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The Spiritual Teachings of Maya Angelou

May 29, 2014 1 Comment
Maya Angelou - Uptown Mag

Source: Uptown Magazine

Although I heard the news yesterday, the significance of the transition of Dr. Maya Angelou touched me deeply today.  I woke up at 4 a.m., and immediately went into a meditative prayer of gratitude for all she blessed the world with.  Tears of gratitude have flowed off and on, and an increased sense of responsibility has arisen.

From the time I was a teenager, I can remember my mother and grandmother sharing her words with me.  My mother gently nudged (okay, required) me to read her poetry and books, and stressed the importance of the words contained within these pieces of art.  I resisted at first – until I read “And Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman.”  I was hooked.  She so eloquently captured the experience of the black woman and, even at a young age, I felt she was telling my story.  She articulated it so beautifully that I wanted more.

That was the beginning of what became a lifelong appreciation of a woman that has had an enormous impact on the lives of millions around the world.  As I was going through my darkest days of depression and anxiety, I turned to her words to soothe me and give me hope for a brighter day.

There are many wonderful stories of the impact she had in the world currently being shared, but none of those I have seen expand on her as a spiritual teacher.  There are stories of her civil rights leadership, her poetry, her autobiographical series, her singing, her dance career, her giving spirit, and more.  But none have focused on what was one of her deepest passions – spirituality.

Now, one could argue that spirituality is what we live moment-to-moment.  In which case, all of the articles and stories being shared do indeed discuss her spirituality, because it was who she was being.  I would agree with that.  But, I’d like to take it a step further and shed light on some comments of hers that have not garnered as much public attention.

Maya Angelou, in my humble opinion, was one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time.  She went beyond religion to the essence of what we were all created to be and extend into the world – Love.  She was Love.  She fully felt all of the human emotions, and immaculately displayed her ability to transmute them to Love.  She forgave, she had faith, she extended kindness, she was gentle, she represented peace, she exercised self-control, she was modest, she was patient, she found joy in the midst of sorrow, and she gave and gave and gave…until her last breath.

She was so passionate about spiritual growth that she was, even recently, taking online classes through Unity Church.  She never stopped learning.  She never felt she had “arrived.”  She was “like a little child” – always willing to learn and expand her awareness.  I believe she was free from the stronghold of the ego when she passed, and that she has ascended to join the Masters.

Maya tribute

I added a photo of Maya Angelou to my ancestor altar where I honor my grandmother and those who came before me.

In the foreword to the spiritual classic “Discover the Power Within You: A Guide to the Unexplored Depths Within” by Eric Butterworth, she shared the following words of wisdom:

“What I found to be so compelling in Butterworth’s teachings, and still do, is that the power of God, the essential spirit, is within each of us.  We can ignore that, or we can draw upon it and decide to grow.”

“…It’s a path; it’s a journey.  I’m always amazed when people walk up a say, ‘I’m a Christian.’  I always think, ‘Already? Got it?  Goodness gracious.  Lucky you.’  Well, I’m trying to be a Christian.   Working at it and trying to be a Christian is like trying to be a Jew, or trying to be a Buddhist.  It’s “practicing” a faith.  But in the Christian belief, we are told that the Father, the God, is within.  The New Testament states that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you, and so it wasn’t a great leap for me to go from that belief to Butterworth’s teachings about our divine potential.”

“Along this path of knowledge, I find that prayer and meditation are elemental.  Guidance comes from those practices.  Sometimes in meditation one really tries to think of nothing.  I do, anyway.  I try not to have any focus or use any focus to get away from everything.  I try to make myself a quiet vessel, a quiet pool where ideas can rise.  Prayer, on the other hand, does focus and keep the focus in focus.  I think that I use both to get myself out of the way.  Sometimes our daily problems can so impede our progress to quietude that one needs to step aside.  I think when we step aside, when we get apart from everyone else and any other ideas and meditate and pray, I think that we can be led to the knowledge of how to meet our next challenge, whatever it is – whether it’s physical, psychological, practical, social.  I believe that.”

“…I’ve found that if you give it away, it comes back in such abundance.  I don’t give it away so that it will come back, but that’s just the nature of things.  If you plant one tomato seed, and it comes up, it will bring thousands of tomato seeds.  Whatever you plant, you’ll get thousands of what you planted…I think that’s true in giving. You ask for what you want and then give it away because you’re getting so much more of it back.  I think that what we want, we have to give to the world – kindness, tolerance, generosity, justice, even mercy – in all our dealings.  I would encourage you to be very careful that you don’t die before you’ve done something wonderful for humanity.”

There’s so much more juicy spiritual goodness in the foreword, but I’ll allow those who are interested to check out the book.  It’s well worth the read, and truly unlocks the deeper teachings of Jesus.  She also wrote the foreword to the 25th anniversary edition of Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, along with her “sister-friend,” Oprah.  Check out a brief audio clip here.

In January of 2014, she was featured as Science of Mind Magazine’s Spiritual Hero of the Year (photo below).   She was an avid student of New Thought teachings, particularly the teachings of Charles Filmore (Founder of Unity Church) and Ernest Holmes (Founder of the Religious Science movement, which has now become Centers for Spiritual Living and Science of Mind Magazine).   One of the books that most inspired her on this path was “Lessons in Truth” by Harriett Emilie Cady, which is the core text which inspired the founding of Unity Church.

Maya - SOM

Maya Angelou on the cover of the January 2014 issue of Science of Mind Magazine.

I am grateful to have lived at this time to witness such a beautiful, living demonstration of the principles I strive to live my life by and share with others.  I know that you have not ‘died,’ as the Light that shone so brightly through you also shines through us.  We are the Light.  Thank you, “Mama Maya,” Thank you.  May Peace fill the hearts of all those who were touched by your presence.

What are your favorite lessons learned from Maya Angelou’s words of wisdom?  I’d love to hear from you!

Keep shining!


Kandace Jones
TWITTER: @coachkandace
INSTAGRAM: @iamlivinginthelight

About the Author:

I used to live life shackled by fear, doubt, and worry. I put on a happy face while navigating my day-to-day duties, but I was emotionally drained, stressed, and unhappy. When I hit rock bottom, and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I was determined to live life differently. I knew there had to be another way. Out of that determination, and guidance from Spirit, the "Living in the Light" blog was born. It documents my spiritual journey out of the darkness and into the Light. After nine months of publicly sharing my journey, and consciously releasing my attachment to the ego, I experienced a powerful spiritual awakening. I went from living in fear, doubt, worry, and stress to complete inner peace. My greatest passion has become assisting others on their own journey to inner peace. My spiritual memoir, From Stress to Peace: An Intimate Journal on the Journey from Living in Darkness to Living in the Light, is available now on Amazon and Click the tabs at the top of the page to learn more about the From Stress to Peace 21-Day Challenge, Living in the Light Retreats, 1:1 sessions, and the Living in the Light Community - all of which are designed to support your journey to inner peace. I appreciate you taking the time to visit the blog and look forward to supporting you in any way I can!