“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~Dr. Maya Angelou
With tears welling up from the core of my being, washing down my face like warm summer rain, there I sat glued to my computer monitor for more than two hours, captivated as person after person witnessed how their lives had been forever touched by a Phenomenal Woman: the late Dr. Maya Angelou.
Caught off guard by my intense Soul response to Maya Angelou’s Memorial Service, my plan to watch just a small portion of it quickly faded into oblivion, along with any concern for time. I clearly had dropped into Soul Time. I was there for the duration — alert, fully awake, alive to the moment. I had surrendered my attention to what matters most to me – Matters of the Soul.
As each person creatively expressed their moving tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou’s life, it was apparent that the spirit in which she had related to them was Soul deep. With her, they had experienced themselves profoundly seen, heard, and valued; they felt empowered to own and live into fuller expressions of their true selves. As it is when our Souls witness transformational power operative in others, my Soul rejoiced with those sharing the blessings of their encounter with this amazing, trail blazing, Soul-led woman.
My Soul was witnessing the fruit of a woman who was committed to living her life as authentically and as fully as possible, right up to her last breath. Exercising tremendous courage and passionate determination, she did the hard work of facing and growing through the pain of her formative years, pain which included: separation from her divorced parents at age 3; suffering the trauma of rape at age 7 and the ensuing 5 years of mutism that followed; and growing up as ‘a black child’ during the Depression in Arkansas, subjected to the de-humanizing cruelties of the biases, prejudices, and judgments of segregation. Fortified by her faith that “nothing can dim the light which shines from within,” she enacted her conviction: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” As a result, she knew with absolute certainty that no one could ever again take away her freedom to live her life with dignity. Using her beloved gift of poetry — the language of the Soul — she inspired others to consider their right to dignity as well:
You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise . . .
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Dr. Maya Angelou practiced her stance that “When you learn, teach; when you get, give.” This blessing enlarged her life and she used it to bless others, including me, even though I had never met her. Having learned the Soul-deep truth of her uniqueness, dignity, value, and worth, she was able to compassionately teach through her actions and words with the power and conviction that only the voice of Soul-deep experience can express. She profoundly inspired others all over the world (and will continue to do so through her legacy) to live life large, just as she did, grounded like a rock in her acute sensibilities to the human condition, while also holding fast to her faith in the ever-present, all- encompassing creative wonders of divine love. Nelson Mandela’s words — ‘There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living’ — could have very well been a descriptive motto for her life, as well as what she wanted for all human beings. As it is when one lives from a place where Soul matters, she saw ‘people more alike than different’ and believed ‘all human beings are cut from the same fabric.’
By daring to embody and give full voice to her poignant story, Maya Angelou gifted our world with an inspiring witness to the transformational power of a life lived – Soul Alive. For this, I am enormously in awe and grateful for the Soul of Dr. Maya Angelou. May we all ‘teach what we learn and give what we get’ in our pursuit of living a Soul Alive life.
If you’d like to continue exploring this topic further, please take a look at my reference materials:
Suggested Soul Practice:
Respecting All Your Senses
‘I Am’ Declaration