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Episode 47: Maya Angelou - A Brave Woman Who Lived A Brave LIfe

brave stories meet your inner hero Nov 21, 2021
 

 

Maya Angelou:
A Brave Woman Who
Lived A Brave Life

 

We see her quotes everywhere. And she was the original Phenomenal Woman known for writing the poem, ‘The Phenomenal Woman”. Maya, Angelo, truly brave and amazing story, walked a very courageous path. 

She has a lot to teach us. 

If you don't already know this about me, if you've listened to my podcast or followed me for a while, you might've realized that, when I meet people or work with clients or am with my family and friends, or even when I'm here talking with you, what I see in people... is the heart

 That's just who I am. And I am so passionate about that.

I see life a little bit differently than some - at least maybe in my description of it, based on a book I read a couple of years ago about the simplicity of life.

 

You are a Heart Walking On A Path

Life is  as if you are a heart walking on a Path. 

 Just imagine walking a path. When you're born, you enter that path. When you die, you leave it.

 In between though, all kinds of things happen, right? So imagine yourself walking on that path. 

 And this bright alien light, (you know how it is in the movies) shines down on you. A big spotlight picks you out. Shines down on you on your path.

That's how we have to see ourselves. Not necessarily in the spotlight - not as an uncomfortable thing - but as “you”. Just yourself. Your heart. You are an individual walking your path. 

 You're walking as that beautiful heart filled with your gifts and your character, your personality, your preferences...like a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors and shapes and images that make up who you are. 

 As you're walking, all this stuff happens.

 Bombs, go off boulders, drop on you. 

 People on other paths throw rocks at you which can be expectations or words coming out of their own stories. 

 As we're walking along, we encounter other people on their paths who are living as we're living, making their own choices, their own decisions about how they handle their lives. 

 Well, today, I'm going to tell you about somebody who was walking her path. And she encountered many Bombs, Boulders that dropped on her, flattening her for a time...and, also, Rocks that others threw at her.

Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman

We see her quotes everywhere these days. We see them on Pinterest or an Instagram - all over the internet. She had so many wise words. 

 And when you look into her story, it’s really quite amazing. The path that she walked and the things that she did in her life, who she was as a person, is all amazing. 

 She teaches us that, even though you come from some pretty devastating things in your life, that does not have to determine who you are further down the road. What has happened to you can make you stronger - not less than you are.

 Maya Angelo. You know who she was. She was a beautiful woman who walked the face of this earth as one of the great social activists, an author, a speaker and poet. Also, something that a lot of us don't realize, she was a teacher. 

Her Little Girl Years

Something happened to Maya when she was very young. I am quoting this is from a site that's called “Learning Liftoff”. This kind of caught me off guard because I haven't read any of Maya's biographies - perhaps you have. I think I will go and read some of her stories now, because her life wasn’t easy and she is an example of someone who decided how she was going to survive the Bombs that went off in her life with grace.

“Despite her extraordinary gift of language, poet and author, Maya Angelo did not speak for five years when she was a child herself. And her silence began after a traumatic  incident caused to believe her words had terrible consequences. At just eight years old, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend. When she revealed the truth and identified the rapist, he was later found beaten to death.

 ‘I thought my voice killed him’, she wrote in her first autobiography, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’.  ‘I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again because my voice would kill anyone.’ 

 So she simply stopped speaking.” 

 Doesn't that just break your heart? Can you imagine this poor little girl? 

 It goes on to say,

Her family also chose to never speak of the incident again” (which was very typical of families back then. And even now.) “So Angelo did not receive the support and counseling she needed.

During those five years, she remained mute. Shortly thereafter, she and her brother were sent back to live with her grandmother for nearly a year. ‘I sopped around the house, the store, the school and the church’, she writes in the 1969 memoir. ‘like an old biscuit, dirty and inedible.’ 

She was depressed and withdrawn but she remained an avid reader who loved literature thanks to her visits to the local library. Although Angela was close to her brother and had an extended family that included her mother, grandmother, and uncles,  it was a local teacher, Bertha Flowers,”  (and I love that name) “who helped her regain her voice. 

Flowers left a profound impression on young Maya who was charmed by the teacher’s style and unusually refined grace. I don't think I ever saw Mrs. Flowers laugh but she smiled often, Angelo wrote. When she chose to smile on me, I always wanted to thank her. 

So when Flowers spoke, Maya listened. In her autobiography, Angelo vividly recalls what Flowers said to her. ‘Your grandmother says you read a lot. Every chance you get.’ 

She told young Maya, ‘That's good, but not good enough. Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning. Her words struck Angelo as poetic and their relationship grew as Flowers provided Maya with new books and heightened motivation to read. 

Eventually this patient teacher broke through Maya’s  long silence by challenging her to read poetry out loud. ‘You do not love poetry, not until you speak it.’

For a time, young Maya rejected the teacher's assertion, but ultimately she uttered the words from a book of poetry and heard the poems come alive from her own lips. So at age 13, she gradually began speaking again.

Maya learned a lot in that town. She had already, by 13, been through so much.

At 17, she had a child. That was when her son was born. So she became a teenage mom. To make ends meet, she ended up working as a Madam and a sex worker. She did that in those early years and during her first marriage.

She was married twice and divorced twice. 

 No wonder one of her quotes says, 

 “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  

 Maya Angelo did not believe in untold stories. She shared the truth about herself everywhere.

 Untold stories. They are what will zap our courage. 

 They are what will steal away from us our ability to face life and cause us to go into hiding, to not want to share our hearts anymore, to close our hearts down because we come to the conclusion that life is only about hurting.

 Does that ring any bells with you? Do you know anybody who's like that? Is it, perhaps, something that you feel inside? That life hurts? 

 How do we find the courage it takes to survive the Bombs? The Boulders? The Rocks thrown at us with no control of our own? 

Four Gifts. Four Inner Heroes

Now here was Maya Angelo in exactly that place on her path. 

But Maya Angelo, like we can, discovered the four gifts that she has inside of her.

I call them the four sides of our Secret Inner Hero. Did you know that you also have those four Secret Inner Heroes inside you?

Their super powers kick in when we dig down deep into our hearts and allow them to speak. They are the best of who we are. 

They inspire our courage when we listen to their voices. 

Maya also said, 

“Courage is the most important of all virtues because, without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

 Courage is what gives us the power to do that, to allow our best selves to come to the surface. 

Now, those four gifts are the four sides of your Secret Inner Hero and I'm going to tell you how Maya Angelo used them to become the woman that she ended up being at the end of her path. 

Our Inner Warrior

The first one is the strength of your Warrior.

She talked about being a strong woman who needs to show up when you are facing the battles in life. You simply have to allow your Warrior to step up and speak, to become that strong person inside of you.

We often will push aside or refuse to listen to that voice because we're afraid if we follow her advice, we're going to end up in a place that hurts even more. We will fail.

But what we need to do is this.  Angelo says it for us. 

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats so that you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

 That's what your Warrior does for you. 

 Our Inner Magician

There is a  part of you inside that brings out your light. 

It's a side of you that is your ‘open’. She is your Magician. 

This is the Magic of having open eyes and an open heart. This is where laughter and curiosity and learning and letting others learn comes from.

What Maya Angelou said about this was, 

“I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision...I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be a pain.” 

Being in your Magic is about being the real you. But doing so with grace.

It's about lifting yourself up from all the struggles and the burdens of life and just soaking up what's precious to you, even if it's the smell of a flower or the blue of the sky or listening to a grandchild's giggling. 

All that is so precious to us, opening our hearts as we walk this path. This is what helps us to face the hard stuff. 

Your Inner Lover

The third thing is to listen and to hear your Inner Lover. This is you at your most feminine.

This is you feeling your heart. “Feeling” is a key word here. 

It's loving from your heart. It's choosing to live from your heart.

This is you choosing love over fear because love conquers fear. Love is much more powerful than fear. 

Love looks fear in the eye and chooses to be loving instead of hiding, instead of turning tail and running. It's about embracing what women do best. Love in the fire.

Maya Angelo received accolades for her poem calledThe Phenomenal Woman’. Remember, as Bertha Flowers told her, giving voice to poetry makes it come alive. 

So read it out loud!!

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,   

The stride of my step,   

The curl of my lips.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,   

That’s me.

 

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,   

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.   

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.   

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,   

And the flash of my teeth,   

The swing in my waist,   

And the joy in my feet.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

 

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

Men themselves have wondered   

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,   

They say they still can’t see.   

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,   

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.   

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.   

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,   

The bend of my hair,   

the palm of my hand,   

The need for my care.   

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

This is you at your most feminine. 

You -  just relaxing into being your crazy, sexy self. 

Your crazy, open, passionate, warm, sensitive, intuitive self. That is a side of you that will help you to face whatever is happening in your life. To find your courage. 

Your Inner Sovereign

The fourth and last side of you is your Sovereign or your Queen, as some like to see her.

This is the part of you that brings you all back together even if you're falling apart because she stands on your values, on your standards, on you being and believing in who you are and what you believe. 

Maya Angelou gives us some insight here, too. “

“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.”

Step by step Maya Angelo walked her path to grow in courage, to face the hard stuff in life. With courage. 

I take her words or advice into my heart.

I watched her speaking on a YouTube video for an Oprah Winfrey Masterclass. She was at an older age but a light shone from her eyes. Her words were filled with passion. 

She described her three words which are noted to be her “Secret to Living Your Best Life”. 

You know what those three words are?  Just. Do. Right.

If you are going to be yourself, you must know what is right for you. 

You need to know what your values are. 

You need to know who you are inside and live from that place. 

In addition to these words, she offers more of an explanation: 

“Right will satisfy your soul. 

It brings you the kind of protection that body guards can't give you. 

Try to be all you can be to be the best human being you can be. 

Try to live your life in a way you will not regret years from now.

Pick up the battle. Take it up. This is your life. This is your world. 

You make your own choices. You can decide life Isn't worth living If you want to. 

You can do that. But that would be the worst thing that you can do because how do you know? How do you know that life isn't working? 

Try it. See. Pick up the battle and make it a better world. 

Just where you are.”

How can we be fearless women after 50? 

How can we face life with courage after all that we have been through on this path? Like Maya Angelo, how can we step up into the best of us? 

We may be battle worn. 

We may be weary, scarred, and bruised. Feel broken.

We may have wounds that are deep inside of us but that does not mean that we have to give up. 

We can stand strong in our courage.

We have the four gifts inside of us, the four Inner Heroes that bring their wisdom and their voice to us. The best of us that show us how to get through this life. 

Think about those four Inner Heroes. We're going to be talking a lot about them. 

In fact, my new book, “S.O.F.T. & Strong: How To Master Fear by Releasing the 4 Crazy, Sexy, Adventurous Sides of Your Inner Hero” talks about these exact four heroes. 

In this book, we talk about fear. We talk about the four Heroes and we talk about the Secret Inner Hero Society. You can download it from my homepage or see the link on the side of this blog.

As you leave this blog article, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to think of each of your sides. I want you to think about:

  1. Your Inner Warrior. If you could meet your own Warrior inside of you, how would she look? What kind of things would she say? What words would she be using and what would she be focusing on and believing?
  2. Your Inner Magician. If you could meet your magician -  the Magic in you that stays open to love and to life - , how would she look? What kind of words would she be using?  What would she be focusing on and believing? 
  3. Your Inner Lover. What about your lover? That the mystical feminine side of you. How would she look? How would she hold herself? What kind of words would she be saying to you? What would she be focusing on and believing?
  4. Your Inner Sovereign. You, as Queen. The part of you who brings everything together and stands true to your own values, to your own needs, to your own standards... How would she hold herself? What would her words be? What would she be focusing on and believing? 

How can we be among the fearless? 

Fear will always be with us but it’s when we make the DECISION, as Maya Angelou did, to not be dominated by it but rather to let it help to grow us, make us stronger, bring out the BEST in us because it makes us fight for what we believed in - it’s then, that we find ourselves living the Bravest, most fulfilled life we can. 

 

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