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Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.

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You Gotta Love Men Who Can Talk About Choices and Poop

I try not to get all gaga over celebrities, but I must admit that sometimes I can't help feeling a bit star-struck when I see one. On the one hand, I tell myself they're just like you and me, after all. Yet on the other hand, I do get a bit intimidated by the fact that they've risen above the "ordinary" and accomplished something that the majority of us can't. And  I sometimes do get excited when I spot a celeb, mainly because I'm usually the one who doesn't do the spotting (yup, that's me, the distracted one who is gazing out yonder) but the other one – the one who gets an elbow poke by the person I’m with who whispers, "Did you see who THAT was?" And, by the time I look - they’re long gone.

This past Saturday I spent two separate hours with two different celebrities. Okay, they may not be celebrities to everyone, since a lot of people tend to associate celebrity-hood with Hollywood. But in the health world, they definitely qualify.

It was Health & Wellness Day at The Times Center, where Tara Parker-Pope, the New York Times' health columnist, sat down to chat with Deepak Chopra (he talked about choices)  and Dr. Oz (he talked about poop) for the New York Times Talk Series. Can I tell you something? I went a little gaga. Not since the last episode of 'Weeds' have I been quite as engrossed in what was going on as I was this day.

First up was Deepak Chopra. And I'd like to use some yogi-talk here: I've set my intention. I want him for my life coach. I really do. He is everything I want to be. He is composed and relaxed. He is self-assured, brilliant and funny. ("If Oprah married me," he told us when he first sat down, "She'd be Oprah Chopra.") He meditates two hours each day. He planted his electric-blue, red-laced sneakered feet firmly on the ground as he sat erect in his seat; hands serenely folded across his lap; his black slacks, shirt and pants (oh, and glasses, too, resplendent with unexpected rhinestones) releasing a combined aura of academic-spiritual master and hipster. I’m ashamed to admit that I have not read any of his 56 books on alternative approaches to health – not one. But now I'm determined to fill my bookshelves with them. (If you have a favorite, please share).

I've always been intrigued by meditation, but have failed miserably at it, finally convincing myself it was just not going to happen for me. But if listening to Deepak (I think it's okay to be on a first-name basis with him by now, don't you?) didn't convince me I not only wanted to meditate but would be able to do it, nothing would. The conversation was so engrossing that time passed as if no time had passed at all - and isn't that the desired result of a good, solid meditation?  I adore Deepak's concept of the mind-body connection, something I firmly believe in but can never completely grasp. (To the skeptics of the connection he said thusly: "How do you wiggle your toes if there's no mind-body connection?")

And I love his way of summing it up: "Your mind is not in your brain; it's in all the cells of your body. Your genes are like nanocomputers that you can program any way you want." (and that’s super-exciting to someone like me, who is ever-so-computer-challenged in the real world). Our immune cells, he says, are listening all the time and communicating with all our neurons. Our immune system is all-powerful: it thinks, it makes choices, it's malleable and most of all, it remembers.

So, we have far more control than we realize. We can influence our health destiny by the lives we lead and choices we make. While it's true that there are some diseases we are pre-programmed to develop (things like Huntington's disease, Down's syndrome or muscular dystrophy) there are still others (like heart disease, some cancers and auto-immune diseases) that we can influence with a change of lifestyle in just 3 or 4 months. We all know this already – I've written about it a lot – but it's still comforting and empowering to hear it again.

At the end of the hour, Deepak spoke his thoughts on what would be three steps we can all take toward a happier, more fulfilled life. Barely taking time to think about it, the answers came swiftly:

  • Take it easy (he wants his epitaph to read, 'easy come, easy go')
  • Every opportunity for movement is a great opportunity (walk, walk, walk!)
  • What you put into your body is a choice (he doesn't eat anything in cans or with labels)

When it was all over, I could have gone downstairs to buy a book and have Deepak sign it. I could have talked to him and tried to act all cool and like it didn't matter that he was brilliant and famous. But I didn't. Was I afraid I'd make a fool of myself? Well, maybe just a little.

But also I had to go grab lunch – after all, I had an appointment to see Dr. Oz in just a few hours, and heaven forbid my stomach started growling in the middle of it.

Follow up with me later this week when I tell you all about that special moment.

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