Super Soul Sessions 2: Oprah, Marie Forleo, Cheryl Strayed, and More … Amazing Day!

On Saturday, April 9, 2016, I was lucky enough to attend Oprah’s “Super Soul Sessions 2” at Royce Hall, UCLA. Here’s my diary of the event, to share with you and because I never want to forget it :) Please grab your favorite beverage and get comfortable – this is a long one!

Speak to Me

To start, here’s a list of the amazing speakers, with links to their websites:
Shaka Senghor, author of Writing My Wrongs, prisoner activist, speaker
Marie Forleo, entrepreneur, star of MarieTV, and owner of Marie Forleo’s B-School
Cheryl Strayed, author of “Wild”, made into a movie with Reese Witherspoon
Caroline Myss, author, speaker, and medical intuitive
Amandla Stenberg, Hunger Games actress, activist, “New Progressive”
Kris Carr, “Crazy, Sexy, Healthy”, author, wellness advocate, cancer thriver
India.Arie, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer
Dr. Shefali Tsabary, clinical psychologist and author of The Conscious Parent
Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher, author of New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
Kerry Washington, ABC’s Scandal lead actress, activist

Sign-Up, Arrival, and Photos (or lack thereof)

As I’ve talked about before, I attended Marie Forleo’s B-School and that’s how I heard about this event. Marie e-mailed subscribers when she found out she’d be part of the event, and then again when pre-sale tickets went live. I knew they’d go fast so I jumped on and got my ticket before I had time to talk myself out of it. If I recall correctly, tickets ranged from $175-250 for the all-day event.

I live 3 1/2 hours from Los Angeles so the day of the event – after not much sleep because I was excited – I got up at 4am, left the house at 5am, and arrived at 8:30 for the 9am event. Phew!  I went alone and didn’t know anyone there but you could tell it was a good vibe, with everyone smiling and anxious to see what the day would bring. Here’s a Facebook Live recording of Oprah’s welcome to us. It was wonderful and really set the tone for the day. {You can see more video from SSS2 on the OWN Facebook Page}.

I was very disappointed that we weren’t allowed to bring in cameras. In fact, in e-mail instructions before the event, we were told to downsize our purses; no totes/larger purses and no cameras. Cell phones were allowed but, even with the decent camera on my iPhone 6+, it was impossible to get good photos due to lighting and distance. My pics are down at the bottom and you can find lots more online; use #SuperSoulSessions on the social media of your choice.

I’m gonna’ share my observations, some quotes, what I learned, etc. from my favorite speakers.

Oprah – Introduction

You saw part of it in the link above but she basically welcomed us, did a meditation, and then introduced the first guest. In telling about Shaka Senghour, she told a funny story about having his book for quite a while before she actually read it. She said she finds it so hard to get rid of hard copy books and that she needs a book rehab program. LOL, can totally relate.

Shaka Senghour

Shaka grew up in a very rough situation and, while living the gang lifestyle, committed murder. He served 19 years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement. He had a lot of time to think and many experiences that changed him into the man he is today, which he talks about in his book, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison {all book links in this post are Amazon affiliate links; if you make a purchase after clicking on one, I receive a small commission}.

After receiving letters of forgiveness from his victim’s family members, Shaka learned “what forgiveness looks like in action” and that “humans by nature are capable of redemption.” To forgive himself, he had to break down everything he thought was his identity and he began that through his writing. He discovered that he was a man on the outside but really just a broken little boy with years of hurt and abandonment.

He asked us, “When was the last time you were completely honest and raw with yourself?” We don’t do this often enough. He said that “transformation comes when we can see the broken child in every person, their true self,” and he gave us permission to see the child in ourselves. He talked about how there are no better innovators than prisoners – making things out of nothing – but that in prison, innovation = breaking the rules. He encouraged us to use our raw materials to create our life’s vision.

Marie Forleo

Marie was the reason I went to Super Soul Sessions 2 and one of my favorites to hear. She was very fun and funny, more dramatic than we usually see her in B-School and on Marie.tv.  She used two personal stories to weave in her famous idea that “everything is figureoutable.” The saying came from her mother, who sounds like a hoot, with her Tropicana orange radio playing all over the house, even on the roof while making some repairs by herself :)

Marie told a hilarious story about her and her honey Josh racing through the airport carrying a huge duffle bag past “soccer playing Smurfs” to make a flight to Spain. At the airline counter, the woman clicked and clacked her computer, frowned, looked Marie in the eye, and said, “You’re never going to make it.”

For some crazy reason, my eyes filled instantly with tears. I don’t know if that was supposed to be our reaction and I didn’t understand why it WAS my reaction, given the frenzied tone Marie was using to share the funny story. After digesting it, I think it just hit that chord in me (I know you have it too) of all the years and all the naysayers, the lack of support even from friends and family (usually because they don’t understand, not because they don’t love us), and that deep fierceness we have that brings tears. “Yes, I AM gonna’ make it. I don’t care what you think.”

Marie’s message was that we are unstoppable, what we say in our minds matters, and that we are “divinely blessed and infinitely capable.” Amen.

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl was the other main reason I’d gone to the event. Of all her books, I’ve only read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail but I thought it was fascinating and I identified with several things she’s been through (single parent upbringing, loss of a parent as a young adult, etc). Oprah said she’s been giving copies  of Cheryl’s new book, Brave Enough, to a lot of people. This is her favorite quote from the book:

“You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re okay.” Yep, sounds like a book I need to buy.

Cheryl had a surprising message but one that I really liked, about having big but maybe unattainable dreams vs being happy where you are. She said that at yoga class, her poses never look like the instructor’s, who told her, “The goal is not to attain the perfect pose. The goal is to attempt it.” Cheryl’s goal now with her writing is not to be a famous author but to “make beauty and sorrow in other people’s hearts.”

When she was young, she was “arrogantly ambitious.” Then when she was a senior in college, her mom died at age 45 and Cheryl suddenly had no one who believed in her. She had to “propel her own engine.” She talked of attaining an MFA which these days can = waitress, and of being pregnant for the first time determined to work on her book and being distracted by her inaugural cable TV. This brought all kinds of doubt whether she was capable of attaining her huge goal of being a New York Times bestselling author; it just seemed “too big to hold” and that she was “too much of a failure to follow through.”

After these and other experiences, she decided that you have to “reckon with who you actually turned out to be,” despite these great plans you had as a young woman. She decided, “If I’m going to fall short of greatness, I need to redefine greatness.” That allowed her the belief, “I just had to write a book. That’s all.” Cheryl joked, “If you’re perfect, we don’t want to know you” and that her idea for a bumper sticker is “Surrender to Your Own Mediocrity.” Just make good on your intentions and it’s okay to hold two opposing truths in one hand.

I don’t think this message resonates with everyone but it did with me. I didn’t say as a child, “When I grow up, I want to be a virtual assistant!” LOL I had other dreams and plans, ranging from criminal psychologist to a writer living in Italy. I graduated from college and worked my way up to an impressive career position. Awesome. Then I had kids and everything shifted. My goal changed from “being successful at work” to “being more present in my children’s lives.” Like Cheryl said, I redefined greatness. Now I’m an amazing mom, which is my goal every day and my proudest achievement. So, needless to say, I LOVED Cheryl Strayed at Super Soul Sessions :) “Surrender to your own mediocrity!”

India.Arie

I arrived as someone who’d just “heard of” India.Arie and left as a huge fan! She was open, nervous, truthful, talented, beautiful, and had the voice of an angel. India told her story through a “SongVersation” which combined her speaking with her music. She included our voices as well while she told the story of her hugely successful career, feelings of overwhelm and loneliness, a breakdown, isolation, learning, and finally rebirth. She spoke so poetically about these difficult themes in a way you could see into her while applying them to yourself as well. On my Facebook profile, I shared the video from SSS2 where she sang “I Am Light” but it might not be visible to you. So HERE’s a link to watch her sing the same song on YouTube (song starts at 2:10). I think it gives a great view into who she is and I know you’ll love India.Arie as much as I now do.

Kerry Washington

I didn’t take notes while listening to Kerry but she was another favorite. Oprah interviewed her, asking her signature “deep” questions to elicit heartfelt answers. Kerry talked about her new movie “Confirmation” where she plays Anita Hill, how Anita was quite underwhelmed by Kerry when they first met, etc. Kerry remembers the case from her childhood because it was the first time her parents sort of disagreed at the dinner table discussion, because they came at it from different perspectives, as did Anita and Clarence Thomas. Kerry talked about wanting to be an actress but not “famous” because she values her private life and family. She decided early on that she’d be more of a character actor, have union insurance, hopefully steady work, but stay in the background. Well, oops, that didn’t exactly work out :) She was lovely and I like her even more than I already did.

Wrap Up

Overall, what an amazing day! Oprah was WAY funnier than I thought. She made me laugh a lot, like when she commented on all “the tinklers” heading up the aisle between speakers to use the restroom. The event felt relaxed and spiritual. I met such interesting people at lunch time, where we compared our perceptions of what we’d heard so far, learned about each other’s passions, and more.

The meal was a box lunch but healthy and delicious (a choice of turkey or chicken sandwich, handmade chips, salad, protein bar, desert, and drinks). At lunchtime, it absolutely poured rain but that didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. We just dealt with looking like drowned rats :) Afterward, I saw on social media that Danielle Laporte and Christiane Northrup were in the audience but I didn’t see them :(

The only downer about the day was that it took 40 minutes to get out of the parking garage afterward – but that’s not Oprah’s fault :P I thoroughly enjoyed Super Soul Sessions 2 and highly recommend you go the next time they have one.

iPhone Photo Gallery