The interview Moment that changed Oprah’s Life (and mine).

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 11, 2013
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She’d done hundreds of interviews. Perhaps 1000s. One word changed Oprah for good.

Rudine’s “How.”

Saying “do this” is too easy. Facile. Offer “how.”

I do a little talk show. Sometimes it gets big, when it’s consistent, but I’m busy running a business and it’s hard to do. Right now we’re looking for an “anal,” organized, fun, workaholic coordinator, you can be anywhere as long as you’re willing to fly about. Email us if qualified or so awesome and non-flakey that you will just create awesomeness. If you can’t find the email, you’re not (an) awesome (fit).

Anyways, as part of my talk show education (I’ve done some 400 interviews over the years with folks including Deepak Chopra, Dr. Weil, Bill McKibben, Gov. Howard Dean, Gov. Hickenlooper, Byron Katie, Robert Thurman, Sakyong Mipham, Sister Helen Prejean, Paul Hawken, Alice Walker, the whole list is here) I put in some time renting DVDs of great talk shows and really anyone—Dino, Sinatra—who knew how to hold a stage.

I’m not an Oprah fan, particularly, but she’s one of the best ever, so I rented her Best Of collection. And there’s a moment in it where she talks about learning the key to life, and good interviews.

She interviewed a young lady suffering from anorexia many times over the years. Finaly, the lady died of her disease. Incredibly sad. The last time Oprah interviewed her, the young lady said “I know I’m supposed to eat more, but how?!” In a pleading, desperate, desperately sad voice.

And Oprah said of that moment: I learn the key it’s to tell folks stuff. But to show them how. We all know the right thing to do: say, make money while doing good in the world at the same time. But the question is, always, how?!

And so, to this day, whenever I see New Agey quotes saying “Love more,” or whatever, I shake my head. We all know love is good stuff. But how?

How is the key. How is the journey. How is the path we must walk.

Offer how.

So next time you see a soundbited quote out of context by the Dalai Lama (etc), remember that Buddhists, and all genuine spiritual traditions (and good parents), are about the path—how to get from here to there—not just about yelling at us to “Be Blissful!” “Love is the Way!” “Peace is the Answer!” and other how-less facile useless feelgoodisms.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


31 Responses to “The interview Moment that changed Oprah’s Life (and mine).”

  1. HeatherM says:

    This is brilliant! The other day a student asked me "how"…it is the most incredible question to try to answer…and try to show….

  2. Genna says:

    Powerful. And true. I feel the same way about the brick walls in my life. Try this, try that, let go, try again… How?

  3. elephantjournal says:

    No accomplish if don't know how?

  4. so true… the how is the hardest part…

  5. Tina says:

    Thank you for posting this video. I saw your remarks that you had written something that really moved you and wondered if I would see it. I'm wondering if this is the one, how to save a life.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    mmmm…no, that was something else, that I've since taken down (it got popular, and I didn't want the attention on it, I'm not ready, yet!).

  7. Kalsang says:

    Agreed. This is the hardest part – although sometimes the "how" comes about when you run into the brick wall after trying to sort it out. I remember a teacher in an early class came and checked my posture. She put one hand in the center of my back and the other in front of my heart and whispered "soften." My head screamed "What the Hell does THAT mean?" And at the same time, my body went "ahhh." — "How," indeed.

  8. […] I was inspired by Waylon’s recent blog about an Oprah interview. […]

  9. Cheryl says:

    I think I am finally getting a grip on the how…of anything.
    Meditate. Period. Meditation takes us to that place of put love, of pure wisdom, of pure intuition, of pure peace and out of the grip of the ego. The ego keeps us stuck. Stuck in fear, in confusion, in rigidity, in addiction, just blocked from what we really want but don’t know how. The how is found in the silence. It will never be found in the intellect or the mind of the ego.
    This is what I am discovering anyway. Get yourself to relax into the feeling of love and release the fear and the struggle begins to dissipate and then solutions begin to come. It’s a practice, and it works…. just have to get your butt to the meditation cushion as often as possible.

  10. michelle says:

    so true! "remember who you are" – yes, that's great … but HOW?
    i'm sharing the how's as i discover them 🙂

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Yes. This is big—I see so many quote that say things like 'Be kind'—"Be Patient'—'Love is the Way'—"don't be speedy," etc., with big names after them. Now, when I see such, I know something is lost in translation. But how? Perhaps we should sound-bite less, quote at length more!

  12. visionforbrilliance says:

    i like oprah. i think, as an interviewer, she is able to listen and allow people to speak their stories. because in an interview, it is all about the story, the person in front who is sharing this. i see this with people i meet daily. it is about sharing the story. how, well, that is a different question for each of us. the sharing of our stories can inform about how. it is up to the individual to integrate the quesion and the answers. that is what i know…

  13. Powerful and heartbreaking…

  14. awakeinwa says:

    why motivates, how enables

  15. jaki bowers says:

    I can so relate to this particular topic of anorexia as I have battled it my entire life off and and on!when I was hospitalised,no one ever asked me why I chose to starve myself and be so vigilant with my food intake as to be the perfect weight(?)as if this is ever a reality?.All they were concerned with was getting me to add a pound or two so they could discharge me and send me on my way!Needless to say,I suppose this is why I still am struggling to this day with my weight issues?

  16. Ed Fell says:

    Could it be true that to 'tell' someone to change is, in fact, a cruel thing to do? What is the change agent then? The era of 'just say no', or 'just eat' types of interventions are ancient. Welcome to the era of let's be in relationship together and allow the relationship to be the catalyst for change without an attachment to change. We have lots to learn.

  17. Stacey says:

    I think to be able to balance why with how is very important. To understand the whys first and then get to the how.

  18. Seka says:

    Waylon – bless you – I don't always agree with what you have to say, but YES!!! to this message.

    When I was mired in the darkest period of my life (only recently), I got so fucking sick of people telling me to just "appreciate what you have" and "find joy in the simple things". It was like, Do you have any idea what depression means? It's the exact thing that steals one's ability to appreciate or find joy in anything. Being on the receiving end of such trite "wisdom" has proven profound in my teaching and ability to take ownership of what makes my own unique vessel float along. Hopefully it will also prevent any such "advice" from leaving my own lips.

    Thanks for this reminder!

  19. Barbra Brady says:

    The desire for change is just one part of the equation. As noted in Rod Stryker's The Four Desires, “Every time that you got what you wanted, your desire for it plus the energy you invested in achieving it were greater than the forces that resisted you having it.” Elephant Journal hosted a intelligent, series on HOW to make what we desire (that that is dearly important to us) come to fruition. Desire + will/determination, or sankalpa shakti that is stronger than our resistance.

  20. Last week I was considering submitting a story to Elephant Journal and I was browsing and reading the website. I came across Waylon's popular article "The Interview Moment that Changed Oprah's Life and Mind". I was moved by the story. I work in an inpatient psychiatric hospital. One of the populations of people I work with is people with eating disorders – men, women and teens. I am in the business of teaching my patients the "how" through simple movement and breathing. Rudine's story is one that is all too familiar to me. Yes, I think how is the key. As a yoga teacher I can offer how. I believe it is our job, our responsibility to gently lead our students with our words, our tone, our actions into a way of experiencing themselves that is whole and real. It is the simple instruction, inviting our students to honor their bodies with gentle movement, linked to the breath, in the present moment. I call this "The How of Now". My hope is that all entry-level yoga classes are "The How of Now". Every yoga class is an invitation to the now, with directions on how to get there. To me, that’s the beauty of the practice and something that took awhile to drop into my being when I was first introduced to yoga twelve years ago. I am forever grateful to my first teachers who patiently taught me to be present before I even grasped that I wasn’t. Now it's my job to return the favor. I am honored to do so.

  21. Anne-Li says:

    It´s so true— we are usually so busy teaching/telling other people what to do,but How to do it…. and maybe we should try to find that key, instead repeating the affirmations, that we all are so wear about… Thanks for a good article, it awakened a new thought…

  22. […] “Yeah,” Eco Boy said, through the now mostly closed bathroom door. She heard him turn on the shower and huffed her way downstairs and into her Lexus and turned on some music, looking for something spiritual, found her MC Yogi/Franti mix cd, and popped that in. “Assh*le,” she thought to herself, while bouncing her head happily and spiritual to the happy song….read the rest here. […]

  23. […] the contents of the book itself. I was familiar with her piece, which resonates with me and my body image advocacy. We are used to seeing yoga presented in the clean, sun-drenched rooms of yoga studios or […]

  24. […] if I am here to serve, how are my actions (and words) promoting that purpose? How do I heal my soul, release my addictions and make my life […]

  25. Deborah A Davis says:

    The same goes for everything, not just Spiritual practice, which I know is your drum of choice; mine too (lest you think I think it devalued.)

    What about HOW to begin a personal yoga practice; how to begin to be motivated in, what can be, an agonizing beginning. How does one have patience and persistence with oneself to keep on keeping on?

    Even here, within it’s own yoga fundamentalism of sorts, there is a blinded tendancy to skip step a and b, assuming everyone is living in c, d, or e.

    To teach, we often must release to be in “all the moments;” the ones in which we dwell, AND the ones we’ve long since passed.

    -deborah bountiful

  26. Micheal Callahan says:

    For me it works better to ask why, then ask how.

  27. Ramesh says:

    How? By giving permission for the frustration to the unsatisfied how to exist. By finding out who needs to gain from this satisfaction, by giving permission to endless cycle of questioning and analyzing and hoping for an answer, by giving permission to accept that there is doubt, that there is no answer … that we, nor anyone else can provide a satisfactory, by giving permission for release to arise when it happens, by giving permission to let pleasant feelings last as long as they do …

  28. Nicola Goddard says:

    I was gifted the DVD collection, I know the very moment and I must say it impacted me too. Many of us know exactly what we should do to move forward with certain issues in our lives and we have all the necessary knowledg, but most people's big question is 'HOW?'.

  29. Martha says:

    one day at the time.