This post is part 5 of 9 in the series Oprah's 25 years of lessons learned.

On her final show, Oprah shared her greatest lessons and hopes for her viewers. In this series of posts, Paul highlights ten lessons Oprah learned, along with his related and unre­lated thoughts and stories.

“I learned from the guests on this show, no need to feel superior to anybody. Because whether it’s heroin addiction or gambling addiction or shopping addiction or food addiction, work addiction, the root is all the same. The show has taught me there is a common thread that runs through all of our pain and all of our suffering, and that is unworthiness. Not feeling worthy enough to own the life you were created for. Even people who believe they deserve to be happy and have nice things often don’t feel worthy once they have them.

“There is a difference, you know, between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing you are worthy of happiness…. We often block our own blessings because we don’t feel inherently good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or worthy enough. The show has taught me you’re worthy because you are born and because you are here. Your being here, your being alive makes worthiness your birthright. You alone are enough.” — Oprah Winfrey, May 25, 2011

Read the complete Oprah Show finale transcript →

Shifts of paradigms

2005. Four learning journeys come together, same time, same station.

Journey 1: Observing the times I said or thought “should,” “must,” “believe,” “have to,” “right,” “wrong.” Those observations led to a long, long wish list on an endless road to perfection. Perfection has never materialized in 55+ years; why do I continue to seek that now?

Journey 2: The perfection exercise coincided with learning about “there is no right or wrong” — a heresy if I accept my childhood teachings and the coping strategies I use in life.

Journey 3: Finding the positives from my negative life experiences, i.e. the gifts from childhood trauma.

Journey 4: A beginning embrace of all aspects of my life — my shadow side, my strengths and my ho-hum. Loving “I am what I am.”

One process common in all of these journeys is turning “normal” on its head — trying on counter-intuitive ideas. Do what doesn’t make sense and see what I learn. Walk through the doors I’m avoiding. Give myself quiet time when I’m creating mindless activity. Look at my role when it’s easy to blame others. Be, rather than change.

Tara Brach, a psychologist and international expert on Buddhist meditation, writes,

Carl Jung describes a paradigm shift in understanding the spiritual path: Rather than climbing up a ladder seeking perfection, we are unfolding into wholeness. We are not trying to transcend or vanquish the difficult energies that we consider “wrong” — the fear, shame, jealousy, anger. This only creates a shadow that fuels our sense of deficiency. Rather, we are learning to turn around and embrace this life, in all its realness — broken, messy, vivid, alive.”

And from Donald Epstein, founder of Network Spinal Analysis,

“To heal, we do not have to understand what went wrong in our life or who did what to us. If a person is recovering from a heart attack, would his recovery be enhanced by trying to figure out what we did wrong, or who did what to him? I think not. Instead, he needs to rest, including his conscious, chattering mind.

“The fact is, we cannot know what went wrong or how we arrived at our present situation until we experience it with our biology. We cannot see the forest if we are looking at a tree. Likewise, we cannot see the benefit in a hurt or trauma from the place of our suffering. We cannot resolve any problem with the same consciousness that created the problem in the first place.”

When I embrace what has felt so dark, so personal, I don’t feel scared or alone. When I am no longer compelled to blame or hide or fix myself, I feel love from all of life. The learning journey continues.

Resources

Brach, Tara (2001). Awakening from the trance of unworthiness. Inquiring Mind, vol. 17, number 2. Downloaded from http://www.tarabrach.com/articles/inquiring-trance.html.

Epstein, Donald M. (2000). Healing myths, healing magic: Breaking the spell of old illusions, reclaiming our power to heal. San Rafael, CA: Amber Allen.

Fritz, Robert (1989). The path of least resistance: Learning to become the creative force in your own life. New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Random House.