Oprah and Sue Monk Kidd

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Yesterday, on Super Soul Sunday, Oprah sat under the oaks with Sue Monk Kidd, best-selling author of The Invention of Wings (an Oprah Book Club selection) and seven other books. I assumed that Oprah would be discussing the novel and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the topic of the telecast was “The Soul of a Writer.” Throughout the telecast, I listened attentively as Sue shared a lifetime of wisdom.

Sue’s journey began on a traditional note. At age 20, she married and started a nursing career, a decision that Sue describes as a “failure of courage.” Her true calling went unheeded for almost a decade. At age 29, she read The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton and experienced one Aha! moment after another.

On the morning of her 30th birthday, Sue marched into the kitchen and announced: “I’m going to be a writer,” an announcement she has labelled a great absurdity. While she had written stories during her childhood and kept a journal, she had not produced any other written work. After discovering this “small true light,” Sue spent the next two decades honing her craft.

Having read and enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees, I was shocked to hear that an esteemed teacher at a conference had read the first chapter and informed Sue that it did not show potential for a novel. Thankfully, Sue was led by serendipity to find her way back to the novel which later sold over 6 million copies.

Quotable Quotes

We should take our own breath once in a while.

There is no place so awake and alive as the edge of becoming.

The soul often speaks through longing.

Prayer is the attention of the heart.

What is the point of spirituality if we don’t put it in some form of practice?

At some point, we must acknowledge: This moment is enough. This place is enough. I’m enough.

Just to be is holy. Just to be is a gift.

Our souls are meant to love and create.

What we pay attention to becomes our God.

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Oprah and Gary Zukav

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Yesterday on Super Soul Sunday, Oprah celebrated the 25th anniversary of The Seat of the Soul with best-selling author Gary Zukav.

As I listened to this gentle and insightful man, I was surprised to learn of his own journey from a “macho punk with a chip on his shoulder” to an eloquent master teacher. Raised by hard-working parents in Kansas, Gary was an outstanding student who was offered an academic scholarship to Harvard. Later, he joined the prestigious Green Berets. In spite of these achievements, he was embarrassed by his name, his town, and his life. He also battled a sex addiction.

After undergoing his own amazing transformation, Gary dedicated himself to helping others through his books and lectures.

Throughout the telecast, Oprah provided us with flashbacks to Gary’s appearances on her television show. So many wonderful insights were shared, among them Oprah’s Gloria Halleluiah moment: “When the personality comes to serve the energy of the soul that is authentic empowerment.”

Other quotable quotes…

When you make a decision to heal, the universe will back you up.

Anyone who has challenged an addiction has done holy work.

When you strive to heal an addiction, you are ready for your highest calling.

What is failure? We can’t possibly know what failure is. Who is to say what is a success, what is a failure? Trust, relax, do your best, and know you cannot fail.

We are not powerless. And the more we think that, the more pain we create for ourselves.

The foreclosure can be the beginning and not the end.

It is exciting to come of age spiritually.

Oprah and Diana Nyad–Part I

oprahdianaYesterday on Super Soul Sunday, Oprah sat down with long distance swimmer Diana Nyad.

Having followed Diana’s amazing swim in late summer, I was looking forward to insights from this extraordinary woman who, according to Oprah, demonstrated “what a real warrior looks like.”

Born into a tumultuous home, Diana faced challenges at an early age. A temperamental father prone to outbursts and a cold and distant mother led her to find solace in the water, practicing up to six hours a day. The sexual abuse she endured from her coach rocked the cells of her very being and for the longest time, she believed that she had allowed the abuse to happen.

She swam competitively until age thirty and after burning out, decided to leave the loneliest sport in the world. She forged a career in sports broadcasting and lived a different dream. All the while, she kept hearing a little whisper about the failed swim from Florida to Cuba, “Gosh, it would have been magic.”

After her 82-year-old mother died in 2007, Diana began re-evaluating her life and asked the important questions: “Am I living the life that I can admire? “Am I going to leave this earth, maybe as you do, leaving it a place where it’s a little more than it was, and human rights have been fulfilled more?”

Since age 60, Diana attempted the Cuba/Florida swim five times. After four failures, she approached the fifth attempt brimming with confidence. She took every precaution to protect herself from the box jellyfish and completed the 110 mile swim in 58 hours.

Quotable quotes…

Will can push you beyond the impossible.

What the spirit can do is immeasurable.

Spirit is larger than the body.

When you achieve your goals in life, it’s not what that gets you, it’s who I am. (Henry David Thoreau paraphrased)

Diana’s Mantra…Find a way.

Oprah, Mariel Hemingway and Bobby Williams

marielhYesterday, Oprah welcomed Mariel Hemingway and Bobby Williams to Super Soul Sunday.

Having read several articles about the Hemingway curse, I was curious about the youngest grand-child of that famous clan. Growing up in a volatile home where her parents drank and fought constantly, Mariel spent most of her childhood cleaning up blood and glass. At age eleven, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and Mariel become her primary caretaker. Afterward, the dysfunction escalated. In total, seven family members took their own lives.

Determined to change these generational patterns, Mariel set off on her own spiritual journey, dabbling in everything from psychotherapy to holistic practices.

With her soul mate, Bobby Williams, she forged a spiritual partnership and found ways to lead a simpler life that is in rhythm with nature. Together, they co-authored Running with Nature.

Advice and Insights…

Hardest lesson to learn—Being present.

Every day is an opportunity to find ways—big and small—to transform ourselves.

Ceremony and ritual create mindfulness.

Start with a simple morning ritual. For Oprah and Mariel, tea is their morning ritual.

Approach the day with a sense of ease.

Inner peace can be found through movement.

Take advantage of the free prescription available from the following six doctors—Dr. Air, Dr. Sun, Dr. Water, Dr. Nutrition, Dr. Exercise, Dr. Rest.

Adventure is more than just light-hearted fun. It’s a spiritual practice.

Open yourself to something new. It could be as simple as trying a new fruit or vegetable.

Conduct a day review. Each evening, look at your life and make peace with it. Ask yourself—Was I kind? Did I accomplish what I wanted to do?

My soul is a place where I live in silence. Bobby Williams

My soul is my God connection. Mariel Hemingway

Oprah and India Arie–Part II

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I’m so glad Oprah decided to continue the conversation with India Arie on today’s Super Soul Sunday.

At the young age of thirty-seven, the beautiful singer and songwriter has found that “sacred space of peace inside.” Glowing and radiating on screen, India openly discussed her remarkable journey of acceptance and surrender.

Losing money and losing her way in the music industry forced her to take a prolonged time-out. Only through prayer and meditation was she able to transform herself and restore emotional, spiritual and mental health.

Throughout the telecast, India and Oprah shared many wonderful insights that could easily serve as intentions or affirmations.

Let me be 100% guided by my soul.

Let me hear your voice and have the courage to follow.

You can stop at any time.

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.

It’s not just what you say. It’s how you show up.

Healing the world starts with you.

Prayer is where I know I can go and always be heard.

When you breathe and ask for calm, it always comes.

I have risked everything to tell the truth. Just tell the truth. (Maya Angelou)

Oprah and India Arie

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Singer. Songwriter. Poet. Grammy Award Winner.

The beautiful and poised young woman who sat down with Oprah on yesterday’s Super Soul Sunday took the music world by storm at age twenty-four. She impressed all of us with her musical affirmations, among them the memorable “I learned to love unconditionally/Because I am a queen.” Later, she went on to sell over ten million albums and win four Grammys.

Along the way, India Arie faced many personal challenges.

Early in her career, she received the worst snub in Grammy history when she was nominated in seven categories and lost each one. For months on end, she was surrounded by that conversation and continued to feel the hurt and humiliation.

In 2009, she found herself at a spiritual crossroads after dealing with a broken engagement and an exhausting cross-country tour. She shocked her music label, her fans and her family when she retired and went into seclusion. Knowing that her soul was sick and that she needed a cure, India moved to an island where she slept, prayed and watched the water.

India admitted that unworthiness was once part of her calling card. Afraid of failing and succeeding, she yearned to stay in a safe place. She strongly believes that the breakdown was God’s way of giving her a breakthrough.  She finally felt secure enough to ask and answer that all-important question:

What would I do if I knew I was 100% worthy of this?

Quotable quotes from India Arie and Oprah…

Your self worth is your job.

All physical ailments start in the spirit.

Your sense of authentic power is directly proportional to how aligned you are.

The voice of the world will drown out the voice of God, if you allow it.

You are responsible for your own life. Don’t wait until the end of your life to figure that out.

Be clear about your intention and the universe will rise to meet you wherever you are.

You are it. You are the one you have been waiting for.



Oprah and Phil Jackson

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Holy Roller. Student of Philosophy. Truth Seeker. Zen Master. One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. Best-selling author of Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success. Tallest guest on Super Soul Sunday.

Born in a strict religious home, Phil Jackson recalls spending most of his time in church. While his parents groomed him to become a minister, Jackson found his true calling in sports. Basketball and baseball were his doors to freedom and a college education. During his first semester at college, he received a rude spiritual awakening. Learning about Darwinism threw a monkey wrench into the mind of the good catechism student who had memorized 175 scriptures. He changed his major to philosophy, psychology and religion.

During the telecast, Jackson shared some of his experiences as player and coach in a world filled with “a lot of tall egos and money.” He has firsthand knowledge of the harsh realities that exist within the NBA. The players live in a constant state of anxiety, worried that they will be hurt or humiliated, cut or traded.

As a coach, Jackson focused on building up the mental strength of the players. He provided opportunities to explore by introducing them to yoga, Tai Chi and meditation. In the end, meditation stuck.

Three Zen Principles that have shaped Phil Jackson’s life…

Giving up control

He begins each day with a quiet mind and prefers to sit back and observe. A tactic that served him well in his dealings with Dennis Rodham, the rebel and rule bender who was well known for his aggressive plays and his antics off the basketball court.

Trust in the moment

Even in the tensest moment, Jackson is able to center himself. He advises anyone struggling with this principle to ask themselves the following question: Is what’s happening at this moment going to destroy your life?

Living in compassion

When Oprah commented that it is difficult to be compassionate about our competitors, Jackson countered with, “I’ll bring out the best in you and you bring out the best in me.”

Quotable Quotes…

Basketball is a spiritual game.

One breath | One mind

A leader has to create the space for other people to step in and be bigger.

That’s what stardom is all about: Making everyone else better.

Some of us are doing our best and don’t even know it.

The difference between religion and spirituality is doctrine.

Let it go, like a cloud passing through the sky. Breathe through it.

Oprah and Karen Armstrong

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Karen Armstrong, one of the world’s leading scholars on world religions, sat down with Oprah on yesterday’s Super Soul Sunday.

She started on a linear path, entering the convent at age seventeen. While her family was not particularly devout, Karen hoped to experience transcendent moments as God became less of a remote and shadowy reality.

The reality was very different.

Up at 5:30 for morning prayers and meditation, Karen discovered that she was completely unable to pray and could not wrap her mind around meditation. From 9:30 to 12:30, she sat with the other novices doing “insufferable needlework.” Each day, her stitches were examined and ripped apart. Upset and angry, Karen found it hard to believe that God really cared about crooked seams. These daily rituals were there to keep pride and ego in check, but it was a complete waste of time for Karen. Overly concerned with her perceived failures, she was deeply embedded in ego.

More shocking was the lack of emotional comfort in pre-Vatican convents. The nuns were not allowed to befriend or comfort each other. When Karen started to have fainting spells, she was told the spells were a sign of weakness and that she was using them to draw attention to herself. On a road trip to a summer retreat, Karen developed severe nose bleeds. When she asked for a tissue, the request was denied because the box belonged to the community.

After seven stressful years (1962-1969) cut off from the world, she left the convent. Anorexic and suicidal, Karen actually believed she would end up in a locked ward. The fainting and nose bleeds continued. She had a Grand Mal seizure in 1976 and finally received a diagnosis: epilepsy.

In spite of the many hardships endured, Karen did recall several kind nuns and one positive conversation that sustained her through many dark years. While dying, a very kind Mother Superior said, “You’re a good girl, Sister, and don’t forget I told you so.”

She was anti-religious for thirteen years. God became real to her again while writing the book, A History of God. Her book, The Spiral Staircase, is a moving and revealing look at her extraordinary life.

Quotable Quotes…

Little, unrelated acts of kindness can lighten someone’s load.

The biblical God is a starter kit.

There is no religion without action.

God is that which cannot be expressed.

Oprah and Dr. Brian Weiss

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It is a topic that is definitely out of my comfort zone.

So, I was surprised to find myself following Dr. Brian Weiss’ conversation with Oprah on yesterday’s Super Soul Sunday.

Skeptical but curious, I suspended judgment as I listened to the traditionally educated psychiatrist describe how he came to practice past life regression therapy.

In 1980, Dr. Weiss took on Catherine, a new patient who was suffering from recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks. While under hypnosis, Catherine “crossed the invisible boundary of her current life and entered the realm of other lifetimes.” She regressed back to 1863 B.C. where she had lived as Aronda, an 18-year-old girl. Later, Catherine began to channel messages from master spirits which contained revelations about Dr. Weiss’ family and his dead son.

As Head of Psychiatry at a major hospital, he was afraid of sharing his new-found insights. But realizing that his life would never be the same again, he became a leader in the field of past-life therapy.

The best-selling author of Many Lives, Many Masters has now released another book, Miracles Happen, which he co-authored with his daughter, Amy.

Amy’s story is also a fascinating one.

When she was diagnosed with cataracts at age 25, she asked: “Why do I have the eyes of an old man?” While searching for answers, she decided to try regression therapy and went all the way back to the Middle Ages. She learned that she had inhabited the body of an old man whose eyes were blinded by fire. After her cataracts disappeared, she finally understood her father’s work intellectually and emotionally.

Quotable Quotes

Reincarnation doesn’t have to be scary. There’s more than one chance to get it right.

Sadness clouds the eyes.

All of nature is resurrection.

Energy does not have boundaries.

This, the end, is only the beginning.

Oprah and the Bigger Picture

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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.