*When I first saw Iyanla Vanzant on The Oprah Winfrey Show, I was saddened to hear about her losing her daughter to cancer, her defunct TV show Iyanla, and becoming bankrupt. However, as someone who bought Acts of Faith for my mother and who went to see Vanzant in London, from what she revealed about her sense of self, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had invested time and money in a ‘self-help guru’ that did not have all the answers.
But, intrigued by her story, I just knew that this book was worth reading. I was right. The book speaks to the soul and is addictive but one can only wish that the work were fictitious. It is almost unfathomable that one person; one family should be afforded such pain.
Yet, it is the strength that Vanzant writes about in this memoir; a universal strength, which reminds us that we can all overcome. Though primarily a woman’s tale, it is underlined by a fundamental understanding of the human spirit. A spirit, which both endures and soars.
Vanzant writes a raw account of her losses and gains. Many of the issues she addresses are recognizable from death and bereavements, to divorce and abuse. What is most interesting, is her analysis of pathology and family patterns, which if left unchallenged; are unconsciously passed down from generation to generation. It is no surprise that this New York Times best-selling author can write, but that she could write a book so well after facing so much pain, is no easy feat.
In 330 pages, Vanzant, the founder and executive director of Inner Visions International and the Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development, summarises the most important lessons of the last decade in her life; none more powerful than the death of her daughter Gemmia, her precious jewel, on Christmas Day in 2003. Her faith is the only thing that Vanzant, a Yoruba priestess, credits for helping her to overcome her grief. The book inspires as it affirms a route to healing for the faithful.
Each of the 20 chapters are prefaced by quotes such as “Your life will only get better when you get better”, as well as Yoruba proverbs and biblical references. Each chapter is titled in a characteristically Iyanla way (Blind in one eye…can’t see out the other). The main message I receive is that people need to remember who they are and who they can be; remember all the positive things about themselves that they have forgotten.
I have remembered what first drew me to Vanzant – her wisdom. Her wisdom supports those who want to bridge the gaps in their lives. For those who are deficient in their faith and spirituality, or who question emotional freedom techniques, it is easy to dismiss this book. Certainly not everyone will accept Vanzant’s premise that we choose our families but it is less easy to dismiss the karmic laws, which Vanzant professes. It is less easy to deny the power of rejecting personal lies in favour of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, which she has now qualified.
Vanzant’s book chimes with the summary of Oprah Winfrey’s lecture in her show finale. Both offer reminders about the power of choice and responsibility, both are reminders to release fears and attachments to physicality; to follow our calling – to learn what we need to know better so that we can do better. Vanzant says, “Our spiritual curriculum is chosen by our souls to facilitate growth, learning, and healing.” After reading the book and re-watching Vanzant reunited with Oprah, my initial doubts made sense but were also diminished. Good advice doesn’t mean you know all the answers, it can mean that you are at least asking the right questions. Though Vanzant has left TV behind and now lives more modestly scrap-booking and making herbal soaps, she still has all the ingredients to help us all clean up our lives.
Peace from broken pieces: How to get through what you’re going through By Iyanla Vanzant is published by Hay House price £10.99.
The UK Corner covers urban entertainment from a British perspective and is written by Fiona McKinson ©. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at [email protected].