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Tina Turner Knows ‘We Can Feel Peace No Matter What’

The beloved music legend has weathered enough storms to fill three memoirs. In this interview, she shares the one lesson we all need right now — choosing hope over despair.

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Vera Tammen / Trunk Archive
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From the editors: The hair. Those legs. That voice. And chile, that strut. At 81, Tina Turner’s life is so large, she’s needed three books to tell her story — thus far. Her first offering, I Tina, published in 1986, provided the backstory we all know and love: Her childhood in Nutbush, Tennessee; her hookup with Ike Turner, which led to marriage, stardom, claims of abuse and, ultimately, divorce; her struggle as the mother of four sons; her embrace of Buddhism and her triumphant re-emergence, in her mid-40s, as an international superstar. [The 1993 biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It was based on that book]. While Turner’s second tome, My Love Story (2018), again talked about her traumatic life with Ike, including her own suicide attempt, it also brought us up to date. In 2013, after being together for 26 years, she married Erwin Bach, who is 16 years her junior. (We’re not mad at you, sis!) Only three weeks later, she had a stroke. Turner rebounded but was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016, which was followed by kidney failure (hubby Bach donated one of his kidneys to save her). And in 2018, her oldest son, Craig, committed suicide.

“I think, for all of us who have faced serious illness, whether our own or of someone we love, it gives us a heightened appreciation of everyday life,” Turner told AARP interviewer Alanna Nash. “Sometimes when we go through difficult experiences such as illnesses, it can feel like we are in a never-ending winter, and that spring will never come. But I know from experience that as long as we choose hope over despair, we can feel peace no matter what.” Which brings us to Turner’s third book. In Happiness Becomes You, Turner turns the spotlight away from herself and talks about how each of us can live our best lives right now.

Q: The subtitle of your book is “A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good.” What advice do you have for people who are not Buddhists like yourself, but who wish to do that?

TURNER: The purpose of this book is to uplift everyone, regardless of their beliefs or religion. I wrote it to be enjoyable and inspiring for all, whether or not they’re familiar with Eastern wisdom. As I say in the book, you don’t have to practice Buddhism to benefit from these principles and increase your joy. Many aspects of Eastern wisdom are common sense and are truly universal. For example, the Golden Rule taught in the Bible — “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — that exactly aligns with the concept of karma, or cause and effect. The ancient principles that I share in my book belong to all humanity. I wrote this book to help anyone feel more hopeful for the future and experience greater peace of mind in the present.

Q: You are considered a very strong person by many, but it’s been reported that you don’t necessarily want to be seen as a ‘strong’ person. Why is that?

TURNER: Happy people are strong, but strong people aren’t necessarily happy. So, I prefer to be seen as a happy person, since a joyful heart is where real strength comes from.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in life?

TURNER: I’ve had many spiritual revelations in my life, but one of the most important is that adversity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The outcome depends on your state of mind and how you view things. Although we cannot control what happens in life, we can always choose how to respond to what happens. We can make sure our way of responding to challenges is positive, realizing there’s a lesson in there somewhere that will help us become a better version of ourselves. Adversity has shown me the transformative power of spirituality in my own life and has taught me that the most valuable help comes from within.

Happy people are strong, but strong people aren’t necessarily happy. So, I prefer to be seen as a happy person, since a joyful heart is where real strength comes from.

Q: Please talk about the power of nature and what it has meant to you as a healing force.

TURNER: We’re all one with nature. Some of us feel it more than others. I’ve always sensed an unseen universal hum and energy, the nourishing rhythm of nature. I believe we’re all connected to one another and everything else on this beautiful planet, joined together by the mystical essence of Mother Nature, the fundamental energy that gives life to all things. It’s a tremendously creative, healing force that we can all tap into.

Q: One thing I loved from your concerts is that you laughed a lot and showed us that magnificent smile. We’d love your thoughts on laughter.

TURNER: Laughter is like music, it lifts your spirits. There is a saying that a day without laughter is a day wasted. I agree.

Q: You wrote: “I know all about taking back power from negative voices.” Can you give us a brief primer on how to do that?

TURNER: The simplest way to is to stop believing the negative voices that may linger in our minds and to realize they’re just unhelpful echoes from the past. When you can put them in their place and start focusing on positive thoughts instead, then the influence of those negative voices diminishes. Whenever you hear a negative thought in your mind, you can counteract it by repeating a positive thought. This seems simplistic, but it works wonders.

Q: You touch on forgiveness in your book, too. Why is forgiveness so important?

TURNER: Forgiveness sets us free. Some people get the wrong idea about forgiveness, however. Forgiving people for the wrongs they’ve committed is not the same as excusing or condoning their actions. I believe in cause and effect, in karma, and I believe that no one can escape the effects of their actions. So, forgiveness in many ways is more about cutting the chains of negativity from whomever or whatever may have caused us pain. Spiritually, forgiveness is like a cleansing that helps to wash away negative energy from us. 

Q: Please share how you celebrated becoming an octogenarian and some of the advantages you’ve found in aging.

TURNER: We had a small, private celebration for my 80th birthday, which was lovely. As for the advantages of aging, I’ve definitely grown happier as I’ve aged. Age and experience are priceless. There is a change in perception, a broadening, that comes with aging, a greater appreciation for simple things. As I’ve matured, age has helped me to put things in perspective and to have even greater patience and compassion for others. 

Q: What advice would you give to younger women about aging well? What do you think makes a woman beautiful as she ages? And what makes her sexy?

TURNER: Happiness! To the first question, I’d say nurture gratitude in your life. Out of that will come happiness. Which is the answer to the other two questions. As long as you’ve got an inner glow of joy, you’re beautiful at any age, because, as my book title says, Happiness Becomes You.

Q: We’re living in a very unusual time. How do you see it through your spiritual lens, in regard to COVID, or racial or social justice, or some other pertinent, larger concept/issue?

TURNER: My spiritual practice has shown me that no matter what may be going on around us, if we keep peace, hope and love in our hearts, then our spiritual strength will grow, and our outer world will follow suit. It is only by breaking cycles of negativity that we can help ourselves, and others, to rise above hardships. No matter how harshly the winds of adversity may blow around us, we can go within ourselves to find a steadfast source of wisdom, courage and compassion. I know because I did it. And I believe everyone has the ability to do it in their own lives as well.

This interview is adapted from AARP The Magazine.
The Magazine is available in print, or access a digital version by downloading the AARP Publications app from the Apple or Google Play stores. It is also available on Apple News+ (subscription required).

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