Insights from Oz can guide your journey from helpless to empowered, lost to centered, from looking for answers out there to finding them within
I’ve spent a lifetime working with brilliant people. I’ve edited Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, a dozen titles by Deepak Chopra, and bestselling books by the likes of Douglas Adams, Queen Noor, Byron Katie, Carol Burnett, Arianna Huffington, Paula Poundstone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Then one day I had a revelation. All the wisdom I had encountered by editing these thought leaders was right there in a film I first watched when I was eleven years old: The Wizard of Oz.
I mentioned this to a publisher who liked the idea, so I embarked on a five-year archaeological dig, a frame-by-frame hunt for wisdom in the most-watched film of all time. What did I find? Lots of illuminating gems of insight, like “There are no mistakes, only lessons,” and “When you ask for help, don’t be shy.” Then my pickaxe struck something even more substantial: nine massive chunks of wisdom that I identify as Emeralds, each of which is linked to an iconic moment in the movie.
A Blueprint Within A Dream
As you’ll recall from the film, Dorothy’s experience in Oz is a dream. And dreams are the brain’s way of sorting daily information so that it makes sense and can be stored in the library of memory for future use. As viewers we can benefit from Dorothy’s dream of overcoming her obstacles on the Yellow Brick Road, her archetypal Hero’s Journey. What works for her might very well work for us on our own daily rites of passage. So what are these Emeralds of Oz?
Emerald 1: Listen to Your Longing
This is the moment when Dorothy steps into the barnyard and begins to sing that achingly beautiful song, “Over the Rainbow.” What does Dorothy long for? It changes. At first it’s a place where troubles melt like lemon drops. Later it becomes returning to Aunt Em and home.
But this longing itself is the engine that drives the entire film, just as it propels us through our entire lives.
So ask yourself this. What do you long for in a situation that is top of mind for you right now? Not what other people expect from you, or what you’re in the habit of doing. Not just what you want, or what you need. Go deeper. What outcome do you long for, with every fiber of your being?
Emerald 2: See It as if For the First Time
This is the moment after Dorothy’s farmhouse has corkscrewed to a crash landing and she steps out into the Technicolor miracle of Oz. How can you bring fresh eyes to an issue you’re facing? When you set aside your biases — your sense that you know how this is going to turn out – you open yourself to that sense of wonderment too. It’s what Buddhists call Beginner’s Mind, one of the twin pillars of mindfulness. See it — whatever it is — as if for the first time and you feel fully present, you awaken to the miracle of being alive, right here, right now.
Emerald 3: Celebrate Yourself Just For Showing Up
What did Dorothy do to earn a Munchkin parade? Nothing at all. She showed up, and her house just happened to land on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and liberating the Munchkin people. So celebrate yourself just for showing up, too. You didn’t have to offer your friend a shoulder to cry on the other day. You didn’t have to go to that PTA meeting, or to the gym, or practice the piano. But you did.
You showed up. And that makes all the difference.
Celebrate others for showing up, too. Supermarket clerks, bank tellers, baristas, volunteer firefighters. They’re all around you, improving the quality of your life. Celebrate them, too.
Emerald 4: Choose Compassion
This is a simple concept, but it only works when it’s translated into action. Dorothy demonstrates compassion on every step of her journey. She comes across the Scarecrow nailed to a pole and she says, “Oh, dear. That must be terribly uncomfortable. Let me help you.” Once he’s released, this odd creature becomes a loyal ally. This happens again when she meets the Tin Man, and yet again when she encounters the Cowardly Lion. She acts compassionately, and as a result these characters — who she might have turned away from, or feared — become friends who will gladly risk their lives for her.
Compassion has this great power when you unleash it, too. Choose it consistently, and watch the world around you transform.
Emerald 5: You Already Possess the Quality You Desire Most
Sounds counterintuitive, right? I know I need courage, and you’re telling me I already have courage? Yet this is a major theme in The Wizard of Oz. The Scarecrow is desperate for brains, but look at how intelligent and capable he is. The Tin Man longs for a heart, but he’s so emotional that his biggest worry is rusting from his tears. The Cowardly Lion conveys his terrors in ways that are uproariously funny, and we know you can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time.
You already possess the quality that you desire most as well. Like Dorothy’s friends, you may not know it. By becoming aware of this Emerald, however, you bring this hidden quality to the surface, where it becomes accessible in your everyday life.
Emerald 6: Face your Fear
In the film this is the moment when Dorothy and her friends travel to the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. Their mission is to confront her, get her broomstick, and bring it back to the Wizard of Oz. So often in our own lives we feel as if something scary is coming up behind us. When you feel this way, stop and ask yourself, What am I really afraid of? By facing it, you shrink it down to size. Chances are, it isn’t as scary as you imagine. It may even dissolve completely, like the Wicked Witch of the West under Dorothy’s bucket of water.
Emerald 7: Pull Back the Curtain and See Things as They Really Are
Toto plays a key role here. He pulls back the curtain in the Wizard’s throne room, and instead of ‘The Great and Powerful Oz’, Dorothy and her companions discover a little balding man frantically pulling on some levers, screaming ferociously into a microphone. Like the Wizard, we all tend to cloak our lives with drama. This Emerald is an invitation to pull back the curtain on all those stories you’re telling yourself. Look at that problem you’re facing after you’ve stripped all those illusions away. What’s really going on? It may not be such a big deal after all.
Emerald 8: You’ve Got the Power, and You’ve Had it All Along
Glinda tells Dorothy that all she has to do is click the heels of her Ruby Slippers three times and she can go back to Kansas. If only Dorothy had known!
The thing about power is that we tend to underestimate how much we possess.
We look outward to be saved. We become convinced that we’re helpless. But in every interaction you have power, whether you know it or not, whether you choose to use it or not. When you step into that power, things in your life change for the better.
Emerald 9: There’s No Place Like Home
This is the famous mantra Dorothy repeats as she clicks the heels of the ruby slippers. She’s not just referring to a construct of wood and plaster, but to a place she has come to locate within herself after traveling the Yellow Brick Road. It’s more than a feeling, it’s a state of being.
It’s the ground state of all being — the divine force that animates every religion and imbues every aspect of the universe with energy.
The longing that launched Dorothy on her journey has come full circle to find both its source and its fulfillment. When we consider this Emerald, you and I realize that we are home, too. Like Dorothy, we never left; we just needed to become aware of this in order to return.
The Ultimate Self-Help Tool
While I was writing about the nine Emeralds of wisdom, I made another discovery. When you consider them in exactly the same order Dorothy did, something magical happens. Your awareness activates the Emeralds, and when you direct this energy toward a specific problem you’re facing, the issue shrinks as your sense of self expands.
Since finishing the book I’ve been using the Emeralds in my own life to address obstacles that arise with my spouse, my children, and my work. Sometimes the effect is subtle and sometimes it’s dramatic, but the Emeralds always seem to shift things for the better. Now that the book is out, I’ve been hearing inspiring stories from readers of how these nuggets of wisdom are working to enrich their lives too.
I invite you to try the Emeralds of Oz out on whatever obstacles you may be facing. The changes we make together will ripple out into the world and make it possible for allof us to lead spacious, centered, and deeply connected lives. You’ve got this!
May the life you’re leading become one where the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
Emeralds of Oz Worksheet
Like Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz, you can use these Emeralds of Wisdom to address any obstacle, large or small, that you’re facing in your own life. The effect is magical! Feelings of helplessness give way to an awareness of your personal power; fear is replaced by equanimity; and the illusion of not being enough is dispelled by the truth that you’ve already got everything you need. I invite you to use this worksheet to activate the Emeralds in your own life. Just follow the process below, step by step.
CONSIDER YOUR ISSUE — You’re not sure whether to move or to take that new job; you and your partner disagree about money or parenting. Or perhaps you’re nervous about that big presentation at work, or that audition for a new choir. Bring to mind whatever is bothering you.
CONSIDER THE NINE EMERALDS AS THEY APPLY TO YOUR SITUATION.
1. Listen to your longing. What is it that you long for in this situation? Now go deeper: What do you really long for?
2. See the situation as if for the first time. Set aside your memories, associations, biases, and prejudices—everything you “know.” What does the issue look like now?
3. Celebrate yourself — and others — just for showing up. You’re changing the game just by showing up to address this issue. You’re amazing! Join the parade in your honor!
4. Choose compassion. Consider each person in your troubling scenario and imagine walking a mile in their shoes. How can you help with their struggles? Now direct that same compassion toward yourself.
5. Realize that you already possess what you desire most. Reflect on the quality you admire most in other people, then consider how it is already central to who you are.
6. Face what you fear. Look at it closely. How does it look now?
7. Pull back the curtain and see things as they really are. What’s there? Is it possible the problem is not nearly as dramatic or insurmountable as it seemed?
8. You’ve got the power, and you’ve had it all along. That mojo is real, it’s yours, and now it’s time to use it. This knowledge is power in itself!
9. There’s no place like home. And it’s inside you. When you return here, within yourself, you’re always home. You’re floating on the infinite sea of divine energy that connects us all.
REVIEW — Sit with the thoughts and feelings that emerge after you draw on the nine Emeralds in the very same order that Dorothy did. Do you feel more centered, more grounded, more at ease? What new perspectives and feelings do you bring now to the obstacle you’re facing in your life?
*Editor’s Note: August 2019 marks the 80th anniversary of this iconic film. What better time to celebrate its all-important and empowering life lessons!
You may also enjoy reading How to Take Your Power Back by Understanding the Laws of Mind by Barbara Berger