorporating the objective evidence of science with the subjective experience of Ayurveda helps us in a more comprehensive way than offering each alone. Sharing what I can in both environments is really enlivening and refreshing. I can bring the philosophy of Ayurveda into the Western medical environment and the Western medical experiences into the Chopra Center’s Ayurvedic teachings, so the wisdom of both can be realized and enjoyed by all.
Chopra Center: In a time of crisis, how do you remain calm and clear minded?
Dr. Brieske: I refer to my inner nature, that silent witness within each of us. When I’m aligned in that inner way, I know I’m aligned with love. Intuitive and creative solutions seem to flow calmly and easily when I’m in that expanded space. In addition, I try to be conscious of the reality of the situation, the feelings I have in my mind and body, and what it is I really want in each instance. I always believe I have the capacity at some level to negotiate the situation in a way that is mutually harmonious and beneficial.
Chopra Center: What keeps you in balance?
Dr. Brieske: First, by primarily focusing on my fundamental choice of whether to be in the present moment. Second, by choosing how I orient my perception − do I orient it externally with the ego and intellect or do I choose to orient it internally with the Self, the underlying spiritual essence of my being. Beyond that, there are more choices. Do I choose to meditate twice a day? Do I choose to exercise daily? Will I make time for walking in nature on a regular basis? Will I choose to be silent for some time each day? Do I choose to eat healthy food? Do I choose to set up my life so that I can sleep well? Do I put intoxicating things into my body and mind? Do I consciously choose the relationships I am in?
Chopra Center: How would you define a Chopra Centered Lifestyle?
Dr. Brieske: A Chopra Centered Lifestyle is about balancing body, mind, and spirit. Fundamentally it’s about the difference between orienting your perception outward and believing that your path to happiness is about acquiring things that you desire versus orienting your perception inward in self-referral where you are aligned with that almost indescribable spiritual essence. It is our essential nature . . . who we really are beyond our thoughts and beyond our experiences and the stories of our lives. Aligning ourselves with our spiritual Self allows us to manifest our desires more easily. We tend to live a life that is more conscious, aware, harmonious, fulfilling, and joyful. That’s really the underlying basis for Ayurveda and the Chopra Centered Lifestyle. It’s that perceptual shift that makes all the difference between the two world views. It’s based on consciousness, self-awareness, and enlightenment.
Chopra Center: What can people learn about finding and maintaining balance in their lives by taking a program like Perfect Health?
Dr. Brieske: Anyone who comes to Perfect Health has already realized that they have the intention of finding balance in their life. They have made an investment in time, energy, and resources to do something that they believe will improve their lives. The foundational technique that we teach is meditation to help one align with the Self. During the week we also have daily yoga classes and workshops where we teach about nutrition from an Ayurvedic perspective, mind-body constitutions, and how different sounds, sights, and other sensory experiences can all bring balance to our lives. In addition, guests also receive Ayurvedic healing massages every day and are introduced to the concepts of detoxification and rejuvenation. All of these different practices and concepts in Perfect Health lead to restoring and maintaining balance.
Chopra Center: What's a path to finding inner peace?
Dr. Brieske: Self-awareness.
Chopra Center: So many people come to you seeking help. Who do you turn to for guidance and wisdom?
Dr. Brieske: My inner self. My spiritual essence. My being, which is the same in everyone else. Once you realize we are all reflections of divinity, then clarity follows.
Chopra Center: Any suggestions for daily easy practices to stay balanced?
Dr. Brieske: Meditate twice a day. Spend time in nature every day. Consider practicing silence for some period of time each day. Practice non-judgment. When we are judging and discriminating, we find ourselves in that part of the mind that distracts us from self-awareness. When practicing non-judgment we are quelling or calming the turbulence we generate when we have those thoughts and that allows us to shift our awareness toward the Self more easily.
Chopra Center: What classes at the Chopra Center might benefit someone looking to find inner peace and balance in their lives?
Dr. Brieske: We offer 6-day and 10-day Perfect Health programs throughout the year. A few times each year, we hold our Healing the Heart, Balancing the Body program, which is an much more in-depth emotional detoxification. Journey into Healing is more science-based and talks in-depth about of practice of Ayurveda. Seduction of Spirit is a retreat led by Deepak that deepens the meditation practice. We also recently added a Meditation Weekend for people who have a limited time to attend and who want to learn the foundations of Primordial Sound Meditation. Silent Awakenings helps people explore the practice of silence. Summoning the Sacred helps people access their archetypes as a way to help them better manifest their intentions. In addition, we offer daily public meditation and yoga classes.
Chopra Center: What brings you joy in life?
Dr. Brieske: Living. [laughs] The thrill of this seemingly very unusual experience . . . that we can live this thoughtful life and be able to sense our environment and sense connection and love. Having memory of the past, being able to sense the present, imagining a future, and manifesting our imagination in many ways . . . wow, it’s amazing! I think it’s a wonderful, magnificent experience and I can’t get enough of it. We just need to figure out a way to slow our perception of time so each moment is held meaningfully in our awareness.
Chopra Center: Do you feel you are living to your true potential?
Dr. Brieske: Ha. [sighs deeply] I am doing my best. [laughs] I encounter obstacles to my desires often but the difference in my life now relative to the past is that now I approach things more consciously. There’s more space between whatever the perception of the obstacle is and my response. And in that space lies infinite potential and that makes all the difference in the world. I may ask myself really consciously What do I really, really want? and it almost always boils down to connection. That’s about it for me. That’s all I need and maybe that’s because that’s all there is.
Chopra Center: If you could meet one person, anyone, in the world who would it be?
Dr. Brieske: My true Self. I catch a glimpse now and then. Knowing who it is we really are, beyond the stories, events and experiences of our lives, beyond our thoughts, our emotions, and the physical sensations of our bodies, is the most important knowledge we can attain.
Chopra Center: Obviously you have seen people cross to the other side in your job as an ER doctor. What insights have you experienced?
Dr. Brieske: These transitions in our lives are opportunities to deepen our humanity, expand our humility, and move closer to being the person we really want to be. Anyone who has the opportunity to care for another, to do your best to meet their needs and help relieve their suffering ― even when it may contribute to your own suffering ― will have a very deepening, humbling, and loving experience. I feel honored and privileged to be invited to be a part of each person’s experience, to share in their suffering, to be a part of the families and people who do this work ― it’s wisdom producing and enlivening.
Chopra Center: How would you complete this sentence? “The secret to life is...”
Dr. Brieske: Self-awareness, balance, enjoyment, bliss, and love.
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