‘Help Desk’: Bringing Spiritual Wisdom to the Streets

Filmmaker and producer Gotham Chopra has been listening to his dad—the best-selling author of over 80 books on mind-body medicine, Deepak Chopra—give advice his whole life. So you’d think he’d be more than a little bored of the whole self-help field. But after dealing with much of his own skepticism about his father’s line of work in his documentary, Decoding Deepak (now on Netflix), he’s embraced the role that spiritual leaders can play in an individual’s positive personal transformation. And he’d like to make it even more personal.

In Help Desk, a new show that he hosts and executive-produces (12 p.m. Sundays, OWN Network), Gotham Chopra gives everyday people the chance to chat one-on-one with well-known inspirational speakers/authors, including, yes, his dad. The Help Desk is a literal one: Popular advisers such as Gary Zukav, author of The Seat of the Soul; Michael Beckwith, founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center; and Carolyn Myss, author of Sacred Contracts; man an actual counter in a busy city center and answer the questions—about relationships, jobs, spirituality and grief/healing—of passersby. The show “brings spiritual wisdom to the streets,” where it should be, according to Chopra. He spoke with SUCCESS about the show and who he turns to for advice.

SUCCESS: Do you think it’s possible to offer meaningful advice in just five minutes?

Chopra: Yeah, I do. Some of the Help Desk sessions are longer than that and we edit them down for the show, but we’ve always been cautious about pretending that someone can get their life’s solution in just a few minutes. The idea is to just plant a few seeds or help them identify the root of their problem. A lot of people aren’t really in touch with their problems and it can be helpful to have someone identify what the real issue is. But whether the session was five minutes or five hours, it’s still not really going to fix everything. It takes work. We’re not set up to be a long-term solution for anyone.

Were people ever disappointed by the advice they received?

Most people say they had a pleasant experience. Just the presence [of the spiritual/thought leader they spoke to] alone puts people at ease. So the feedback has been positive. One or two people have been shaken, though. The advice for one couple was that they should possibly not be together… they were pretty shaken.

One of the advisers, Carolyn Myss, tells one young man to never mix personal with business. I’m guessing you wouldn’t agree with that advice.

Personally, I stay away from imperatives and absolutes, but some advice works better for different people. Each of our advisers has a different audience. People are drawn to them by what they need. Some may need no-nonsense, black-and-white advice and some people need a more nuanced, intuitive approach. It’s sort of a self-selecting process, who shows up for which adviser.

How did you choose the advisers?

I like to say that we are a triple-A farm club. We really wanted to focus on the up-and-coming personalities in the field. I mean, I know Tony Robbins and a lot of the other established [self-help] names through my dad, but it was cool to find out who would be next. I wasn’t that familiar with Panache Desai [author of Discovering Your Soul Signature], for example, but it was really exciting and fun to get to know him and his work.

It’s hard for a lot of people to accept advice from their parents. How was it growing up with a dad whose advice is revered by so many?

You know, despite the instinctive “You don’t know what you’re saying, Dad!” reaction that I used to have, I’ve really learned to see the other side. People constantly come up to him on the street and say, “I read your book and it changed my life” or “Your work is incredible,” so I can see how much he has helped people.

So who do you go to for advice?

I’ve been married for 14 years, so my wife and I talk about everything. And depending on the situation, I do go to my dad. My mom, too.

Do people ask you for advice, by merit of your last name alone?

ALL the time. By and large, I try to avoid giving advice. Just like everyone else, I’ll talk about relationships and parenting with my friends, based on my own experiences. But beyond that [laughing], I am no help.

Watch Help Desk Sundays at 12 p.m. on OWN. In this clip, Caroline Myss helps a man learn how to assert himself at work.

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