I was able to attend a live taping of Oprah’s Lifeclass The Tour in NYC featuring Deepak Chopra and my experience was nothing short of amazing…
The topic of Oprah’s Lifeclass was living a more spiritual life or tapping into your spiritual self. She defined it as “Living your life with an open heart, with love.” At first I thought what does that even mean? And then I thought, that’s how everybody should live anyway, it doesn’t really have anything to do with my spiritual self. But then she started explaining some of the principles of living with an open heart: compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, awareness, purpose. Although I consider myself a good person, I can work on all of those things especially the awareness, forgiveness, and purpose part. Deepak put it simply, “Spirituality is finding your true self.” I thought about what’s contributed to my Spiritual stunting? I don’t Practice! Have you ever thought about most religions (especially Hindu, Buddhist, etc) talk about “Spiritual Practice?” It’s not just going to church, it’s making the time for daily devotion, for their Practice, to guide their Spiritual development.
The word Practice has really been resonating with me lately. It really started when I watched this documentary on HBO about George Harrison; he has a really interesting life story. He became known as the “Spiritual Beatle” because he devoted his life to his Practice at the height their success. It changed how he looked at everything, the music he made, the activities he did and didn’t do. Anyway, in the documentary he and his wife asked the Dalai Lama about doing his spiritual Practice every day. They asked: “How do you know it will work?” and he replied “I don’t. I’ll find out when I die.” How the Dalai Lama don’t know if it works?!?! ROFL! But I think his point is, for now I’m going to focus on guiding my body through life the best way I can through exercising, practicing, and growing my Spiritual Self so when the time comes—not just for death but for the trials of life—I will be ready. I will be “in shape,” I will be compassionate, and tolerant, and fearless, and all the rest!!!!! An open heart.
One of my most powerful takeaways from Oprah, drew from Deepak Chopra’s 7 Spiritual Laws of Success (a book I really want to read and commit to memory): “There is no life without a Spiritual Life—because we are all ‘Spiritual Beings having a Human Experience.’” Can I get a AMEN?!?!?! I never heard life put like that but isn’t it so true? Isn’t that what we’re all trying to verbalize ALL THE TIME?!?! Why we want the most out of our careers, why we want to find our soul mates and raise babies, and give back to communities? We are more than just corporate titles, more than just paying bills, more than just flesh, thought, mistakes, and even failure (my biggest fear). If I succeed at none if it and maintained an open heart, what type of woman would I be? AMAZING. I’m not saying I’m capable of that hahaha, and Lord knows I want all of my wish list to become reality, but if it all falls apart and you can still carry on…wow.
Strength, grace, compassion even in impossible circumstances…that’s what a Spiritual Life looks like. Speaking of Loss, Tragedy, Defeat and all the other crap that we have to face but still terrifies me, Deepak explained that part of living a spiritual life is the strength to “accept the moment as it is, not wishing for something that used to be.” To help with that, there are important questions to ask yourself. “What is this experience teaching you about your life? What is it supposed to be teaching you?” He explained that “all death reminds us that we we’re not going to be here forever.” How then, will you use your time?
So we keep talking about this Spiritual Being in all of us and I ran into the same dilemma I have when I hear people say God speaks to them. I think I’m too literal for all that. I don’t hear anything? I can’t get passed my own thoughts. So they taught us this exercise (it works better when Oprah can call out the directions to you):
Close your eyes. Picture an old house…an oak tree…a full moon…a blue room…a red triangle. Open your eyes.
You are not any of those pictures, you are the Observer. Your Spirit is the Observer.
That exercise was so simple but it finally clicked to me. That’s why people meditate. That’s why people pray. It should be you the Observer connecting with God, not me the Complainer (or as Deepak says, the Ego) lamenting over my To Do List. It should be me the Observer, connecting and growing closer with that piece of myself, not avoiding emotion or examination to just “get through” the day. It should be me practicing the control of my thoughts, the direction of my life, my reactions and energy that I share with the world. Somewhere in there Oprah shared her favorite scripture that’s guided her entire life; the concept that she attributes to all of her success. Acts 17:28—“In God I live, and move, and have my being.” Somehow she’s known from the time she was very little that it was all in the hands of God. When everyone and everything pointed to her just being another statistic, she trusted God to guide her because she already belonged to Him anyway. Like I needed another reason to love Oprah’s testimony.
So between Oprah & Deepak, all this seems like too much for my lil measly Spirit to handle but the other “a ha” moment for me, is that’s where God comes in. All this Spiritual Practice means is to move closer to Him. How am I supposed to find Him with just Flesh? With just worry and complaint? I have to get into a whole other space so I can tap into His strength and move forward, hear His direction and call and follow it boldly, confidently. I have to give it to Him in order to get to Him. They put this in another beautiful way:
“You don’t have a Soul, you ARE a Soul. You have a body.” – CS Lewis
Don’t let the body mess things up. Connecting with your Spirit, is exactly what God asks us to do; surrender our worldly self to something greater and the life you live, the level of awareness you have will be richer. So this is where my Soul got reeeal happy, things started to come together. The message I streamed on Sunday was from 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. It talked about the grace that God gave Macedonian churches because of their ability to give freely, cheerfully, and in spite of their circumstance. The pastor said if you don’t have joy it’s an indicator you are not living in the full presence of God. The only way I can get in God’s presence is to condition my Self/Spirit to reach closer to Him. To get past all these thoughts that take up root in my mind and keep me feeling so defeated, and get to a place that is bigger than all of that. Bigger than all my past or even my future, is right now. To drive the point further, my daily verse today was 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” It’s already in there, I just need to tap into it. I have to give it to Him in order to get to Him. Thank you Lord.
So at this point in the show Deepak said a couple of things I hope I never forget. One is a small mantra he uses to emphasize the importance of the moment:
The Past is gone.
The Future is not here
Now, I am free a both.
The next part of the show was bittersweet & probably the hardest for me to acknowledge. It featured a mother who lived in a constant state of fear after getting the call 10 years ago that all three of her daughters were involved in a brutal car accident. To this day the woman lives worrying about all the things that could go wrong and with an extreme level of anxiety that life can change with just a phone call. The other side of the story is that despite grim prognoses for each of her girls they all survived. Not only that but her oldest daughter who they said would never move anything below her neck again, is mobile, married, and expecting her first child (Deepak says “Believe the diagnosis, never believe the prognosis”). The mother’s resistance to embracing the joy of now, to letting go of the past’s trauma is limiting not just her life but her entire family’s. The daughter explained “Her fears and worries prevent me from living in the here and now.”
I thought, Dang this is my relationship with my family….allowing someone else’s baggage to add to mine. Taking on not just my doubt and depression and anxiety but my mom’s too. I am not upset with my family about it, just acknowledging that’s a factor. Then I thought how many people do I do that to in my life?!?!!?! Transferring my bad energy, my fears on to them? Like Deepak explained “Everybody does the best they can from the state of awareness they’re in.” I can’t expect comprehension, awareness, or consideration beyond someone’s level, or beyond my own (that means I also need to be real about the level I’m actually on). Oprah kept it real saying we’re all operating on different frequencies and some folks just on a low hum, barely buzzing at all HAHAHA! Can’t expect the world from them so instead I’m going to focus on what I can learn from the experience, controlling the thoughts and reactions but more importantly the expectations I have of myself and others.
To sum it all up, living a Spiritual Life is embracing your opportunity of right now, and therefore your power over your path. What do you choose to fill “now” with? Will you choose doubt, worry, stress, disappointment (I’ve been choosing all of the above)? Or will you CHOOSE joy? Will you choose to Practice and strengthen your Spirit—who you really are—and dismiss those thoughts? This was the part of the show where I was like “WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING WITH MY LIFE??” If I prepare myself right now, whatever comes next…I’ll be ready. Why is that just hitting me? That is such a powerful concept…I’m letting it all go (I’m gonna try anyway). Deepak again had a lot to say about the importance of now. “Now is the moment that lasts forever.” Making now the best it can be from my thoughts to my actions is the best thing I can do to discover who I really am, to bring my Spiritual Self to the forefront. Thoughts have so much power over each moment. How do I control them?
Stop the destructive line of thinking.
Take 3 deep breaths & smile everywhere in your body
Observe. Where is this coming from? What am I really concerned with?
Proceed now with kindness and compassion
Or try to shift your attention to your breath for a few moments. Clear your mind and focus simple on breathing, fresh air, fresh perspective.
Or ask yourself: “What is the opposite of this thought?” It’s likely something completely positive let your mind wander with that.
Or say this prayer popular in Indian culture: “I use memories but I will not allow memories to use me.” I will learn from every failure or hardship, but I am by no means defined by them. WOW.
I was encouraged to see there were a lot of different strategies that take into account that I am spiritually out shape hahaha! I walked outside of the building and looked at The City with new eyes, what a waste I’ve been!! Of course it helped that it was springtime and I had just walked out of Radio City Music Hall (and had spent the afternoon with my hero and guru lol), but even in my gritty broke corner of Harlem I now call home, I am surrounded by amazing & unique circumstances. I may never pass this way again. That’s not to say that I don’t still wish and hope for the next chapter (and city) of my life, but I don’t want to move on without fully embracing where I am. I don’t have to worry about what’s coming next, or what happened in my past if I embrace right NOW.
Oprah’s closing remarks drove the point even further. All of those outside forces only have power if YOU allow them to. She threw in a Wizard of Oz reference (OMG), when Glenda tells the Wicked Witch “YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE.” That’s a mantra in itself right? Or as Joel Osteen would say, “speak to your mountains.” She also reminded us, “don’t get confused by what people say you are, and who you KNOW are.” The point of the Spiritual Life is that last bit, to know for sure EXACTLY who you are.