Mr. Shri Chawla – From Mouthful to Mindful Eating 

by Abha Gupta, Ph.D., YSN Editor-in-Chief
(YSN Vol. 2, No. 1 – Jul. 2014)

I had the pleasure of interviewing entrepreneur and founder of several successful enterprises in California, Shri Chawla (SC), in his recent visit to Hampton Roads (Hampton, Virginia) on January 9th, 2014.

Chowla_AbhaCracking the shells of fresh pods of tamarind and drawing on the delicious pulp, I probed Shri about his transformation from complacent nutritional habits to “mindful eating.” He shared that his turning point was in 2012, when he was about 68 years old; his doctors had diagnosed him with heart problems, and recommended nonnegotiable open-heart bypass surgery. Initially hesitant about the surgery, he optimistically went for second, third, and fourth opinions by independent physicians (cardiologist and surgeons), and they unanimously agreed, much to his disappointment. Contrary to this professional advice, something inside told him that he could heal himself, without the surgery. That’s when an opportunity came his way to visit an ashram in India.

 What did you do, once there?

I spent a month in the ashram, practiced yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and the art of relaxation. The doctors had warned me that air-travel was not safe for me in my condition and that I could die in midst of travel. Against their advice, I took the plunge and headed to India from my home in California. I could assess inside my mind that I could correct my condition.

 What was your lifestyle like prior to the diagnosis?

The diagnosis was the wake-up call; the visit to Ashram was the first step towards mindfulness. I was living opposite of mindfulness. I was eating whatever pleased me, doing whatever pleased me, I was focused on sensual pleasures, busy climbing on the financial ladder of success. I was living an unconscious life. Today, I’m conscious, peaceful, and living a calm life. The ailment turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I have realized that the path is not only to be healthy and happy, but also to be peaceful and blissful. Happiness can’t come without good health. To be happy, one has to be calm and healthy.

 What are your recommendations to our readers?

It will help everyone, those with disease and those without ailments. Mindful eating helps in maintaining good physical health and the healing process.

Now, two years since the diagnosis, he feels better than before, more healthy, vibrant and energetic, without the surgery and no medications.

 Chawla shared five tips to be more conscious about what you put in your mouth to eat:

  1. Foster an awareness of contents: Be more aware of what it is that you are eating and putting into your mouth; examine the contents consciously; know what it is made of.
  2. Develop a sense of portion size, quantity control: Notice the amount you are eating; if you like chips, don’t eat a bagful of them; have quantity (portion) control.
  3. Favor water as a beverage: Our bodies don’t need to drink coke, or any sugar products.
  4. Eat more water/liquid-based products (meals, dishes): These help with digestion. For instance, soups are better than solid foods, and ‘khichdi’ (a traditional Indian comfort food of rice and legumes) is better than naan or chapattis and bakery products.
  5. Eat more fresh, plant-based. Organic products: Eat green vegetables, rather than meatbased or milk-based products. Legumes and whole grains are good (excellent choice).

 How do you define yourself?

Prior to my ashram epiphany, I was defined as a successful entrepreneur – but now I am not sure. All I know is that I am happy and enjoying life. My mission in life is to give this message, that all human beings are made equal, and all deserve to be happy.

 Any final thoughts?

In each of us there is internal knowledge, a guidance system, a gentle voice, directing or beckoning us towards a state of well-being. It tells us to let go, and stay in the river of present experience, not to worry about the potential of the future, or regret our past mistakes. Healing (literally, “to make whole”) requires tapping into the sense of wholeness that is always available inside each of us. This process is journey of self-discovery, leading to healing as a powerful platform of growth through self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Conventional medicine offers many simple and elaborate ‘band aids,’ as methodology that is aimed at managing symptoms, rather than examining or shifting the underlying cause(s) of the disease. Healing, on the other hand, requires a transformation of consciousness. Healing is an entirely “inside” job, and provides a fresh comprehension that shifts our experience of reality.

Listening to Shri’s reflections, taking notes and contemplating his experiences and resulting revelations, I was suddenly mindfully aware of the tangy, acrid, sweet and sour taste of tamarind pulp in my mouth, and the beginning of my own journey of self-discovery.