Oprah & Practical Spirituality {vintage post}

"All things are lessons that God would have you learn." - Iyanla Vanzant

Last night, Stephanie came over to brainstorm about the look, feel, and content for a television show we want to pitch to OWN based on the concept of .Existing. For inspiration, we viewed Martha Stewart Living episodes from 1996 (thank you VHS and my obsessive teenage self) and watched an episode of Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday" where she chatted with Iyanla Vanzant.

Steph and I hit the pause button many times to discuss, dissect and add our comments to what Oprah and Iyanla were talking about. In particular, Iyanla's statement that I quoted at the beginning of this post struck me--more because of its context than the concept itself. When Iyanla uttered it, she and Oprah were in the midst of mulling over exactly what Steph and I were mulling over, in fact, what I've been trying to figure out from the very start of this site: How does one make spiritual and abstract ideas about meaning and fulfillment *applicable* to life in a real and tangible way?

After Iyaa declared All Things Are Lessons That God Would Have You Learn, Oprah said she thought this might be the foundation for "taking the spiritual and making it practical" the essential idea that, if embraced, could "make talk operational."

wondered out loud to Stephanie if she was right. Could that really be the lens that would bring spirit into focus in the material plane? 

I wasn't so sure. To start, "lesson" has a pejorative ring to me. "I'm going to teach you a lesson." "Did you learn your lesson?" Lessons seem to fall on the same side as punishment even if they're "for our own good." For that reason, we generally prefer our lessons brief, and would like to get them done before the bell rings so that we can be excused to skip off into everlasting recess.

When I cocked my head questioningly to Oprah's assertion that all things being God's lessons could be the starting point for making spirituality more practical, Stephanie asked if my resistance to this had to do with my perspective that life is less about us being blank clay in need of shaping, molding via experience and lessons, and more about a dire need for us to strip down, grasp our beauty, expose what is already there.

"Yes," I said, "it's about seeing ourselves correctly. Seeing our world correctly."

ut even spinning this idea a little differently, I wasn't sold that within this overarching theme was the answer to making spiritual precepts "operational."

ranted, reciting "everything is God's lesson" as a mantra during the day could potentially make for spiritual application--(E.g. Oh! That guy cutting me off--that was just a lesson from God, teaching me to learn patience, how to apply turning the other cheek)-- but, I'd like something with more space. I don't want to just beat the ground of my scratchy patch of earth remarking to myself how all the sweat is a lesson, I need something that draws me out into the vast universe... something that says, "come out, join us." 

he night before my Oprah-Iyanla "Super Soul Sunday" session with Stephanie, I'd read an article by Edward Hoffman on Kabbalistic Psychotherapy. Perhaps it's semantics, but Hoffman wrote of the importance of aligning the whole of our lives in such a way that our existence unfolds allowing for many different invitations to spiritual development. He says, "Even our simplest habits or acts are to be approached from an integrated and holistic mental-physical perspective." Through these simple habits (Hoffman mentions the examples of sleep and tying our shoelaces) we must act with the purposeful intention of redeeming our surrounding world. 

This again sounds like a great idea, and obviously habits, actions, *these* would be practical, applicable. But what are they? And what do they look like? This is the journey I'm on to unearth.

once heard the renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell say that people asked him all the time "What new rituals should we try to establish in our modern world?" And Joe said he always responded with the same answer (allow me to paraphrase): "We don't need any new rituals, we *have* rituals--scads of them--the problem is that we don't anoint them with any meaning, don't declare them a sacred act. We have the rituals we need. We just need to pay attention to them."

hat do you think? Do you have any seemingly hum-drum rituals that you've made sacred and meaningful? I'd love to hear about them!

nd in the meantime, Steph and I will be cracking on.... {Oprah here we come.}