Follow The Leader

Soul of Leadership

Leadership is a mysterious and elusive concept. What we read as history is really the creation of myths. From an ordinary person, society creates a Napoleon, or Gandhi, a Martin Luther King or Joan of Arc, someone who acquires mythic status as a shaper of destiny. We know the first steps of how this transformation occurs. Every group naturally gives rise to leaders who guide their followers to a shared goal. Yet some leaders fail while others succeed. Some are destroyed by a flawed strategy or by the overwhelming stress of their role. And when crisis arises, calling for great leaders, there is a constant threat that such a figure will not appear, leaving the infamous ‘leadership vacuum’ that has become a chronic problem in modern society. Are we too suspicious of leaders to make great ones anymore?  The answer lies in the understanding of human consciousness.

How do leaders emerge from ordinary lives?  In the deeper reality, a family in disarray, a company without vision, or a nation struggling toward a new level of freedom need to respond to hidden spiritual drives. Once this is understood, leaders can be made who rise to the highest levels of greatness. Any person, man or woman, can begin on the same road, not by being born a leader but by looking inward.

Our souls offer the highest inspiration at every moment. We see chaos, but the soul knows that order is more powerful than disorder. Until we get that message, we fall back on old habits and stale answers to new challenges. We become stuck in pointless struggles and confusion. Yet someone who has set out to become a leader will succeed by cutting through the fog, using fundamental spiritual rules. A Bill Gates or a Winston Churchill undertook this journey consciously — however much we clothe them in mythic status.  They have tapped into a source of truth that remains constant throughout history.

In any group the members are acting out two basic themes in life–need and response. If we could see ourselves clearly, each of us would realize that every day:

•   There is something we need, ranging from the primitive need for food and shelter to the higher needs of self-worth, love, and spiritual meaning.

•   There is some response to fill that need, ranging from struggle and competition to creative discovery and divine inspiration.

These two themes dominate our inner life. They override all external goals, and they are not random. Needs and responses can be organized in rising order. Lower needs are followed by higher ones. Lower responses are also followed by higher ones. (As Bertolt Brecht declared, “Don’t talk to me of my soul until you’ve filled my stomach.”) I call this the hierarchy of need and the hierarchy of response. Putting the two hierarchies together is the most powerful thing a leader can do.

For example, extreme political movements (fascism, religious fundamentalism, ethnic nationalism) draw upon fear, the most primitive response of a group because it matches the most primitive need, which is survival. External pressures such as economic depression, social migration, and competitive forces generally trigger this need. Vaclav Havel, on the other hand, was a poet called upon to fulfill a country’s need for self-expression and freedom after the Communists had suppressed both. Martin Luther King climbed to an even higher level of response, that of vision, because a people needed to acquire meaning and self-worth. Buddha and Christ offered the highest level of inspiration to fill the universal need for unity with God.

In hindsight we realize that it took a shift inside Dr. King for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to be written. The trick is to see down the road now, to fathom the future as a movement inside yourself. There is no mystery to this. The ability to match need and response can be learned.  I believe that it is possible to master every level of a group’s inner life, applying the same knowledge to a family as to a corporation.  (One can read father, mother, priest, sage, or president in place of the word leader.) Let me outline the fundamental principles involved:

1.            Leaders and followers co-create each other. They form an invisible spiritual bond. Leaders exist to embody the values that followers hunger for, while followers exist to fuel the leader’s vision from inside themselves.

2.            A leader is the symbolic soul of the group. The soul is an archetypal expression of who we are. Everything dynamic about us comes from this deeper level of spirit. Because individuals grow from the inside out, so do groups. Sometimes a group needs a parent or protector, at other times a ruler, muse, or visionary. The leader operates from the soul level to cause these shifts, which then get expressed on the surface as success.

3.            Inner qualities determine results.  The outcome of any situation is defined in advance by the vision that goes into solving it. Therefore inner qualities determine all results.

4.            A multitude of responses must be known to a leader.  The responses shared by both leaders and follower are fight/flight, ego, inner direction, knowingness or intuition, creativity, higher guidance, and unity. A mixture of these responses is arising in our brains every day. One or more response goes into every situation and therefore must be known by the leader.

5.            A leader must understand the hierarchy of needs.  Just as there is a rising hierarchy of responses built into us, there is a rising hierarchy of needs that the leader must understand. These are: the needs for survival, safety, achievement, belonging, expression, self-esteem, freedom, love, and spiritual worth. All are inner needs that have evolved over time in the life of societies.

6.            For every need, the right response can be found. This match is not made randomly–the soul knows how to fulfill any need with the least effort and struggle. A leader who can tap directly into this knowledge gains tremendous power, far more than someone who concentrates only on external goals and rewards.

7.            Understanding need and response leads to success.  The leader who understands the hierarchies of need and response will succeed; the leader who aims for only external goals (money, victory, power) will falter in the area that counts most: fulfilling the lives of his followers.

8.            Great leaders are those who can respond from the higher levels of spirit. They understand that their followers yearn for freedom, love, and spiritual worth. Therefore they respond with creativity, vision, and a sense of unity.  But no one begins at the top. A lower need like the need to feel safe must be understood first. The problem at hand can be as trivial as winning a baseball game or as profound as leading a society out of crisis. By climbing the hierarchy of need, any group can be made to feel inspired and unified. Great leaders are in touch with every level of human experience.

9.            Leaders give of themselves by their willingness not to hide from any response as it is needed. The leader is also an Everyman. It is just as important to say “I am afraid” as “I am strong.” Leaders who protect themselves emotionally, who limit their responses to only a few, or who cling to ego wind up being destroyed.  Their success in material terms will be devoid of inner worth.  Present models, which focus on ego drive and external reward, miss how selfless an effective leader must be.

10.        A leader must be comfortable with disorder.  No matter how complex and confusing a situation looks, leadership is possible from one simple attitude: Being comfortable with disorder. Leaders thrive on disorder once they see the hidden spiritual order that lies beneath.  This is the central idea.  One must learn how to manage the fact that hierarchies are tangled. There is always a jumble of needs and responses that must be sorted out. Otherwise, groups will be crippled in turmoil. Fear and survival, competition and creativity, vision and love, make their own demands. They each have a voice, whether we hear them or not. Yet underneath there is only one voice, the silent whisper of spirit, which understands everything.

Although, leadership looks immensely complex, the essentials can be grasped by looking at the following easily learned acronym:

Look and listen. 
Do this with your senses, being an unbiased observer who has not judged anything in advance, then with your heart, obeying your truest feelings, and finally with your soul, responding with vision and creativity.

E Empowerment. 
This comes from self-referral, which is responsive to feedback but independent of the good or bad opinion of others. It is process oriented rather than outcome oriented. It raises the status of leader and follower together.

A Awareness. 
This means being aware of the following questions that underlie every challenge: Who am I? What do I want? What is my life purpose? The leader must ask these questions of himself and inspire his followers to ask for themselves.

D Doing. 
This covers being action-oriented as a role model, being responsible for the promises one has made, being persistent, but also having the ability to celebrate and view any situation with flexibility and humor.

E Emotional freedom and empathy. 
The leader goes beyond melodrama and crisis reaction, getting rid of emotional toxicity to understand the deeper needs of his followers–cutting through fear, depression, and the noxious residues of competitiveness.

This means showing initiative, taking mature risks rather than reckless ones, walking the talk, having integrity, and living up to your inner values.

S Synchronicity. 
This is a mysterious ingredient from the unconscious that all great leaders harness. Synchronicity is the ability to create good luck and find reserves of power to carry a leader beyond predicted outcomes to a higher plane. Synchronicity is the ultimate ability to connect any need with an answer from the soul.

This is the mental template that a leader uses. All models of leadership give the same general advice to look and listen; however it is important to realize that L-E-A-D-E-R-S means something different at every level. Flexibility is everything. As new needs reveal themselves, there is a new level of looking and listening. Immediately the rest of the acronym also shifts, leading to new action and a higher level of responsibility.

When the final story is told, leadership is the most crucial choice one can make–it is the decision to step out of darkness. Only someone who can find wisdom in the midst of chaos will be remembered as a great leader. Yet matching needs and responses is our birthright, built into our brains as well as our spirit.  In conclusion, a leader may never find occasion to tell his followers why he has enriched their life or raised them to the level of the soul, yet in his heart he will know that he did those things for himself.  That is enough.  Wisdom traditions define truth as a single spark that burns down the whole forest. If the leader is willing to be that spark, others will see it within him. Craving direction, they will value what he offers, which is the first step toward valuing it in themselves.

by Deepak Chopra

As we begin to transition from summer into the cooler season of fall, we find ourselves shifting gears and coming back into more structured routines.  For some people this might mean planning daily activities around pets, school, work, homework, meal times, exercise, time spent with friends or family, and personal down time spent rejuvenating ourselves.  For others, moving into the fall season may be a simpler transition of adjusting to the shift in weather patterns and fewer daylight hours, which affects everything from when we run errands to exercise regimens and what kinds of meals we are preparing.  For most of us, it is a combination of all of the above.  Regardless of our individual lifestyles, it occurs – around this time of year – to each of us that more awareness needs to be placed on how to stay healthy during the seasonal junction (Ritu Sandhi) between summer and fall.

This is also a good time of the year to do your seasonal cleanse or juice fast.  As we know, seasonal cleansing rids our bodies of all sorts of toxins, pollutants, harsh chemicals and pesticides and any other ama (toxic residue) that our physical body has accumulated over the summer.  Cleanses will help to purify and tone the internal organs, cells and tissues of the body, flushing out impurities that aren’t serving us.

Perhaps one of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves during seasonal changes is to set aside quiet time that involves no agenda.  This ‘down time’ allows us to simply BE; to connect with stillness, to experience silence, and to acquaint ourselves with the ever-present witness that is our essential nature.  It is through the non-active participation of honoring quiet time at some point in each day, we are able to correlate aspects of activity and rest in a way that elicits a dynamic state of balance within.  If you have fallen away from your silent meditation practice, now is the time to recommit.  If you are coming off of a busy summer season of rushing from one activity to another, find time to sit quietly in nature or in your favorite spot and just listen.

If your meditation practice is solid and you frequent your sacred silent space in stillness, introducing the practice of recapitulation at the end of each day can also be a powerful conscious choice-making tool.  Recapitulation (or re-capping) of your day allows you to play out your day in your mind’s eye and shift into the witnessing state of awareness, where it becomes possible to observe your choices and determine if there are any shifts you would like to make.   Recapitulation is best done at the end of each day, just before you go to sleep for the night.  Here is a simple-to-follow guideline for practicing recapitulation:

  1. Sit upright in your bed and close your eyes.
  2. Take a few deep breaths and settle comfortably into your space.
  3. Begin to play back your day on the screen of your awareness
  4. Start from when you woke up and move through each of your experiences, conversations and behaviors all the way up to this moment
  5. Play back your day relatively quickly – as though you’re watching a movie reel – not spending too much time on the details.
  6. Just observe.
  7. The whole process should only take a minute or two.
  8. When you have finished, settle into your bed for the night and sleep well.

“When the breath wanders, Mind wanders,When the breath is steady, Mind is steady”

~HathaYoga Pradeepika


Pranayama is much more than just a breathing exercise. It is the link through which we connect our individual breath with cosmic breath, our individual spirit with the cosmic spirit and individual mind with the cosmic mind.

It allows us to transcend the limitations of our physical body and connect with the Unified Field, which is simply beyond time and space. Ancient Sages have always used Pranayama techniques to control the sensory cravings and regulate the wavering mental tendencies (chitta vritti nirodha.)

The main purpose of Yoga Asana is to purify the body from Gross impurities (sthoola mala) and Pranayama to cleanse the subtle mental and emotional impurities (sukhsma mala). Together they create a perfect setting for greater spiritual experience. Pranayama & Asana enhances the flow of Prana thru subtle energetic pathways (nadis), which leads to cellular vitality and mental clarity. According to Ayurveda, one needs to maintain the balance between Tejas (Yang) & Ojas (Yin) by regulating Prana (Chi).

There are several Pranayama techniques that are classically described, but we must select appropriate practice for individual needs. If done properly it has invaluable health benefits but when performed in hurry or a jerky manner can pose some challenges. One must train them or others from simple to more advanced Pranayama techniques.

There is ample scientific research proclaiming its benefit for Anxiety, Depression, ADD, respiratory diseases, insomnia, digestive disorders and headaches.

Here are few most commonly used pranayama techniques.

1. Nadi Shudhi Pranayama 
It starts with an exhalation and an inhalation through the left nostril, followed by a full breath through the right, with the whole pattern repeated several times. It is highly effective in clearing emotional blocks and infusing energy.

2. Kapalabhati 
It consists of multiple rounds of rapid breathing in which the breath is forcefully expelled from the lungs with a strong inward thrust of the abdomen.

3. Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath)
It’s a practice in which the throat is slightly constricted and the breath made softly audible.

4. Bhastrika (Bellows Breath)
It’s a rapid, forceful, diaphragmatic breathing which is an excellent tool for cleansing toxic gases and clear congestion.

Suhas Kshirsagar BAMS, M.D. (Ayurveda)

For People Undergoing Cancer Treatment:

In addition to targeting cancer with radiation and chemotherapy, many patients seek to integrate natural healing approaches into their treatment program. Our experience at the Chopra Center convinces us that combining holistic approaches with effective medical care leads to the best outcome with reduced side effects. Serious illness challenges people at physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels; therefore, support in each of these dimensions of life can be valuable.

  1. Learn and practice a meditation technique that quiets the mind. We have certified teachers throughout the world offering Primordial Sound Meditation.
  2. Listen to guided meditations and creative healing visualizations that awaken the healing response. Choose imagery that enhances peace rather than conflict in your body and mind. You may want to begin by listening to some of the guided meditation podcasts in our online library.
  3. Eat healthy foods, including a wide range of fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables.
  4. Practice yoga and breathing exercises on a daily basis. Keep energy circulating throughout your body.
  5. Consider the use of detoxifying and immune supportive herbs. At the Chopra Center, we use ashwagandha, shatavari, guduchi, and amla, based both upon traditional ayurvedic principles and scientific studies. Before taking any nutritional supplements, first talk with your health provider.



Digestive Fire

Agni or the “digestive fire,” is one of the most important principles in the ancient science of ayurveda. It refers broadly to our ability to process all aspects of life, including food, experiences, memories, and sensory impressions. Agni is responsible for absorbing the nutrients and essential elements the body needs while burning off waste products (agni is the root of the English word “ignite”).

If our agni is strong, we’re able to digest food efficiently and easily assimilate our daily experiences. On the other hand, if agni is weak, our body won’t digest well, creating toxic residue or ama that lodges deep
in our cells.

According to ayurvedic teaching, strong agni leads to excellent health and well-being, while the accumulation of ama results in the slow deterioration of the body and—ultimately—disease. The inability to metabolize emotions produces just as much toxic residue as undigested food. In fact, pent-up anger, long-held sadness, and lingering guilt are more debilitating for most people than problems with physical digestion.

Ojas: The Vital Nectar of Life

If we desire perfect health, it’s crucial to eliminate the ama stored in our body and focus on producing ojas, which is the essential life energy. A Sanskrit term meaning “vigor,” ojas is the pure and subtle substance that’s extracted from food that has been completely digested. Ojas circulates throughout the bodily tissues and heart, sustaining the physical self, bringing clarity to the mind and balancing the emotions. In short, when the body produces ojas, the vital nectar of life, we feel blissful. The cells sing with happiness because both the mind and the body are receiving the nourishment they need.

To promote the creation and flow of ojas, we need a good diet focused on pure foods, referred to as “sattvic” in ayurveda. The body can easily digest sattvic food and extract its ojas or prime energy. The most sattvic foods include organic milk, almonds, sesame, honey, rice, and fruits. It’s not necessary to eat these foods exclusively — just focus on having them on a regular basis.

Some foods are difficult if not impossible for the body to convert into ojas, including meat, poultry, fish, oily foods, cheese, leftovers, processed food, and items with an excess of sour or salty tastes. Food that has been canned, frozen, or reheated won’t produce as much ojas as freshly prepared meals. In addition, consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes destroys ojas.

The following chart will help you determine whether you have healthy ojas or an accumulation of ama in your body. If you’ve been storing toxicity, you can choose now to begin to nourish yourself and enjoy increasing levels of joy and well-being in your life.

Signs of Ojas      Signs of Ama
  • You feel rested upon awakening
  • Bad breath
  • Your skin has a healthy glow
  •  Coated tongue


  • Your tongue is clear and pink
  •   Dull appetite


  • Your body feels light, regardless of the number on the scale
  •  Delicate digestion


  • You feel centered throughout the day
  • Sluggish or irritable elimination


  • Your digestion is strong without bloating
  • Generalized pain
  • You feel energized & enthusiastic
  • Fatigue
  • Your mind is clear
  • Depression
  • Your body has a pleasant smell
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • You rarely get sick
  • Difficulty manifesting intentions


Creating Nurturing Mealtimes

Our experience while we’re eating is just as important as the kinds of foods we’re consuming. If we’re having a fight with our spouse over the dinner table, our stomach cells are aware of the upset and send distressed chemical messages throughout the body. As a result, we’re not able to create ojas because of the indigestible emotions coursing throughout our cells and organs.

Since ojas is the by-product of all the signals our body receives, we need to create a nurturing atmosphere for our meals, paying attention to all of the senses — taste, sound, sight, touch, and smell.


Here are a few tips for making your body happy while you eat:

Eat in a settled atmosphere

Don’t eat when you’re upset.

Always sit down to eat (don’t eat in front of your computer or TV or while you’re driving).

Only eat when you’re hungry.

Dine at a moderate pace. Don’t gulp down your food or eat too slowly.

Minimize raw foods, which are much harder to digest than cooked ones.

Include all six tastes (sweet, sour, astringent, bitter, salty, and pungent) at each meal.

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