Oprah and Elizabeth Lesser

elizabethlesser

Oprah welcomed Elizabeth Lesser, best-selling author of The Seeker’s Guide and Broken Open and co-founder of Omega Institute, to Super Soul Sunday.

Having read Broken Open several times, I was looking forward to gaining more insights about surviving and thriving during difficult times. I was especially interested in hearing about Elizabeth’s experiences during a very challenging 2013. In her introduction, Oprah commented that Elizabeth could have written an epilogue to Broken Open based upon that transformative year.

A bit of history…

Seven years ago, Elizabeth’s younger sister, Maggie, was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. After six years in remission, the cancer returned in 2013. The last resort for Maggie was high risk bone marrow operation.

When Elizabeth discovered she was the best match, she educated herself about the process and decided to purify her cells of any bad intentions. She wanted to be in a place of love and acceptance before undergoing the five-hour operation.

With the help of a wonderful therapist, the two sisters addressed prickly issues and were able to heal old wounds.

The experience of the stem cell transplant was a holy one and gave Elizabeth the courage to come through more fully into her own skin.

In the second part of the telecast, Oprah and Elizabeth discussed aging gracefully. A timely topic for Oprah on the eve of her 60th birthday (the day of the taping). As a fellow sister in her sixties, Elizabeth has embraced her role as elder and plans to be there for people who are coming up.

Quotable Quotes…

All holy and difficult experiences are there to transform us.

Life is always giving us opportunities to either break open into the mystery or to shut down.

Who we are with each other, what we say, how we show up. It’s everything.

Your soul is covered by a thousand veils. Spiritual work is about uncovering your soul—peeling back all those veils.

For some people, prayer is a tremendous “veil buster”. For others, it may be meditation or nature or music.

Love your fate. It’s the best way to remove some of those veils.

Look for a way to lift someone up. If that’s all you do, it’s enough.

The soul is like a quiet music inside. A quiet, beautiful song that you were given to sing here on Earth.

You can stay awake by staying aware of your effect on other people and on the world.

We resist change but then it turns into an adventure.

Oprah and the Bigger Picture

oprahbigger

Yesterday on Super Soul Sunday, Oprah sat down with three of her favorite thinkers—Rev. Ed Bacon, Elizabeth Lesser and Mark Nepo—to deep dive into the news and look at the bigger picture. Using a different lens, this soul spiritual team addressed prescription drugs, gun violence, celebrity culture, gay marriage, and pets.

Prescription Drugs

The 2011 statistics are alarming: nearly 4 billion prescriptions were filled; 16 million Americans use painkillers; 5 million use sleep aids; and 18 million use antidepressants.

Oprah asked, “Do these numbers point to a collective hole in the soul of the country?

Rev. Ed was the first to respond. He revealed that he had experienced clinical depression and spent eight years in psychotherapy during his thirties. He carefully laid out a foundation of respect for anyone who has a chemical imbalance. According to Rev. Ed, these pills are okay if they help you enter life. They are not okay if they help you avoid life. Question to ask: Are you isolating yourself or living in community?

Elizabeth Lesser shared her marital problems and commented, “If I had medicated myself, I would not have had the courage to change.” Many people are replacing journeys of self-discovery with medication and choosing to stay asleep.

Mark Nepo’s wife also experienced depression. Mark thinks of medication as necessary aids and tools and strongly advocates psychotherapy which he believes is “attention to the soul.”

Gun Violence

With over 250 million guns in the United States, Americans are the most well-armed civilian population in the world. In 2010, there were 31,672 gun deaths; more than 19,000 of these were suicides. Unfortunately, it took the death of children to trigger a turning point in the gun control debate.

Rev. Ed believes that the Connecticut effect is here for a long time. In less than five minutes, 154 bullets emptied into the bodies of innocent children and adults. Elizabeth Lesser admits that we are hard-headed as a species and need big things to wake us up.

Oprah asked, “Why is arming ourselves so important?”

Mark Nepo believes there is an epidemic of fear and self-centeredness in our culture. People are arming themselves instead of facing their fears head-on. According to Rev. Ed, there is definite tension between the myth of the separate self and an understanding that we are all connected. He advised us to really listen to our adversaries and people who have a different perspective on the gun control debate.

Celebrity Culture

Oprah calls it the fallen celebrity syndrome.

Mark Nepo believes that people are obsessed with celebrity while quietly aching for things to celebrate. They want to pull people up so they can knock them down later. Rev. Ed referred to the shadow side of the celebrity syndrome. Many people prefer to avoid their own lives and project themselves in the scripts of others. Elizabeth Lesser suggested that when celebrities fall, people take comfort in the fact that everyone suffers in this life.

Gay Marriage

Public opinion has definitely shifted. In 1996, 27 percent of Americans supported gay marriage. In 2012, 53 percent supported gay marriage.

Elizabeth Lesser was educated through love. Growing up, she had no encounters with the gay population, but after nursing a friend with AIDS, she became more open and accepting. Rev. Ed believes that where you stand on this issue depends on where you sit Sunday mornings. According to Rev. Ed, gay marriage will enrich the institution of marriage. Everyone agreed that the institution of marriage was in trouble long before the advent of gay marriage.

Pets

Americans spend $53 billion annually on their pets. These animals bring delight, comfort and joy along with unconditional love and acceptance.

The three spiritual teachers were not surprised by this statistic. Mark Nepo shared an insight about the predominance of animals in Native American storytelling. An elder informed him that the Great Spirit, in his wisdom, realized that animals never forget their original instructions while human beings do.

Oprah asked, “Are we using our pets as a substitute for human interaction?”

Rev. Ed admitted this is the shadow side of having pets. They can keep us from the pain and messiness of human relationships. He ended on a lighter note by describing the Blessing Ceremony on St. Francis Day. When people bring their pets to church, they are really bringing more of themselves.