I am willing to put it in writing that Oprah’s Lifeclass truly changed my life. It has been over a week since I attended Oprah’s Lifeclass the Tour in Toronto (which airs tonight), and I’m still experiencing the emotions I felt as the legendary talk show host walked out on the stage, a mere fifteen rows away from my Mom and I. But let me start at the beginning of this story.
On February 28, I received an email from Oprah’s Lifeclass announcing that Oprah herself would be taking her classroom on the road, making stops in St. Louis, New York and Toronto. I couldn’t believe my eyes, or my odds, as I might actually get a chance to see Oprah live in person after all – a dream I have wished for years, and one my mother has been dreaming of since the first day Oprah Winfrey’s talk show was broadcast in Canada. I was shaking when I saw there were tickets available, and after a quick call to my Dad and sister, we decided it was time to make my Mom’s dreams finally come true.
Less than two months later we were flying to Toronto and finding our place in line next to the rest of the 9,500 people who also had tickets. We honestly lined up at 10am for a show that was to begin at 4pm, as tickets for the four different assigned sections were still general seating once you made your way to your specific section. Needless to say it was pandemonium as every woman and man dashed for the best seats possible, as we all wanted to be as close as possible to Oprah. We were lucky enough to snag seats in the fifteenth row, next to some amazing girls that we had met while waiting (somewhat patiently) for the Toronto Convention Centre to let us in to the seating and stage area. The setup was breathtaking.
The show had a fantastic group of speakers, including Oprah Winfrey. Shortly after 4pm Deepak Chopra took to the stage as the first speaker, introducing himself and the foundation of that day’s Lifeclass; Forgiveness. I just had another set of chills run through my body as I typed the word, as I can know speak from experience that a few hours with a five incredibly motivating people can truly change the way you approach life and all the cards you have and will be dealt. Forgiveness. Simple, yet there are so many instances in our life when we must forgive, and Deepak was determined to get to the base of our own internal forgiveness, and allowing the audience to move past issues and circumstances we had been holding onto for minutes, days or even years. It was the perfect thought provoker, and forced me to look at those moments in my life that were still holding me back. I forgave myself for a lot of things in my past, and realized they no longer needed to define me. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I was only in the first hour!
Up next was the incredibly energetic Iyanla Vanzant, noted for her aired dispute with Oprah Winfrey, and their eventual rekindled relationship. She started at the very back of the seating and wound her way through the audience on the way to the stage, getting the entire crowd up on their feet to dance and sing along with her. Instant love. The energy in the room was palpable, and Iyanla had arrived. Her story stuck closer to the personal side, as she introduced her new show that would be debuting on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) later this year. The talk show will be focusing on real people, dealing with real issues, looking for a resolution and ultimately, forgiveness. Her dry humor was so inviting, I couldn’t help but beam from ear-to-ear the entire hour, even though she was presenting a few incredibly deep issues from some of her first guests. I was extremely excited to see her re-engage later in the show with Oprah and the audience members that would eventually be brought up on stage.
The third speaker was Tony Robbins, and prior to his taking to the stage I was skeptical of his methods based on what I had heard of him previously, and my misjudgment that his tactics would be overly preachy. Within seconds I knew my preconceived notion had been entirely wrong and I was swept up in the movement that is Tony Robbins. He had the audience engage in a get-to-know-each-other exercise and from that moment I vowed to see Tony Robbins again. There was something incredibly humbling when one is simply asked to greet a stranger as if they are a long lost friend, and allow them to feel the love you have to offer to another human being. I will never forget the one man who turned to me, threw his arms open and hugged me like I was his best friend. One of my favourite quotes from Lifeclass that day came from Tony, unexpectedly. He was speaking about relationships and how several people complain the ‘magic’ has left their partnership after an unspecified time has past. According to Tony, most people blame their partner for this loss of spark, and refuse to turn the mirror on themselves. He followed up with a simple lesson, “Do what you did in the beginning, and there won’t be an end.” Clearly, Tony was referring to that ‘honeymoon’ stage that we all experience at the start of a new relationship when everything is fresh and exciting. I thought the idea was extremely simple, yet poignant, and I have applied it to not only my relationship with Ali, but also, all my relationships, including the way I approach work. I now think about this quote several times throughout the day, and it has deeply affected my mood and energy. For this one quote alone, I will be forever grateful that I got to attend Lifeclass that day.
The fourth and final speaker was Bishop T.D. Jakes who I enjoyed more than I could have imagined. While I didn’t necessary connect with a lot of the religious beliefs he presents, I could find the human elements of his lessons and walked away with a great deal of respect for the father-of-five.
Four hours later, ay 8pm, Oprah Winfrey took to the stage for a two-hour, live taping of her Lifeclass. The first 30 seconds or so after Oprah walked out on stage was an out of body experience for me. Thankfully, I made a video as she appeared so I could relive the moment over and over again, as you know I didn’t remember anything from the time! Oprah was decked out in a gorgeous green dress with matching green makeup, and STUNNING silver stilettos; she looked absolutely fabulous.
The next two hours were truly some of the best moments ever experienced in a classroom. The message of forgiveness was explored from all angles; a young boy attempting to forgive his father for divorcing his mother; a woman in her thirties looking for forgiveness from a boy she wrongfully accused of being a thief when she was just a ten-year-old girl; and another woman who was looking for closure on a relationship with a boyfriend that was terrible to her throughout their entire time together. Another story that hit me the hardest, and brought silent tears to my cheeks, was a woman’s devastating story that originally aired on the Oprah Winfrey Show. This woman, whose name I can’t recall, spoke of the tragedy that she experienced as she fell asleep at the wheel while driving her family home, resulting in an accident that took the lives of her three young children. Her ability to eventually forgive herself, and continue living, was nothing short of a miracle. There wasn’t a dry eye in the entire convention centre, and needless to say, that was a heck of a lot of tears and an incredibly lesson for everyone in that room to learn!
Throughout the two-hour taping, each of the four speakers appeared back on stage to help Oprah address the different forms of forgiveness for each of the unique stories presented on stage. Oprah also went interactive, talking to people on Skype from all around the world and answering live-to-the-minute questions posed through Facebook and Twitter. Our friend-from-line @AshaTomlinson actually had one of her tweets read out on live TV by Oprah, and answered! It was AMAZING!
At the end of the show my Mom and I walked out of the convention centre with the rest of the audience, in an incredible silence that felt deeply profound. A few minutes later, at a table at a restaurant nearby, my Mom and I had yet to really speak to each other as we were both lost in amazement. I asked her what she was thinking about, and she chuckled as she said, “I’ve got a lot of people in my life that I need to forgive.” It opened up a conversation I’ve never had with my Mom, speaking about the people we both felt were worthy of our forgiveness, regardless of whether or not we were going to verbalize our feelings to them. I believe this experience brought us closer, if that was even possible.
Every morning since I have woken with a renewed energy for life, looking at all the circumstances that come my way through different eyes, and I am grateful that for one day, I got to witness and experience Oprah Winfrey teach.