Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What I Learned from Oprah's Life You Want Weekend

Oprah Winfrey came to Miami and brought her Life You Want Weekend, a touring event that serves as a giant inspirational retreat for folks looking to figure out what they want from their own lives, a journey of self-transformation. And she brought along some of her friends - Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, OWN host Iyanla Vanzant and pastor Rob Bell to the AmericanAirlines Arena Oct. 24-25.

After writing a preview about the event for my paper, I was curious to experience it myself. What will Lady O say that we don't know already from her magazine, former talk show and OWN network? How many women (and some men) could pack the arena for something other than a Miami Heat game or an Enrique Iglesias concert?  A LOT, as it turns out.

Whether we strolled the downtown streets of Miami or rode the centipede-like Metro Mover to the event, we all recognized one another thanks to our rubbery white bracelets, which later glowed like bright fireflies during each speaker's session. On my way to the arena, I couldn't help but eavesdrop on some ladies as they talked about how they traveled from New York and Canada just to see Oprah. I nodded and smiled and they flashed a knowing grin when they spotted my bracelet. It confirmed that I was one of them, one of the gals that weekend, looking for a dose of spirituality and some personal growth.

So what did I get out of the weekend? Here are some things that I jotted down in my notepad (I quickly ran out of paper) from my O-weekend along with some photos I snapped with my smartphone.

Friday night, Oprah donning a sunny yellow gown, strutted back and forth on stage where she spoke for about 90 minutes about her journey from a young girl in Mississippi to Chicago where she launched her long-time syndicated daytime show.

With slide shows of her early days in broadcasting, her home, landscapes and nature, it felt like she was taking us on a personal life tour.

"We are all energy. All life is energy.  What will you do with the energy that is you?'' Oprah asked the audience.

"There is no life without the connection to the spiritual self,'' she continued.

She referenced Maya Angelou who told her, "Your legacy is every life you've ever touched."

Oprah also read from "Invictus", poem that she learned at age 8: "I am the master of my fate I am the captain of my soul.''

She said her show took off when she started using television as a service to help other people. She urged us to do that in our own lives. "Use what you have and begin to share that in service" and how we can all do that in our own jobs whether we're clerks, lawyers or teachers.  If we haven't found a job that we are passionate about, find an outlet or something that you enjoy, something that pays you in its own way.

What really caught my attention was when she explained that "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction...The energy you put out there, BAM!, it's all coming back.. Haters, BAM! Jealously, BAM! Envy, BAM! Love is the same thing."  She was BAM! this and BAM! that so much that you could feel it as if she was pointing at YOU!...BAM! My seat mates uh-huhed along with me.
from Harpo

"You cocreate your life with the energy of your intention...You are responsible for your intentions...Be responsible for the energy you bring into a room.''  (I also liked this one because how you enter a room or a situation, sets the stage, so to speak.)

"Everything that happened to you has happened for you, to lift you higher, to make you better."

"You begin the life you want by embracing the life you have."  Be grateful for the smaller things even the shower pressure or clean crisp bed sheets. One of the smaller things I'm grateful for daily is that my VW starts each morning to get me to work in Fort Lauderdale from Miami.

Saturday morning opened with a day of sessions starring Oprah's trailblazers. This portion of the weekend reminded me of a giant extended version of her famous talk show. She sat on stage with Deepak Chopra who spoke about the importance of meditation and attracting the energy that you want. He led everyone inside the arena in a group meditation where we silently asked ourselves, who am I, what do I want, what is my purpose. (I was so Zenned out that I almost passed out despite being surrounded by thousands of people.)

He also shared some of his guiding principles such as "see the world as a reflection of your inner state." And how "when your intention is aligned with your purpose, there is flow."  And to "make sure that your intentions are not only for yourself but also for the common good."  Like banners or giant headlines, the quotes filled the jumbo screens that bedecked every corner of the arena. 

Then the exuberant Elizabeth Gilbert took the stage and urged the audience about the importance of being the hero of your story and going on miniquests, missions, crusades, journeys on self-discovery.
from Harpo

She emphasized that people don't have to embark on a year-long trip to Italy, India and Indonesia as she did a few years ago. We can all go on mini-quests and we don't have to go right now but we have to start planning them. It can be something as simple as taking a walk in your own city and seeing where that leads you which she did during her divorce years ago when one day, she discovered several majestic elephants striding in New York City as part of the visiting circus.
 "Don't do what I did. Ask what I asked...The call will come, the call for change, the call for courage, the call for transcendence," said Gilbert, refering to the questions she asked herself:  Who am I? Who is God? What have I come here to do?

Oprah told everyone that she wanted us "to have pieces of light from all our trailblazers" and to leave feeling "full", knowing what we want out of life.  I left feeling pretty full, with a spiritual boost, all energized, with a clearer sense of what I want in the future and ready to embark on a mini-quest.

The one I've been fantasizing about but haven't gotten around to fulfilling because of family issues and book-related promotions (and because I am always planning trips back to Boston, my longtime home) is a cruise, something I used to love doing with my parents when I was in elementary and middle school. It was our annual end-of-the-school-year vacation. I stopped going on them because as a teenager, I didn't think it would be cool to travel on a ship with my parents when I had my own car to hang out with my friends. (I also got seasick on the last cruise which wasn't pretty.)

By chance (or may be not), my row and seat number at the event was my late mother's birthday and I felt her there with me smiling from above.  And the image that kept appearing in my mind was boarding one of those colossal cruise ships and feeling the tropical winds brush against my face as the ship glided  into the deep blue Atlantic into a port I haven't been to before.  A mini-quest to some place different (other than Boston and Providence.)

But as Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert pointed out from the stage, perhaps attending the event was the beginning of a mini-quest for everyone who attended the event. It was something to get us started on that quest toward ourselves and what we really want from our lives.  "It's time to write a new story,'' Oprah said.

Or as Elizabeth Gilbert said, "You never know how a good quest is going to end" referring to her how the sight of those elephants during a simple walk in New York City years ago came full circle with Eat Pray Love, the book and Julia Roberts movie.

You can bet that I'm planning on that cruise whether it's a day cruise, a weekend cruise or something longer. It may not be right now but it will happen. I'll board that ship.


Since writing this, I found myself aboard The Love Boat. I didn't travel anywhere (I was covering the Love Boat reunion on the new Regal Princess) but I at least got to board a new cruise ship. Hey, it's a start!

The Regal Princess

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