Author of the New York Times bestselling book “Broken Open,” Elizabeth Lesser shares how she likes to unwind, make each day matter and learn from the challenges life puts in front of her. Elizabeth explains how she used what she calls the healing power of love to “clear up” relationships in her life and why she believes we should never wait to have life-changing conversations with those we love. Since the publication of “Broken Open,” Elizabeth has been through many tough times, including the return of her younger sister's lymphoma and later death. Elizabeth reveals what she would write if her book had an epilogue. Elizabeth is the co-founder of the world-famous Omega Institute. Based in the Hudson Valley area of New York, the institute is recognized as a pioneer in holistic studies.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I'm over Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the podcast I've leave that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present Your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now. Elizabeth less has been on the cutting edge of the personal growth movement for more than three decades she's point: nineteen, fifty two in New York City, she was a second oldest of four daughters. Her family wasn't particularly religious, but as a child it was found herself drawn to spiritual life. She would pray in secret and tag along with her catholic neighbours to church that hunger for spiritual path reawakened. While Elizabeth was a student at Barnard College, a free spirit, began, visiting churches, exploring eastern traditions, like then Buddhism, firmly
publishing her lifelong vocation as a seeker. Her sir, for something more eventually letter to upstate New York, where she helped form a spiritual, commune. She married young and had to Boy in nineteen. Seventy seven. She founded the Omega Institute set in the hill of the Hudson Valley. It's become one of the leading education centres on spirituality, creativity and social change in America. Elizabeth is the best selling author of two of my favorite books. The seekers guide, making your life a spiritual adventure and broken open. How difficult times can help us We have drawn the overshot several times for one of my favorite books call broken open and you know what I was trying to deliver or offer to The upper shell audience at the time was this idea that you convey in the book so well that
oftentimes things happen in our lives when challenging things happen in our lives. Those things have the opportunity to crack us wide, open and so have had wonderful conversation about that. But one of the reasons why I wanted you here to invite you under my oaks is because I think you probably because of what you ve been to personally in the past year, are more cracked open and could do. I don't know. The log too? That boy? Where could you not? Yes, I could you wrote it and now you have lived it. Waking. Can you share with the super sellers? Will you ve been Well, I wrote it because I had lived it. You know, like you, think, I'm gonna learn from this difficult experience. My first big one was divorce and anything good tidying up done. That learned that, but that's not the way life is you're, always given these opportunities to either break open into the mystery
or to shut down so about seven years ago my younger sister Maggie was diagnosed with rare form of lymphoma, that's very high to treat and she was treated with chemotherapy and seven years later it came back the new of the recurrent was particularly difficult, because there was only one option for treatment: high risk bone marrow transplant. The list the painful procedure would involve harvesting stem cells from matching donor and transferring them to Maggie's body, the last resort, but offered Maggie our only hope, the critical next step, finding a donor? and so we all got tested and I tested the match. Maya sisters did not, and so we have been on this journey. My sister and I, where I had my bone marrow, stem cells harvested and frozen, and then she had in time
so came a fair pay and later radiation and more came a therapy getting her to a place where she had none of her own stem cells left all killed off by chemotherapy and radio so she could receive my new ones and now she's in the law, a journey of having my stem cells in graft into her and become her interesting and heroic on both of your parts So I remember you sent me an email which I have here. It was quite something to see my blood leaving. A body entering what machine and being spun and then come back into my body over and over for five hours First, I was nervous and also the poking around in the veins had been painful, but once I calm down, it was really quite miraculous. Maggie came to visit midway into the procedure.
You got to kiss the bag of stem cells that was collecting and hanging above me having her there. Air made? It all seem very real and very meaningful, and, dare I say what, a day, what a day by day. So what was going through you emotionally spiritually at the time? Well, I'm I love science, so I had educated myself about the process and I felt first of all what an honour, what a privilege to be able to actually save someone's life, and I took really seriously, and I know for myself, I I know how, when I'm stressed when I'm upset when I'm angry, I note affects my.
Body. I know my state of mind affects my own cells and sciences is researching this inevitably than the mind body connection, and so I thought those you're gonna, be my cells in her body. I want to purify my cells of any bad intentions toward her and I want her totally accept me and we're sisters were loving sister
but we have a long history of competition of not being in good places together, all through childhood all through adulthood. So I asked her and she's not this type of person. I've always been the weird spiritual kind of person and she's much more of it. She's a nurse and scientists, and I said, would you do if a session with me a spiritual therapeutic session where we come in to a field of love an acceptance together. So I think this is so important that psychologically emotionally spiritually, not just physically am I gonna give you myself but psychologically emotionally spiritually. I want to be clear. I want everything between us to be clear,
so that my cells will be clear and you will be in the clearest space in which to accept my offering and if you have any feelings of rejection toward me as a power. Which we all do as humans, yes, and is an especially as siblings a lot of baggage of child jealousies and honest, How did you know to do that? I know Oh, that we all around carrying these stories in our heads about each other. Yes, most of the stuff, we think about each other. We ve made up their story and even now we're both loving and good and smart people. We had really never cleared a lot of stuff and I thought Why isn't this amazing? It takes some one, almost dying from me to come in to a whole and beauty,
four and cleaned and loving relationship, but if ever there was a time to do it, now is the time to do it. First of all, how did change, your relationship with your sister. How did it totally totally- and I just I just thinking about it- just makes me cry- fix you up. It fills me up because we, when we had the help of a wonderful therapist who really brought us through the stages of our life from childhood, all the way up where we kind of clear at each year and the misconceptions each of us had about the other petty things like I didn't I think that we have to share our birthday party and you made moms things like that. Like really know that not every step of the way to more serious thing we all that happened was I didn't mean that I
Love you. I love you all I want to say is I love you and it changed everything, Dwayne US, because I know now that she loves me. And she knows- I love her and we we can and knew that, but we didn't really now it like I know it. What do I know for sure? I know my sister loves me and I know she knows. I love her, so I was able to give. For myself. I was able to give them in love, and release them into a field of love and love heels, and I felt that's the best I can do, and now I give it up to the universe. Would you say this experience is transformed? you as it is also transforming Maggie. Yes, yet has all wholly and difficult arduous experiences. Are there too,
transform us. Yes, if we so cheap, rakers open to rake us open, and I felt it gave me a lot of courage to come more fully into my own skin, because what I went through with Maggie in cleaning up our relationship and getting rid of the stories. I felt this sense of light. I want to do this in my life as much as I can with everyone. I don't want to live in the story line anymore because my I shook with everyone else, isn't as life and death. Yes, but it's important who our with each other we say how we show up. Yes at working people sometimes think I wanna do important work in the world I want to win win when when I'm done being an insurance,
person in this office. I want to go out to African, save people's lives and I think- and I say especially now- don't wait. There are relationships waiting to be healed, the right person or a cubicle right next in your own backyard, in your own backyard, corrected in your place of work. There are conversations you haven't had stories that need to be unravelled. And if we all do that in our backyard in our office in our families, have the difficult conversations miracles happen. So what is this process taught you? It's taught me that I am enough just to I am just showing up for my sister, who I am is enough, and it really brought me very deeply into that that Ching that my soul is enough. Not what I do not.
I am when I showed up there with my sister she and care my crew, ten shoals are where I'd been or who I know or what book I was writing. She wanted me, and that was very hard for me to really my heart around you mean I'm enough for you. You really want me and I think we all struggle with that, like we think we have to be somebody do something say something we're in really. Our souls? Our golden radiant core is enough. That's what people want? they don't want you to impress them with with your stir men and they don't. You I want you to do anything for them. Just come with me and be your truth,
I'll, be your genuine self. We want each other. I want you, I just want the real deep you. Maybe it's because we're? this does then six days, as you know, is we're taking. This is on the eve of my Sixtyth birthday and as we're walking down to the oaks. I was saying to you: it's the birthday that really thought the most him out It's one I've taken the most seriously and at one point I was planning a birthday party, and I was doing this because I really recognize that? The reason why I was having this big birthday party is because someone had asked me months ago what you going to do for your birthday, and I think I just blurted out. Oh I'm going to have the biggest birthday bash ever
instead of just saying I really don't know I have thought about it. I felt that everybody else is thinking about it, so I should do something. So I started this this. This idea of this party and recognise that a big party with over four hundred people was the last experience on earth. I really wanted to have I mean if I were leaving the earth tomorrow. That would be at the bottom of the list. Of things I wouldn't want to do. We begin to think like that at sixty, because what happened, I think so because that is what I want to do. What do I want to do? I really just want to be whatever have a cup of tea cup a child, a cup of tea, would Stedman I'll be with the dogs, are Oliver a few friends but four hundred and fifty? now that's gonna. Give me great anxiety. I will have to tell you that one of the most liberating things I've done alive. I think it some appropriate for at least the way I've been feeling in
turning sixty is I'm feeling both more simple and more grand, but the grand is a soul for grand grandeur. Witches an ever more myself, but but also nobody I'm both Moreover, I am, and I dont really feel like any one. I just feel part of everything. Wow, that's really wonderful is really one. If sixty means anything it really really means being well to sit within the deed of your soul inside yourself and say what I'm really wanna try. So when you think a two year, younger self. We were walking down here talking about cheap artificer. Sixty you sixty one, I'm succeed,
did you imagine that sixty one would be like this, that you would feel this great that you would look this great now now I I imagined sixty sixty the first age that feels kind of like old. You know- and I turned fifty didn't in that way at all, but I feel I definitely feel the gravitas of age. You know I feel, like maybe I do know something and but, as I said, I also feel free more free it doesn't. That is what I wished for myself. I wish for the freedom of other people's expectations in other people's anything, but also, I would agree, I feel that it is significant and worthy of sitting with it and acknowledging it in being with and knowing and when people say, do you tell de Jure Grand Children call you grandma as if that would make
feel old, unlike what out what else they copy and do you tell people you're sixty in awe do feel like an elder, and I want to get comfortable with Yom an elder, I'm an elder and I feel more and more like my role is to be there for people come on up such a great liking, you lift up, but also this is what I also refuse to allow to happen to me, because I know it will in the media is for people to put you in a box as to what that is supposed to look like. I think it's really important you for me for anybody who is turning forty, fifty sixty seventy. Seventy five Jane Fonda Gloria Steinem is to define that in your own terms and to make it your own way.
Because we, that is what women have fought for absolute, that is where women have fought for, is for you to have the right to make it whatever you want it to be. Yes, The easiest way to do that is just check in today. Who am I? What oh, I feel and to do it yeah? So your ability to introduce people through a mega through your own learning has that Bin the reasons why your own spiritual growth has been so profound. Do you think? yeah, you know when you are, they say you in the most. When you take your hand Tom, they also say you're, you teach what you need to learn the absolute from myself and also one of the things I teaching it keeps me in the vein of it. Catches mealy constant with it keeps, reminding me keeps me
looking were language, yes to wrap around concepts. That really are not describable. You know what is the sole and, in God and Cosmos, our brains are poor. Deepening of the grandeur of what's really happening so to search for words that are plain and fun and easy to use. That makes it easier for me to practice. And that's why I am blessed that I've had the chance you're. The one who introduced me to has wrought in the con. Was one of the leaders of the sushi movement. I would say if There is a religion that I would a saving of emergent, though, is it while it is it's a branch of Islam. But it's really gone way beyond that. It's it's it's a way of life more than a relation Send me an email recently by has wrought in the outcome,
about how the soul is covered by a thousand vast, so then I have these conversations. We shall send me a passage or read a book or a poem are persisting in, say. What do you think of this, and I had to read at thing over four of times out loud translating itself to do translating it myself trying to get my brain to comprehend. But what do you think that means the soul is covered by a thousand veils? I think it means Everything you need to know is in that line everything you aid to now is in the line your soul is covered by a thousand veils what it means to me is that you have a soul first of all and that soul is like the music gods, music, your song, your song, to sing here on this plain. That is your soul, its prey
yes, it's yours, its unique, but you come here to earth and then your raised by parents. None of our parents are perfect Yorkshire. Maybe a loud and lively kid, they think you should be quiet and gently especially if you're a girl, yeah, it's like dont, be powerful, don't be big Leucas. She thinks she is or maybe you're a shy person, maybe you're a reckless. Maybe your goal in life is to be your soul. Song is to be a monk, but you're always being pushed Excelsior sister, be like her than sister, whose loud is told to be quiet, the sister, whose quiet is still to be loud, they'll veil. Now you go to school, another veil, you get wounded. You're a man whose told not to have emotions veil by
at the time you're, an adult, your song, that beautiful soul song is covered covered, so spiritual work, spiritual practice isn't about getting anything that uncovering that's why spiritual workers? Everything goes back to Dorothy Glinda, the good which, if you already had already had it, and Really that's what the journeys all about isn't. It is not without its uncovering and feeling back the veils, and there are so many wonderful ways to peel back the veils. That's why I think things like psychotherapy or coach. Like what Bernay Brown does. That's wholly work that USA, veil, peeling, yes and so, is getting healthy. You know some of the worst veils we suffer under are unhealthy, bodies, so healing work is very little shield. It is little shield. Yes, so spiritual work is taking care of your body is taking care of your psyche. It's doing meditation to quiet all of those store,
Were telling ourselves and, however, that meditation takes form for you. I think you know one of the one four things we ve been able to do on the web Woody Park. Is that twenty one day meditations that for every body in I meditate daily regularly, but I also have a different forms of meditation, sometimes just walking in silence and just thing and being or for many people it's with a piece of music that lets you up. That's dancing in church in a prayer prayer is a tremendous veil. Buster Yeah, you know cause you, you pray to God. We move the veils. That is my prayer to God every day, the veil. So I might see what is really happening here and not be intoxicated by my stories and my fears Do you find that the spiritual path gets easier
hunger you're on it. Does it get absolutely? Let's say: if it's you know they call it spiritual practice. Yes, because it's like basketball practice or scales, you practice not to become a great scale, player or drill, do or you practice to become an artist and spiritual practice, actually works meditation prayer, whatever you do that does in gratitude. I would say: I've said this many times. I cannot say enough because of you didn't hear the first time, and also maybe you didn't try it, but gratitude is the single best way, I have ever discovered of changing your personal vibration. Yeah you can instantly do it with gratitude. I love this latin term. Are more fatty love of
eight instead of bemoaning your fate and sometimes our fates are terrible, but we love our fate, are more fatty. It's a way of being grateful. I'm going to love what happened to me, because I trust that its here to remove avail. I'm going to search for. What's happened. To me in this time, so I can take way yet another misconception: and what is your own personal, spiritual practice ye whose run omega in searching for it are ye. Oh, yes, I would have to say love when, when all else fails, love love of my fate,
five of the other. You know there's such a knee jerk reaction to other people, you're different from me, you're, not of my tribe you're, not who I want you to be at this moment. Judgement fear I find the the thing. Busts through other rising, is love and not saccharine love, but that sense of heart fullness. Opening my heart softening my heart to the world as you would you saying that I was just thinking about as a friend how you ve shown your love to me you even know now is gonna make me cry ok, don't cry when I was starting up this network and there are lots of people who were saying a lot of discouraging things and You don't mean an unkind things. I really didn't even read them all, but I happened.
A paper one day in the line was Oprah, not quite stand, on her own for some reason that struck me so deeply because I was not she that's all ever done stand on my own. And so I didn't read anything else, but certainly I was aware that there was and then I thought well. This is a great lesson for the thing that I say what most learn is not having not worrying about what other people think and being focused on. Now. What is the next right move in the next right move with my team, but Europe of came to me to such encouraging words just every now and then you would just send me an email or you would see something on the show or you would send me a passage or a piece of work,
which way they read and share with me, and I cannot tell you how that left. We thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for telling me that, that's what love that's what love is, and that is that what will save the world do? Ok, that's all we have to do it's not that hard. It's like, an encouraging word, reaching word you see, You asked me what is my practice now, certainly for years. My prayer it's really was meditation and prayer. Physical healing that is imminent and psychotherapy. I'm not proposing that. But my practice now is love is love and in how can you put that into being and
Phony, it's like, I wouldn't have sent you encouraging words. If I thought you were doing the wrong thing that I wouldn't have been a good Rembrandt right, but I I look for ways and everyone can do this and many people do look for a way to lift someone up and if that's all you do, that's enough Ok, you're saying earlier how hard it is to say what the soul is. Do you have words While I also found myself saying earlier that the soul is, is like a silent music inside quiet, beautiful song, that you were given to sing here on earth that Universe God, once you do sing your song? That's the soul, the song spirituality, verses religion. How do you define it?
whole book about it you're the one you're. The reason we asked this question because in seekers guide, there is spirituality and then religion. What's the dunes? Well, ok, I'll start with spirituality spirituality. Is this kind of fearless seeking nature it's the part of us that says wow. What made a tray, who am I, where did come from what mean something out of nothing. Where do I go when I die? How do I live? How much was to live that spirituality, this seeking of truth? It takes fearlessness to seek after truth, sometimes we'd, rather just live, go through the basis, so that spirituality Religion are attempts to answer the questions and some of those answers are great and beautiful, and some of them are just
dogma and rules that get us into trouble. My rules are better than your rules and then we fight about him and spirituality are the questions, and religion are first our attempts to answer. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn. I'm still learning it. Love acceptance, not judging juice, your purpose in suffering. What's the purposes of, I think we create suffering, but once we ve created it, it's to help us learn. Can we learned much from joy is weak? He s away. Can yes, we can learn as much from China. Spirituality and is not about suffering. You know. Sometimes we will are so serious ones, you serious seeker, but joy is a great teachers. Well How do you stay awake
how do I stay awake? I stay awake paying attention to the amazing feedback loop, that's always there, there's an amazing system in the world. It's called karma. But it's happening at every moment who you are what you just did what you said its reaction Things are happening all around us to other people, stay stale air of your effect on other people of your effect on the earth, dont, be afraid to admit mistakes, and that's how I stay awake. I stay aware of my effect in the world. What do you think happens when we die? I was thinking what happens when we die. I think about it all the time but I was thinking about it when I was about to get on the plane to come here and I was noticing how
I'm about to go somewhere. I'm always resisting it. Why my leaving home- I like it here, like like what was afraid have this isn't adventure? And I think that's what will happen when we die it will be. Will we resist were afraid? What's get on the airplane or the train or whatever you like. What was I afraid of this is an adventure, and I think that's what will happen when we die. It will be. We we resist we're, afraid was coming and then it will turn into an adventure and rise and surprise. What I think you know is what Whitman says it leaves of grass and serenity such a surprise. Tat is not what we think it is knows what he says. What do you know for sure. I know for sure that when in doubt about what to do and we oftener be loving, don't be funny about it, but love it. It's it's the
it's the great answer to everything, look for ways you can offer it. That's what I think look for ways and you can be be it to be it be love, be love! That's what I know for sure that that that that that is a good game plan about love that thank you. That was great. There was great.
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-01.