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Posts Tagged ‘Oprah’

We all have that moment when we look in the mirror and truly see ourselves for the first time.  It might be the day of a big birthday, graduation from school, or for some, the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness.  It’s a moment when clarity mixes with curiosity.  A split second when you ask the question, “Who am I?”

I spend a lot of time in my studio and I listen to podcasts to keep me company.  This is a recent shift because music used to be my go-to studio mate, but there’s so much to learn that the podcast has been like being in a virtual classroom.  Listening to podcasts coupled with watching interviews on the DVR gives me plenty of material to convert into creative iterations of my life.

On Super Soul Sunday Oprah interviewed Pastor A.R. Bernard.  A pastor for forty years he has one of the largest congregations in the country.  Well-spoken and thoughtful, he gives you the feeling like you’re sitting in his study ready to experience an epiphany.  He turned to Oprah and said, “Every personal crisis starts with an identity crisis!”  Can you think of anything more poignant when considering the diagnosis of an illness?

When we couple the question of mortality, quality of life, and identity in one equation we’re faced with a big challenge…who are we?  What makes us who we are?  What do we need to learn?  How will this/these experiences change my life, change me?

I’ve facilitated thousands of hours of support groups over my twenty-five years as a therapist.  The question of identity is center to a diagnosis.  All too often people surrender to a label.  All the qualities they embodied prior to the doctor saying, “I’m sorry to tell you….” disappear into thin air.  There is a tendency to redefine ourselves by our diagnosis, our side-effects, even our limitations.  What would happen if we redefine ourselves by adding qualities instead of subtracting them.  Imagine adding qualities like determined, dedicated, self-loving, and conscious to your personal identity!

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times in these posts, “We may not get well, but we can always get better.”  So how has your identity been altered?  What do you see in the mirror that you may not have seen prior to your diagnosis, or other life challenge?  What new qualities will you inhabit with your ever-evolving identity?

We’re all in this together…I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Legends, those people in our lives that blazed a trail before us.   These are the people whose work, ideas, and personhood, inspire us. They are the people whose shoulders we stand on. How do you know who the legends are in your life? The legends in your life are the people you make reference to on a continual basis. They are the people who let you now the path may be hard, but it’s worth it.

I’ve had the pleasure, honor, and joy of having legends in my life. Fortunately, some are still living, but recently two legends have left this earth. Angeles Arrien, a noted cultural anthropologist was the professor of the first class I took when I started my doctoral program.

Arrien was teaching The Nine Muses. The course explored the mythological and current implications of creativity. We looked at the many ways we can all use our stories and realize that our stories are told in an individual way. I followed Arrien’s work for years. Fortunately I had the opportunity to have a full circle experience with my legend; she was the external examiner for my oral defense. Having Arrien read my work, dive deep with me about the material, and offer ways to utilize the information moving forward was the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.

Unfortunately Angeles Arrien died on April 24. She asked that instead of memorials that anyone who wanted to commemorate her life to light a candle, every month for the next year, on the date of her death. It gives me the opportunity to connect with her and her work on a regular basis. It also gives me the opportunity to honor the impact she had on my life and work.

The same can be said for another American treasure, Dr. Maya Angelou. A poet, singer, actor, producer, teacher, etc. broke barriers, inspired many, and provided us with a life story that, although difficult, shined brightly as she overcame adversity. If you watch anything that Oprah has done you know that Angelou was a legend to her. Her favorite lesson from Angelou is, “When you know better, you do better”.

This weekend to honor Angelou’s life, OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) has been showing programming about the legend. One of the rebroadcasts was of Oprah’s Legends Ball. The Legends Ball brought legends in the African American community such as Maya Angelou, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, Valerie Simpson, etc. In addition, she had the Youngins’ who included Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, etc. Celebrating the continuum of talent, experience, and possibility is critical for all of us. Having those moments of honoring those who come before us punctuates the decisions we make in our lives to follow a particular path.

Where am I going with all of this? I believe we need to honor the legends in our lives. Identifying why specific people past and present are important to you gives you the opportunity to continue on your own journey and do so with the blessing of those who walked the path before you.

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness and looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Interest about the impact Art has on Healing?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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We have two lives, the one we show to the world and the one behind closed doors. If we’re lucky the two really mirror each other. Unfortunately, there are plenty who have one persona in the world and another behind closed doors. We project qualities and characteristics based on what we see from the outside, but how do we get in? What allows us to see behind the front doors we pass?

I remember an episode of Oprah where she interviewed women who were socio-economically well off, lived in big homes with expensive cars, designer clothes and plenty of credit cards, but behind closed doors were the victims of domestic violence. Their stories were chilling because they described the amount of energy it took to keep up their public face. It’s a balancing act between fear, saving face, and desperation. The secrets and the pain that accompany a life with uncertainty and limited possibility is small.

There are too many people who walk this world with stories of loneliness that go untold. This sense of isolation impacts them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Support groups give the individual a place to feel in community. A place where the loneliness is minimized and a common language is spoken. It’s not a language that can be learned; it’s a language that needs to be experienced.

We have been conditioned to keep our spirits up and limit the amount of hardship we show the world. We may hide our challenge for fear that those around us won’t be able to hold the pain. Having a safe container for the pain frees us and allows us to live our lives in alignment. How will you create a unified life? Who will you invite into your world diminishing your isolation? How truthful will you be about what you’re experiencing?

Isolation and loneliness are not diagnostic categories. The health communities lump these circumstances as part of other diagnoses such as depression. I believe that they are just as detrimental as recognized diagnoses because the hidden nature of loneliness and isolation is difficult to uncover.

Have you been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore how Art impacts Healing?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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One of the key stories on my Internet homepage was about a young man named Stephen Sutton. Sutton died yesterday at the age of 19 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 15. He personified determination, compassion, and strength. His mission was to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust (teenagecancertrust.org), an organization in London serving teenagers diagnosed with cancer. Their goal is to treat individuals as young people first and cancer patients second.

Why does this young man make headlines? There are lots of young people who are diagnosed with cancer around the world on a daily basis. This man stands out because of his authenticity, his dedication, and his lack of ego. He chose to use his diagnosis to change not only his life, but also the lives of teens throughout London. As Robin Roberts’ mother use to say, “Make your mess your message!”

Sutton wanted to raise approximately $16,000 (10,000 pounds) and as of the latest tally, the organization with his direction, has raised over 5.5 million dollars. His story and his cause caught the eye of some prominent English entertainers all helping to spread Sutton’s message. We are attracted to stories! When a story directs our attention to how we can make the world a little better, it becomes louder and larger.

Stephen Sutton shared his worldview, “I don’t see the point in measuring life in terms of time anymore, I’d rather measure life in terms of making a difference.” We’re amazed when we hear these words from people like Bill and Melinda Gates as they fight the malaria epidemic, or Oprah creating the Leadership Academy in South Africa hoping that by educating girls you change the direction of an entire continent. Hearing these words come from a teenager should renew our faith in humanity. It should provide each of us who bear witness to Sutton’s story with a belief that what’s small can become large, and what may feel like a pet project can be adopted worldwide as a beacon of hope.

When you see someone use his/her life for the greater good, I urge you to use it as a lesson. Even though Stephen Sutton’s light has gone out, his energy, vision, and tenacious nature lights a torch that will burn bright in years to come. I encourage you, even if you don’t have a chronic or life-threatening illness, to stop thinking of life in terms of time and see how you can make a difference.

My hope is that every day that I sit down to write this post, I can make a difference by providing education, support, and inspiration for those facing a health challenge. I’ve been entrusted with the stories of those facing a health challenge for over twenty-five years. These heartfelt stories fuel my passion and determination to provide a safe environment for each of you facing a health challenge to have someone, a community who will listen and be able to hold the pain.

Looking for community when facing a health challenge? Visit www.survivingstrong.com.

Interested in Art and Healing? Visit www.timetolivecreatively.com

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It’s funny, I never consider the question, “How did I get where I am?” Well to be completely honest, I have in the past, but not in recent times. I used to ponder this question while I spent seven years in Jungian therapy with an amazing therapist. I didn’t look at it as exploring the journey, but feeling a bit less “crazy” than I was feeling.

As I read more and more biographies, memoirs, or pathographies, this question of “how did I get here?” seems to get raised over and over. We’re drawn, even mesmerized by the answers that famous or notable people give to this question. It’s as if they’ve unlocked the mysteries of the Universe and we’re destined to see if their solutions are universal or specific to their own lives. There was a point in time when these books were my saving grace, but one day I realized that we’ve all got our own journey to follow, each worth its own book.

So why is this question rearing its head today? What’s the catalyst for throwing me into the jaws of self-reflection? Am I at a crossroads that is waiting for a solution? What would happen if I ignored this question…that’s simple; it would keep coming up waiting for me to seek some level of resolution.

Last night I watched an episode of Oprah’s ¨Master class with Justin Timberlake”. I enjoy Timberlake’s music, his comedic talent and his acting abilities. I was taken by how eloquently he expressed his views and sharing of his life’s journey. He was thoughtful without being pompous. He was honest, humble, and genuine.

One of the stories he told was about an interview he was doing when the reporter said, “I’m supposed to hate you. You make everything look so easy”. Timberlake was very clear that what the world sees is easy; what it takes for him to get to that point requires great sacrifice. Those sacrifices include bleeding fingers from practicing the guitar for hours on end. He talks about his legs cramping from rehearing dance moves, and the sheer exhaustion from all the rehearsal. It’s all that blood, sweat, and tears that allows him to make everything he does look easy.

His message was clear; “you’ve got to do the work”. We may think he’s talking about our vocation, but he really means putting in the time to achieve your goal. It’s about the commitment to a process, your process, that will reap great rewards. It’s possible to “do the work” in multiple areas of your life.

Last week I talked about Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works- A true story.  In the end Harris turned to meditation, and that’s the work he needs to do to achieve his personal and professional goals. His commitment is palpable as you read his story. You can understand how important “doing the work” is to keeping Harris sharp, professionally, and more present in all his relationships.

Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way gives anyone with the desire to live creatively an opportunity to unlock their own potential. The book walks you through a 12-week journey. Each morning Cameron suggests that you write. “Morning Pages” is the writing exercise you do each morning as a way to start the day and to make sure you start the day fresh, not holding on to yesterday’s ball and chain. Cameron suggests that you write three pages each day. She also encourages you to commit to an artist’s date once a week. It only works if you “do the work”.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness “the work” is a bit different. I’m not only talking about treatment; that is work, but I’m thinking about those things that bring happiness to your life. I’m thinking that part of “the work” is how do you resolve the spiritual questions that lead you to acceptance without a struggle. When facing a health challenge, “the work” may be about self-empowerment. Finding your voice in the world and with your medical providers.

The amazing thing about “doing the work” is that it requires action and any action will result in some type of outcome. You get to make an assessment on the success of the outcome and you can either continue or choose to make changes. Perhaps it’s time to change doctors because you’ve lost confidence in their effectiveness. You may look to alternative treatments or clinical trials to expand the range of possibilities on your journey to health and healing. It doesn’t matter what action ensues as long as you take action.

Obviously these words of wisdom have worked great for Justin Timberlake. They aren’t a universal solution, but a hint at what’s possible. If you use his life as an example you can personalize “the work” to any aspect of your life!

What do you think is possible if you “do the work”?

Surviving Strong provides education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness. Visit www.survivingstrong.com

Interested in exploring Art and Healing? Visit www.timetolivecreatively.com

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Talk shows have become all the rage on television.  Every major network flooded the market this fall with new shows hoping to get your attention.  What are the networks doing?  They saw a huge opening with Oprah leaving network television and everyone is vying for your attention, and the advertising dollar.  If you watch the shows you’ll notice one thing for sure, they all have their own flavor and point-of-view.

So what would happen if you were going to be a guest on a talk show?  It’s not only what you would talk about, but also how you would handle yourself when on the show.  A lot of this depends on the show you choose, and if I were assigning you to a show it would be based on your demeanor and how you’re handling your health challenge.  I would look at how you’re living your life and that would determine the best host for what you’re showing the world.

If you’re continuously angry about your diagnosis, I might select “The Jerry Springer Show” or “Maury” because you could scream and throw things around the studio.  If you’re in need of gentle support and spiritual guidance, “Oprah” might be the best hope to guide you on that path.  If you’re in a bit of denial and need a bit of tough love, then “Dr. Phil” is your host.

If you were taking a quiz to match your journey to the tv host it would require that you take a personal inventory.  It means that you need to be honest and if you’re ok with your current stance in life, then you’ve got the correct host.  If you don’t like what you’re seeing and feel it’s getting in the way of getting better or getting well, then it’s time to make some changes.

You may not think that the world sees what you’re experiencing, but we’re a lot more transparent than we believe.  This transparency impacts how others respond to you just as a different television hosts would respond differently.  Is your point-of-view aiding your health and healing journey or it is a hindrance?   Who’s show would you thrive on, and do you need to make any changes?  If you really want to be on a talk show, go to the website and see if there’s a show they’re planning that matches your life experience.  Who knows, I may be writing about you after you make your talk show debut!

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The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) may not be a success, but some shows are obviously taking center-stage on the network.  It shouldn’t be a surprise, but the shows that are doing well are the shows where Oprah’s touch is evident.  In these cases she’s either doing the interview as in, “Oprah’s Next Chapter”, or “Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class”.  It’s the later that caught my attention last night when the guest of the show was the famous actress, activist, and fitness guru, Jane Fonda.

If you haven’t seen the show it allows the guest to speak about their life dividing the segments into “life lesson” segments.  The show is tasteful, insightful, and inspiring.  When I was listening to Jane Fonda speak last night I kept my notepad close by waiting for those bits of wisdom that would get me to think about my own life in a new way.  The lessons that caught my attention were: Allow your vulnerabilities to show; we’re not meant to be perfect, we’re meant to be whole; and Empathy is revolutionary!

This got me thinking about all the client/participant stories I’ve heard over the years and the lessons I’ve learned from all of you.  On the other hand, I started wondering what it would be like if I put you in front of a camera for an hour and you got to distill your life down to four or five pivotal life foundations.  This is very different than conducting a life review because it’s not about summing up your life at the end; it’s about punctuating those things that have made you who you are today!

I believe this can be a great part of your health and healing journey.  After your diagnosis you may have began to reflect on your life, your experiences, relationships, and adventures.  What have you taken from each of those experiences that will support your journey to wellness.  One of the things that Jane Fonda made very clear is “It’s never too late!”  That would mean that even for you, getting a diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness doesn’t have to be an end, but a beginning.  It can be a launch pad for your new life.

What would you impart to us if you were filming your own Master Class for the Oprah Winfrey Network?  What do you believe are the most important, helpful, inspiring lessons you’ve learned that will propel your life and ours forward?

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