Sample from the Summer 2005 Issue of Integral Yoga Magazine
By Rev. Prem Anjali, Ph.D.
A Sneak Peak into a Revolutionary, Groundbreaking and Transformational Network TV Show
What if we could step into beginners mind by starting anew? This is the concept behind STARTING OVER (SO), a unique daytime show that airs weekdays on network TV (for local listings visit www.startingovertv.com). About to begin its third season this fall, this reality series follows the lives of six women who come into the SO house. They leave their lives behind for anywhere from one to three months (when a women reaches her personal goal and graduates, another woman enters the house to begin her journey of self-exploration), during which time they are given every possible support–from life coaches to therapists to experts in every field–to help them start their lives and relationships anew. And we, the viewers, get the vicarious benefit of the expertise offered to them as well as learning from these courageous womens’ personal journeys.
For the past two years I have been a regular viewer of this show which I feel is one of the most inspirational shows on television. Recently, I was able to “go behind the scenes” to speak with the producers, coaches, and graduates of the SO house. The show was conceived of and produced by reality television pioneers Jonathan Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim. While Mary-Ellis lost her battle with cancer last year, Jonathan continues the company they started. Millee Taggart-Ratcliffe, co-executive producer, talks about carrying on the vision for the show:
“This show is dear to my heart. Both Mary-Ellis and I were fascinated by the idea of second chances. In our lives, each of us comes to a crossroad and needs to begin again, most especially women. The goal was to show that you can begin again. It’s also a ‘give back’ to the universe. Everyone who works on this show has undergone a transformation or is interested in women’s issues. The show was born out of desire to empower women. We try and choose women with universal stories. When Allison (a breast cancer survivor) came on the show, we were telling the story not only for Allison, but for everyone with a friend or mother or relative with breast cancer.
We also want the show to be fun and entertaining, and it is because the women on the show are fun, entertaining and enjoyable to be with. It doesn’t have an educational tone and it shows women in all their aspects. We hope viewers learn to believe in the power of change and the ability of the human spirit to rise up. Sometimes people have to start over five or six times. But, you are never lost; you can always begin again.”
I asked Millee whether this show would be of interest only to women or to men as well. She enthusiastically responded: “This show offers great insight into women. For the men who say, ‘I don’t get women,’ tune in and you’ll get the real deal!”
Next season the producers plan to focus even more on healing relationships. As Millee explained, “Almost every person-male and female–has trouble with relationships. We will explore that in a fresh, ‘Starting Over’ way. We can all learn something about what makes a good relationship.”
[Excerpt of interviews with members of the STARTING OVER house, season 2:]
Kim Bookout, age 47, joined the SO house to work on healing her relationship with her sister:
Kim Bookout: I talked a lot to Dr. Stan [Katz] and Iyanla [Vanzant, one of the two life coaches] about how I had lost my faith. Iyanla really helped me to take my faith to a deeper level. She asked me to read Psalm 139. She said this psalm is not for wimps! [laughs] Well, I read the psalm, I prayed, meditated, journaled. I used to look for God outside, but when I read the psalm, I realized I could find God within. It was a very miraculous discovery– “Ask and you shall receive.” God was showing me that if you want to be a light in other’s life you can’t be “dim.” You can’t have joy and love the Lord and yet have broken relationships. If I wanted the spiritual life and the one-on-one with God, I had to clean myself up on the inside so I could be open for what God has for me. That was very powerful. It changed my relationship to God and what I need spiritually to feed myself. I have gotten numerous emails about that psalm! You have to do the work yourself. That is what is so great about watching the “Starting Over” process. Someone can guide you to it but you have to believe it to receive it!
Prem Anjali: How did your realization help create a shift in your relationship with your sister?
Kim: I had to take a hard look and take responsibility. And, forgiveness is interesting. You want to be right–but forgiveness is a choice. We have power in our choices. I was able to realize that, as a Christian, I am forgiven so I should forgive and I could make a choice to forgive. That doesn’t mean if someone has been abusive that you have to be in relationship with them, but you do it for yourself, to clean up your relationship with yourself. My other goal was a joyful life. For many it’s elusive, but that was what I was going for. If you have a lot of broken relationships you can’t be happy…
STARTING OVER is currently casting singles and couples for the next season. For information on this, the show and when it airs in your city, please go to: www.startingovertv.com.
Look for our in depth interview with life coach and spiritual life minister Iyanla Vanzant in our Fall issue.
Read the rest of this article in the Summer 2005 Issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.