I didn’t fully appreciate Maya Angelou until I was in college. Coming into womanhood and dealing with a past of sexual abuse I was both liberated and confused. While I wouldn’t be ready to deal with the latter until I was much older. I wrapped my arms around the former with a love so true deep it isn’t until this very moment that I can fully appreciate how much Maya Angelou’s words are a part of who I am today and who I will be tomorrow. Her words are whispers behind thoughts and opinions I have about women, civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement.
Words that helped a multitude of stories get told for all colored girls, pariahs, daughters of the dust, women of brewster place and brown girls in brownstones. She opened the door for Black girls to be okay being Black girls. I was teenager before technology so my tweets were squeals of delight reading words that shook a finger at white society. It made me sit up and notice. I remember my roommate reading Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise out loud in college and how we gave each other high fives. Shit, we were phenomenal too. And while a darker side of me would start to whisper up when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I squashed it down, temporarily anyway. Those would be dealt with another day and when that day finally came Ms. Angelou’s presence was there too.
Phrases from poems that have become such a part of our culture that once said there isn’t a need to say anything else.
Still I rise
Indeed still I do. Rise above the ideas that a society had about me. Risen above the expectations I had for myself. And after many long inner battles that I had the privilege of being able to have I realize that I am the hope and dream of a slave. Because of the struggles of the civil rights movements I had parents who were strong and successful and have helped me pursue my passions so that I may be able in turn to give back what I have learned to some girl in some neighborhood that may not think that she has a chance to be something more that what society says she can be.
Still I rise
Ms. Angelou’s work was a lesson. A lesson for those that looked like her. A lesson for girls who were me- I am beautiful despite what you, society says. I am smart even when you say that I’m not. And most importantly I am not defined by what you think but ultimately I am who I think I am- a mixture of experiences and memories of ancestors that will help me fly on history’s wings.
So over 108 days ago I committed to a daily meditation practice.
The ways in which it’s changed me are too numerous to count.
Subtle changes have occurred. For example, I’m smiling more. This was a change that crept up on me. One day walking in my new hood I took note that folks were so friendly. People said hello and waved. What was even stranger is that is that people got friendlier and friendlier! Then it dawned on me- I’m friendlier and more open. You get back what you put out.
It was a head scratching moment. Yikes- how closed off had I been before? Bob Marley was right- you can’t run away from yourself. And it’s a good being because I’d never know how good being open could feel.
Meditation hasn’t just metaphorically opened my heart- it’s literally made me more flexible. Being still has given me an ability to look deep inside my breathing. As strange as it sounds sometimes it feels like I moving energetically into a pose in slow motion. Like liquid pouring into liquid. Rather than moving step-by-step into a form I find myself moving there in a rhythmic motion.
Life presents us with situations that are challenging and I don’t run from that, but I am much more selective about my optional noise. It’s said that we are like the 5 most people we spend most of our time with. I would think that applies to where we spend our time. Am I spending time in a meaningful manner or is it being wasted? Being still has also allowed me to turn down outside noise that doesn’t serve me.
It’s simple really- I’m trying to be more awake and less distracted.
I’m more successful on some days than others but hey, the fact that I’m paying attention puts me ahead of when I wasn’t meditating at all.
There’s a picture of me as a kid holding up either two giant cucumbers or two giant zucchinis from the garden. I had on glasses and was smiling like a goof- a happy goof but goof nonetheless.
I don’t remember watching my mom plant the garden but she was always able to grow whatever she planted. Today my parents house in MA is surrounded by flowers planted by her hands. It’s really something, gardening. You make a hole drop in seeds (which may as well be wishes as far as I’m concerned), add water, love, care and then…wait.
I mean c’mon- it’s yoga! Right? Essentially a gardener is looking to unite seeds with earth and air to create something new, actually, I think something whole.
Yeah, that sounds right.
The summer of 2014 will be the year that I try to garden. It was two years ago that I decided unearth my life. It seems only fitting that I starting to give something back. Life before was compartmentalized and fractured. I didn’t want the ends of things touching. But when things don’t connect there are no roots. As a result I wasn’t grounded.
Life now is decidedly messier but more fulfilling. My friend Daba was kind enough to let me share her plot at our local community garden. Today we went to weed the plot and turnover the soil. I’ll be doing research, i.e. calling my mother because I’m hoping to grow some tomatoes and zucchini. With some breathing, weeding, watering, and a little help from earth you may catch me holding up two zucchinis grinning from ear-to-ear. Life, like yoga comes full circle.