Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When we know better

 "I'm doing better than I did when I didn't know better." I love the simply clear wisdom of Maya Angelou. This insight rings so true. Sometimes we just don't know how to deal with something until we understand and we're ready.
Aha! I get it!

Do you know what I mean? You know when you know. Aha!

When we experience an insight, the saying is "the light bulb goes off in our head." I've never understood that reference myself. If the light bulb goes off, aren't you in the dark? Doesn't the light bulb go on as you see the light?

Anywho, Oprah Winfrey is fortunate to personally know Maya Angelou as her "mentor-mother-sister-friend." Wouldn't that be wonderful to have Ms. Angelou as your mentor? What wisdom she imparts!

On Oprah, though, I can't say I was ever one of her "ultimate viewers," but then again, over the years, I did find myself tuning in to her weekday show at 4:00 p.m. EST if, say, I was home on a day off. The topics were usually of some interest. I certainly liked when she had an insightful guest on such as Maya Angelou.

There were times in the early years, though, when the big O got on my nerves and I switched the channel. But maybe that was before Oprah knew better, as Maya says? Yes, Oprah certainly got better with age just like the rest of us.

So I don't remember really what made me set up my DVR to tape every day of Oprah's year twenty-five, 2010-2011 Farewell Season. But that I did. I guess I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I could always delete the shows if I lost interest, so I had nothing to lose. But I didn't delete. Now I didn't watch each episode every day, but I'd do marathons on the weekend when I found some spare time.

Although I don't consider myself a fanatic, a true follower or fan of others, I had to admit I enjoyed Oprah's approach in her last season. She was not perfect, as none of us are, but she definitely gave direction for a schedule of topics to make us think. She and her guests gave me lots to think about that year.

And so when her last episode aired and the show ended, I was naturally curious about Oprah's new venture, OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, and decided to check it out.

As one who enjoys learning, observing others, and thinking about new ways to grow, I found that Oprah's programming was feeding a hunger I had. Never one to deny that I can easily spend a night after a long day's work sitting in front of the boob tube watching mindless TV, I also appreciate shows that challenge my beliefs and provide another perspective from my own or one I may want to consider.

The first show I started taping on OWN was Oprah's Master Class, described as "an unprecedented look into the minds of modern masters making a unique impact on the world and the lessons they've learned along the way."

After watching the farewell season, what I liked about this new show's format was that Oprah was not on camera as the interviewer. The celebrity sits in front of a stark portrait background and talks to camera. Oprah sparingly narrates before and after commercials, allowing the "master" to share their life lessons directly with you, the viewer.

Some of my favorite episodes featured Jane Fonda, Goldie Hawn, Ted Turner, Maya Angelou, and Morgan Freeman. Even episodes with some others that I wasn't sure I'd watch captivated my interest.

It was refreshing to hear Jane Fonda talk about mistakes she's made, notably in Vietnam, and admit that she had ineffectively dealt with challenges and low self-esteem through bulimia. She seemed content that she was finally comfortable in her own skin. She was okay after all these years with finally admitting that she was not perfect. She's right. We are not perfect. It's a sign of growth when we can accept that.

And Goldie Hawn shared her lifelong goal and guiding principle to simply be happy. The bubbly, ditzy blonde from Laugh-In shared her own brand of wisdom as she encouraged viewers to "use your wisdom" and "live your life through all the ups and downs and never stop learning and growing."

Hawn, 66, was not shy about aging and promised that the "beauty of getting older is the surprise." Hawn asks herself frequently what else can she do to make the world a better place with the wisdom she's accrued over the years. She urges us to give back whenever we can. Wonder, innovation, and creativity certainly are keeping Hawn young at heart.

Another show I've gravitated to on OWN is Oprah's Next Chapter. This show's format has Oprah interviewing fascinating celebrities, not on a studio stage, but on their turf, in their own comfort zone.

I really enjoyed the episode with legendary feminist/activist Gloria Steinem and another two-parter with actor and humanitarian Sean Penn on his work in disaster-ridden Haiti.

Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler, through all the ups and downs of his life journey, shared his take on forgiveness as the answer to every problem. I was even pleasantly surprised by Oprah's visit with Lady Gaga and her mom. Lady G's candor divulging her sometimes dark struggles with creativity certainly held my interest.

Yet another favorite was a two-part episode with inspiring life coach Tony Robbins who The New York Times dubbed "the high priest of human potential."

Robbins who had a painful childhood shared his viewpoint that "not getting what you want sometimes is part of the plan. Sometimes it helps someone else. Sometimes not getting what you want is the most valuable experience of your life."

Robbins elaborated on the recurring theme that life's not about getting what you want. "Life's about becoming more." Right on, Tony, holding on to a sense of entitlement does us no service. We are all lucky and privileged to live on this good earth!

Robbins also called for us to uncover our spirituality and to "live with a heart open to giving and supporting things beyond yourself." Good, solid thoughts and common themes across the episodes.

In addition to hearing celebrities talk about real-life, important issues, these shows on OWN have also exposed me to places and conditions I may never have access to. I appreciated the opportunity to be a virtual companion on Oprah's trip to India. I was touched by the family of five, including three daughters, that Oprah visited.

The family, living on $200 a month in the infamous slums of Mumbai live, eat, cook, and sleep in one 10-foot-by-10-foot concrete room. Despite their lack of material possessions, it was evident that happiness certainly lived within those close walls. Although I could see in the father's eyes that he ached to better take care of his family, he was providing for them the most important elements of all: love and care.

In part two of the India visit, the Women of India episode, Oprah also sat down with five women from diverse backgrounds to talk about marriage, careers and family. Then, Oprah visited the "city of widows," where 16,000 women have sought refuge after their husbands died.

It made me sad to know that women who were once the backbones of their families were later driven away from their homes as throw-away members of society, starving and sick on the streets. Of course, there are some who are trying to help them and make a difference, but so much more needs to be done.

And then there were other episodes that intrigued me with perspective on how others live.

One of my favorites that I've saved to view again some other time was titled America's Most Unusual Town, highlighting Oprah's day in Fairfield, Iowa, the town that meditates together. The community and its people all seemed so idyllic, serene, and peaceful that I began to question the similarities to a cult mindset. Why is it so hard to trust sheer happiness at face value?

But Oprah said she "walked away feeling fuller than when I came in, full of hope and a sense of contentment and deep joy, knowing for sure that in the craziness of the world that seems to bombard us at every angle, there is always the consistency of stillness."

Can't argue with that. Maybe I'll visit Fairfield, Iowa, someday.

Another episode that fascinated me was America's Hidden Culture, where Oprah sat down with four Hasidic wives and mothers in Brooklyn, New York, for a no-holds-barred interview about their unusual way of life. No topic was off limits and the conversation wast thought-provoking. Really made me think about the typical American values and way of life.

I've mentioned a number of episodes I've enjoyed, but I've only touched the surface in my own quest for knowledge. There are certainly more programming options on OWN that have piqued my interest. I haven't yet even had a chance to watch Oprah's Lifeclass or Super Soul Sunday.

I hope to check out these shows soon since they also cover some of the themes I'm interested in: Inner peace, serenity, happiness, joy, balance, the power of forgiveness, living fearlessly, spirituality, and being the person you were meant to be. Healthy nourishment for mind, soul, and body. Makes me thirst for more time to learn.

Every chance we can, when we expose ourselves to all that's out there, we will know better, as Maya Angelou has so eloquently shared. And when we know better, how can we not respond and grow? We can't go back to what we were before once we know better.

There is so much to learn in this life that I ache for the time to take it all in. I want to be a sponge and absorb the knowledge from all the masters around me. We're all lucky. If we open our hearts and minds to possibilities, then we're not done learning until we are done.

This good earth provides us with so much potential to give more. Just small specks in the universe, we each can share our knowledge and be a catalyst for change. In ourselves. And in others.

Aha! I can only go forward when I know better. Thanks, Maya!

Until next time, yours in learning and experiencing those special Aha! moments...Therese

P.S. I have no stock or vested interest in Oprah Winfrey's new network. :) I just know what I like and I've found the OWN programming to be a refreshing change from the current mix of reality shows and the like. Check it out if you think you're interested. Enjoy!

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