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Within 30 minutes of setting up a Twitter account, Deepak Chopra responded. Deepak. Chopra. The Deepak Chopra. If anyone truly knows the secrets to the universe, it’s Deepak Chopra. And he just responded to my tweet.

It was 2009, and I didn’t yet understand how Twitter worked.

I was an avid improv performer and wanted to mix my love of comedy and mindfulness on social media. I thought it would be hilarious to create an account for a fictional self-help guru named Rich Spain and make jokes with real self-help gurus. I quickly followed some of my favorite thought leaders and posted some pithy replies.

Deepak’s tweet: My intent today is to experience innocent love through the eyes of children

I replied: Sounds a little creepy Deepak. Keep your foolish babies away from Deepak Chopra.

I put the phone down feeling pretty good.

When I checked my notifications later, Deepak had responded.

I was immediately embarrassed. First of all, I reread my tweet and realized it wasn’t funny. It was, in fact, borderline problematic. Today, it may even be considered trolling. I was communicating with a spiritual legend, and this is how I wasted his time?

His exact response is lost to the internet but I recall it being clear that:

  1. He recognized I was joking
  2. He added a 🙂 at the end for good measure

In less than 140 characters, he was able to accept my bad joke and not judge me for making it. That’s why he was the real guru, and I was the fake one. I guess every comedian has to bomb before they find their voice.

In his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success Chopra explains the Law of Dharma.

“For every special talent, the world has a unique need that can only be filled by the expression of that talent.” My execution in that moment was terrible, but I could tell there was something of value in the mixture of comedy and self-realization. I set an intention to make comedy that would have a lasting positive impact on the world.

On the path to self-realization and enlightenment, it’s easy to get caught up in how serious it can feel. I once attended a yoga retreat where a singer advertised that she would only be singing sad songs. It attracted a big crowd of seekers looking to reach serious emotional depths. I listened to her perform a James Taylor song and a rendition of “Hotel California” before getting my fill of sadness. Opening up old wounds and reclaiming the power they have over you can feel like a slog. But it doesn’t have to be serious all the time.

The novelist and playwright, Anthony McCarten challenges the dominant trend of seriousness in self-realization.

“Seriousness is not the correct response to the absurdity of life. The human comedy that would create beings, such as we, who are sophisticated enough to ask the huge questions: Why are we here? Who are we? But be forever denied an answer and left in a state of existential tension which we seek to relieve in various ways. One of these, one of the most effective ways for me is laughter.”

Two years after the Chopra Twitter incident, my wife Christina and I moved to Los Angeles so I could pursue comedy full time. We were living the dream: swimming in the Pacific Ocean in the day, performing improv comedy at night, and bumping into celebrities around every corner.

Then the dream became a nightmare.

Our car was impounded. Christina needed an emergency root canal, and we didn’t have dental insurance. Eviction notices showed up. Money evaporated at an alarming rate. The more my personal life fell apart, the more significance I put on “making it” in Hollywood instead of focusing on using my unique talent to help the world.

When I moved to Los Angeles I was a vegetarian that would never dream of being in a McDonald’s commercial. Six months later I was ready to look directly into the camera and ask, “Do you want fries with that?” as long as it got me closer to being validated as a real actor. I needed to recalibrate. There was only one person to turn to: Deepak Chopra. The documentary film, Decoding Deepak was screening at a Santa Monica theater and Deepak would be there to answer questions after the film.

Christina and I arrived and sat right in the middle of the packed theater.

We enjoyed the documentary and waited anxiously to hear the Truth right from Deepak’s mouth. As audience members stood up to ask their questions, a pattern emerged. Much like my initial correspondence over Twitter, it felt like the audience was unintentionally trolling Deepak. They asked him questions about his diet while commenting on his weight. They challenged his positions without a clear understanding of what he was saying. I had to laugh.

Why is everyone picking on Deepak?

After the Q & A finished, everyone headed towards the exits in the rear of the theater. As people slowly filed out I looked to Deepak across the room. He had the same amount of people in front of him to leave as I did. The math was simple. As soon as I hit the aisle, I was going to be standing right next to him. I laughed again. What are the chances of a second shot at talking with Deepak?

I reached the aisle and was shoulder to shoulder with Deepak. I smiled at him. He smiled back. I could have left it there but instead pushed on. “If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead who would it be?” I asked him.

Deepak was silent in thought for a moment. He replied, “Nelson Mandela. And I’ve already had the joy of dining with him.”

Deepak knocks it out of the park again! What a great reminder. It’s not about getting what you want. It’s about wanting what you’ve got. I remembered that the world doesn’t need more hollow actors trying to be famous. It needs people to speak their truth and share their light with laughter.

Cal James

Cal James is an author, improviser, filmmaker, and entrepreneur. His memoir, “I Guarantee You Love, Fame and Legacy” follows his journey through self-realization as a comedian.

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