Lifeclass in Toronto – The Experience
Over the past few weeks, I have wanted to write a post about the experience of attending the Lifeclass tapings in person on April 16 in Toronto. When I sit down to reflect on that day, I am overcome with a flood of emotions and memories about the cathartic, amazing experience with Oprah, the Lifeclass team and producers, and the fellow attendees in Toronto.
Recently, I had a chance to share some of my memories with the incredible Amy and Nancy Harrington of the Pop-Culture Passionistas for a piece that they wrote for Yahoo TV! where they spoke with several attendees of the Toronto tapings. Their full piece, released May 1, can be found at the following link: http://tv.yahoo.com/news/fans-recount-experiences-oprah-lifeclass-toronto-193700885.html
Here are some of the questions that I answered in discussing that amazing day with them:
1) Why did you want to attend “Lifeclass”?
I wanted to attend Lifeclass, because I had watched every episode and webcast of Lifeclass season 1 with my parents who live nearly 1500 miles away. It was a life-changing, soul-stirring experience that helped me look inward, cut out the cacophony of everyday life and connect to my OWN true inner voice. Through the lives and stories of others, shared through honest reflection and great reverence, Lifeclass harnessed and continues to harness the potential of each one of us to be teachers and students to one another, learn and grow together, and to realize that at our cores, we are all connected by a common experience of love and the resolve to connect to our life’s purpose. I was so excited to attend in person, because if I was so moved by the television experience, I was positive that the in-person experience would be all the more meaningful and it most certainly was!
2) How would you describe the Lifeclass experience?
The Lifeclass experience in Toronto was phenomenal. It was enriching, robust, and nourishing. My best friends in Ottawa bought me a ticket to the evening show and my parents surprised me with a ticket to the morning taping on gratitude – these were literally the best gifts I had ever received.
Lining up at 5:30 AM with my aunt and friend, I marvelled at the fact that something special was about to happen and the actual events of the day exceeded my wildest expectations (I kept singing to myself the Tina Turner song “Never in your wildest dreams, did you ever get this feeling”). The day was non-stop, wall-to-wall, rafter-to-floor filled with blessings and lessons. There was a palpable transformative power in the air borne of a collective commitment, inspired by Oprah and the teachers and shared by everyone in the audience, to self-improvement, universal understanding, and service.
Having attended an Oprah taping in 2010, one of the biggest blessings was meeting the Harpo staff and seeing how the lessons Oprah shared on her show were exemplified by each and every single person there. Lessons of joy, kindness, caring and compassion were infused in the fabric of each person’s work and life. This same positive energy and joyous exuberance were present at Lifeclass with the Harpo and OWN teams demonstrating a steadfast commitment to excellence, sensitivity, and ensuring that everyone was getting the most beautiful experience possible.
Lifeclass in Toronto was particularly meaningful, because it was the first time that Oprah had taped a broadcast in Canada, it was the largest audience for any Lifeclass taping (8500 at the morning taping on Gratitude and 8500 at the evening taping on Forgiveness) and it also included 4 motivational speeches from each of the teachers – Deepak Chopra, Iyanla Vanzant, Tony Robbins and Bishop T.D. Jakes – before both the morning and evening tapings. It was filled with multiple a-ha, bing-bing moments every minute of that very special day!
It was also so special to share the Lifeclass experience with many wonderful friends who I had met on Twitter, who love Lifeclass and OWN as much as I do and who are fantastically brilliant, deeply committed, expansively generous people. They warmed my heart with their megawatt smiles and kind spirits. We shared hugs, pictures, stories, cards, and one friend, Janet, brought me my own ice cream scoop for Lifeclass. It was so fantastic to see how a friendship formed on Twitter was so strong and vibrant. It was so lovely to meet Nada, Liz, Misty, Janet, Tonya, Julie, and Linda in person!
3) What was the most important thing you learned while at Lifeclass?
Lifeclass was replete with aha moments for me, but two central themes stood out for me:
Gratitude (morning taping – aired on OWN on April 30) – Gratitude reorients your life and helps you to look back on your day, every day, with a renewed sense of reverence and purpose. Instead of being stuck in a negative story, gratitude and keeping a gratitude journal allows you to move forward in the world, attentive to the many ways in which the world rises up to meet you, comfort you, and bring you moments, however big or small, of joy and light.
Forgiveness (evening taping – aired LIVE on OWN on April 16) – My favorite lesson was the episode’s central theme and one of my all time favorite Oprah lessons – “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past can be any different”. I was so impressed by the story of Joseph, a 16 year old young man, who spoke with Iyanla and Oprah about his wish to move past his upset at his father after his parents divorced. He was such an incredibly courageous, aware, insightful, compassionate individual who recognized the impact this experience had on his life and his relationship with his father. In a particularly powerful segment, Iyanla used a visioning exercise to help Joseph harness the power of forgiveness in his own life. It was such a transcendent moment that had everyone in the audience in tears and collectively inspired by his courage and grace.
As I mentioned earlier, the distinguishing feature of the Toronto Lifeclass experience was that each taping was preceded by presentations from all of the Lifeclass teachers. From the presentations, these were the following lessons that really stood out for me:
1) Iyanla Vanzant: One of the most powerful exercises that Iyanla led the audience through was closing our eyes and having us imagine an orange that was filled with the nectar of our most powerful vision for our lives. She talked about how in her deepest, darkest moments, what saved her was a vision for herself, for her life. She led us through the exercise, helping us to visualize a vision for our lives, conceptualizing that vision in the imagined orange and then eating a slice of that vision – to demonstrate that the vision was now within us ready to be awakened and realized. It was such a powerful moment!
2) Deepak Chopra: At one point, Dr. Chopra stated that “If you have a happy friend, your happiness goes up by 15% – make one person happy today! Spread the joy!” It was a beautiful lesson about the power of happiness and how the energy that people bring to us affects our lives just as the energy we put out into the world affects not only those around us, but our own place and peace in the world. It was a tangible, beautiful reminder that we are embodiments of light, love and joy who must share our happiness with others.
3) Bishop T.D. Jakes: Bishop Jakes spoke of a beautiful lesson using the analogy of an eagle and a chicken. He said that eagles soar and chickens can’t fly because they eat the worst food in the world. He said that “if you are taking in what you should be letting go of, you will never fly. Be an eagle, not a chicken.” The lesson was so powerful because it reminded us that we each hold the capacity to look at our lives, examine our choices, and make decisions that lead us forward. There is so much power in letting go of what we must, instead of taking it in. That lesson really shook me up.
4) Tony Robbins: Tony stated in his presentation that it is decisions not conditions that determine our destiny. This really struck a chord with me, because we often get so stuck in our own stories saying “if only this happened, then my life would be better.” If only I had a better job, if only I owned a house, if only my friend didn’t say that to me, if only X, if only Y, if only Z. There are not certain conditions in our lives that determine our destiny, our future, our happiness. It is the decisions we make in our lives, each and every single moment, that propel us forward in life, move us towards our purpose and help us live the life of our dreams.
4) What is the most important thing that you learned from Oprah that day?
I wanted to share with you what I learned from Oprah on April 16, as she taught Lifeclass and facilitated the discussions with the guest teachers. She was the epitome of grace and generosity, walking through the huge crowds in the morning to ensure that people in the back had a chance to say hello and constantly extending every kindness to the people in the audience.
By her own example that day, Oprah demonstrated that we must be ambassadors for love, kindness and positive change in the world. We must BE the change we want to see in the world, by using our lives in service to ourselves and others.
Oprah demonstrated the importance of truly seeing people, by following her lifelong philosophy when speaking to others. She says she always wants people who have spoken with her in either interviews or life to walk away answering YES to the following three questions: Did you see me? Did you hear me? Did what I say matter to you? On that day, Oprah ensured, by her actions and constant attentiveness, that all of the guests and the audience answered YES to those three questions.
The biggest lesson Oprah demonstrated that day and everyday is that in the space of gratitude, the magic and possibility of life reveals itself in all its splendor. She showed us the importance of living with an open, grateful heart. Thank you so much Oprah!