First introduced to a national audience by Oprah Winfrey, Iyanla Vanzant’s mission is to help women realize they are not victims, that they have the power to create a better life for themselves. Born into poverty, motherless at three, abused at nine and a single mom by age 16, Vanzant committed herself to changing her destiny. Now she’s a spiritual guru whose words of wisdom empower countless women to push past the pain of whatever is holding them back from love and a more fulfilling life.
Below, Iyanla shares her insight into confronting life’s challenges and reveals her daily strategies to stay “unstuck” from pain and anger.
On the relationship between physical and emotional pain:
“Millions of women … live through emotional pain at the physical level. Because so very often what happens in our mind and our hearts manifests in our body as illness.”
“So often, we don't take time to pause and [consider]: Okay, what am I thinking? What am I speaking? What am I not speaking? What am I doing? And that energy builds up inside of us, and we act it out in a myriad of ways, whether it's overeating, over-spending, over-drinking. … I want to give people the opportunity to empower themselves by making another choice, because if staying at your mother-in-law's house gives you indigestion, don't stay there. Go stay somewhere else! If your job gives you stress, did you update your resume? We are so powerful. … If we could take the physical power that we are and unite it with the spiritual and emotional power that we are, our lives would just be so incredibly different.”
On the root of pain:
“There are three primary reasons that cause people emotional pain. One is the fear of not being loved, or losing love. [The second is] the fear of not being seen, heard and valued. [Third is] the fear of speaking our authentic voice. When we think we're going to lose love or we're going to not receive love, it creates an energy within us that then begins to depress the mind, the spirit and the body.”
On dealing with grief:
“[After losing my daughter to cancer] I lost my mind. I was crazy … and I gave myself permission to be crazy. Very often women think that they have to take care of everybody else other than themselves. … Somebody fed me, somebody washed my clothes, somebody took care of me. … Part of being healthy is being able and willing to ask for help and allow people to support you.”
On getting unstuck from your issues:
“Feel, deal, heal! … We've got to be willing to feel our feelings. Don't be afraid of them. Feel the anger so that it doesn't become an ulcer. Feel the shame so it doesn't become a drinking problem. Feel the guilt. … Give yourself permission to be present with the emotion of feeling the energy in your body.
“Then deal with it. Do something about what you're feeling. My drug of choice was guilt. … And one of my teachers said to me, “When you have a toxic emotion, drop your hands to your side and invite it to come forward.
“Drop your hands. ... Take a breath and think about something that really brings you sadness and invite the negative emotion forward. … Go ahead and be pissed off. Just allow it to come forward and breathe through it. … If you invite it forward, and you allow yourself to be present to it, it'll pass.
“Heal the thoughts that keep the feeling present, because nothing goes on in the body that doesn't first happen in the mind. … If you can change the mind, you can change your life.”