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Mallika Chopra Says Throw Out the Meditation Rule Book

04/29/2015 02:24 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2015

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Mallika Chopra's last name is synonymous with well-being, but she wasn't born into it.

Her father is spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, who discovered meditation after years of trying to cope with his stress through smoking and drinking. "When my dad discovered meditation, our whole life changed," she recounts.

Her whole family has been meditating even since (she was 9 at the time). But in the decades since, the 42-year-old Chopra would find herself living a life that wasn't in touch with the principles that were important to her. Her new book, "Living with Intent," chronicles her "somewhat messy journey" back to living a healthy, happy and more purposeful life.

"I've grown up around this stuff, but then I've wandered and found myself frazzled and crazy and out of balance," she says. "And so I went back and looked at what were the techniques in my life that had helped me feel like every day I was doing something that aligned with my deepest desires."

One of the pillars of her book is meditation, and whether you've never tried it before or couldn't make it stick, Chopra shared with us some advice on how to make it part of your own imperfect path to a more fulfilling life.

Don't wait for your life to change to make room for meditation. "The reality of life is we're trying to balance a lot of things, and I lost myself," Chopra says of trying to balance her work with the wellness portal Intent.com, which just launched an app, and her family life with her husband and two daughters, 10 and 13. A big part of her book is checking in with yourself -- and not just when there's something to criticize. Let go of your guilt and start (again).

There's no required time. The popular recommendation of 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon is a great goal, but it's not realistic for most people, including Chopra. "Sometimes I do it for 5 minutes, sometimes I do it for 20 minutes, sometimes I don't do it for two weeks," she confesses. So don't set a timer; just take a minute when you can (or when you need it) and create a mental oasis.

The road to acceptance

Even with the Chopra family being living proof of meditation's power, acceptance of the practice didn't come quickly.

"When I was a kid, my father was considered an East Asian witch doctor who sold snake oil," Mallika Chopra recounts. "We grew up with him really being attacked. Now he and Oprah do a 21-day meditation and there are yoga studios everywhere.

"It's very funny, very lovely for me to see how meditation has become so mainstream."

There's no "right" way. "People think it's a very serious thing, whereas for me, it's a joyful thing," Chopra says. "Meditation should be making your life more fun." So forge the rules: Your mind doesn't have to be completely empty, you don't have to be in a quiet room -- she sometimes gets in a session while waiting in the carpool line for her kids. For the ultimate beginner, she teaches a very basic meditation: close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and anchor yourself by repeating a phrase like "I am." When your attention drifts away, refocus it by coming back to the words.

Make it a family affair. The most common question Chopra gets is how to get kids to follow parents' lead. "Honestly, if you meditate, your kids will be watching you and they'll want to mimic you," she says. The peace of mind it teaches can be especially helpful to them: "I had a lot of stability even through the tumultuous teen years because I had this tool."