Oprah’s Example

1325 Relax and Succeed - Oprah The Path Made Clear

I’m working on a project that lead me to be at the Oprah talk last night in Edmonton. It was me, a producer friend, 11 other guys and about 20,000 women. I can assure other men that no gym muscles or hot cars will ever get a man the sort of credit you get for just being a guy at Oprah. We were congratulated several times just for coming, which felt odd.

I’m sorry, I never remember to take photos at these things, I’m always too much in the now to think to interrupt the moment in order to try capturing the moment, and I don’t use a smartphone.

It was in general a very happy, cooperative, friendly crowd and it felt good to be there. The talk itself felt a bit more like a highlight reel featuring mixed metaphors than a one long whip cracking.

Rather than a raconteur spinning out a theme and ending it with a swell and a snap –where there’s a beginning, middle and end with a climax– this was more a collection of vignettes of poignant scenes done more like an anthology of distinct stories. It was a bit like the difference between a band performing an entire concept album, versus just their greatest hits.

Her ‘greatest hits’ included video clips that featured Gary Zukov, and she had Wild author Cheryl Nyland on stage for a very authentic-feeling section that seemed to really focus the audience’s attention. In the end, everyone we asked really enjoyed the event.

I was there for a very particular reason, but it was still very easy to notice how invested people are in their health and in caring about others. That entire show was about a generous, caring, open and accepting way to see life, and there were 20,000 disciples all saying, ‘yes, we’re on board.’

How can we see the world as ugly when that many people show up just to share space and love?

What struck me most about her talk was a particularly vulnerable section regarding her early life. For those unaware, Oprah had a half-sister given up for adoption, and she herself was not seen as a gift to either her mother or her grandmother. In short, she was almost entirely unloved throughout her childhood, and you could feel that she still carries the pain of that even today.

She spoke of forgiving her mother before her death, although I got the sense that is still unfinished business with her. She did say something beautiful and true, which is that it was the neglect of attention that Oprah suffered early in life that lead her to a life on TV, and then as a talk show host, and ultimately she became the loving person she is precisely because she had those unloving forces in her life.

1325 Relax and Succeed - How are we weaving our pain into love

Maybe what made last night work was that Oprah wasn’t some deity administering her balm to the audience’s wounds, she was there more as an equal. While the talk used phrasing about how grateful she was for the wisdom she had gained from so many wise people, it felt less like a talk from an expert, and more like another human connecting and saying, “Life is hard at times, but worth it. This is what I’ve found and it works pretty good. I’m glad we’re in it together.”

Any kid who doesn’t get love will either get super cold or they will become an expert on love, and Oprah both demonstrates love and she clearly also basks in it. It’s always a nice thing to see people who need love, openly enjoying getting it.

Considering what she’s given people, it feels appropriate that her mother’s missing, stable, narrow mile-deep love is being replaced by her audience. Maybe they can’t give her the sort of love that knows her as well and goes as deep, but regardless, it can extend across her horizons in every direction. After a tough childhood, it’s wonderful that she would have used her pain to build such a beautiful view.

I share with Oprah her sheer joy in sharing love with others, and I too cannot help but be grateful for even her grandmother and mother’s cold feelings, for without those the way would not have been paved for one of modern society’s most potent outlets of positivity. On a universal pain-to-benefit ratio, Oprah is a clear win for love.

Every person struggling with their parents will have benefits grow out of that struggle. The question isn’t so much; why didn’t Oprah’s mother openly love her, because we’d have to be her mother to fully grasp that. That means the real question is; what did Oprah do with that sad fact?

What Oprah did with that fact was to beam love through the airwaves into TVs and books across North America, and that lead to massive amounts of love flowing toward her. And that is a pretty good outcome out of two uncaring caregivers. Such is the yin and yang of life.

The final question is, how are we weaving our pain into love?

peace. s

The Laughing Buddha

1318 Relax and Succeed - Laughing Buddha

It gets mentioned often in my work because it really is important. It should be seen as a deeply spiritual act.

When did we each last laugh? Even when things are heavy, eventually we will need to lighten our emotions or we’ll be crushed. And laughter shouldn’t be something we leave to chance. We should have it as a part of our daily agenda in life.

We should all look at our weekly calendars and in them we should do our best to include some time with a funny friend, or to see a funny movie, or watch a funny show, or play, or to play some game that makes us laugh. We can even just watch comedians on YouTube.

Maybe we should even colour code times in our calendars where there is a high likelihood of laughing. Too little colour? That’s a week lacking in soul.

How and why we laugh doesn’t matter. It’s the laughing itself that we should see as being very real spiritual development. If that feels like a cheat it isn’t. Getting healthy not only can be enjoyable, to me it’s always been very weird that anyone ever thought that getting healthy needed to be painful. Why would that be? Catharsis maybe yes, but liberation feels great.

1318 Relax and Succeed - Laughter is a form

Let’s all make sure to keep our portals to joy open. Let’s laugh deeply and often and intentionally. We cannot lose touch with that part of ourselves. That version of us should be familiar.

Many times when working with someone new, I will see them react to hearing their own laugh for the first time in –sometimes years. So that ability might feel innate –and it is– but the more we do of it the better we get at finding reasons to do it. And it’s those moment by moment wins that add up to a great life.

We should considering making a category in our calendars for laughing. We need to ensure we get at least one good shot at some belly laughs every week at minimum and, if we can pull it off, we should go for one a day minimum. Everything over that is like icing on the cake. It just keeps getting better.

What a brutal spiritual guide I make, huh? Laugh more, I say. It’s because it’s a form of joyful prayer. When it is done so fully that we become the laugh –and cease for a time to be our ego-selves– that is where a state of enlightenment is discovered; a place where there is no time, and where we perceive no self to be judged or be wrong.

In that place we are always complete.

Laughing melts our egos into the energy of joy, expressed in a present moment. It’s like being in a church with walls made of light. Let’s all make sure we spend some time there on a regular basis.

peace, s

Real Princesses Have Real Problems

1302 Relax and Succeed - Princess Grace

Blinding expectation leads many of us to struggle with achieving our goals. Since everyone’s primary goal is belong, we tend to expect the love and acceptance we seek to come in a particular form, which causes us to miss when we’re actually getting offered what we need.

A good example of this innocent mistake can be seen in the film Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as an extremely impressive version of the real princess (and Tim Roth doing an equally brilliant turn as her husband, Prince Rainier). It’s a stellar cast and script, but in today’s age of action heroes these sorts of profoundly human stories too often get ignored.

The fact that the writer managed to tell a profoundly human story about a princess was no easy feat. I’m not sure how accurate the film is (I do know a friend of Prince Albert’s –their son– and will try to find out), but for the purposes of this piece all that matters is that the writer a) used a very real event in history and, b) he accurately portrayed the princess making a common human mistake.

The backstory is that Grace Kelly grew up as the daughter of a wealthy American businessman. Grace constantly felt inferior to her sister and unloved and disrespected by her parents. Many people can relate to those feelings which is what makes a film about a princess, universal.

People short on love from the sources we’re told we ‘should’ get it from (like our parents), will often then seek that love in a much shallower, but broader sense from a much larger group of people simply because it’s safer. Who notices a few people not clapping in a room full of clapping people? Celebrity love is spread thinly enough to act as a form of fallibility insurance.

This is why many unloved people seek to be stars of various types. (It’s also why the disenfranchised in society join gangs and hate groups.) We all move towards people who care for us. That is where we are accepted and safe, and the highest form of love is love without conditions.

That is where we are accepted and safe, and the highest form of love is love without conditions.

Needing to feel cared for and admired, it’s no surprise that Grace the disappointing daughter had a decent likelihood of ending up in a job where she was loved regularly by people too distant to disappoint her. But despite her fame and success as an actress, she still did not feel accepted or respected by her family, and her mother refused to offer anything more than cold comfort.

As a demonstration of how important acceptance is to human beings, Grace’s response to not being respected and loved was to be swept off her feet into a fairy tale wedding with a Prince. Surely being Royalty would impress her family. Surely being a princess was romantic. But apparently not.

Grace’s problem in the film is that she wants to be loved so desperately. But her husband has a duty to the State and plays the sort of role that means he cannot be the husband she seeks. He is an able and trustworthy partner, but he was raised in too rigid a life to have developed the warm sensibilities she sought.

But remember what we said about expectation? Grace’s problem wasn’t that she couldn’t get love and respect, it’s that she kept trying to get it from people that couldn’t give it. For her parents it was pride and ego that were in the way; for her husband, duty and decorum.

1302 Relax and Succeed - The Meaning of Life

Critical to the story is that her marriage overlapped a crises for the Principality of Monaco. Having no taxes, France saw all of her businesses leaving the nation for Monaco. De Gaulle –the former French Resistance leader turned President of France– wanted Prince Rainier to force a tax on the Monaco’s citizens.

France had complete control of Monaco’s utilities, supply chains and harbours. They had little to bargain with. De Gaulle was threatening tanks in their streets.

The turning point in the story is when Grace realizes that her husband does love her, but must play his role. She also realizes that Monaco needs her, and that her own role actually means something.

Grace is media savvy, and so she knows that even Presidents are subject to public opinion. By surrendering her efforts to get love from a singular source like her parents, or her husband, Grace was free to become her own person by serving her people in the greatest role of her life –that of their Princess.

Grace didn’t need love as much as she needed to be valued.

I would like to think that the final scene captures the moment fairly honestly, because the very quiet and subtle film wraps up rather neatly and beautifully with the results of Grace’s growth.

In a metaphor of her own life, Princess Grace not only cleverly saves the nation (no spoiler for you there –it is still there after all), but in doing so she demonstrates that a person’s ability to value themselves does not depend on the fickle love of others.

Our self-worth is inherent. Once we become aware of that we have few needs, from there we need only find how to serve with the abundance that is us –not enacting what we have to offer is as painful as not knowing it’s there.

We are at our best when we feel secure about ourselves. Without the debilitating drag of our insecurities, were are automatically left with an abundance of love to share with others. So rather than expecting love to come to us in the form of affection, we need to maintain an awareness of the fact that some of love’s greatest forms are actually found in the sense of exaltation that can only be created by sincerely giving our all.

peace, s