By Vijayalakshmi Nadar
Vijayalakshmi Nadar attends the inimitable Oprah Winfrey’s The Life You Want Tour, in Houston, USA, and comes away enthralled.
“Every moment you have the choice to open up, to listen to the whispers and live the way your life is nudging you to live…to walk boldly on your life’s path,”
The quote above was one of the opening lines at the Oprah Winfrey’s The Life You Want Tour, as she took centrestage to a thunderous applause, the entire venue illuminated only with the ‘light up’ wristbands worn by participants, to announce her arrival on stage at the Toyota Centre, Houston, USA. The tour wove its magic around eight cities, across USA, during weekends spread over two months, between September 5 to November 15.
To me, sitting at Toyota Centre on October 17, it was a 25-year-old dream come true, to be able to see and hear her live among 10,000 other women, most accompanied by the most important women in their lives, and a handful of men, who chose to gift this moment to the women in their lives.
While for most women present there, seeing Oprah may have been on their bucket list for years, for me it was a near impossibility bearing fruit, to be able to see and hear a woman whom I have consistently idolised for over two decades. Through the years, my love and admiration for who she is and what she represents has only grown in leaps and bounds. So when this opportunity was presented to me, a few months after landing on US shores, I went flying to grab my seat, to what I knew would be an enriching journey for me. And so it was…
It was a surreal feeling, complete with goose bumps, to listen to her connect the dots from the time she was conceived in an on-off sexual encounter to the time when she was four at her grandmother’s, and knowing for sure even at that tender age that there were better things in store for her than drying laundry. She got her first big break at 16 in a radio channel, went on to become a television reporter, and achieved mega success as a television talk show host; and now, here she was, nothing less than an enlightened being.
After so many years of watching her on television in India, hearing her speak in person was momentous. Tears rolled from my eyes, unabated. I could correlate my own growth with her journey. So powerfully did I resonate with her that it did not matter that from where I was seated, she seemed like a miniature version of herself on stage.
It was a revelation how Oprah traced her 25 years of television journey to arrive at this moment in time, when “my highest calling is to help you all reach the highest calling of your life”. Though on the surface, she seems nothing more than a highly successful television talk show host, the fact is that every one of the 4561 shows that she has conducted was centred around responding to the unspoken need of her audience for a better life. And so though many in the audience may have been unable to relate to her spiritual perspectives, they could most definitely connect to her intention that she was there to help them to discover their best version of themselves.
Ever since she left a successful television career spanning over two decades in 2011, and birthed the Oprah Winfrey Network, Oprah has been consciously trying to put out there, what she always knew: that “we are spiritual beings living a human life”, as the French philosopher and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin profoundly said. And she attributes her ability to successfully connect to billions around the world, to living a life “inside out”.
“It’s been a conscious effort of mine, since the early ’90s, to use the reach of television to impact the world,” says she.
Though she has been talking about the role of the spirit as early as in the 1990s, and got ridiculed by conservative Christians for it, today she is an unapologetic messiah of transformation forged through spirituality.
“Spirituality isn’t something I believe in. It is what and who I am. Knowing this has made all the difference. It allows me to live fearlessly. And I will be bold enough to say I know this for sure, that it’s the greatest discovery of life: to recognise that you’re more than your body and your mind.”
“Claiming my own spiritual depths and encouraging others to recognise the fullness of their potential through spiritual connection is my greatest purpose and calling”, and none disbelieves her when she explains that we are all seeking the highest, truest expression of ourselves, and “that’s the common thing between me and everyone else, that we all come from the same energy Source, even though it may not be so evident from the expensive pair of shoes I am wearing.(!)”
Tracing back her journey, all diligently recorded in her journals since she was 15, she says that though she was not as aware back then, every time she walked down to centre stage, she would send out a silent prayer, to make every word that left her mouth impactful on everyone in the audience, and those listening around the world. “I am in a position to change lives. I am very clear about my purpose on earth, to spark the light in you, so that you in your own way, can illuminate the world,” she says. So focussed is Oprah on her mission that her best friend, Gayle King, confirms that she begins her every morning with, “What can I do to make a difference to somebody’s life today?”
It is marvellous to see how Oprah has embraced age-old truths immortalized in Eastern philosophy and actualized them, even before consciously moving into spirituality. “I never started by wishing for money. Just lined up for what I wanted to do, and prayed for universal energy to support it,” says the media mogul whose personal wealth stands at $3 billion. She also attributes her success to her ability to tune inwards to hear that little voice inside her. “Every time I have stumbled, it has been because I have disregarded that voice.”
The Big ‘O’
With Oprah leading, nothing can be lowkey and so the entire vicinity around Toyota centre was converted into ‘O’ town for the weekend, bustling with activities and freebies. Dance and music was a staple at ‘O’ town and excited fans simply carried the celebrations inside the venue, where deejay Kiss played Oprah’s favourite numbers during breaks, while the audience danced unbashedly on the stands.
On Friday ‘O’ town kept the women busy sampling free food, throwing in a head massage, free makeovers, free photo opportunities with a lifesize cutout of Oprah, a chance to appear on the cover with her, and free samples from Olay, until the evening when Oprah finally made an appearance on stage. For me it was an opportunity to present a slice of my culture on an international platform, and so landed in the venue, draped in a saree on both days, grabbing eyeballs wherever I went.
Although she has been consistently helping to raise consciousness through her TV shows, O magazine and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), this road trip has been by far her grandest show, and her largest classroom, where she decided to reach her audience live, in order to help everyone figure their purpose, passion, mission and vision. In her attempt to do so, she has co-opted those who she refers to as her trailblazers, the seriously spiritual Deepak Chopra, the insanely humorous Iyanla Vanzant, the deeply convincing Rob Bell and the passionately moving Elizabeth Gilbert. And the show gets underway when Oprah lets out the grandest, signature call for the tour, “Turn on the volume in your life, be ready to claim your power, take your glory and run.”
Next to take the stage was our very own Deepak Chopra, medical doctor turned spiritual teacher and author, pioneer in mind-body medicine, founder of the Chopra Centre of Meditation. Speaking to the audience he outlined the seven rules for a spiritual life:
• To see the world as a reflection of yourself, that in essence we are all the same and connected to the same energy Source.
• We need to understand the essence of relationships, because they are in our lives for a reason. Being creative with your responses is what responsibility is all about.
• Intentions work when you intend not just for self, but for everyone.
• Learn to centre yourself in your true being, by developing awareness.
• Free yourself from emotional toxicity by understanding that emotions are the ultimate ego game and you can let go of them, by witnessing the emotion, learning healthy ways to express it, sharing it with someone, having a ritual to release it, and finally celebrating its release.
• Embrace the feminine and masculine part of you.
• Keep yourself healthy always, not just physically but also cultivate a lightness of being.
He concluded by guiding the audience through a calming 10-minute meditation session.
Elizabeth Gilbert, journalist turned author of the international best-seller, Eat, Pray and Love, took the stage next and gave a fascinating account of her life inspiring every woman in the audience to seek their destiny, stifled under the ifs and buts of their lives.
Stuck in a mundane marriage, one day she collapsed on her bathroom floor crying, and pleaded, “show me (the path ahead).” Slowly, she got her clues, including an elephant crossing a busy New York street, which led to her decision to end her marriage and go to India in search of her self, culminating in the book.
“Do not expect your life to change easily. Life after transformation is never fun. If it had been painless we would all be doing it every time just for fun. Change makes us uncomfortable. All movement becomes risk for injury. We stay put in our lives despite the misery, and don’t move till it becomes unbearable,” said Liz.
She said, “We all have real limitations and still the call comes and you have to follow it, even when you don’t really know what surrender can do to you.” She concluded by advising those who have not yet identified their passion and purpose, to “follow your clues instead and it will lead you to passion; if not, at least you would have lived a full life.”
Rob Bell, pastor, author and public speaker, named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2011, focussed on finding grace in everyday life. “Your breath is central to who you are, and so you need to acknowledge and celebrate it,” he emphasised. “Despair is a spiritual disease and change happens only when you embrace the life you have”.
“Heaviness, suffering, loss, pain, all bring you to the brink of change. Mess has the nuclear power to transform you to your best self,” said Rob.
For those concerned about family members who refuse to change, he advised, “Surrender the people you love to the power of God and allow them to have their own experiences. They have their own path. You cannot take someone where they don’t want to go.”
And his parting note after a reassuring discourse was, “celebrate small steps to discovery. It will add up.”
Iyanla Vanzant, spiritual life coach, minister and author of Forgiveness: 21 Days To Forgive Everyone for Everything, unleashed a session of laughter and mirth as she delivered her spiritual lessons, between sipping a glass of wine and making light of her tragedies, including her husband leaving her after two decades of a miserable marriage. The enchanted audience chanted, “We love you, Iyanla!”.
“Truth will deliver you but you have to endure the birth pain. Just breathe,” implored Iyanla on a more serious note. Some more gems from her spiritual treasury include:
• There is always more to live, more to learn, more to grow. Life will knock you off the centre, if you have no spiritual balance.
• If you cannot do everything, slow down. Do not fit into something which is not right for you.
• Life does not play tricks. Your mind does.
• Just as your eyes adjust to the level of deficiency, so do we, to the stories which we tell ourselves, and so tell the story in a way that empowers you.
• Most of us create a false self for others. Life will expose all that is false, on your way to your authentic self.
• Initiate the change before life forces you to.
• You have to really mourn first before you let go and forgive.
• You have to be willing to do the work long enough. Don’t be afraid of your circumstances, the challenges.
• Ask for what you want. Don’t settle for less.
• When you don’t know what else to do, just love, love yourself.
• When the bottom falls off, find something to feel grateful for.
• Forgiveness is the spiritual laxative.
On quitting her career as a defense lawyer, she says, “In man’s laws you see people at the lowest. In God’s law, you see the process of taking people to the highest.”
About the Author:
Vijayalakshmi Nadar, online sports journalist, and former deputy editor of Life Positive continues t o share her spiritual growth through her writings.
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