Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Elizabeth Lesser on Oprah & the Omega Institute She Co-founded

Elizabeth Lesser has become part of Oprah Winfrey's "team" of experts, with a prominent seat on Oprah's couch today and a starring role in Oprah's worldwide webcast on Spirituality tonight.

Elizabeth co-founded the Omega Institute in 1977 with Stephan Rechtschaffen, M.D. Omega is a non-profit organization with a mission "to awaken the best in the human spirit." Both onsite at its Rhineback, NY campus and offsite at wellness conferences, Omega presents programs in holistic studies that are attended by more than 20,000 people each year.

It's Elizabeth's own personal spiritual journey that led her to write the book that's featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show today, "Breaking Open." After she got divorced, she experienced a "death" of sorts, losing her identity, her financial security, and her sense of what it mean to live a "good" life.

This was a strangely poignant show for me because of supernatural connection between the topic and the guest and my own personal life. Less than a year ago, my sister passed away and I found myself delivering her eulogy on her 50th birthday. My sister was easily the most important person on planet earth to me, and the only person I knew for certain accepted me completely and never wanted me to be anything other than what I was. When she passed away - quickly and unexpectedly - the loss was devastatingly incomprehensible.

The past nine months has been a process of reidentification for me. Instantly my life didn't make sense to me any more and the things that I thought were important instantaneously were not. Somehow I lost my sense of identity. Even though we didn't live in the same place and we didn't interact on a daily basis, I didn't know who I was without her. I'm not sure that I've completely found my new identity, but I do feel like I have emerged from the dark night of the soul with a depth of spiritual understanding that only comes having been drop-kicked into a new reality.

One of the things that my sister and I did together was to attend Omega workshops and conferences. She was truly my "soul sister" and we went to the workshops together because everybody else in our conservative Catholic family thought we were a little bit wacky. But I do remember those times we spent together enjoying the superior Omega programs. And I am extremely grateful to Elizabeth and her entire organization for making those experiences available to us.

My sister and I also loved Oprah and attended Oprah events more than once together as well. I was aware of her presence today, and I know her spirit was smiling at the "full circle" moment we got to share again because of Elizabeth and Omega.


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