Tiny Wisdom: Set Your Mind Free

“Would you rather be right or free?” ~Byron Katie

Several months back, I saw a live taping of Oprah’s Life Class, which she hosted with Iyanla Vanzant, author of Peace from Broken Pieces and other self-help books.

At one point during the episode, Iyanla discussed an exchange she’d had the week prior with a viewer who’d Skyped in. The young woman had called her family crazy, referencing Iyanla’s oft-quoted advice, “If you see crazy coming, cross the street.”

But in this instance, Iyanla had scolded the woman for disrespecting her parents, regardless of how dysfunctional they may have been, because, according to Iyanla, that woman’s “soul chose them before she was even born.”

Although I'd felt inspired up until then, I remember this moment creating a deep disconnect for me, because I don't share that spiritual belief. And I think respect has to be earned—even by a parent.

Suddenly, instead of focusing on the many helpful insights that emerged throughout the night, I found myself clinging to my disagreement. Even though it served no useful purpose, I kept mentally rehashing all the reasons I felt Iyanla was wrong.

Right then it occurred to me that I was doing wrong to myself. I was shutting myself down from the present moment because I felt justified in being righteous.

So I stopped and asked myself, “What might the lesson be here?” After all, I was part of a life class.

I realized it was this: If we label someone's belief as wrong and cling to that, we limit our ability to learn, from them and the moment.

I’ve read and grown through some of Iyanla’s books, and even if we have different understandings of spirituality, I know her intention is to help people. That’s why most of us share our beliefs: we think they will provide others with the same comfort they bring to us.

Obviously, we shouldn’t turn our heads if someone is causing harm. But we can choose not to cause ourselves harm by speaking our minds when it's appropriate, and otherwise letting it go. Oftentimes, what we really want isn't to be right; it's to feel a sense of peace. We can give that to ourselves.

Of course, that’s just what I believe: that the best way to provide ourselves with comfort is to recognize when to let go.

Photo by Vincent van der Pas


About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • This is really deep and heavy stuff you’re circling around, Lori. I’ve spent years trying to figure it out, and still am, as I currently review the latest ideas coming out of theoretical physics.

    The idea that a soul chooses one’s parents only makes sense if one believes that human consciousness exits beyond physical death. Then you have to assume that your soul (THE REAL YOU) has an expanded perception way beyond our physical focus set in a human body, moving through linear time.

    If you accept the idea of existence before and after birth, (retaining a personal identity with memory) and you contemplate the idea of collapsed time into an eternal NOW, then it would be possible for your soul to co-mingle with your parent’s souls; for in the realm of soul consciousness, all past and future is happening now. And everywhere is RIGHT HERE.

    Agreements for a physical union (Mom, Dad, and baby you) can be made within this non-physical state.

    Here’s the next level: There are an infinite number of universes, and an infinite number of YOU’s, and infinite versions of your parents as well. Some of these versions are identical, some are slightly different, some are grossly different.

    Once your consciousness frees itself from the physical focus of Planet Earth, it is free to wander all planes of existence, including some of the other YOU’s, for you are all ONE, all various points-of-view of the same Over-Soul.

    You do not have to die to do this – only DREAM.


  • Louise Behiel

    So very true…don’t let your thoughts, ideas or beliefs interfere with new info.

  • This is fabulous! I too saw that episode and Iyanla put me in deep thought that night. There is another Byron Katie quote which rocked my world recently and it seems good to include here. “Stress is an alarm clock that lets you know you’ve attached to something not true for you.” This quote plus the one you included above, really helps me in setting myself free of the habitual negativity that comes up with certain people and situations. Great blog! Thank you.

  • Connie :)

    I remember watching that episode and saying to myself ‘She’s out of her mind’! I too believe respect is earned. I remember shutting down and saying to myself we are going to have to agree to disagree, but then I wasn’t really in tune anymore. I decided to open my mind and see how she arrived at that. I still believe respect is earned and not given out freely. As a mother I apologize to my son when I unintentionally hurt his feelings because it is not beneath me as him mom and a human to do that. I also don’t have an issue letting someone know when they’ve crossed a line and there are times when I’ve just walked. I really think we all have our own experiences and one size doesn’t fit all. We have to do what is good for us 🙂

  • Ppelayo

    Need to let go of the need to be right, but I still get sucked into the back and forth of trying to prove a point, and at the end of the argument I honestly don’t feel any better. Fighting a point actually sucks happiness out of me 🙁

  • Peetmaan

    At its best the “You chose your parents” idea helps us move away from our anger, disappointment, etc., at our parents and focus on what we can learn from our childhood. It brings us into the situation and lets us ask what we can do about it, lets us discover what strengths we built along the way.
    At its’ worst this idea has people believing they chose to be abused. (This dovetails with an abusers tendency to blame the victim, a child’s natural tendency to accept responsibility for parental behaviour, and later on, society’s tendency to blame the victim.) As a therapist I see people who have been victimized like this every week.
    “If you see crazy coming, cross the street” is good advice- there are some people we cannot have in our lives; unfortunately some of these people are sometimes also known as Mom and Dad.”

  • Thank you for the way you were mindful of you own self in search of what was true. This article is so important because of the self-examination. We are the ones that set ourselves free.

  • kim

    I have to agree with your comments although it is somewhat unsettling. I had to make that choice for myself some time ago whenit came to my marriage. Instead of fighting for what was right I had to choose to be at peace. When I did this effected my whole family dynamic…including a son who has adopted that concept…when you see Mom turn and dont make eye contact. I believe at this point of his life and the information he has recieved, this infact is his coping stategy…..right or wrong…this is the role modle he has been given by this father…..I hope in time, he matures and finds peace in his life and a space for me.

  • I have chosen actually as of april 3 that I will cross the street when crazy is coming my addict mother told me my 11 year old daughter and 5 month old daughter to get the F**k out of her house we are currently staying with friends as I type this from their computer and I see a theripist once a week with my daughter on her own day today is actually the day we are going and I am doing my best to accept my mother as she is, and as she is….I dont think it is healthy for me and my girls to live with her. What does bring me peace is knowing that all the horrible choices she made in her life I dont have to make and all the “bad” parenting skills she decided to have I decied to learn from them and not make them for my children.What it comes down to is really strength she may be and have been in my eyes not a very good mother but her mistakes have made me the great mother and person I choose to be everyday and it is not my fault I feel I can no longer be her strength and she has to find her own strength and I have to take my girls and we have to be strong together but I know God is great and I have faith everything WILL be OK.

  • Dshort2010

    I will say, and often have, that I am who I am because of where I came from.  That includes, but is not limited to, the parents I came from.  My mother is CRAZY…but having the experiences I did with her are a part of who I am today.  So, even though I have do desire to keep her in my current life, I give her credit for helping me to become who I am.  It is unfortunate for her it is not because she was supportive and loving…quite the opposite.  When I think of how nice it would be to have THAT kind of mother, I realize that I would not be the person I am today, and I like who I am very much.

    So….maybe my parents were chosen for me, but that doesn’t mean I have to keep them my whole life!! 


  • I know what you mean. I’ve been there before! Trying to force someone to see things differently is draining when it comes in the form of arguing. 

  • Thanks Joseph. I absolutely agree–we have to choose to be free!

  • I think that’s one of the toughest things in life: when you know you need to distance yourself from a parent. Instinctively, we want their love and support. But it sounds like a smart choice for you–and how wonderful you’re aware of what you gained from your less-than-ideal childhood!

  • That’s a wonderful way to look at it! I think that about my childhood as well–that I wouldn’t be who I am if not for some of the experiences that were really tough for me then. In fact, this site likely wouldn’t exist. Knowing how much joy and satisfaction this brings me, I feel grateful for the path that brought me here!

  • It sounds like you’re a wonderful mother Connie! I think it’s so important for kids to get apologies in this way, because it teaches them that they too deserve respect and don’t deserve to be hurt (even if it’s unintentional). That’s great you’re able to let people know when they’ve crossed a line. I haven’t always been good at this, but I’ve worked at it over the years.

  • What an insightful quote! I think it’s a much more helpful way to think about things that don’t resonate with us–by acknowledging they’re not true for us, as opposed to not true in general. The reality is we *could* have souls that choose our parents before we’re born (though I’m highly skeptical). Just because it doesn’t feel true to me, that doesn’t mean it’s not, or that it won’t feel true to someone else.

  • I also appreciate that advice about recognizing which people we need to cut from our lives. And I really connected with what you wrote about abuse victims, as I spent many years in therapy, working through my self-worth issues and trying to fully believe I didn’t deserve to be hurt. 

    While I can certainly recognize lessons and benefits in the aftermath, and I genuinely feel grateful for where my journey has brought me, I can’t say I would have chosen some of my earlier experiences! I think ultimately, we all find different perspectives empowering. If someone is able to take responsibility for their life and their happiness by believing they chose their parents pre-birth, then more power to them!

  • Connie

    Thank you Lori 🙂 My son is the best gift I’ve ever been given. I lub him!

  • This was beautiful Lori. Thank you.

  • Thanks Barbara, and you’re welcome. =)

  • Jeff B

    Letting go of “crazy family” can be the best idea for some.  Surrounding ourselves by the best of influences is more important than most other choices we make in life.  Being that family can gobble up so much of our time, if they aren’t supportive, loving, (fill in the blanks with positive words), then it is hard to argue for spending much time connecting with them.  This noted, if the family relationship isn’t harmful, perhaps we need to dive deeper into it to find that loving, supportive experience.  It might just be available and worth your extra effort.  Anyhow, this is off topic of your article’s title.  Not getting so stuck on being right can be very liberating.  I was one that did well in school because I loved being right.  I hated arriving to a test and not Knowing the Answer!  This carried over into many aspects of life.  At times it has aided my efforts, but most often it creates separation.  There are times to teach, when you are certain of being right and the student is ready to learn, there are other times where keeping your mouth shut is just as powerful.  Keeping your mouth shut and your open will open up many moments of freedom and peace.  To positive influences, love, and freedom on this sunny Sunday morning.  

  • I’m with you when it comes to school–I never liked to be unprepared! And I’ve indeed found it liberating to let go of the need to be right. The more open I keep my mind, the most peaceful and connected I feel. 

  • Carol

     I have to agree with your discomfort about how we pre-select our parents before birth.  In fact, here I am at mid-life respecting my parents right to be staunch with their religion (it is their choice and their life), but I feel a lack of acceptance and disrespect from them that they cannot respect me and my choices. My 80+ year old father sent me an email last week lamenting that he and my mother are concerned that I will go to hell because I don’t follow their strict edicts. (I am a good, kind person, who gives the shirt off my back for others, but that will never be enough to gain their love or acceptance.  I love & accept myself, unfortunately they never will.)  If our souls know best for us, I simply do not understand the path even 50 years into it… 

    Wishing you continued success in your healing journey.

  • It’s unfortunate your parents aren’t able to offer you the same respect and acceptance you offer them. I’m sure it can’t be easy to feel their disapproval and judgment. 

    Thank you for the well wishes!

  • Francesco

    I dont know if I chose my parents but I do know that whatever you believe in can either cause you to disagree and make conflict with others OR it can empower you to continue to make great choices, no matter if the outcome isn’t what you expect it will always be a positive learning experience. Thank you Lori for your words of wisdom, you’re like a Master Yoda to all of us 🙂

  • You’re most welcome Francesco. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as well! You bring up a great point, that we can choose to empower ourselves to make good choices!