A Woman Who Gave Us All Something To Think About
A statement from Wake Forest University, where Maya Angelou had been professor of American studies since 1982, said: “Dr Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world.”
Women of my age and older have a lot of thanks to extend to Dr. Angelou for her tireless work to bring equality to all people, regardless of race or gender; or anything else for that matter. Her work for civil rights, human rights, and women’s rights always gave us all something to think about and ponder through her poetry and words.
On May 28th, her family posted this message on Dr. Angelou’s facebook page:
Thursday, May 28, 2014
Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:
Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.
Guy B. Johnson
There are so many tributes to her and her life, what she meant to the world, to African-Americans, to women and others. I won’t even try to put into words the legacy she leaves behind as I think it would pale in comparison to her own words and to what others have written over the past few days about her.
For my own view of Dr. Angelou, I’ll remember her for her comments on spirituality and the words she used to share her journey to finding her own path of faith. She was raised Christian, but went on a discovery to find her own essence of spiritual life.
I have always tried to find myself a church. I have studied everything. I spent some time with Zen Buddhism and Judaism and I spent some time with Islam. I am a religious person. It is my spirit, but I found that I really want to be a Christian. That is what my spirit seems to be built on. ~ LA Times
While she saw herself as Christian she didn’t hold the view that all people should walk that same path. She spoke of the other religions she studied and the beauty and peace found within each one. She believed religion and spirituality to be a very personal thing, something each person needed to discover on their own and for their own view or perspective. Even if they returned to the path they were raised on. Even then, she didn’t confine her views to one denomination. She didn’t put boundaries around her beliefs, but welcomed and respected all practices.
Her last tweet was posted on May 23rd (@DrMayaAngelou):
Her words are not only profound and wise, but they also imply that anyone regardless of their perspective of religion or practice can go within and listen to find that Divine voice they hold inside themselves.
It reminded me of a conversation I had nearly two decades ago with a co-worker. He was a devout Christian who had never been exposed to pagans or shamanistic teachings. His reaction to my views was at first, to make fun of me and laugh off my beliefs. When I called him on that, he realized that to respect his own beliefs he needed to respect the beliefs of others. That our passionate faith is equal to his own.
That moment lead us into some very interesting conversations. But the one that is directly impacted by Dr. Angelou’s tweet happened like this.
On a spring day we had taken a walk during lunch. The corporation we worked for had created a beautiful park around the building, with nature trails no less. A perfect place to introduce someone to the spirituality of nature. As we walked through the woods I kept stopping to take note of the animals along the trail. Animals he didn’t even notice. Neither did anyone else walking around us. At one of these stops, he asked “How do you see all these animals?” to which I replied, “I hear them.”
His puzzled look made it clear he had no idea what I was talking about. We walked on. He had already told me that he prays every day. So I asked, “Can you describe to me what you do when you pray?” He responded by saying he sits down, closes his eyes and says his prayers to God.
I asked him how long does this take? His answer, “Two hours there abouts”. Trying to clarify his statement I asked if he says his prayers and then sits for two hours? “No, I pray for 2 hours.” he explained, adding “My only wish during my entire life has been to talk to my God. But it hasn’t happened yet.”
To clarify what he said, I asked if he meant he sits there for two hours saying prayers like “Dear God, omnipotent being in my life..blah blah for two hours?” Yes, he replied.
“Ok, if you and I sat down for two hours and you did all the talking, when would I have a chance to say anything? When would you have a chance to hear me?”
For me Dr. Angelou is telling us all that we need to stop and listen to ourselves. In that moment of quiet, we can hear our own Divine self speak. For some that Divine self could be an external Divine force, such as the Christian God. It could be a collective Divine consciousness in the Universe, it can be your own higher Divine mind. It can be your own psyche if you hold no spiritual belief at all. Whatever it is to YOU is what matters.
Imagine if we all took a few moments each day to be still, be quiet and listen. How many animals could we hear in the forest on the trail next to us? What would you hear right now, if you stopped for a moment and closed your eyes? Would you hear the wind rustling through the trees? The rain drops on the window? The nearby bird tweeting or maybe the cat purring in your lap. (I can thank my Puma kitty for that one).
When we stop and listen, we become mindful of our surroundings. How we are impacted by what we hear as much as what we see, smell or hear. We realize that we are part of our surroundings and we can feel its subtle changes. And when we can become aware of this moving energy around us, we can jump at opportunities that we may not have noticed before. We can avoid dangers or pitfalls we may not have otherwise noticed.
On a spiritual level, we can take that awareness a step further and become aware of the intricate communications that take place between ourselves and the higher Divine consciousness we connect to in our lives. From those conversations we maybe able to hear the guidance of compassion, kindness and tolerance and yes, respect for all others who are not like us, but here and part of the greater Divine Universe.
None of us are an island unto ourselves. We interact and interconnect with all things around us. But in today’s technological world, the act of quiet solitude is fleeting or illusive. It’s been replaced with ear buds as we listen to a new favorite tune, or the video game we just downloaded on the smart phone. The text message we’re sending as we walk through the hall or sit on the bus as we ride to work.
We all need to put down the phone, look up from the computer screen, turn off the TV and listen. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day, we need to give ourselves permission to go within, sit quietly and listen to the God in our life. To find that connection to the world around us.
Dr. Angelou will be missed by many. Even by many who don’t even realize what her life’s work have provided them in their every day lives. To me she was a shining example of a proud respectful confident woman who wasn’t afraid to speak out against injustice or intolerance. She was a great lady who lead a full and fulfilling life. We all should be so lucky. Thoughts and prayers to her family, friends and fans.
© 2014 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.